Below is a list of my favorite episodes from Season One of the CBS series, “HOW I MET YOUR MOTHER”. The series was created by Carter Bays and Craig Thomas:
FAVORITE EPISODES OF “HOW I MET YOUR MOTHER” SEASON ONE (2005-2006)
1. (1.22) “Come On” – In the season finale, narrator Ted Mosby decides to seriously pursue Robin Scherbatsky, the young woman he had first met in the series finale, instead of a date arranged for him by a matchmaking service. Meanwhile, best friend Marshall Eriksen is stunned by his fiancée Lily Aldrin’s decision to break their engagement and leave him for an art fellowship in San Francisco.
2. (1.11) “The Limo” – On New Year’s Eve 2005, Ted spends a large portion of his Christmas bonus for a limo for him and the gang to celebrate the holiday. Things do not go as planned.
3. (1.18) “Nothing Good Happens After 2AM” – With his long-distance girlfriend Victoria on his mind, Ted has conflicted feelings when Robin invites him over for a late-night rendezvous.
4. (1.01) “Pilot” – In the series’ pilot episode, Ted starts his tale of how he had met his children’s mother with how he, Marshall, Lily and their womanizing friend Barney Stinson had met Robin for the first time.
5. (1.05) “Okay Awesome” – Robin, Ted, and Barney visit a hot new nightclub; leaving the engaged Marshall and Lily to a more adult and boring evening of wine tasting with another couple.
Below is a list of my favorite Season Two episodes from the Fox (now Netflix) series, “LUCIFER”. Based on the Vertigo (D.C. Comics) comic book series and created by Tom Kapinos, the series starred Tom Ellis:
FAVORITE EPISODES OF “LUCIFER” SEASON TWO (2016-2017)
1. (2.10) “Quid Pro Ho” – Lucifer Morningstar’s mother aka “Charlotte Richards” is determined to get him to reunite the family against her husband, God; and leave Earth by turning L.A.P.D. Detective Chloe Decker against him. Meanwhile, Lucifer’s older brother Amenadiel has begun working as Charlotte’s soldier, which makes Lucifer’s ally archdemon Mazikeen “Maze” question his loyalty.
2. (2.18) “The Good, the Bad, and the Crispy” – In this season finale, “Charlotte” becomes a ticking time-bomb for Lucifer after she had accidentally burned a man to death in the previous episode. Because of this latest incident, Lucifer is forced to find a permanent solution to deal with her before Chloe can figure out the truth.
3. (2.13) “A Good Day to Die” – Lucifer returns to Hell to find an antidote for Chloe after she had been poisoned by a murder suspect. “Charlotte” also goes to Hell to bring him back.
4. (2.05) “Weaponizer” – Lucifer and Amenadiel’s brother Uriel shows up, while the former and Chloe investigate the murder of a favorite action hero.
5. (2.14) “Candy Morningstar” – Following Choloe’s close brush with death, Lucifer disappears from Los Angeles. However, the murder of an up-and-coming guitarist leads him to resurface – with a new mystery woman. Meanwhile, “Charlotte” realizes she may have found a way to finally get her and her sons back to Heaven.
Honorable Mention: (2.06) “Monster” – A guilty and self-destructive Lucifer clashes with Chloe during an investigation, leading her to team up with her ex-husband, L.A.P.D. Detective Dan Espinoza instead. Meanwhile, Amenadiel bonds with “Charlotte” and Maze takes Chloe and Dan’s young daughter, Trixie, trick-or-treating.
Here is the sequel to the personal logs of Tom Paris, set around Voyager’s first year in the Delta Quadrant:
“THE HELMSMAN’S LOG – 2371”
STARDATE 48671.28 – Just came back from a date with Megan Delaney. Alone, this time. We had an intimate little dinner at a romantic restaurant on Gerdi Prime, inside Holodeck Two. After supper, we enjoyed a walk along the beach, followed by a nightcap inside my quarters.
Ah, Megan! Such a nice, calm person, in compare to her sister, Jenny. There were times when she almost reminds me of . . . Shit! What the hell is wrong with me? I just enjoyed a pleasant night with a beautiful and intelligent woman and all I can think about is our cook’s girlfriend. Kes. God, will I ever stop thinking about her? Or better yet, will she ever dump Neelix? End personal log.
STARDATE 48695.34 – I nearly lost Harry, today. While enjoying his Beowulf holonovel, Harry was captured by a photonic being that had been accidentally brought aboard the ship. Apparently, while we were gathering energy from a photostar. The being took refuge inside Harry’s Beowulf program and later captured him. It also captured Tuvok and Chakotay, after they had been sent to investigate Harry’s disappearance. In the end, the Captain sent the Doctor to rescue our missing officers. Thankfully, the Doc succeeded and received a special commendation for his troubles. Now, if only the Captain could order Torres to do something about his personality subroutines. End personal log.
STARDATE 48733.51 – Voyager had a strange encounter with something out of one of those old “B” movies that I usually enjoy. While investigating some dark nebula, Tuvok and Chakotay’s shuttle was attacked. Tuvok only sustained minor injuries, while the good Commander ended up brain dead. His bio-neural energy had been removed from him.
It turned out worse than we thought. Some trianic energy being had possessed Tuvok, in an attempt to convince the Captain to investigate this dark nebula matter. The being belonged to a race called the Komar, who wanted the crew’s bio-neural energy as substance for his people. Meanwhile, another entity began invading the minds of other crewmen – including mine – in an attempt to prevent Voyager from entering that nebula. This second entity turned out to be Chakotay’s bio-neural energy, displaced by the Komar’s attack. Just great! My brain nearly became food for a bunch of non-corporeal beings and was twice possessed by the Great Spirit Chief, himself. Oh well, at least we managed to escape the nebula and the Komar. End personal log.
STARDATE 48736.53 – This afternoon, Neelix had decided to hold a little celebration in honor of Chakotay’s recovery and our near escape from the Komar. Jesus, this guy would just about hold a party for anything. Not that I mind. The more parties, the better. I suspect that this was Neelix’s way of celebrating Kes’s recovery from an attack by the Komar-possessed Tuvok. Hmmm. Certainly not a bad reason to celebrate, in my book.
Captain Janeway and the Maquis seemed to be the only ones really celebrating. I guess they need something to celebrate after Seska’s humiliating revelation. Well, most of the Maquis seemed happy. I noticed B’Elanna Torres, sitting by herself and shooting jealous looks at the very chummy Captain Janeway and Chakotay. My God! Is that little infatuation of hers, still going on? Doesn’t she realize that Chakotay is not her type? Too bad Harry is still mooning over his lost love, Libby. Quite frankly, he would make a better choice for Torres. Of course, I don’t exactly relish sharing Harry’s time with her. (Beep, beep) That must be Megan. I forgot that she was coming by for drinks, tonight. End personal log.
STARDATE 48766.73 – Not much happened today. Voyager investigated a Class J nebula – one of many we have encountered since our arrival in the Delta Quadrant. The only interesting thing that happened was a minor conversation with Kes in the Mess Hall. We discussed some our favorite foods. One of hers happens to be something called Lokar beans. I told her about tomato soup (something those damn replicators still haven’t got right) and peanut butter-and-jelly sandwiches. My ultimate comfort food. By then, even Neelix got into the conversation. I don’t know if this was his way of keeping an eye on Kes and me, or merely just genuine interest. At least we managed to exchange a few words without any hostility or suspicion from him. End personal log.
STARDATE 48777.42 – Another dull day in the Delta Quadrant. I guess every day can’t be an exciting encounter with a new species. Voyager stumbled into the Avery system. It seemed to consist of several Class M planets. The Captain, in one of her bouts of “science exploration”, decided she wanted an investigation of magnacite formations on some of the planets.
I was assigned to explore the planet, Avery III with Pete Durst and B’Elanna Torres. Voyager should rendezvous with us in two days. I guess it won’t be that bad. Pete’s okay. He was one of the few crewmen who had been friendly toward me from the beginning. And as for Torres – well, we have managed to strike up a cordial relationship in the last five or six weeks. Hell, it’s a lot better than spending two days with Chakotay or Neelix. End personal log.
STARDATE 48790.33 – Oh God! I simply don’t know where to begin! I feel as if I had taken part in some bizarre horror vid from the 20th century. Sigh! Might as well get it over with.
While investigating magnacite formations on Avery III with Durst and Torres, we were captured by Vidiians. That’s right. The same species who had stolen Neelix’s lungs, three months ago. These Vidiians didn’t simply steal our organs. They forced Pete and myself to become part of their slave labor. I had no idea what happened to B’Elanna. Until the following day. It seemed some Vidiian doctor named Sulan had extracted her Klingon DNA, leaving her completely Human. How gruesome!
