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Thursday, October 31, 2013

Halloween Ramblings

Hello, everybody!

The first thing that I really want to do is wish every single one of you ghosts, ghouls, goblins, and gargoyles, a gappy galloween...

...ahem. I mean...have a HAPPY HALLOWEEN!!!

Yes, the end of October is finally here, and with that, so is the end of the scariest month of the Pop Culture Addict's Guide To Life. I do hope you've enjoyed this spooky themed month, and I do hope that next year will be even scarier than this one. I tried to think outside of the box when it came to choosing topics, and I wanted to make it diverse, yet fun at the same time.

I just want to remind all of you about taking proper safety precautions tonight as you go out and collect treats (and maybe pull off a couple of tricks at the same time) before I launch into today's blog entry. Halloween can be a lot of fun, but you also have to be safe at the same time. So, here are a few tips that can make sure that you get home safely after your parties and outings are all wrapped up.

  • Make sure that if you are going out trick-or-treating, you have a guardian going with you.
  • Should you not have a parent with you, the best thing to do is to go out in a group of kids. Remember, there is safety in numbers.
  • The fall weather can be quite unpredictable, so make sure that costumes are warm enough for your little goblins to wear, and it also might be a good idea to have a costume that is water-resistant. Never know when it might rain or snow!
  • I know it's tempting to stay out all night long, but remember...most houses close up shop after nine o'clock. Don't stay up too late. After all, Halloween is on a school night!
  • Make sure that you have something on your costumes that motorists can see at night. Glow sticks or reflective tape work wonders.
  • Never ever eat candy that is unwrapped or looks suspicious. Always have a parent or guardian inspect your candy before you dig into it.
  • As much as I might sound like Marge Simpson here, don't eat too much candy. You might not have nightmares, but you can get a nasty tummy ache. Believe me, there were lots of kids who stayed home sick on November 1 for not heeding that advice!

Really, with a little bit of common sense, your Halloween can be a lot of fun.

But in today's diary entry which doubles as a social commentary piece, this is the story of how one woman in a North Dakota town lacks both common sense and fun, and how her vision of giving treats ended up being one cruel trick that is getting a lot of backlash. I'm sure that most of you have seen this story before, but I thought that I would add my own two cents to this tale...and believe me...I can add some personal experiences to this commentary as well.

October 31, 2013

I can't believe it's Halloween already. I am having a hard time realizing that Christmas is less than two months from now. Oh, I don't even want to THINK about that! For now, my main motivation is getting through a work day (yes, I work Halloween night), and trying to grab as much candy as I possibly can without going trick-or-treating for it. After all, it has been 20 years since I last went out for Halloween, and I'm pretty sure that 32 year olds should not go begging for candy!

But, believe me...if I could get away with it, I would go trick-or-treating up to and including the age of 65!

Now, one thing that we're always told as kids whenever we went trick-or-treating was to not eat all of our candy in one sitting. With the amount of candy that I ended up getting, I would have had the grandpappy of stomach aches had I tried. But you have to admit. The Snickers bars. The red licorice. The Junior Mints. And, my personal favourites – Reese's Peanut Butter Cups – yeah. You literally had to fight me in order to snag them out of my candy pile.

(Of course, living with two older sisters who loved the peanut butter/chocolate combo as much as I did, there was really nothing stopping them from searching my candy hiding place.)

But I just wanted to make a point that my Halloween candy would last me quite a long time. It wasn't as if I gorged on it completely. In fact, my family refused to buy any junk food until we kids all ate our Halloween candy.

Of course, there are some people who don't feel as though they believe in giving out candy at the door. Some of them feel that giving too much candy will lead to dental and health problems, and they certainly reserve the right to not hand out candy. Some hand out raisins (which admittedly I despise). Some hand out fruit (which admittedly is NOT a good idea). One of my friends actually handed out a stack of comic books to trick-or-treaters instead of candy (which I found to be a brilliant idea).

Or, at the very least, you pull all the blinds, turn off all the lights, and pretend that nobody is home if you really don't want kids cloaked in costumes ringing your bell or knocking on your door. A silent protest to the handing out of junk food would certainly be more respectful than the campaign that one North Dakota woman will be launching this Halloween.

Okay, so I'm sure that some of you have already heard this story since it broke yesterday, and I'm sure that you have our own opinions of the story. I know I certainly do. But the gist of it is this. Apparently this woman (who has not been officially named) has decided that the children in her village are too fat to deserve Halloween candy. And if someone comes knocking on her door asking for a treat, they will instead end up with a nasty trick in the form of a letter. A copy of the letter has been posted online, and I happen to have it below. Would you like to read it?

Now, how is that for shocking? It's almost as if the woman from North Dakota has decided to dress up as the Soup Nazi from Seinfeld for Halloween only instead of soup, she's telling kids “NO SKITTLES FOR YOU!”

And her motivation behind these letters? She wants the child's parents to accept responsibility for the fact that their children are 'morbidly obese' and that they need to work harder to make sure that they become healthier people.

I call balderdash.

To me, this is nothing more than fat-shaming in the absolute worst possible way. It's absolutely disgusting to me that in this day and age, making fun of and excluding people because they happen to be chubbier than others their own age is still considered acceptable. It's not.

Believe me. I know how it feels to be made fun of or excluded because of my size. At my heaviest weight, I was over three hundred pounds. I was the brunt of many jokes. And, believe me, I have heard of a lot of comments from my classmates, and even a few insensitive teachers, lecturing me on how I should cut back on the junk food and exercise more. And it wasn't in a helpful tone either. It was more along the lines of condescending. It made me feel bad.

I can only imagine that any child who happens to get a letter from that North Dakota woman this Halloween would feel exactly the same way.

