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Red, White, and Blaine

In 1996 Christopher Guest returned to the mockumentary genre with his look at regional theater “Waiting for Guffman.” Guest, most famously, being one-third of the fictional rock band Spinal Tap in the perhaps the best mockumentary ever made, “This is Spinal Tap.” “Guffman” also kicks off the cycle of Christopher Guest directed mockumentaries. The films all using the same group of actors, and all written by Guest with Eugene Levy, both of whom also act in the films. Guest’s films are largely improved by the actors, with the written material serving as an outline for the film’s story.

“Guffman” takes place in the fictional town of Blaine, Missouri—a small town that is celebrating its 150th anniversary. Big dreamer and New York Transplant, Corky St. Clair (Guest) has created a musical celebration of the town called “Red, White, and Blaine.” The show within the show appears towards the end of the film, Guest teamed up with his "Spinal Tap” cohorts, Michael McKean & Harry Shearer, …

Ode to the Halloween Section

2017 has been a difficult year. It’s been a year filled with uncertainty. Just speaking for myself, and for the friends of mine who I’ve talked to about this, we’ve all gained weight, felt our anxiety stronger than we have in years past. All summer long I felt like I was in an overwhelming marathon of taking care of a thousand things at once. Some of you I’m sure can figure out why there’s been more anxiety this year than others. If you can’t, well, that’s a conversation for another time. 2017 hasn’t been easy, it’s been well…it’s been.
Now that we have passed labor day weekend, the threshold of Fall is upon us (which is the name of my super pretentious novel coming out next fall). Fall to me means one thing. October. Which also means Halloween. If you’ve followed my exploits in these here pages for any length of time, you may recall that in the Ross family Halloween is a Christmas sized holiday. We take it seriously. We take making Halloween fun VERY seriously. This goes back to my mo…

Twelve-Nine-Three

Picture it! Scilly, 1922! OK, actually Andy Ross’s Childhood Bedroom 1993. I had been given as a gift the dream attachment for my beloved Sega Genesis, the amazing Sega CD. For those of you young children who have only grown up in the era of XBox and Playstation, it may seem strange that there was once a time when the idea of playing a video game off of a compact disc was mind blowing. But it was, and I was fully ready to have my mind blown. To use a slogan of Sega’s ads of the era, I was ready to enter “The Next Level.”

The Sega CD model I had was the second one, the smaller model designed to go with the slimmer Genesis that had been introduced to the market. I had the first Genesis, the larger one, but the Sega CD came with an extension block that allowed it to partner it on the original model. You attached the Sega CD to your Genesis by a special connector on the side of system. The Sega CD came with a game to get you going, as was the norm with gaming systems at the time. The game …

Where The Blues Are

I come to you again this week with another pair of blu-rays from those master celluloid handlers at Warner Archive. First up we have 1960’s “Where The Boys Are,” a defining teen picture of the era by MGM, and the film largely responsible for kicking off the whole cycle of 1960s beach films. The other is 1955’s “Pete Kelly’s Blues” a film starring, produced, and directed by Jack Webb--TV’s Joe Friday. Part of a deal Webb had made with Warner Brothers when he was setting up the original big screen version of “Dragnet” in the ‘50s. 
“Where The Boys Are” was set for the screen before the book it was based on had been released. Producer Joe Pasternak snatched up the rights to the book by Glendon Swarthout, which was originally titled “Unholy Spring.” Pasternak, strongly feeling “Where The Boys Are” would be the better title, persuaded Swarthout to change the book’s title. Pasternak also felt he could use the film as a starring vehicle for one of the stars of MGM’s record label, Connie Franc…

Convincing Yourself You're Good.

I have Imposter Syndrome. Imposter Syndrome is that feeling that what you do isn't good enough, and that someone is gonna eventually figure out how woefully unqualified you are and kick you to the curb. One of the traits of my personality that I dislike is that I am way too hard on myself. Seriously, give my mind an inch and I will somehow figure out that I am the sole person responsible for the world's troubles.

Having Imposter Syndrome is kind of like playing the game Werewolf. My friends and I play a version of the game called One Night Ultimate Werewolf, in the game each player picks a card that gives them a specific role, either a villager or a werewolf, and the villagers all have distinct roles that they play on top of that--special abilities and the like. The object of the game is two fold, if you're a werewolf, you don't wanna be caught. If you're a village, you wanna catch the werewolves. Imposter Syndrome makes you feel like you're always in the role…

The State of The Andy

Greetings, Citizens.

I've been neglecting the "Hey There, Andy!" blog a little too much lately. It got a new design and I walked away like one of those spoiled couples on House Hunters. This blog started years ago as a way to give my work more of a "web presence," and to make individual columns easy to share. In the last year, "The Loafer--my main home for my word works--has gotten an incredible website redesign by the very talented people at Stellar Studios, and now I feel less motivated to double up on my columns being there and here as well.