I still remember the shock of seeing B’Elanna completely Human for the first time. Oddly enough, I was too surprised by the change to notice her looks. I must admit that she looked beautiful. But then, I’ve always thought she made a beautiful Klingon/Human hybrid. Not only had her looks changed, but her personality, as well. Gone was the tough and temperamental woman and in her place, an emotional and sad woman, driven by fear. I guess the trauma of her situation drove her to be a little more open about her past. She told me about her childhood on Kessik IV and how she blamed her Klingon side for driving her father away. She has not seen him in nearly twenty years. If that’s true, the man is an idiot. (Pauses) I think I’m getting a little personal, here. Anyway, I tried to comfort her with a little revelation of my own. I told her about the haircuts Dad used to enforce upon me, at the beginning of every summer. I don’t think it worked. Then again . . . she did smile a little.
Then everything went from bad to worse. The Vidiian guards took Pete Durst away. That was the last time I saw him. I tried to prevent the guards from taking him, but they didn’t want me. Can’t blame them, I guess. Who would? I later found out that they didn’t want Pete to send a message to Voyager. Instead, that monster, Dr. Sulan had Pete’s face grafted upon his. The guards came back for B’Elanna, leaving me feel even more useless. God only know how long I would have remained part of the slave labor force, if Chakotay hadn’t shown up, disguised as a Vidiian. Too bad we couldn’t take the Talaxian with us, but the guards were even reluctant to let me go. We found two B’Elannas being confronted by Dr. Sulan, with Pete’s face plastered to his skin. I don’t know what shocked me more – seeing both a Klingon and a Human B’Elanna at the same time, Dr. Sulan, or witnessing Klingon B’Elanna’s death after she saved her counterpart’s life. Too bad she died. I would have liked to have known her. End personal log.
STARDATE 48791.56 – I still can’t help thinking about that Away mission on Avery III. To me, it’s a reminder of my failure as a Starfleet officer. I can’t help but wonder what I could have done to avoid capture or save Pete. I had a dream about it, several hours ago. At one point, Human B’Elanna’s face transformed into the dying Klingon B’Elanna’s, and eventually into Dr. Sulan, with Pete’s face. I woke up in a sweat, after that. Unable to sleep, I decided to head for Sick Bay to pay B’Elanna a visit. She still looked Human. Unfortunately, Chakotay was also there. And since they seemed to be sharing a tender moment, I didn’t want to interrupt. Oh well. Perhaps I can read myself to sleep. End personal log.
STARDATE 48799.76 – I finally spoke with B’Elanna. She came to my table, while I was eating a late dinner in the Mess Hall, last night. We were the only ones there. She looked normal. Her Klingon traits had returned, ridges and all. B’Elanna told me what happened to her on Avery III. Apparently, Dr. Sulan had used a genetron to remove her Klingon DNA, creating two B’Elannas in the process – one Klingon and one Human. He fell in love with the Klingon Human and used Pete’s face to woo her. He must have been a sick man. Sulan also needed a full-blooded Klingon to test his theory that Klingon physiology was resistant to their phage. As it turned out, he was right.
B’Elanna told me that after her Klingon couterpart’s death, she had assumed she would remain completely Human. I guess the Doc ruined that dream when he informed her that he needed to restore her original genetic structure, using Klingon B’Elanna’s DNA. She seemed disappointed that she would never be completely Human. I’m not. Although I found both her Human and Klingon selves to be beautiful, she seems more interesting as a hybrid. I even told her so. My little remark managed to produce a small smile, but I could tell that she didn’t draw much comfort from it. I hope that one day, she will learn to appreciate her true self. She can really be fascinating. Now, if only I can learn to do the same about myself. Hmmm, fat chance of that ever happening.
Anyway, B’Elanna thanked me for supporting her during our captivity. We also discussed Pete Durst, whose face is now grafted upon that mad bastard’s own face. When I asked if she would like to accompany me to Sandrine’s, she declined. B’Elanna told me that she needed more rest. Oh well. At least we’ve finally buried the hatchet between us and can finally become good friends. I guess that’s one thing I can be grateful about Avery III. End personal log.
STARDATE 48804.91 – God, I’m exhausted! Not a surprise, since I had my sleep interrupted by a call from the Bridge. Crewman Henley failed to show up for Gamma shift. Again. This is the third time in two months. I had to give her a personal reprimand the last two times. Last night, I personally roused Henley from bed and ordered her to report to the Bridge. Or consider herself on report. After a fifteen minute debate, which ended with me threatening her with the Brig, she complied. I really don’t know what to do with her. I can’t threaten her with the Brig, forever. I also realize that she resents being stuck on a Starfleet vessel, thousands of light years away from home. But one day, she will have to realize that she has very little options. End personal log.
STARDATE 48837.63 – Voyager stopped at an M-class called Napinne. Pleasant little place. And the inhabitants were also pleasant. Harry, B’Elanna and myself visited the surface for a few hours, while the Captain, Neelix and Chakotay set about obtaining food supplies. With the fruits and vegetables now growing in the Hydropondics Bay, hopefully Voyager won’t be so dependent upon food supplies from other planets, stations and ships in the near future. End personal log.
STARDATE 48840.42 – Once more, Crewman Henley failed to appear for her duty shift. This time, I put her on report. Not long after I finished Alpha shift today, Chakotay requested my presence in his office. To discuss Henley, unsurprisingly. He wanted me to reconsider my decision to put Henley on report. Give her a chance to fit in with the crew. Then he bored me with some speech about Starfleet officers learning how to lead subordinates. Something that already bored me to tears during Command school. The big hypocrite! I can’t believe this is the same man who had gave me nothing but grief since we first laid eyes upon each other. Hell, I’ve been giving Henley a chance for six months! At least until now. Like it or not, both she and Chakotay were going to have to live with that reprimand on her record. Being an ex-Maquis, I doubt that Henley even cared. End personal log.
STARDATE 48845.9 – After Tuvok’s encounter with Ken Dalby, the Captain has ordered Henley, Dalby and a few others to undergo basic Starfleet training, under Tuvok. Poor bastards! Meanwhile, various ship malfunctions have plagued the crew, since leaving Napinne. Something to do with the bio-gel packs. End personal log.
STARDATE 48854.3 – Life aboard Voyager has returned to normal, thank goodness. No more malfunctions for the time being. The Captain ordered the ship’s systems to overheat, in order to kill the virus that had infected the gel packs. My God, the Bridge almost felt like a furnace! For a while, I wondered if I would ever be able to breathe again. All thanks to that damn cheese Neelix had purchased during our stay on Napinne.
Henley and the others are still undergoing their field training. Must be working, since Henley has reported for duty without any problems. She also requested additional training in shuttle maneuvers in the holodeck. We’ll probably never be friends, but thank goodness I no longer have a troublemaker on my hands. End personal log.
STARDATE 48892.4 – Harry told me an unusual tale. The Doctor’s programming and the holodeck systems had malfunctioned, thanks to the kino-plastic radiation from a anomaly that Voyager came across. While stuck in one of the holodecks for six hours, the Doctor believed he was a real person named Lewis Zimmerman and that Voyager and the crew were all a holographic simulation. He even thought Kes was his wife. Sigh! I knew it. I’ve always suspected that the Doc had eyes for our favorite Ocampan. And this only proves it. Kes is quickly becoming quite the little heartbreaker on this ship. She has already captured mine. End personal log.
STARDATE 48921.4 – This has certainly been a day to remember! I’ve just spent hours at the Helm, dodging a swarm of . . . hell, I don’t what they were! Some kind of life forms that resembled a . . . Okay, they resembled human sperm. There! I said it. I only hope that Starfleet Command never get a hold of this log. Although the creatures resembled sperm, they had mistaken Voyager as some kind of sexual mate. Even worse, they began draining energy from the ship’s systems, in their attempt to procreate. More problems appeared when a large creature appeared also began to regard Voyager as a mate. Jeez! I didn’t realize the ship looked that desirable! Both Torres and Tuvok wanted to destroy the creature, but Chakoay suggested that Voyager mimic the smaller ones, giving the impression to the large creature that we have no interest in procreation with space born creatures. Ha! Sex in the Delta Quadrant!
Speaking of sex, the Captain made a joke to the Commander about referring to expertise whenever the subject of procreation appears. It wasn’t the joke that caught my attention, but the way she said. I do believe our captain was flirting. The look on B’Elanna’s face was certainly memorable. She seemed completely shocked. When I brought up the topic in the Mess Hall, she gave me a death glare that rivaled the mighty Janeway herself. I see that she still has that crush on Chakotay. God, when will it ever end?
Then again, who am I to complain? I still have feelings for Kes. In my case, I can say that it’s more than a crush. Before our encounter with the swarm, I helped her gather Oblissian cabbages from the Hydropondics Bay. On our way to the turbolift, we encountered Chakotay, along with Ensigns Bennett and Gallagher. It seems the good Commander caught them “fraternizing” in the turbolift. Hmm, perhaps the Captain was right about him being the right man to solicit advice about procreation. End personal log.
STARDATE 48925.38 – Plenty of surprises awaited me, when I found Kes in the Hydropondics Bay, following my shift. First surprise – Ensign Sam Wildman from the Science Division is pregnant. It seems that Ensign Wildman, who happened to be a very nice lady, had left behind a Ktarian husband on Deep Space Nine. Considering how flat her stomach looked, my first guess was that she sought solace in the arms of a crewman, here on board Voyager. After all, Voyager has been in the Delta Quadrant for over seven months, now. But according to Kes, the embroyo is definitely half-Ktarian. Perhaps Ktarians have a longer gestation period.