In fact, I'd like to tell this lady from North Dakota a few things. Firstly, you cannot shame anyone into losing weight. If anything, those condescending people who kept lecturing me on my weight had quite the opposite reaction from me. I actually ate MORE junk food because I felt so lousy about myself. Did it ever occur you, Miss Letter-writer 2013 that the more you pick on someone, the worse they feel about themselves? And the worse they feel about themselves, the less effort they put into making themselves happy again?

What you're doing is NOT helping kids become healthier. You're actually destroying their confidence and self-esteem. You're also setting the stage for kids eventually developing eating disorders because you're feeding into their self-worth. Who are you to make judgments? Did you ever think that the reason for the chubbiness could be a medical condition? Did you ever think that the reason the kid is chubby on Halloween is because they might be wearing a padded costume? Did it ever occur to you that kids are going to be naturally chubby anyway?

But you know something? I think that this whole thing will backfire on you. In fact, I already am going to make some predictions about what your schedule will be like on November first should you throw away all common sense and go ahead with your letter writing campaign. I predict that your neighbours will likely cut all ties off with you because they might be embarrassed. I predict that parents will purposely avoid your house and go to the others in your neighbourhood because they don't want to have their children associated with someone who is so clueless about how to interact with the community in a positive way.

And I predict that you'll be spending hundreds of dollars purchasing exterior home cleaning supplies to clean up the broken egg residue and smashed pumpkin guts all over your doors and windows over this madness.

Halloween is supposed to be fun. Don't take it away.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

The Hilarious House of Frightenstein

I can't believe that Halloween is just one day away! Before you know it, we'll be right smack dab in the middle of November, thinking about just how busy the next couple of months will be as we make preparations for Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, and for those of you living in the United States, Thanksgiving! It's going to be a busy time of year for everyone (I know that for me, I have a lot of things happening at we inch closer and closer to 2014), but this blog will be there every step of the way.

So, today is October 30, and it happens to be a Wednesday, so you know what that means? It's time for another edition of Whatever Wednesday, the day in which we leave the fate of the blog in the hands of one of six potential murderers.

Well, the murder suspects in the board game Clue (or Cluedo if you happen to be in the United Kingdom), that is.

Just to refresh your memories, here's what each Clue suspect card means. As you know, each character is matched up with a theme day in the blog (minus the Tuesday Timeline, that is).

MISS SCARLET – Sunday Jukebox
COLONEL MUSTARD – Monday Matinee
MRS. WHITE – Saturday Smorgasbord Wks. 3-5 (Cartoons, Comics, Books)
MR. GREEN – Saturday Smorgasbord Wks. 1-2 (Toys, Games, Video Games)
MRS. PEACOCK – Friday Night On Television
PROFESSOR PLUM – Thursday Diary

Okay, so let's dig into our bag of tricks and see which topic will be up for discussion today...

Now, this is very interesting. We've drawn the Mrs. White card. So, this means that we'll be talking about a cartoon, kids show, comic book series, or book series.

And, I'll be honest with you. I'm actually happy to see the maid of Boddy Manor, or whatever the name of the mansion is that appears in the Clue game. Does anyone actually know what it is? I don't seem to recall. All I know is that Mr. Boddy is the murder victim, and that there are two secret passageways that connect to the four corners of the mansion.

Which would be fine if we were discussing the board game Clue, but we are not.

No, in all seriousness, we're going to be talking about a television series that filmed entirely in Canada and was syndicated all across Canada and parts of the United States beginning in the early 1970s. And, before I go into the discussion period of this television show, I wanted to tell you a personal memory about this show (that I still remember all these years later), and also how much love I have for this very program.

Okay, so picture this scenario. Imagine being a young boy (I'd say maybe kindergarten aged) being absolutely sick as a dog. I don't exactly remember what I had, but I do think that it was some sort of stomach bug, or a flu. All I really remember about that particular time was that I was feeling incredibly sick and I kept throwing up every hour on the hour. I also remember that I couldn't sleep at all because my stomach kept cramping up. And believe me...anyone who has ever had the stomach flu knows exactly how uncomfortable it can feel. So, for whatever reason, I remember being up at four-thirty in the morning...which was a time that I had never seen before as a small child.

Now, to my mom's credit, she stayed up with me to make sure that I was feeling better. She made me lie down on the living room sofa with a bucket next to me (in case I had the urge to throw up again), and she would give me a big glass of ginger ale to drink in order to help my stomach feel a little better. I remember that being sick was really the only time that I ever wanted to drink ginger ale because I disliked it any other day! Trust me, I lived off ginger ale for the first week and a half after my gall bladder removal.

Now, one other thing that my mom did to try and make me feel better was to turn on the television, but unfortunately at four-thirty in the morning, there wasn't a whole lot on...especially during the mid-1980s without basic cable. And, considering that my family did not have a VCR back in those days, it was like trying to find a needle in a haystack when it came to trying to find a show I liked to watch at that time. At that time, the television stations that didn't offer that test pattern screen were airing really old exercise programs or infomercials. I couldn't even watch TVOntario because it didn't start airing their shows until at least six or seven.

But then as my mom flicked the dial (yes, we had a television that did NOT have a remote control in the mid-1980s) and the television landed on channel thirteen (the last channel on the dial), we hit the jackpot.

At that time, channel thirteen was our CTV affiliate. It was actually CJOH-TV which is based in Ottawa, Ontario – now called CTV One, and it was a television station in which at least 60% of its content was Canadian.

And as it so happened, CJOH-TV aired a particular television series at the five o'clock in the morning slot that for whatever reason I fell in love with. Of course, Mom was really uneasy about leaving the television on the channel, as some of the main characters of the program were monsters from horror movies. But for whatever reason, I sat there glued to the television screen, watching it with joy and excitement in my eyes. There was just something about the program that I liked. Sure, it looked creepy, but it was more funny than anything. And even though I was too young to really decipher what they were saying to each other, I still got a kick out of watching it. Watching that show kind of distracted me enough to not complain about my upset stomach, and I actually started to feel better and went back to sleep after the show ended.