The other surprise? Kes informed me that the electrophoretic activity from the swarm, yesterday, had sped up her elogium. Namely, the sexual maturation for Ocampan females. They usually go through this phase between the ages of four and five. And since this elogium would have been Kes’ only shot at conception, she asked Neelix to mate with her.
Neelix and Kes as parents. Good grief! Now there’s an image that makes me shudder! At first, Neelix felt reluctant. Hell, if I had known, I would have offered Kes my services. However, Neelix eventually agreed to mate with her, but she changed her mind, after realizing that she was not ready for parenthood. Kes’ elogium ended when Voyager left the swarm behind. I thought she had lost her chance at motherhood and was prepared to console her. But Kes assured me that her elogium was false and the real phase will probably return after her fourth birthday. I only hope that she and Neelix are no longer a twosome by then. I realize it’s a rotten thing to say, but I can’t help feeling they’re wrong for each other. End personal log.
STARDATE 48946 – God, I must really be pathetic! While playing pool with Harry and B’Elanna in Sandrine’s, last night, I spotted Kes and Neelix cuddling around a corner table, happy as pie. Depressing sight. In typical Tom fashion, I decided to hide my disappointment by flirting with nearly every female in sight. Except with B’Elanna, of course. One doesn’t flirt with a close friend. I guess the old Paris charm must have worked. Later that night, I ended up in bed with Yoshi Kyoto. After I “subtly” sneaked out of bed this morning, Yoshi caught me. She assured me that she wasn’t looking for a permanent relationship. I’m relieved . . . but now, I also feel like a complete shit. End personal log.
STARDATE 48964.07 – Today was Kes’ birthday. Sigh! Kes’ birthday. Huh. All I can say is that it certainly didn’t turn out the way I had expected. Not long after we surprised her with a party inside Sandrine’s, Voyager encountered a distortion ring that transformed the ship into a labyrinth. First, the Captain, Chakotay and I got lost, while searching for the Bridge. We ended back inside Holodeck One. Later, Torres and I used the turbolift to reach Engineering. To my surprise, we were fortunate. Thanks to the distortion ship, B’Elanna almost walked in on Crewman Nozawa inside his quarters, dressed only in his skivvies. Let’s just say it the first time I ever saw a Klingon woman blush. A sight, I suspect, I’ll never see again.
The distortion ring proved to be the third or fourth non-corporeal life form we’ve encountered since our arrival in the Delta Quadrant. And all it wanted to do was greet us and exchange information. Hell of a way to say hello. Both B’Elanna and Chakotay nearly came to blows with Tuvok on how to stop the distortion ring. In the end, Tuvok had the best suggestion. Do nothing.
Kes’ birthday party turned out to be a disappointment. I gave her a gold filigree locket as a present. She seemed stunned by it – much to my delight. That delight didn’t last. After our encounter with the distortion ring, the party eventually resumed. Kes, who had been worried by Neelix’s disappearance, declared that she wanted a photo of him, inside her locket. Great! Just great! A photo of Neelix’s mug will be inside the locket I gave her. Even worse, I had to stand there on the Bridge and hold Kes’ birthday cake, while she and Neelix locked lips.
Sigh! I’m beginning to think that my feelings for Kes are just as hopeless as B’Elanna’s feelings toward Chakotay. But I can’t help it. All I can do is hope that she realizes one day that Neelix is not the man for her. End personal log.
STARDATE 48972.4 – Voyager came across an old 1936 Chevy truck, here in the Delta Quadrant! Being a connoisseur of anything 20th century Earth, my heart nearly leapt with excitement at the sight of that old vehicle. I even got a chance to demonstrate how the truck’s engine worked, once Harry tractor it to Voyager. I don’t think he, the Captain and the others appreciated the noise or the carbon monoxide.
The truck also emitted an old S-O-S signal that led us to an L-Class planet not far away. The trinimbic interference in the planet’s upper atmosphere made the shuttles and the transporters, ineffective. So, the Captain ordered me to land Voyager on the planet’s surface. All I can say that it was one of the most thrilling moments in my life. And I did it without a hitch.
The Captain, Harry and members of the Away team not only found a Lockheed Electra aircraft (which I would have loved to get my hands on), but several Humans in cryostasis. Kes and I later joined the Captain and Harry for a closer inspection. Would you believe it? Among the Humans were the legendary pilot, Amelia Earhart and her navigator, Fred Noonan. It seemed she, Noonan and the other Humans had been abducted from Earth by aliens over 400 years ago, during the late 1930s. Voyager has discovered the mystery of Earhart’s disappearance. If only the Alpha Quadrant knew. Noonan proved to be a paranoid who managed to hold us hostage. The Captain eventually convinced him and Miss Earhart that we meant them no harm. Also, a group of aliens had fired upon Tuvok, Chakotay and another Away team. Harry told me that after the Captain disarmed them, she discovered that they were also Humans. Boy! Things really seemed to be heating up! End personal log.
STARDATE 48974.55 – I did it. I decided to remain aboard Voyager and continue the journey to the Alpha Quadrant. I’m probably the only crewman, who has a good reason to remain on New Earth. Well, it’s not really called New Earth, but that’s what most of the crew has decided to name the planet.
It seemed the planet’s original inhabitants, a race called the Briori, were the ones responsible for abducting Amelia Earhart, Noonan and 289 other Humans from Earth. They brought the Humans to this planet to serve as slave labor. However, the slaves revolted, killed the Briori and established a new civilization. Hence, New Earth. I even managed to visit one of the cities. It really surprised me on how it closely resembled San Francisco. Maybe that was the reason I had decided not to remain behind. It simply reminded me too much of Earth. Too much of the bad times I had endured. But I must admit that Kes’ decision to remain aboard Voyager played a part in my decision. Along with the feeling that I could not abandon the Captain. Not after all she has done for me.
I also got a chance to show Miss Earhart, Voyager’s helm. I don’t know about her, but I got a big thrill. Miss Earhart, Mr. Noonan and the other “37s” (the original ones abducted), decided to remain on New Earth. I wish them all the luck in the world. Meanwhile, not one member of the crew decided to remain behind. Hmmm. I thought at least the Maquis crewmen would consider. I guess not. End personal log.
STARDATE 48999.17 – New Year’s Eve. Huh. I can’t remember the last time I celebrated the New Year. Oh yeah, it happened two years ago and I was at this casino on Perdon Gel. With that . . . Gods, what was her name? Damn! I don’t even remember.
Anyway, the Captain gave us permission to celebrate the arrival of 2372 at Sandrine’s. Neelix has even volunteered to create a few delicacies to entertain the crew. In defense of our stomachs, the Conn Division pooled their replicator rations to provide refreshments not cooked by Neelix. I’m sure the crew will thank us. Meanwhile, I have to shower and change for the party. I’m suppose to take Marie Kaplan and I’m already running late. If I don’t return until tomorrow, Happy New Year! End personal log.
I have seen a handful of television and movie adaptations of novels written by George Eliot. But the very first adaptation I ever saw was “SILAS MARNER”, the 1985 version of Eliot’s third novel published back in 1861. My recent viewing of the production led me to reasses it.
“SILAS MARNER” begins with an English weaver living with a small Calvinist congregation in Lantern Yard, a slum street in a Northern England city. His life falls apart when he is framed for stealing the church’s funds, while watching over the congregation’s ill deacon. Worse, his fiancee leaves him for his so-called best friend, the very man who may have framed him. Shattered and embittered, Silas leaves Lantern Yard and arrives at a rural village in the Midlands called Raveloe. Although he resumes his trade as a weaver, Silas’ traumatized past leads him to achieve a reputation as a miser and a loner in the community.
Silas’ move to Raveloe eventually leads him to cross paths with the community’s leading citizens, the Cass family. The head of the latter is the elderly Squire Cass who has two sons – Godfrey and Dunstan. Godfrey, who is the squire’s heir is secretly married to one Molly Farren, a lower-class woman and opium addict from another town, who has given birth to his young daughter. Godfrey is also engaged to a young middle-class woman named Nancy Lammeter. Dunstan is a dissolute wastrel who constantly loses money via excessive gambling. One night, a drunken Dunstan breaks into Silas’ cottage, steals the gold coins that the latter has been hoarding and disappears. Through a series of events, Molly plots to expose her marriage to Godfrey and their child during the Cass family’s New Year party, but dies in the snow before she can reach it. Silas, who is emotionally upset over the loss of his coins, finds both the dead Molly and the child. Although he informs the partygoers of Molly’s death and the child, he assumes guardianship of the latter (renamed Hephzibah “Eppie”), much to the relief of Godfrey, who can now legally marry Nancy. All goes well until Godfrey and Nancy’s failure to have children threaten Silas’ newfound happiness as Eppie’s father years later.
What can I say about “SILAS MARNER”? I can honestly say that it was not one of the best adaptations of a George Eliot novel. Then again, I do not consider the 1861 novel to be one of her best works. I realized that Eliot had set the story either around the end of the 18th century or around the beginning of the 19th century. It was her prerogative. But both the novel and the movie seemed to reek of Victorian melodrama that I found myself feeling that Eliot or any adaptation could have set the story around the time it was originally written and published – the mid 19th century. The story is, at best, a good old-fashioned Victorian melodrama. I would never consider it as particularly original in compare to the likes of “MIDDLEMARCH” or “DANIEL DERONDA”.
“SILAS MARNER” tries its best to be profound on the same level as the other two Eliot stories I had mentioned. But I had a few problems with the narrative. What was the point behind Dunstan Cass’ disappearance and theft? Yes, he stole Silas’ hard earned money before he disappeared. I got the feeling that the stolen coins seemed to serve as a prelude to Silas’ emotional attachment to Eppie. But why have Dunstan take it? How else did his disappearance serve the story . . . even after his dead remains were found close by, years later? In Eliot’s novel, the discovery of Dunstan led brother Godfrey to form a guilty conscience over his own secret regarding young Eppie and confess to his wife. But in the movie, it was Godfrey and Nancy’s inability to conceive a child that seemed to finally force the former to confess. Unless my memories have played me wrong. Frankly, Dunstan struck me as a wasted character. Anyone else could have stolen Silas’ money.
I also noticed that Giles Foster, who had served as both screenwriter and director for this production, left out a few things from Eliot’s novel. I have never expect a movie or television to be an accurate adaptation of its literary source. But I wish Foster had shown how Eppie’s presence in Silas’ life had allowed him to socially connect with Raveloe’s villagers. Eliot did this by allowing her to lead him outside, beyond the confines of his cottage. The only person with whom Silas managed to connect was neighbor Dolly Winthrop, who visited his cottage to deliver him food or give advice on how to raise Eppie. I also noticed that in the movie, Silas had never apologized to another villager named Jem Rodney for his false accusation of theft. And Jem had never demanded it. How odd. I also wish that Foster could have included the segment in which Silas had revisited his former neighborhood, Lantern Yard. In the novel, Silas’ visit revealed how the neighborhood had transformed into a site for a factory and its citizens scattered to other parts. Silas’ visit to his old neighborhood served as a reminder of how his life had improved in Raveloe and it is a pity that audiences never saw this on their television screens.
Yes, I have a few quibbles regarding “SILAS MARNER”. But if I must be really honest, I still managed to enjoy it very much. Eliot had written a very emotional and poignant tale in which a lonely and embittered man finds a new lease on life through his connection with a child. Thanks to George Eliot’s pen and Giles Foster’s typewriter, this story was perfectly set up by showing how Silas Marner’s life fell into a social and emotional nadir, thanks to the betrayal of a “friend” and the easily manipulated emotions of his neighbors.
Once Silas moved to Raveloe, the television movie did an excellent, if not perfect, job of conveying how he re-connected with the world. It was simply not a case of Silas stumbling across a foundling and taking her in. Even though he had formed a minor friendship with Mrs. Winthrop, having Eppie in his life managed to strengthen their friendship considerably. The movie’s narrative also took its time in utilizing how the Cass family dynamics played such an important role in Silas’ life in Raveloe. After all, Godfrey’ secret marriage to Molly Farren brought Eppie into his life. And Dunstan’s theft of his funds led Silas to re-direct his attention from his missing coins to the lost Eppie. And both Godfrey and Nancy Cass proved to be a threat to Silas and Eppie’s future relationship.
The production values for “SILAS MARNER” proved to be solid. But if I must be honest, I did not find any of it – the cinematography, production designs and costume designs – particularly memorable. The performances in the movie was another matter. “SILAS MARNER” featured solid performances from the likes of Rosemary Martin, Jim Broadbent (before he became famous), Nick Brimble, Frederick Treves, Donald Eccles, Rosemary Greenwood; and even Elizabeth Hoyle and Melinda White who were both charming as younger versions of Eppie Marner.
Angela Pleasence certainly gave a memorable performance as Eppie’s drug addicted mother, Molly Farren. Patsy Kensit not only gave a charming performance as the adolescent Eppie, I thought she was excellent in one particular scene in which Eppie emotionally found herself torn between Silas and the Casses. Freddie Jones gave his usual competent performance as the emotional Squire Cass, father of both Godfrey and Dunstan. I was especially impressed by Jonathan Coy’s portrayal of the dissolute Dunstan Cass. In fact, I was so impressed that it seemed a pity that his character was only seen in the movie’s first half.
I initially found the portrayal of Nancy Lammeter Cass rather limited, thanks to Eliot’s novel and Foster’s screenplay. Fortunately, Nancy became more of a central character in the film’s second half and Jenny Agutter did a skillful job in conveying Nancy’s growing despair of her inability to have children and her desperation to adopt Eppie. I thought Patrick Ryecart gave one of the two best performances in “SILAS MARNER”. He did an excellent job of conveying Godfrey Cass’ moral ambiguity – his secrecy over his marriage to Molly Farren, the passive-aggressive manner in which he “took care” of Eppie through Silas and his willingness to use Eppie as a substitute for his and Nancy’s failure to have children. Ryecart made it clear that Godfrey was basically a decent man . . . decent, but flawed. The other best performance in “SILAS MARNER” came from leading man Ben Kingsley, who portrayed the title character. Kingsley did a superb job of conveying Silas’ emotional journey. And it was quite a journey – from the self-satisfied weaver who found himself shunned from one community, to the embittered man who stayed away from his new neighbors, to a man experiencing the joys and fears of fatherhood for the first time, and finally the loving man who had finally learned to re-connect with others.
Overall, “SILAS MARNER” is more than a solid adaptation of George Eliot’s novel. I did not find its production designs particularly overwhelming. I did enjoy Eliot’s narrative, along with Giles Foster’s adaptation rather enjoyable . . . if not perfect. But I cannot deny that what really made this movie work for me were the first-rate performances from a cast led by the always talented Ben Kingsley. Victorian melodrama or not, I can honestly say that I have yet to grow weary of “SILAS MARNER”.
“HARRY POTTER AND THE GOBLET OF FIRE” (2005) Review
Despite the release of the first two movies in the film franchise, I did not become a fan of the “HARRY POTTER” series until I saw the 2004 movie, “HARRY POTTER AND THE PRISONER OF AZKABAN”. I became so enamored of this third film that I regarded the release of its successor, “HARRY POTTER AND THE GOBLET OF FIRE”, with great anticipation.
Released during the fall of 2005 and based upon J.K. Rowling’s 2000 novel, “HARRY POTTER AND THE GOBLET OF FIRE” follows boy wizard Harry Potter’s fourth year at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. This year proves to be a special one for Harry when he unexpectedly finds himself competing in the wizard world’s Tri-Wizard Tournament, a magical competition for young wizards from three different schools, who are 17 years old or older. Not only does the 14 year-old Harry have to deal with the contempt from Hogswarts students who believe he had cheated to enter the competition, he also have to deal with the dangerous tasks that make up the competition and an unpleasant surprise that awaits him once the tournament ends.
When the movie first hit the theaters nine years ago, many had hailed “GOBLET OF FIRE” as the best of the four HARRY POTTER movies, released thus far. I wish I could have agreed with that assessment of “GOBLET OF FIRE”. I really wish I could. But . . . I cannot. Personally, I feel that these critics may have overrated the 2005 film. Why? I considered it the weakest of the first four movies. I would not consider the movie a complete waste of my time. It did feature some very entertaining and mesmerizing scenes. My favorites include the opening sequence in which Harry dreams of Lord Voldemort, Peter Pettigrew and a mysterious man being interrupted by an elderly handyman named Frank Bryce inside a mansion, before the latter is killed by Pettigrew; Headmaster Albus Dumbledore pulling the names of the Tri-Wizard Tournament competitors from the Goblet of Fire; Harry and Ron’s quarrel over the former being one of the tournament’s competitors; the competition’s second task; the third task inside the claustrophobic maze and Harry’s encounter with the . . . uh, unpleasant surprise. But my favorite sequence in the entire film has to be the Yule Ball – the Christmas celebration for the tournament’s participants, the foreign visitors and Hogswarts’ students and faculty staff. I would say that it is one of the best sequences in the entire “HARRY POTTER” film franchise. It is just a joy to watch . . . from the preparations for the ball (that included finding dates and learning how to dance) to the immediate aftermath of the special night.