The sad thing about it was that up until a few years ago, I didn't know what the show was actually called. I had only seen the one episode of it, and that was when I was sick from the flu and high on ginger ale at the age of five or six. All that I remembered about the show was that the show's main characters were a vampire and a guy named Igor. And, I also remembered that the opening of the show had flashes of purple lightning and a really interesting theme song played entirely on a synthesizer of sorts. But the name was something that I couldn't remember.

That is until I saw the show airing on the Space Channel at the age of thirty and it took me back to that one day that I was feeling sick and watching television at five in the morning and feeling better.

So, what's the show?

It's this one. The Hilarious House of Frightenstein!

At the time I discovered this show, I was only a small fry and was sick with the flu. When I rediscovered it as an adult (without the flu), I loved it even more. And what I found shocking was that the show debuted a full ten years before I was born! And, here I was thinking that it was a new show when I watched it. Of course, back in those days, the fact that it aired in an early morning slot was a dead giveaway that the show wasn't exactly new. But again, I was a kid who was trying to beat the flu. What did I know?

The show was actually pretty unique in a sense. Normally when shows go into production, they film each block of episodes in seasons. For kids cartoons, a season consists of thirteen shows. For sitcoms, the episodes usually have twenty-two. And primetime drama shows can have as many as thirty episodes a season.

Well, would you believe that every single episode of “The Hilarious House of Frightenstein” was filmed in 1971...over a period of nine months? That's one hundred and thirty episodes filmed during the same calendar year! Only daytime soap operas churn out more episodes a year.

The show was filmed at the CHCH-TV studios in Hamilton, Ontario, and what was unique about the show was that it was designed without a specific target audience in mind. The show had sketch comedy, which appealed to adults and teenagers, but at the same time featured educational content, so that children could get something out of the show too.

The idea came about from showrunner Riff Markowitz, who had a rather ingenious brainstorming idea. No need for boardroom meetings when a simple bowl of spaghetti and glass of champagne was all you needed. Matching business with the comforts of home. I like it!

The show plot was quite simple. The main character of the show was a vampire named Count Frightenstein (played by the late Billy Van), the thirteenth son of the legendary Count Dracula himself. But it wasn't all fun and games for the Count. He was actually serving a sentence of banishment to be served inside Castle Frightenstein in Frankenstone, Canada. But why was he being punished? Well, it was because he could not bring Brucie J. Monster to life.

Mind you, he had assistance from his large in size, but small in common sense assistant Igor (Fishka Rais), and a three foot tall mini Count (Guy Big). But try as he might, he just could not figure out a way to bring life back to Brucie. The concept eventually became the main plot point of the show.

Oh, and Vincent Price was a cast member too! I know! THE Vincent Price! Shocking, isn't it?

TRIVIA: Reportedly, Vincent Price accepted the role in a heartbeat, longing to be a part of a children's television show. And to say that Price worked extremely hard to honour his commitment to the show would be an absolute understatement. He filmed approximately four hundred segments for the a time frame of just FOUR DAYS!!! But when you consider that he was paid thirteen thousand dollars for those four days of work (and given that $13,000 was a LOT of money in the early 1970s), I'd say it was a nice chunk of change.

But another person who worked really hard on the show was Billy Van himself. Don't think that the Count was the ONLY character he played. He also assumed the role of the following characters (except one).

THE WOLFMAN – A werewolf disc jockey who would incorporate Top 40 music into each show as the wolfman and Igor danced to the music. And back in the 1970s, when copyright laws were more or less non-existent, The Wolfman could play records by Sly and the Family Stone, Three Dog Night, The Archies, and any other group or artist who had a top 40 hit between 1967 and 1971! Sadly, in the subsequent reruns of the show over the years, these segments have been edited out, but here's one clip I found above featuring "Mama Told Me (Not To Come)” by Three Dog Night.

THE GRAMMAR SLAMMER – Long before Grammar Nazis began invading Facebook and Twitter, the Grammar Slammer would often challenge Igor to a grammar bee of sorts. If he passed, Igor would remain happy. If Igor failed, a giant purple monster named Bammer would bop him. Have a look above!

THE PROFESSOR – The Professor was an American export (played by Julius Sumner Miller) who would teach the residents of Frightenstein Castle all about chemistry, physics, and biology. He made learning about science fun long before Bill Nye and Beakman's World came along!

BWANA CLYDE BATTY – Ever wanted to know more about nature and animals? This character was the one to ask. He would answer your questions faster than you could say ooga booga!

NOTE: Billy Van loved performing as Bwana Clyde Batty because it allowed him to do his Michael Caine impersonation!

GRIZELDA, THE GHASTLY GOURMET – Although the amount of time it took Billy Van to get all the make-up on for Grizelda was insane, Van certainly brought the best of himself in the role. This witch – who had such a healthy ego to her that she felt she was more attractive than Goldie Hawn – made all sorts of brews, concoctions, and potions inside of her giant cauldron...only she never really quite figured out the joys of cooking. Every single dish proved to be a disaster. Have a look.

I could go on and on really. I love this show so much. But all good things come to an end, so I thought that I would end this blog with the legendary Vincent Price signing off.


Tuesday, October 29, 2013

October 29, 1971

This is the final Tuesday Timeline in the month of October, and for this week's edition, I really had a bit of a hard time choosing a topic for today.  For today being two days before Halloween, I certainly have a had a hard time trying to find a spooky topic to talk about in this space.  But in the end, I came up with a way to make the Tuesday Timeline entry work.

Today is actually kind of a bittersweet day for me, as it's the twenty-second anniversary of the day my grandmother passed away.  It certainly was one of the first examples of someone very close to me dying.  I was only ten years old at the time, so her death really hit me hard.  But, I already did a blog entry about that event a couple of years ago.  If you like, you can click HERE to read all about it.