“HARRY POTTER AND THE GOBLET OF FIRE” featured some pretty decent performances. But they seemed far and between. Both Daniel Radcliffe and Rupert Grint gave excellent performances as the two best friends – Harry Potter and Ron Weasley. I was especially impressed that they managed to restrain from any theatrical acting when their characters became drawn into a quarrel over Harry’s participation in the tournament. Maggie Smith was her usual competent self as the always dependable Professor Minerva McGonagall. Alan Rickman’s portrayal of potions teacher Severus Snape continued to be a joy to watch. My only disappointment was that his role seemed rather diminished in this film. I was pleasantly surprised by Brendan Gleeson’s portrayal of the colorful teacher and former wizard aurorer, Alastor “Mad Eye” Moody. Gleeson could have indulged in a great deal of hamminess with such an eccentric character. But he kept his performance in full control, while conveying the oddball nature of “Mad Eye”. Miranda Richardson gave a deliciously wicked performance as Rita Skeeter, a reporter who harbored an indulgence for yellow journalism that annoyed poor Harry to no end. I found Jason Isaac’s portrayal of Lucius Malfoy rather theatrical in the Quidditch World Cup scene. But I must admit that I was very impressed by the subtle manner in which he portrayed his character’s obsequious manner in the film’s last half hour. The movie also featured solid performances from Robert Pattison and Katie Leung, who portrayed the student lovers, Cedric Diggory and Cho Chang; Timothy Spall as Death Eater Peter Pettigrew; Robbie Coltrane as Hogwarts teacher Rubeus Hagrid; Frances de la Tour as Beauxbaton Headmistress Olympe Maxime and Eric Sykes as Riddle handyman, Frank Bryce.
Unfortunately, I could find nothing further to admire about “HARRY POTTER AND THE GOBLET OF FIRE”. My first problem turned out to be the screenplay written by Steve Kloves. I did not expect him to be completely faithful to Rowling’s novel. It would take a two-week miniseries to be completely faithful to it. But there were some scenes I wish Kloves had not eliminated. One, he cut the scene featuring the Weasleys’ visit to the Dursley home on Privet Drive to pick up Harry for the Qudditch World Cup. I mourned this cut, for I believe it was one of the funniest scenes in Rowling’s book series. But Kloves’ further cuts left the main narrative with some serious plot holes. Kloves’ screenplay never explained how Death Eater Barty Couch Jr. managed to escape from the wizarding world’s prison, Azkaban, without the Ministry of Magic’s knowledge. How did Lord Voldemort and Couch Jr. learn about the Tri-Wizard Tournament in the first place? Also, there was one scene that featured “Mad Eye” Moody’s arrival at Hogwarts with no luggage or trunk. Yet, there was another scene in which Harry visited Moody’s room and spotted a trunk. How did the teacher convey his trunk to the castle?
There were other problems that marred my enjoyment of the film. I read an article in which director Mike Newell decided to portray the Hogwarts students in a more “realistic” manner – in other words, as British school children would behave in real life. Unfortunately, his attempt at “realism” merely allowed most of the actors and actresses portraying Hogwarts students to engage in theatrical performances. Even worse, Newell did the opposite with the visiting foreign students from Durmstrang and Beauxbatons by allowing the actors to indulge in one-dimensional cliches with their portrayals. I found one scene in which Harry’s trip to the school prefects’ bath was interrupted by a ghost known as Moaning Myrtle. I realize that Myrtle was supposed to be around 14 (the age of her death), the same age as Harry was in this story. But watching actress Shirley Henderson, who was at least 39 years old at the time, flirt with a half-naked or naked Daniel Radcliffe made me squirm in my seat with a good deal of discomfort. On the other hand, I felt a great deal of disappointment toward the movie’s production style and look. I get the feeling that Production Designer Stuart Craig and Cinematographer Roger Pratt, along with Newell, were trying to recapture the look or style of Middle Earth, as shown in “LORD OF THE RINGS: THE TWO TOWERS” and “LORD OF THE RINGS: RETURN OF THE KING”. I hated the look in those movies and I hated it in this film.
My biggest problem with “GOBLET OF FIRE” turned out to be the acting. I have already pointed out what I believe were the better performances in the film. As for the rest of the cast . . . sigh. I have never encountered so much hammy acting in my life. It seemed as if three-quarters of the cast spent most of the time shouting their dialogue. I am not just talking about the performances of those portraying the students, but especially the adult actors and actresses. There were some questionable performances that really caught my attention. Emma Watson is a first-rate actress, but she seemed to be trying too hard in her portrayal of Hermione Granger in this film. Michael Gambon, who had done such a wonderful job in his debut as Headmaster Albus Dumbledore in 2004’s “HARRY POTTER AND THE PRISONER OF AZKABAN”, gave a completely different – and very hammy – performance in “GOBLET OF FIRE”. Roger Lloyd-Pack was another actor whom one could depend upon for a first-rate performance. Not in this film. He seemed to be a bundle of out-of-control nerves and very theatrical in his role as head of the Department of Magical Law Enforcement, Barty Crouch Sr. The previous performances mentioned were nothing in compare to both David Tennant and Ralph Fiennes. Lloyd-Pack’s twitchy performance was nothing in compare to David Tennant, whose performance as Death Eater Barty Crouch Jr. revealed more twitchy mannerisms in this one film than Bette Davis did in her entire film career. But when it came to chewing the scenery, no one did it better than Ralph Fiennes in his debut as the series’ main villain, Tom Riddle Jr. aka Lord Voldemort. Words cannot describe the over-the-top performance he gave in the movie’s climatic scene. And I cannot help but wonder why Newell did not reign in his performance. Then again, he was barely able to do the same with other cast members, as well.
Yes, “HARRY POTTER AND THE GOBLET OF FIRE” struck me as far from perfect. Thanks to the plot holes, unattractive production look and the numerous hammy performances, I found it difficult to consider it a great favorite of mine. But despite its flaws, I still managed to enjoy the film. It just strikes me as a pity that it turned out to be a comedown after the franchise’s first three films . . . at least for me.
Below is a list of my favorite Season One episodes from the CBS series, “SCARECROW AND MRS. KING”. Created by Brad Buckner and Eugenie Ross-Leming, the series starred Kate Jackson and Bruce Boxleitner:
“SCARECROW AND MRS. KING”: TOP FIVE FAVORITE SEASON ONE (1983-1984) Episodes
1. (1.03) “If Thoughts Could Kill” – After checking into a hospital for a routine checkup, government agent Lee Stetson (a.k.a. “Scarecrow”) is slowly brainwashed into becoming an assassin by a former Agency physician.
2. (1.12) “Lost and Found” – While protecting a ESP expert who had defected from the Soviet Union, Lee is reunited with his former lover, the ESP expert’s current wife.
3. (1.13) “I Am Not Now Nor Have I Ever Been a Spy” – A case of amnesia causes recently recruited spy and suburban divorcee Amanda King to forget vital information about terrorists.
4. (1.18) “Filming Raul” – Amanda and Lee tries to help a parking lot attendant for the Agency and film director wannabe, who had filmed an attempted kidnapping of an Agency courier. This makes him the target of enemy agents.
5. (1.01) “The First Time” – The series’ pilot episode reveals how Amanda became an agent for the Agency, when she is given a package by Lee – an act that leads to their first adventure together.
Honorable Mention: (1.10) “The Long Christmas Eve” – Amanda and Lee’s violent encounter with two KGB agents lead to a long night on Christmas Eve, inside an isolated cabin.
As much as some people would hate to admit it, “GONE WITH THE WIND”, the 1939 adaptation of Margaret Mitchell’s 1936 novel, had really cast a long shadow upon the Hollywood industry. Before its release, movies about the Antebellum and Civil War period were rarely released. And by the mid-1930s, Civil War movies especially were considered box office poison. Following the success of “GONE WITH THE WIND”, many Hollywood studios seemed determined to copy the success of the 1939 movie.
Although “GONE WITH THE WIND” was definitely a Selznick International product, it had been released in theaters by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM) Studios, thanks to a deal that allowed the latter to help producer David Selznick finance the movie. Although MGM had released a few movies set during the mid-19th century – including “LITTLE WOMEN” and “SOUTHERN YANKEE” – it did not really try to copy Selznick’s success with “GONE WITH THE WIND”, until the release of its own Antebellum/Civil War opus, “RAINTREE COUNTY”.
Based upon Ross Lockridge Junior’s 1948 novel, “RAINTREE COUNTY” told the story of a small-town Midwestern teacher and poet named John Shawnessy, who lived in 19th century Indiana. Although most of Lockridge’s novel is set in the decade before the Civil War and the next two-to-three decades after the war, the movie adaptation took a different direction. The movie began with John’s graduation from his hometown’s local academy. Many people in Freehaven, Indiana – including John’s father, his teacher/mentor Professor Jerusalem Webster Stiles, and his sweetheart Nell Gaither – expect great things from him, due to his academic excellence. But when John meet a visiting Southern belle named Susanna Drake and has a brief tryst with her during a Fourth of July picnic, his life unexpectedly changes. Susanna returns to Freehaven a month or two later with the news that she is pregnant with his child. Being an honorable young man, John disappoints both Nell and his father by marrying Susanna. Their honeymoon in Louisiana starts off well, but John becomes aware of Susanna’s mental instability and her suspicions that she might be the daughter of a free black woman who had been Susanna’s nanny for the Drake family. However, the Civil War breaks out. Susanna’s emotional state becomes worse and she eventually leaves Indiana for Georgia, the home of her mother’s family. John joins the Union Army in an effort to find her.
After viewing “RAINTREE COUNTY”, a part of me wondered why it was regarded as a Civil War movie. The majority of the film’s action occurred between 1859-1861, the two years before the war’s outbreak. A great deal of the film’s Civil War “action” focused on the birth of John and Susanna’s son – the day the war started, one night in which Susanna informed John about her family’s history, and his rescue of young Johnny at a cabin outside of Atlanta. Otherwise, not much happened in this film during the war. Hell, John eventually found Susanna at a Georgian asylum . . . right after the war. Why this movie is solely regarded as a Civil War movie, I have no idea.
I realize that “RAINTREE COUNTY” is supposed to be about the life of John Shawnessey, but he came off as a rather dull protagonist. Some critics have blamed leading actor Montgomery Clift’s performance, but I cannot. I simply find John to be a rather dull and ridiculously bland character. Aside from losing control of his libido when he first met and later married Susanna, and being slightly naive when the movie first started; John Shawnessey never really made a mistake or possessed a personal flaw. How can one enjoy a movie, when the protagonist is so incredibly dull? Even if the movie had followed Lockbridge’s novel by exploring John’s post-war involvement in politics and the late 19th century Labor movement, I would still find him rather dull and slightly pretentious. Characters like the volatile Susanna, the mercenary and bullying Garwood P. Jones, the witty Professor Stiles, the gregarious local Orville ‘Flash’ Perkins and even Nell Gaither, who proved to harbor flashes of wit, malice and jealousy behind that All-American girl personality were more interesting than John. How can I get emotionally invested in a movie that centered around such a dull man?
I find his goal in this movie – the search for the “raintree” – to be equally dull. Thanks to Lockridge’s novel and Millard Kaufman’s screenplay, the “raintree” symbolizes the Tree of Knowledge, whose golden boughs shed fertilizing blossoms on the land. In other words, John’s goal is to search for self-knowledge, maturity, wisdom . . . whatever. Two main problems prevented this theme from materializing in the story. One, Kaufman barely scratched the surface on this theme, aside from one scene in which Professor Stiles discussed the “raintree” to his students and how its location in Indiana is also a metaphor for American myth, another scene in which John foolish searches for this tree in the local swamp, a third scene in which John and Susanna discusses this myth and in one last scene featuring John, Susanna, their son James, and Nell in the swamp at the end of the movie. Am I to believe that the movie’s main theme was only featured in four scenes of an 182 minutes flick? And the idea of John spending most of the film finding self-knowledge, wisdom, etc. strikes me as superfluous, considering that he comes off as too much of a near ideal character in the first place.
To make matters worse, the movie had failed to adapt Lockridge’s entire novel. Instead, it focused on at least half or two-thirds of the novel – during John Shawnessey’s years during the antebellum period and the Civil War. Let me re-phase that. “RAINTREE COUNTY” has a running time of 160 minutes. At least spent 90 minutes of the film was set during the antebellum period. The next 40 minutes was set during the war and the right after it. at least half or two-thirds of the film during the antebellum period. The rest focused on the Civil War, which struck me as something of a rush job on director Edward Dmytryk’s part, even if I did enjoyed it. In fact, I wish that the film’s Civil War chapter had lasted longer.
Since the John Shawnessey character and his story arc proved to be so boring (well, at least to me), I did not find it surprising that Dmytryk and screenwriter Millard Kaufman ended up focusing most of the film’s attention on the Susanna Drake Shawnessey character. After all, she emerged as the story’s most interesting character. Her childhood neuroses not only made her complex, but also reflected the country’s emotional hangups (then and now) with race. And there seemed to be a touch of Southern Gothic about her personal backstory. But in the end, both Kaufman and Dmytryk fell short in portraying her story arc with any real depth. It is obvious that the conflict between Susanna’s love for her nanny Henrietta and her racism, along with the survivor’s guilt she felt in the aftermath of family’s deaths had led to so much emotional trauma for her. But Kaufman’s screenplay failed to explore Susanna’s racism, let alone resolve it one way or the other.
In fact, the topic of race is never discussed or explored in “RAINTREE COUNTY”. I found this odd, considering how Susanna’s emotional trauma played such a big role in the film’s narrative. The movie featured two African-American actresses – Isabel Cooley and Ruth Attaway – who portrayed the maids that Susanna brought with her from Louisiana. Their presence in the Shawnessey household created a major quarrel between the pair in which John had demanded that Susanna free them or he would leave. And yet . . . Kaufman’s screenplay never gave the two maids a voice. John Shawnessey never really explained or discussed his reasons for being an abolitionist. Although the movie did point out both Southern and Northern racism, no one really discussed slavery with any real depth. Racism only played a role in Susanna’s emotional hangups about her family and nothing else.
In one of the movie’s final scenes; John’s father, Professor Stiles, and Nell were among those who tried to encourage John, a former abolitionist, to run for Congress. To protect the South from the post-war Republicans like Garwood Jones . . . who was definitely a Copperhead Democrat during the war. Watching this scene, I found myself scratching my brow. To protect . . . which South? All of the South? Or the white South? One would think that a former abolitionist and pro-Lincoln supporter like John would be a Republican. I can understand him not being interested in “punishing the South”, or white Southerners. But what about the former slaves of the South? Kaufman’s screenplay did not seem the least interested in pointing out how the freedmen would need protection. And John Shawnessey seemed like the type of character – judging from his pre-war and wartime views on abolition – who would be interested in the fate of those former slaves. Unfortunately . . . the topic never came up.
I have two last complaints about “RAINTREE COUNTY” – its score and title song. I was surprised to learn that Johnny Green had earned an Academy Award nomination for the score he had written for the movie. How in the hell did that happen? I found it so boring. And bland. It was a miracle that the music did not put me to sleep while watching the film. Producer David Lewis had hired Nat King Cole to perform the movie’s theme song, also written by Green. Look, I am a big fan of Cole’s work. But not even he could inject any real fire into this song. Like the score, it was dull as hell. And the song’s style struck me as a bit too modern (for the mid 1950s) for a period movie like “RAINTREE COUNTY”.
Was there anything about “RAINTREE COUNTY” that I enjoyed? Well . . . I enjoyed the art direction and set decorations featured in it. Both teams received deserved Academy Award nominations for their work. Academy Award winner Walter Plunkett (who had won for “GONE WITH THE WIND”) had received an Oscar nomination for his work in this film:
However, I have noticed that like his costumes for female characters in “GONE WITH THE WIND”, Plunkett’s costumes for “RAINTREE COUNTY” have touches of modern fashion in them . . . especially some of the hats worn by Elizabeth Taylor and Eva Marie Saint.
The movie also featured scenes and sequences that I enjoyed. I thought the Fourth-of-July foot race between John Shawnessey and “Flash” Perkins rather permeated with the atmosphere of a mid-19th century Midwestern town. I also enjoyed the humor featured in this sequence. I was also impressed by the New Orleans ball that John and Susanna had visited during their honeymoon, along with John’s visit to a New Orleans “quadroon ball” (I think it was) in order to privately speak with Susanna’s cousin Bobby Drake. Thanks to Dmytryk’s skillful direction and the production designs, I was impressed with the sequence that began with the celebration of Abraham Lincoln’s election as president on Freehaven’s streets and ended with the party as the Shawnessey home held in honor of Susanna’s emancipation of her two slaves. Another sequence that impressed me featured Susanna’s revelations about the true circumstances of her parents’ deaths to John. I found it very dramatic in the right way and it featured a fine performance from Elizabeth Taylor.
But the one sequence I actually managed to truly enjoyed featured John Shawnessey’s experiences as a Union soldier with the Army of the Cumberland. The sequence began with John’s humorous and enjoyable reunion with both “Flash” Perkins and Professor Stiles (who had become a war correspondent). The film continued with a fascinating montage featuring John and Flash engaged in battles at Chickamauga, Resaca and Atlanta, punctuated by Professor Stiles’ grim and sardonic commentaries on the warfare. The action and suspense, along with my interest, went up several notch when John and Flash had become two of Sherman’s “Bummers” (foragers) during the general’s march through Georgia. The entire sequence featured the pair’s arrival at Susanna’s Georgia home, the discovery of young Jim Shawnessey and their encounter with a Georgia militia unit led by a wily Confederate officer. This sequence featuring John’s Army experiences proved to be the movie’s high point . . . at least for me.
“RAINTREE COUNTY” featured some decent performances from the supporting cast. Walter Abel and Agnes Moorehead portrayed John’s parents, T.D. and Ellen Shawnessey. I found Moorehead’s performance satisfactory, but I thought Abel’s portrayal of the idealistic Shawnessey Senior rather annoying and a bit over-the-top. I have to say the same about John Eldredge and Jarma Lewis, who portrayed two members of Susanna’s Louisiana family. DeForest Kelley (who was eight or nine years away from “STAR TREK”) seemed both sardonic and witty as the Confederate officer captured by John and Flash. Rosalind Hayes gave a poignant performance as the housekeeper formerly owned by Susanna’s Georgia family, who rather “delicately” explained Susanna’s emotional turmoil to John.