Before we launch into another Tuesday Timeline entry, we have a little bit of unfinished business to take care of.  As usual, here is a list of other happenings that took place on this date which include the debut of an opera, the crash of a stock market, and a devastating hurricane striking the Atlantic coast.

1390 - The first trial for witchcraft held in Paris, France leads to the deaths of three people

1618 - Sir Walter Raleigh is beheaded on allegations of consipiring against James I of England

1787 - Mozart's opera "Don Giovanni" receives its first performance in Prague

1863 - Eighteen countries meet up in Geneva, Switzerland to discuss the foundation of the International Red Cross

1886 - The first ticker-tape parade takes place in New York City as a spontaneous reaction to the dedication of the Statue of Liberty

1901 - Jane Toppan, an American nurse, is arrested for murdering the Davis family with a lethal overdose of morphine

1921 - One of the biggest upsets in college football takes place when Centre College defeats Harvard University's team after Harvard maintained a 25-game winning streak

1925 - American author Dominick Dunne (d. 2009) is born in Hartford, Connecticut

1929 - "Black Tuesday" occurs, leading to one of the largest stock market crashes in the world - kicking off the Great Depression

1941 - Over ten thousand Jews are murdered by German occupiers at the Ninth Fort - the event would later be referred to as "The Great Action"

1942 - American painter Bob Ross (d. 1995), is born in Daytona Beach, Florida

1956 - Israeli forces invade the Sinai Peninsula, pushing Egyptian forces back toward the Suez Canal, kicking off the Suez Crisis

1960 - Muhammad Ali (still going by his birth name of Cassius Clay) wins his first professional fight

1967 - Fifty million people arrive to see the closing day of the World Fair in Montreal - Expo 67

1971 - Duane Allman is killed in a motorcycle accident at the age of 24

1972 - The three surviving perpetrators of the Munich Massacre are released from prison in exchange for the hostages of hijacked Lufthansa Flight 615

1994 - Francisco Martin Duran fires over two dozen shots at the White House

1998 - At age 77, astronaut John Glenn becomes the oldest person to go into outer space as he joined the crew of the Space Shuttle Discovery

2002 - A fire completely destroys a department store in Ho Chi Minh City, killing at least sixty people

2008 - Delta Airlines and Northwest Airlines merge

2011 - British television personality Jimmy Savile dies at the age of 84

2012 - Hurricane Sandy makes landfall on the Atlantic coast, causing devastation to Atlantic City, New Jersey and New York City and killing nearly three hundred people both directly and indirectly

Quite a lot of things happening on the second last day of October!  And, I haven't even gotten to celebrity birthdays yet!  The following people are turning one year older today;  Robert Hardy, Galen Weston, Jack Shepherd, Melora Harte, Claude Brochu, Melba Moore, Richard Dreyfuss, Kate Jackson, Dan Castellaneta, Jesse Barfield, Finola Hughes, Randy Jackson (Jackson 5), Yasmin Le Bon, Joely Fisher, Tracee Ellis Ross, Gabrielle Union, Jon Abrahams, Brendan Fehr, Ben Foster, Amanda Beard, and Jessica Dube.

Oh, and there's also today's spotlight.

This person was born on October 29, 1971 - the same day of Duane Allman's fatal motorcycle accident.

And, you know something?  Looking back through her resume of works, many of her roles were in spooky and scary pictures.  She did have some comedic roles, and dramatic roles too, but for whatever reason, I seem to have this actress associated with Halloween.  Then again, her birthday does happen to occur right around that time.

And she has a rather unique first name.

Would you believe that she was named after a small town in the middle of Minnesota?  I suppose it made sense, given that she was born in nearby Olmstead County.  When she was born, she was given the name Winona Laura Horowitz.  But, eventually she would change her name to Winona Ryder - the subject of today's blog entry.  I still have a hard time believing that Winona Ryder is 42 today!

TRIVIA:  Ever wonder where Winona's stage name came from?  Well, it happened to be a spur of the moment decision inspired by the artist that her father Michael was listening to when he took a call from Winona's agent asking her what name she wanted to have displayed in the credits of her first film (the film being 1986's "Lucas").  The artist in question?  Mitch Ryder.

The family stayed in Minnesota until Winona turned seven.  That year, Winona's family relocated to Mendocino County, California, moving into a commune known as Rainbow, living with seven other families on a three hundred acre plot of land.  Because the commune had no electricity, Winona was forced to entertain herself by reading a lot of books - her favourite book being J.D. Salinger's "The Catcher In The Rye".  And soon after, Winona developed a love of film after her mother Cynthia would have movies screened inside of their barn of all places!  Still, Winona was bitten by the acting bug, and she was determined to try and find a way to make it happen.

Her first audition tape was made in 1985, and it consisted of Ryder reciting a monologue from the Salinger penned novel "Franny and Zooey", with the purpose of getting cast in the film "Desert Bloom".  Unfortunately she did not win that role, but writer/director David Seltzer was very impressed by her audition.  So impressed was he that he decided to offer Ryder a part in the 1986 film "Lucas", and as they say, the rest was history.

Now, it's safe to say that over the past twenty-seven years of Ryder being in the film industry, her career has had a number of highs (her 2000 induction into the Hollywood Walk of Fame and winning a Golden Globe Award and an Academy Award nomination), and a series of lows (having critically panned films, and that infamous December 2001 arrest for shoplifting which derailed her career for a few years).  But I have to say that when it comes to her most memorable roles, they all happen to be linked to films that one might have in some of their Halloween film collections.  And, in this blog entry celebrating Winona's birthday, I thought that I would talk about some of her most memorable film performances.

(Or, at the very least, they are films that I think Ryder performed well in, or that I enjoyed.)

Let's begin with one of my all-time favourite films!