The supporting performances in “RAINTREE COUNTY” that really impressed me came from Lee Marvin, who was a delight as the extroverted and good-natured Orville “Flash” Perkins. A part of me wishes that his role had been bigger, because Marvin’s performance struck me as one of the film’s highlights to me. I heard that Rod Taylor had went out of his way to be cast as the local scoundrel (read: bully) Garwood Jones. Taylor gave a first-rate performance, but his role struck me as a bit wasted throughout most of the film. I was impressed by Tom Drake’s restrained, yet sardonic portrayal of Susanna’s Cousin Bobby, especially in the scene in which he revealed that Susanna had been somewhat older at the time of her parents’ deaths. Nigel Patrick gave a very memorable performance as John’s mentor, Jerusalem Webster Stiles. Mind you, there were times when I found Patrick’s performance a bit theatrical or overbearing. But I also found his performance very entertaining and humorous – especially his monologue for the Army of the Cumberland montage in the film’s second half.
Eva Marie Saint had the thankless task of portraying the one character that most moviegoers seemed inclined to dismiss or ignore – local belle and John Shawnessey’s first love, Nell Gaither – the type most people would dismiss as some bland All-American girl. And yet, the actress managed to add a good deal of fire, passion and intensity in her performance, transforming Nell into a surprisingly complex character with some semblance of tartness. Elizabeth Taylor was luckier in that she was cast as the movie’s most interesting character – Susanna Drake Shawnessey. Taylor, herself, had once pointed out that she seemed to be chewing the scenery in this film. Granted, I would agree in a few scenes in which I found her Susanna a bit too histronic for my tastes. And Taylor’s Southern accent in this film struck me as somewhat exaggerated. I found this surprising, considering that I found her Upper South accent in 1956’s “GIANT” more impressive. But in the end, I could see how Taylor had earned her Oscar nomination for portraying Susanna. She took on a very difficult and complex character, who was suffering from a mental decline. And I was especially impressed by her performance in that one scene in which Susanna finally revealed the details behind her parents and Henrietta’s deaths. No wonder Taylor ended up receiving an Oscar nod.
Poor Montgomery Clift. He has received a great deal of flack for his portrayal of the film’s main protagonist, John Shawnessey. Personally, I agree that his performance seemed to be lacking his usual intensity or fire. There were moments when he seemed to be phoning it in. Many critics and moviegoers blamed his alcoholism and the car accident he had endured during the movie’s production. Who knows? Perhaps they are right. But . . . even if Clift had not been an alcoholic or had been in that accident, he would have been fighting a losing battle. John Shawnessey never struck me as an interesting character in the first place. Perhaps Clift realized it and regretted his decision to accept the role. However, the actor actually managed to shine a few times. He was rather funny in one humorous scene featuring Saint’s Nell Gaither and Taylor’s Garwood Jones. He was also funny in the moments leading up to John’s foot race against Flash Perkins. Clift certainly seemed to be on his game in the scene featuring John’s angry confrontation with Susanna over her slaves. Also, he managed to create some good chemistry with Marvin and Patrick during the Civil War sequence.
Yes, “RAINTREE COUNTY” had some good moments. This was especially apparent in the film’s Civil War sequences. I found the movie’s production values up to par and I was especially impressed by Walter Plunkett’s costume designs. Most of the cast managed to deliver excellent performances. But in the end, I feel that the movie was undermined by lead actor Montgomery Clift’s listless performance and uneven direction by Edward Dmytryk. However, the real culprit for “RAINTREE COUNTY” proved to be the turgid and unstable screenplay written by Millard Kaufman. Producer David Lewis should have taken one look at that script and realize that artistically, it would be the death of the film.
Below is a list of my favorite television productions (so far) that are set in the 1930s:
FAVORITE TELEVISION PRODUCTIONS SET IN THE 1930s
1. “Agatha Christie’s Poirot” (1989-2013) – David Suchet starred as Agatha Chrsitie’s most famous sleuth, Hercule Poirot, in this long-running series that adapted her Poirot novels and short stories.
2. “Moviola: The Scarlett O’Hara War” (1980) – Tony Curtis starred as David O. Selznick in the second episode of the miniseries, “Moviola”. The television movie featured Selznick’s search for the right actress to portray the leading character in his movie adaptation of “Gone With the Wind”.
3. “Edward & Mrs. Simpson” (1978) – Edward Fox and Cynthia Harris starred the 1978 adaptation of the events leading to the 1936 abdication of King Edward VIII of Great Britain. The seven-part miniseries was based upon Frances Donaldson’s 1974 biography.
4. “Mildred Pierce” – Todd Haynes directed and co-wrote this television adaptation of James M. Cain’s 1940 novel about a middle-class divorcee, who struggles to maintain her family’s position during the Great Depression and earn her narcissist older daughter’s respect. Emmy winners Kate Winslet, Guy Pearce and Emmy nominee Evan Rachel Wood starred.
5. “Upstairs, Downstairs” (2010-2012) – Heidi Thomas created this continuation of the 1971-1975 series about the Hollands and their servants, the new inhabitants at old Bellamy residence at 105 Eaton Place. Jean Marsh, Keely Hawes, Ed Stoppard and Claire Foy starred.
6. “And Then There Were None” (2015) – Sarah Phelps produced and wrote this television adaptation of Agatha Christie’s 1939 novel. Craig Viveiros directed.
7. “The Last Tycoon” (2016-2017) – Billy Ray created this television adaptation of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s unfinished novel about a Hollywood producer during the mid-1930s. Matt Bomer starred.
8. “Indian Summers” (2015-2016) – Paul Rutman created this series about the British community’s summer residence at Simla during the British Raj of the 1930s. The series starred Henry Lloyd-Hughes, Nikesh Patel, Jemima West and Julie Walters.
9. “Damnation” (2017-2018) Tony Tost created this series about the labor conflicts in the Midwest, during the Great Depression. Killian Scott and Logan Marshall-Green starred.
10. “The Lot” (1999-2001) – This series centered around a fictional movie studio called Sylver Screen Pictures during the late 1930s. The series was created by Rick Mitz.
For six to seven years during the 1990s, Roland Emmerich and Dean Devlin were a very successful production team that created at least four successful movies. One of those movies was the 1996 blockbuster, “INDEPENDENCE DAY”.
Written by Emmerich and Devlin, “INDEPENDENCE DAY” is a high octane, special-effects flick about a disparate group of people who struggle to survive a deadly alien invasion of Earth during the Fourth of July weekend. The story begins in three different areas – Washington D.C., New York City and Southern California. Following the aliens’ initial attack during the evening of July 2, the main characters flee as far as possible from the three areas and eventually converge upon an U.S. Air Force base in Nevada . . . known as “Area 51”.
The story begins during the early hours of July 2, when an alien mothership enters Earth’s orbit and sends several dozen “destroyer” spacecraft to some of Earth’s major cities. At first, President Thomas J. Whitmore and his staff are perplexed by the reason for the aliens’ arrival. So are other citizens – including U.S. Marine pilot Steven Hiller and his girlfriend Jasmine Dubrow. Realizing that he might be forced to put his holiday weekend on hold, Steven returns to the Marine Air Base at El Toro, California, to await further orders. An alcoholic crop duster and Vietnam War pilot named Russell Casse claims that he had been an alien abductee, ten years ago; and believes the aliens are back to take him for good. But David Levinson, a satellite technician and former MIT graduate, who works for a New York City cable company, discovers hidden satellite transmissions, revealing the aliens’ plans for a coordinated attack upon targeted cities. He and his father, Julius Levinson, head to Washington D.C. to warn David’s ex-wife, Constance Spano, who works as Whitmore’s Communications Director and the President. The latter orders large-scale evacuations of the cities, but the aliens attack before any evacuations can take place.
The following day, President Whitmore orders air strikes against the alien spacecrafts hovering over the cities that had been attacked. One of those air strikes are conducted by the Black Knights, a squadron of Marine Corps F/A-18 Hornets led by Steven Hiller, against the spacecraft over Los Angeles. The strike ends in failure, leaving Steven as the sole survivor of his squadron. After leading a single alien fighter to crash into the desert, Steven subdues and captures the injured fighter. During his trek across the desert, he encounters a large group of recreational vehicles fleeing the Pacific Coast and led by Russell Casse. Steven guide them toward the Air Force base known as “Area 51”. Meanwhile, Jasmine and her son Dylan survive the July 2 attack and spend the following day picking up Los Angeles survivors in a fire truck. They eventually come across the seriously wounded First Lady, Mrs. Whitmore, before heading for the devastated El Toro Air Station. Upon learning about the existence of “Area 51” from his annoying Secretary of Defense, Whitmore orders Air Force One to head for Nevada.
I will be the first to admit that I enjoyed “INDEPENDENCE DAY” a lot. For me, it seems like the epitome of the summer blockbuster film from the 1980s and 90s. When it comes to alien invasion movies, I am usually 50/50 on the genre. Thankfully, “INDEPENDENCE DAY” is one of my favorite alien invasion films. Even after twenty-four years. First of all, Emmerich and Devlin did a pretty good job in not only setting up the story’s premise, but also its characters. In fact, I am impressed at how they allowed small groups of people from New York City, Washington D.C. and the Los Angeles area converge upon an Air Force base in Nevada for the big showdown. I was even impressed at how Emmerich and Devlin found a very plausible way for the heroes to take down the aliens in the end . . . at least for those scientifically ignorant.
If there is one thing about “INDEPENDENCE DAY” that really impressed me were its visual effects supervised by the team of Volker Engel, Douglas Smith, Clay Pinney and Joe Viskocil. Their work seemed to have impressed the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences, as well. The movie won an Oscar for Best Visual Effects. Here is an example of not only their work, but also the photography of Karl Walter Lindenlaub:
I may like “INDEPENDENCE DAY” a lot. But I cannot deny that it is also flawed. The movie featured a good deal of the cliches usually found in an Emmerich/Devlin production – a divorced couple, an American family fractured by the death of one parent and the other’s alcoholism, a newer romance, cheesy dialogue (especially from minor characters), questionable science, an annoying government official, a head of state – friendly or otherwise and a noble scientist in one of the leads. The most annoying flaw in “INDEPENDENCE DAY” for me turned out to be the dialogue. Aside from a few memorable one-liners, a good deal of the movie’s dialogue struck me as so cheesy and turgid that at times I caught myself wincing . . . a lot. I also grew weary of the movie’s more than numerous references to President Whitmore’s background as a former Air Force fighter pilot during the first Iraqi War. I can only assume that Emmerich and Devlin were setting up the character to be seen leading the last air strike against one of the alien space. They simply overdid it. Speaking of that last air strike, I found it odd that I saw more volunteers who were former military pilots than any current military pilots . . . especially since the movie’s finale was set at the Air Force base in Nevada. And why did the U.S. military send only a squad of U.S. Marine pilots in the movie’s first half? The El Toro Air Station (which later closed) was not the only air military base in Southern California. Why not send Air Force fighter planes from Edwards Air Force Base, as well? The worst aspect of “INDEPENDENCE DAY” turned out to be the flat score composed by David Arnold. It is a good thing I found the movie’s plot and characters compelling enough to keep me alert. Arnold’s score struck me as so uninspiring that I found it hard to believe this is the same man who had composed some pretty decent scores for the James Bond franchise between 1997 and 2008.
It is a miracle that Devlin and Emmerich managed to gather an impressive cast for this movie. Although there were times when many of them struggled to overcome the pair’s turgid dialogue, they still managed to inject enough energy into their performances to be memorable. Will Smith solidified his position as a future Hollywood leading man in his lively portrayal of Marine pilot Captain Steven Hiller. The role of satellite programmer/scientist David Levinson would prove to be one of the last two leading performances by Jeff Goldblum in a movie. He also gave, in my opinion, one of the movie’s better performances. Bill Pullman did a pretty good job as Thomas Whitmore, the U.S. President forced to make some tough decision during the alien invasion. Although I found some of his dialogue rather cheesy, I must admit that I found Randy Quaid’s performance as the alcoholic Russell Casse very entertaining. Equally entertaining were Judd Hirsch as David’s blunt-speaking father, Julius; and Margaret Colin as David’s ex-wife and President Whitmore’s communications director Connie Spano. Harry Connick Jr.’s portrayal of Steven’s friend, Captain Jimmy Wilder amusing at times, even if he seemed to be chewing the scenery. And Adam Baldwin proved to be a stable element in the story, due to his solid performance as Major Mitchell, the U.S. Air Force officer stationed at “Area 51”.
But aside from Goldblum, the other four performances that really impressed me came from Robert Loggia, who portrayed Whitmore’s Chief of Staff, U.S. Marine General William Grey; Vivica A. Fox as Steven’s resilient girlfriend Justine Dubrow; James Rebhorn as Secretary of Defense Albert Nimzicki; and Brent Spinner as “Area 51″ scientist Dr. Brackish Okun. Loggia was even more of a rock as one of the few truly sane voices for Whitmore during the alien invasion. Fox seemed to be one of the few cast members capable of rising above Emmerich and Devlin’s cheesy dialogue. And for that, she earned my vote as one of the movie’s better performers. Rebhorn gave a very entertaining, yet subtle performance as Whitmore’s sniveling Secretary of Defense. I never knew that ass kissing could be so interesting to watch. Brent Spinner gave a very funny performance as Dr. Brackish Okun, a geeky”Area 51” scientist without resorting to any hammy acting.
I cannot deny that “INDEPENDENCE DAY” is a flawed movie. It has cheesy dialogue that still makes me wince. It also featured an extremely bland score by David Arnold and also some story elements by Roland Emmerich and Dean Devlin that struck me as recycled. But the movie featured a first-rate cast led by Will Smith and Jeff Goldblum. And Emmerich and Devlin also created a very entertaining and effective story, making “INDEPENDENCE DAY” one of the better alien invasion movies I have ever seen, even after twenty years. And it is certainly a hell of a lot better than its 2016 sequel.
Below is a brief look at the traditional Christmas dish known as Plum Pudding:
Many people tend to associate the dish known as Plum Pudding (aka Christmas Pudding or Plum Duff) with the Christmas holiday, Victorian Britain, and especially Charles Dickens. I know I certainly did for a good number of years. But I was surprised to discover that Plum Pudding’s association with the Christmas holiday in Britain went back as far as the medieval period. During that particular period, it was the custom for pudding to be prepared on the 25th Sunday after Trinity. It was also customary for the pudding to be prepared with thirteen ingredients to represent Christ and the twelve apostles. Also, every family member was required to stir the pudding in turn from east to west in honor of the Magi and their alleged journey in that direction.
The origin of the current Plum Pudding made popular during the Victorian Age could be traced back to the 1420s. The dish emerged not as a confection or a dessert, but as a means of preserving meat at the end of the harvest season. Because of shortages of fodder, all surplus livestock were slaughtered in the autumn. The meat was then kept in a pastry case along with dried fruits acting as a preservative, developing into large “mince pies”. These pies could then be used to feed hosts of people, particularly at the festive season. The chief ancestor of the modern pudding was a thick soup or stew made from vegetables, dried fruit, sugar, grain, spices and some form of meat (if available) called “pottage”; which originated in Roman times. , however, was the pottage, a meat and vegetable concoction originating in Roman times.
Then in 1714, King George I began to request that this particular kind of pottage, which became known as “Plum Pudding” be served as part of his royal feast every Christmas. But it was not until the 1830s in which the current Plum Pudding assumed its form – a round tower of flour, fruits, suet, sugar and spices, all topped with holly – and was served during the Christmas holiday. Below is a recipe for the tradition Plum (or Christmas) Pudding from the About.com website:
1lb /450g dried mixed fruit (use golden raisins/sultanas* , raisins, currants)
1 oz /25 g mixed candied peel, finely chopped
1 small cooking apple, peeled, cored and finely chopped Grated zest and juice
½ large orange and
4 tbsp brandy, plus a little extra for soaking at the end
2 oz /55 g self-raising flour, sifted
1 level tsp ground mixed spice
1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
4 oz /110 g shredded suet, beef or vegetarian
4oz /110g soft, dark brown sugar
4 oz /110 g white fresh bread crumbs
1 oz /25 g whole shelled almonds, roughly chopped
2 large, fresh eggs
Lightly butter a 2½ pint/1.4 litre pudding basin.
Place the dried fruits, candied peel, apple, orange and lemon juice into a large mixing bowl. Add the brandy and stir well. Cover the bowl with a clean tea towel and leave to marinate for a couple of hours, preferably overnight.
Stir together the flour, mixed spice and cinnamon in a very large mixing bowl. Add the suet, sugar, lemon and orange zest, bread crumbs, nuts and stir again until all the ingredients are well mixed. Finally add the marinaded dried fruits and stir again.
Beat the eggs lightly in a small bowl then stir quickly into the dry ingredients. The mixture should have a fairly soft consistency.
Now is the time to gather the family for Christmas Pudding tradition of taking turns in stirring, making a wish and adding a few coins.
Spoon the mixture in to the greased pudding basin, gently pressing the mixture down with the back of a spoon. Cover with a double layer of greaseproof paper or baking parchment, then a layer of aluminum foil and tie securely with string.
Place the pudding in a steamer set over a saucepan of simmering water and steam the pudding for 7 hours.
Make sure you check the water level frequently so it never boils dry. The pudding should be a deep brown color when cooked. The pudding is not a light cake but instead is a dark, sticky and dense sponge.
Remove the pudding from the steamer, cool completely. Remove the paper, prick the pudding with a skewer and pour in a little extra brandy. Cover with fresh greaseproof paper and retie with string. Store in a cool dry place until Christmas day. Note: The pudding cannot be eaten immediately, it really does need to be stored and rested then reheated on Christmas Day. Eating the pudding immediately after cooking will cause it to collapse and the flavours will not have had time to mature.
On Christmas day reheat the pudding by steaming again for about an hour. Serve with Brandy or Rum Sauce, Brandy Butter or Custard.