BEETLEJUICE (1988) - This would be one of many collaborations that Winona Ryder would do with director Tim Burton.  I think that the only other person who worked with Burton on more collaborations was Johnny Depp.  Yeah, we'll talk more about Depp later.

For now, let's talk about Ryder, who did a fantastic job as the dark and depressed gothic teenager Lydia Deetz, a girl who would rather be dead than live the yuppie lifestyle of her father and stepmother.  After befriending a pair of recently deceased ghosts Adam and Barbara Maitland, Lydia discovers that maybe there's more to life after all.  But when a nasty and self-centered ghost named Beetlejuice gets involved in the storyline, Lydia almost ends up getting betrothed to the insect eating ghost with the most!  There's certainly a lot of twists and turns to this Burton masterpiece, but Ryder does a convincing job.  And, one thing that she was great at was playing characters younger than she really was.  I remember being absolutely shocked that Ryder was actually sixteen and a half when she filmed Beetlejuice!  I only thought she was thirteen at most!

HEATHERS (1989) - This was one of the perfect films to watch if you were fed up with the social hierarchy of high school and wanted to watch one woman stand up against the cliques and live her own life the way she wanted to.  Ryder played the only non-Heather in a group full of Heathers.  As Veronica Sawyer, she hangs around three girls who all happen to share a name.  But at the school that they all attend, it appears that the name Heather is synonymous with social climbing, snobbery, and just plain mean girl behaviour.  When Veronica meets a rebellious boy named JD, it becomes lust at first sight, and soon after, Veronica confesses her secret hatred for the Heathers, and JD decides to help out.  Unfortunately, JD goes too far, killing one of the Heathers, two high school boys, and making the other two Heathers paranoid of each other.  And, Veronica is caught in the very middle of it all!  Here's an interesting fact about Heathers though.  Ryder's agent actually advised Winona not to take the part in Heathers as he felt it would tank her career.  Funny how the exact opposite happened.

EDWARD SCISSORHANDS (1990) - Remember how I told you that I would be bringing up Johnny Depp a little bit later in this blog entry?  Well, the time to do so is now.  In this Tim Burton directed classic, Depp played the title role - a man who happens to have scissor blades for a hand.  Perfect for trimming garden hedges and hair, but not so much for interacting with the townspeople, who see him as nothing more than a freak of nature.  Fortunately, Winona Ryder's character of Kim falls in love with Edward (which wasn't too difficult as Depp and Ryder were in a relationship at the time this movie was filmed), and can see the humanity inside of him.  Of course, the movie had a bit of a letdown ending which had Anthony Michael Hall causing all kinds of trouble...but all in all, it was a phenomenal movie.  I liked it a lot.

BRAM STOKER'S DRACULA (1992) - Do I even really need to go into why this movie is a perfect representation of how Winona Ryder seemed to be associated with spooky and gothic movies?  I mean, this is freakin' Dracula we're talking about here.  I will say this though.  I never thought that I would have seen such romantic chemistry between Winona Ryder and Gary Oldman, and yet as Mina and Dracula, they worked out splendidly.  This film is also widely considered to be one of Winona's best films.  I would have to agree.  I don't think I could see anybody else in that role.

ALIEN: RESURRECTION (1997) - Three weeks ago, I did a blog entry on Sigourney Weaver, the queen of the Alien franchise.  Who knew that three weeks later, I would be including her in the Winona Ryder entry?  Unfortunately, many call the Alien Resurrection film to be a bit of a letdown in the series.  Certainly, no other Alien sequels were made after this film.  But the one thing that I will state about this particular film is that Winona Ryder faced one of her biggest fears while shooting scenes for it.  You see, if you've ever watched Alien: Resurrection, you know that there are scenes in which Winona's character has to swim underwater.  What many people didn't realize was that Winona had a fear of water - likely stemmed from a near-drowning she experienced as a young girl.

(Trust me, I know all about aquaphobia.  It's the main reason why I didn't learn how to swim until I was 21.)

So, the fact that Winona faced her fears and did the scenes is amazing to me.  The fact that it took several takes to make sure that Winona's part looked believable was a problem, but watching the film, you'd never really know it.

GIRL, INTERRUPTED (1999) - This film was supposed to have been a comeback film for Winona Ryder.  Instead, it ended up being the breakthrough performance of another up and coming starlet, Angelina Jolie.  But, aside from that, this role that Winona took on was based on a true story.  She plays the role of Susanna Kaysen, an eighteen year old who checks herself into a mental asylum, and ends up bonding with a sociopath who encourages her to stop taking her medication and refusing to go through therapy.  Through it all, she befriends other patients in the hospital, and she begins to realize that just because she has been diagnosed with a mental illness, it doesn't mean that she doesn't have a chance to make a good life for herself.  Really, everybody's performances in this film are fantastic.  I'm even thinking about making it a subject for a future Monday Matinee.

BLACK SWAN (2010) - Okay, so any of you who have ever seen the film Black Swan know just how disturbing a movie it really is.  Mila Kunis and Natalie Portman certainly brought everything to the table in this film.  But did you know that Winona Ryder was in this movie as well?  After an entire decade of trying to reinvent herself following the 2001 shoplifting arrest, Winona appeared in this film as Beth, a ballerina who was forced out of a production to make way for either Kunis or Portman's characters to take over.  And to say that Beth doesn't take it very well would be like saying that the sky at night is pitch black.  She gets hit by a car, leaving people to suspect it to be a suicide attempt, and there's one disturbing scene where Ryder's character stabs herself in the face!

But, then again...the whole movie is really disturbing!

FRANKENWEENIE (2012) - One of her most recent films to date, this black and white animated film marked yet another collaboration with Tim Burton.  In this film, she played the role of Elsa Van Helsing, the next door neighbour of Victor Frankenstein - a little boy who brings his deceased dog sparky back to life, with some...rather interesting consequences.  Take a look at the trailer below, to see what I mean.

And, you know what?  That's just a taste of some of the roles that helped Winona Ryder become a star and stay a stay despite having a few career setbacks and some personal issues along the way.

Happy birthday, Winona!

Monday, October 28, 2013

A Nightmare On Elm Street

It's the last official Monday Matinee for the month of October, and for this week's edition, I thought that I would discuss a movie that has been a staple of Halloween parties for nearly thirty years.  And, I'll be honest with all of you.  When I watched this movie for the first time, it scared the heck out of me!  Of course now that I am much older, I see the film as more campy than anything.  In fact, I honestly find it funnier than some of the so-called sitcoms that are currently airing on network television.  But back in the days when it first debuted, it certainly scared a lot of people, and I would imagine that a select few people were afraid to even fall asleep at night as a result of watching this film.

Why, I would imagine that the film would have inspired quite a few nightmares, wouldn't you agree?

I mean, at some point in our lives, we've all had some nightmares that have kept us tossing and turning in our beds.  Bad dreams are one of the main reasons why some people end up sleep-deprived for days on end.  I can tell you that I had some real doozies of nightmares when I was a kid.  Among some of the ones that I have had over the years...

1 - Falling in a backyard and having a dog that clearly has rabies running towards me and biting off my face.

2 - Falling off of a building and plummeting down towards the pavement below, with me waking up just before the impact.

3 - Sitting down at a picnic table celebrating a birthday, eating a piece of birthday cake, and immediately wincing in pain upon realizing that the cake was filled with live bees!

(Okay, that last nightmare might seem like it came from bizarro-world, but I assure you that this nightmare really happened, and it really creeped me out!)

But you know...the good thing about nightmares are that they are only temporary distractions and in every single case, we wake up and realize that everything was exactly how we left it.  Well, unless the nightmare is so great that you end up having a panic induced heart attack.

I mean, it's not as if you're going to have bees actually attacking you while you sleep (unless you live on a beekeeping farm), and it's likely that if you do dream of falling off of a building, you'll only fall a grand total of three and a half feet (well, depending on how high your bed is raised).

And, you certainly would never have a man actually killing you in the middle of your nightmare...would you?

Well, unfortunately for the four teenagers who appear in the 1984 film "A Nightmare On Elm Street", they discover just how terrifying the serial killer Freddy Krueger could be.  

Now, before I go on with further discussion of "A Nightmare On Elm Street", I want to tell you all a little bit of a story.  When I was in elementary school, I was picked on a lot by some of the older kids in school.  When I was in the first grade, we all shared a hallway with the second and third grade students, and this meant that we all shared the same bathrooms.  Well, every time I went to the bathroom in school, there would be this third grader who seemingly always happened to be in the bathroom at the same time.  Maybe it was coincidence.  Maybe he was stalking me.  Maybe he was just a slacker who decided that he was going to skip all of his third grade lessons.  Who can say exactly?

But every single time I ran into this goober of a boy, he would try to scare me by creepily hissing "FREDDY'S GONNA GET YOU!", expecting me to cower in fear.  But because at that time I had never seen "A Nightmare On Elm Street", I had no idea who Freddy was, or why he was trying to get me.  All in all, he looked like a complete idiot.  He kind of ranks up there with other goober bullies like the guy who kept insisting that I ate a Volkswagon, or the putz that kept insisiting that I looked like a two by four who couldn't fit through the patio door.

(I wonder if that putz ever realized that a two by four is a skinny piece of wood?)

Anyway, I didn't know who Freddy Krueger was until I was about ten years old, and I happened to catch an airing of "A Nightmare On Elm Street" on cable television.  It freaked me out so badly.  I had nightmares for days afterwards.  I'll be the first one to say that the movie no longer has that same impact on me today, although I do admit that I would still recommend this film as a date movie, or just a movie to have a few laughs during Halloween.

The funny thing about this film was that it was released nine days after Halloween, on November 9, 1984.  It was directed by Wes Craven, and it was the first of many "Nightmare" movies.  Though, having seen a few of the "Nightmare" films, I have to say that the original one was the best one of the bunch. I'm sure that most of you reading this might agree.  Or, maybe you'll disagree.

At any rate, this film had quite a few firsts associated with it.  It was one of the first films to make back its entire budget within the first week it aired in theatres.  It was one of the first film series to have a total of six sequels.  And, for those of you who love Johnny Depp, this film marked his debut on the silver screen!  And, boy has he come a long way over the last twenty-nine years!

In addition to Depp, the movie starred Heather Langenkamp, Amanda Wyss, Jsu Garcia (using the screen name of Nick Corri), Ronee Blakley, and Robert Englund as the mysterious, but deadly Freddy Krueger.

But just who is Freddy Krueger?  Well, as it turns out, he was a serial killer.  Over the course of several years - prior to the start of the events that took place in the fictional town of Springwood, Ohio - Freddy Krueger haunted the streets of the town, killing a grand total of twenty children before he was finally arrested.  But when a technicality causes Krueger to be released from police custody, it makes the parents of those children he killed incredibly angry, screaming about how justice was blind.

So the parents decided to take matters into their own hands.  They hunted Krueger down, set him on fire, and watched as he burned to death.  The people of Springwood, Ohio believed that the nightmare of Freddy Krueger was over, and they went back to living their lives as best they could.  But Freddy Krueger's evil spirit wasn't finished on Earth yet.  His body might have been nothing more than a pile of charred ashes, but his spectre was still very much alive...and though he couldn't enter the real world to take his revenge, he could enter the dream worlds of the surviving children of the mob who killed him years ago and exact his revenge by murdering their children through their dreams.

Sounds scary, doesn't it?

It certainly was scary for a group of four friends.  Nancy Thompson (Langenkamp), Glen Lantz (Depp), Rod Lane (Garcia), and Tina Gray (Wyss) have all had the same dream...where all of them dreamt of being stalked by a man with a burned face and a glove that was more or less a fusion of Swiss Army Knives.  For Tina, her encounter was especially scary.  She dreamed that she was running away from Freddy who was stalking her inside of a boiler room, and when she woke up, she had slash marks all over her nightgown.  

When Tina tells Nancy of her dream, Nancy admits that she has had the same one, and recalls a nursery rhyme that she heard quite often over the years.  You must all know the rhyme by now, so let's say it together!

1, 2, Freddy's coming for you!
3, 4, Better lock your door!
5, 6, Grab a crucifix!
7, 8, Gonna stay up late!
9, 10, Never sleep again!

Now, all four children believe it to be a rather morbid rhyme, built upon an urban legend.  Little do they know that the urban legend was built on truth.

Anyway, Tina's mother is out of town for the night, so Tina invites Nancy, Glen, and Rod over for a sleepover so that she can feel safe in her home, and because the other three kids know exactly what she's going through.  Now, because it's a teenage slasher film, there has to be a little bit of foreplay involved, and Tina and Rod end up making love in the same bed while Glen and Nancy sleep in separate rooms.  But when both of them end up falling asleep, Freddy makes another reappearance in Tina's dream, and this time, Tina was not escaping.  (Warning...this video is NOT for small kids.)

A horrified Rod watches as Tina is literally torn apart by Freddy's glove of horrors.  He is absolutely frightened and in complete shock as Tina is dragged across the wall and ceiling of the bedroom, blood pouring out of her entire body before she falls back on top of the bed, dead.  A panicked Rod escapes out the window as Nancy and Glen come across the gory sight.

The next day, Rod is arrested for Tina's murder as he was the last one to see her alive.  That same day, Nancy has a nightmare about Freddy Krueger at school, and she immediately decides to go to the jail, to get Rod's side of the story.  And after Rod tells Nancy that he has had the same dreams of Freddy chasing after him, Nancy puts two and two together, and figures out that Rod didn't kill Tina at all.  Instead, they both suspect that the real culprit is this mysterious burned man with the metal hand.  But how he's making it happen, neither of them know.

Nancy decides that she must figure out what the story is, and she thinks that the only way that she can make it happen is to fall asleep, and have someone else (Glen) monitor her, and wake her up before Freddy decides to murder her.  And when Nancy discovers that Rod is the planned next victim, Glen and Nancy rush over to the jail to try and save him.  But as both of them soon realize, the ability to prevent a killer from killing is not easy.

And when Nancy's mother reveals the real story behind the urban legend of Freddy Krueger that turned out to be a true story, the hunt for a killer becomes even more imperative.  Can Nancy find a way to stop Krueger from killing again before she ends up dying herself?

Well, given that the series spawned six sequels, you likely already know the answer to that one.  But I will say this about the ending.  It surprised me in a way.  Particularly the last few seconds of the last scene.  And, I will say that there's one death scene involving a bed with a voracious appetite that everyone seemed to talk about!

All in all...a movie that is less scary the more times you watch it, yet has spawned an iconic character in Freddy Krueger.  And Robert Englund played the role so well.  I know that Jackie Earle Haley played the role in the 2010 remake of the film, but to me there really is only one Freddy.

And, there's only one set of trivia facts for this film, beginning with...

1 - Did you know that Amanda Wyss had never seen a horror film prior to making "A Nightmare On Elm Street"?

2 - Did you know that even though the movie is called "A Nightmare On Elm Street" that the words Elm Street are never spoken once?

3 - The bathtub scene featuring Heather Langenkamp was actually a bottomless tub suspended over top of a swimming pool.  Langenkamp reportedly spent twelve hours in that pool filming that scene!  She must have been quite wrinkly!

4 - A mixture of food products were used in the melting staircase scene, including pancake mix, oatmeal, and mushroom soup.

5 - Freddy Krueger was based off of a real-life schoolmate of Wes Craven's, who would bully him constantly.  I suppose naming a villain after the person who picked on you would be a form of revenge of sorts, wouldn't it?

6 - This film is widely credited with saving New Line Cinema from filing bankruptcy in 1984.

7 - Over five hundred gallons of fake blood were used in the movie.  I imagine that the scene involving the hungry bed used half of that amount alone!

8 - The little girl skipping rope in the movie?  Her house was the one used for Tina's death scene!

9 - Charlie Sheen was interested in the role of Glen, but he decided not to take the part over salary disagreements (Sheen wanted more money than the producers were willing to offer).

10 - The whole movie was shot in a month.

11 - When Robert Englund tried on the slasher glove for the first time, it apparently did too good a job!  Englund cut himself moments after putting it on!

12 - Robert Englund spent three hours each day getting his make-up put on.

13 - Heather Langenkamp beat out several other actresses for the role of Nancy.  Other actresses who reportedly tried out for the role were Tracey Gold, Courteney Cox, Jennifer Grey, and Demi Moore!

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Dancing With Tears In My Eyes

All I admit that when I was coming up with possible topics for the month of October, I really wanted to come up with ideas that really made people scared out of their wits.  And one of the theme days in which I really wanted to do a spotlight on for this month was the Sunday Jukebox.  After all, there have been so many music videos that have been made that invoke fear in the hearts of innocent viewers all over the world.

Since MTV's debut in August 1981, there have been several examples of music videos that have a lot of imagery and concepts which have chilled the bones of many people over the last thirty-two years.  And as you have noticed over the last three weeks of this blog, I've chosen videos that have done exactly that.  

Well, at least they did so at the time anyway.  Nowadays they seem almost laughable.

In week number one of October, we took a look at the creepy erotic fantasy that Bonnie Tyler dreamed up when she sang about how once upon a time she was falling in love, but now she was only falling apart.  Nothing she could do, a total eclipse of the heart.

(And, we also talked about how the guy with the wonky beams of light illuminating his eyes gave me the creeps.)

Then in week number two, we took a look at Robbie Williams, and his video where he ripped off his clothes...and then his skin...and then all of his internal organs all in the name of art.  It's just a saving grace that the song itself was really catchy and had a great beat to it.  Otherwise, I probably wouldn't have been able to stomach even watching the video once.

And, just last week, the band known as Soundgarden showed us all what it was like to get sucked up into the endless abyss known as the inside of the "Black Hole Sun".  Now with more face morphing than ever before.

Now, as interesting, horrific, and grotesque as the three music videos up above were, you have to admit that the possibility of being greeted by a man shooting laser beams from his eyes singing "turn around bright eyes" is likely not going to happen any time this century.  You could never rip off parts of your skin and throw body parts to your adoring fans...because,'d die a slow and painful death.  And, nobody ever wants that.

And, although scientists have claimed that the Earth will likely end up becoming permanently scorched when the sun eventually goes into its supernova phase, we don't need to worry about that happening for billions of years.  So, there's no chance of us having the black hole sun give us all permanent botox any time soon.

But today's's video is scary for a number of different reasons.  Because of all the scary music videos that I have posted this month...this particular one was filmed at a time in which the entire world was on edge over the threat of a nuclear war.  It was the event known as the Cold War, for those of you who might not know.  And although the Cold War officially ended in 1991, the threat of nuclear destruction is still very much alive and still very much a threat to the world.

What makes today's video especially frightening was that this video was filmed just two years before a devastating worldwide event took place...and it certainly made everyone very uneasy.  After all, it was a video that depicted a possibility that nobody ever thought was possible...until it happened for real during one Spring day in the mid-1980s.

First, the video.

ARTIST:  Ultravox
SONG:  Dancing With Tears In My Eyes
ALBUM:  Lament
DATE RELEASED:  May 4, 1984

Yes, you're reading this correctly.  This song never actually charted in the United States.  I don't even know if the single was even released there or not.  However, I can tell you that in my native country of Canada, the single only peaked at #52.  In the UK (the place where Ultravox hailed from), the single performed much better, with the song reaching the bronze position on the charts.

Ultravox was just one of the many projects that Scottish singer Midge Ure (born James Ure on the tenth of October, 1953) was a part of.  In this case, he was the lead singer of the band, which was formed by himself and pal Billy Currie in 1979.  Together, along with Warren Cann and Chris Cross (not to be confused with the "Think of Laura" singer or the 1990's rap group), they enjoyed making music for seven years before breaking up in 1986.  However, the band reformed in 2009, and still perform the occasional gig.  Rumour has it that the band will be touring with Simple Minds beginning sometime next month!  And, you know something?  I actually think that would be an awesome show to go and see!

Anyway, in the spring of 1984, Ultravox released their seventh album, "Lament".  And the single "Dancing With Tears In My Eyes" was the second single from the album.  And to say that it was a rather melancholic song would be like making the shocking declaration that Coca-Cola has bubbles in it.

You see, the video actually starts off quite innocently enough.  In fact, I would say that like most people watching the video for the first time, I was a little bit confused over why the video began inside of a power plant when it first came on.  After all, I thought the song was all about dancing and people crying.  Like the same feelings that people would have when they break up with a girlfriend at the high school prom.  How naive was I back then?  

Little did I know that the action in the video would take a rather melancholic that likely scared many people to death.

Before you knew it (and before the poor guys who are working at the power place knew it), the screens started going haywire, and red emergency lights bathed the area in an intimidating scarlet hue.  

Did I forget to mention that the power plant was one that dealt with nuclear energy?  And that in this music video, the power plant was just minutes away from complete and total meltdown, effectively nuking those who are unlucky enough to live close to it?

Now, this isn't the first time that we have seen the threat of nuclear fallout air on television.  After all, the television miniseries "The Day After" aired just six months before this single was released.  But there was just something unsettling about seeing people panicking in the streets, knocking each other down, trying to make sense of everything that is going on outside.  The panic that those people must have felt knowing that something big was happening, and that it could very well be the last night they end up living's unthinkable to even imagine how that would be.

Certainly Midge Ure (who acts in the video as the motorist who is trying so desperately to get back home to be with his wife and young child one last time) portrays this confusion and fear very well.  Even when he arrives home and gazes upon his wife for what ends up being the last time, all they can do is hold each other, never wanting to let each other go.  After checking on their child to make sure that all is okay (well, as okay as impending death by radiation poisoning can feel), both husband and wife strip off their clothes and make love one final time before descending into a deep sleep...a sleep that neither will ever wake up from.  With a flashing blue light and the shattering of window panes and television screens, the blast takes out all living things close by.  But eerily enough, the possessions of all of those who once lived in the area remain.  

And the video ends on an extremely sad note as we watch a home video of the family in happier times before the whole roll of film burns up and disintegrates right before our eyes.

A very scary thought, no?  Of course, nuclear power plants are likely not going to disappear any time soon.  They do run on less pollution and can power more homes and businesses than your average coal powered plant (though to be honest, I'm more a fan of hydro generated or solar power).  But they can also be very dangerous places if the wrong people make the worst possible kind of mistake inside.  The United States managed to avoid disaster in 1979 with Three Mile Island...but little did anyone realize what devastation that a nuclear meltdown would have on a community just seven years later.

The nuclear meltdown at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant in April 1986 was a devastating event.  Large quantities of nuclear radiation were spread throughout parts of Europe and the then Soviet Union, and several communities (including the city of Pripyat which had almost fifty thousand people living there at the time of the meltdown).  It's unknown just how many people were negatively affected by the fallout of Chernobyl, but the one thing that I know for sure is that life for the people around the area would never be the same again.  And life as they knew it would be forever changed.

So, to end this blog off, a few images of Pripyat...the abandoned that was affected by one of the worst possible events ever imaginable.  One that Ultravox seemingly foretold.