So where does that leave "Hey There, Andy!?" Welp, this place needs more stuff on it. I'm going to from time to time share older Batteries Not Included columns that aren't archived on the web anywhere else, and maybe post some original work. Another reason in why this place hasn't seen much attention is that I've been overwhelmingly busy lately. At the end of the past three years I've …

The Film is Strong with This One

If you’ve read my column with any regularity, if you’ve even interacted with me in actual life, then you’re most likely aware that I like movies and music. A lot. They are two of the biggest sources of joy in my life. I’ve talked of my origins with music a lot in these pages before, but I’ve never talked much about how my taste in film formed. If there is a common link between the two it’s that they’ve both been so prominent in my life I can’t quite trace the moment I became all about them. 
What I do know with certainty is that it became clear at an early age that music and movies were things I was going to be into. I watched an old home movie a few months ago where I’m all of three and my mother can be heard remarking “When he gets up he doesn’t want to potty or anything, he wants to listen to music.” Now I don’t have any idea what the first movie I saw was. I do know that it would have been before I saw my first movie in a theater, I was not quite the first generation to grow up wit…

Breathless, Heaving Flames

Note: This column originally ran in The Loafer in December of 2015 to mark the 30th Anniversary of "Clue." I thought it had been uploaded here at the same time, and I recently found out it wasn't, nor was it archived on The Loafer's website. 
If there’s one thing about Hollywood you can still count on these days, it’s the axiom that the true test of movies is time. Films that were hits can become forgotten footnotes, and films that were flops can become cherished classics. A shining example of this would be Alfred Hitchcock’s “Vertigo.” “Vertigo” wasn’t a hit at the box office, and critics hated it. Yet today “Vertigo” is not only considered to be Hitchcock’s masterpiece, it’s also considered by many to be finest film ever made. 
There’s a film which falls into that category, flop now beloved. The film in question happens to my favorite movie. A movie that I can almost recite word for word, and a movie which celebrates its 30th anniversary this coming Sunday. On Decemb…

The Boy Friend in the Afternoon

Sometimes I can surprise people when I tell them that I still haven’t seen every movie made by my favorite filmmakers. This is partially by circumstance and partially by choice--it’s nice to know there are still new to me Billy Wilder films out there in the world. There’s now one less new to me Wilder film as I’ve seen Wilder’s 1957 comedy “Love in The Afternoon”--which makes its blu-ray debut from those knights of the vault Warner Archive. 
“Love in The Afternoon” is a romantic comedy starring Gary Cooper, Audrey Hepburn, and Maurice Chevalier. The film is the first of twelve films Wilder would write with I.A.L. Diamond--one of the finest screenwriting partnerships in history. “Love in The Afternoon” centers around a French private eye (Chevalier) who is tracking down a lothario businessman (Cooper) and keeping an eye out on his numerous affairs. At the same time, our detective tries to keep all these torrid details away from his young daughter (Hepburn). 
When the husband of one of th…

Bells are Ringing at Black Rock

MGM’s 1960 musical “Bells Are Ringing”--adapted from the 1956 Broadway show of the same name--is a swan song for a number of reasons. It was the final musical produced by the legendary Arthur Freed for MGM, and the last musical its director, Vincente Minnelli, made for the studio. As well, it was the final film to star Judy Holiday, just a few years before her death from breast cancer.
Holiday reprises her Tony winning stage role, which was written for her. Holiday plays Ella, a young and vibrant switchboard operator at Susanswerphone, a telephone answering service. Ella takes her role seriously and takes a lot of the problems of Susanswerphone’s clients to heart. She pretends to be Santa Claus for a mother’s son, and she becomes adamant on finding ways to help her clients best. 
Ella has fallen for one of the voices that comes through her headset, a struggling playwright (Dean Martin) who has a sever case of writer’s block after breaking it off with his longtime writing partner. Martin…

Seduction My Way

With Valentine’s Day next week many are starting to make plans for what they will do with their lover. Lately I’ve been getting numerous tweets asking me “Andy, you’re a well known stud muffin, what can I do to make Valentine’s Day most memorable?” Since I have much to say on this topic, I thought I’d take time this week and share my advice for a most special February 14th. 
Now you may have read that last paragraph and thought to yourself “Andy, I have no lover, why did you write something useless for me!?” Don’t worry friend, I got you. If you need a pick up a line to score the date of your dreams, simply get up the courage to walk up the one you’ve been dreaming about, take a deep breath, and tell them the following. “Hey, do you wanna fall over a cliff in love with me? ‘Cause I’m the yodeling guy from Price is Right and you just incorrectly guessed the price of a toaster oven.” Never fails. 
Now comes the task of picking the right restaurant for the date. At this late time, finding …

The Turtles: All The Singles

I could easily state that I don’t just listen to music, I consume it. Music is perhaps the one thing in my life that is closest to an addiction. I listen to incredible amounts of it, buying records makes me happy, and I talk about it a lot. Part of my musical obsessions is one with the music of the 1960s. There are many bands of the ‘60s that are vastly overlooked and underrated--for a number of reasons, mostly generated by “holier than thou” attitudes at rock rags in the ‘70s.
There’s the idea rock music didn’t really come to fore till The Beatles arrived, and/or that music was lame until The Beatles got high. I get where these attitudes come from, but I don’t hold much salt in them. However, attitudes like these are why some really great groups of the era have been regulated to their place in history--by some--based only on the merits of their biggest hit song or songs. There are numerous bands that I feel deserves more cred, praise, and appreciation. One band in particular that is l…

His Girl Friday

It’s easy to get overwhelmed looking at the filmography of director Howard Hawks. There are numerous films in the Hawks catalog that any director would be happy to have one of. Out of forty six films, Hawks has nine on The National Film Registry. Hawks was a genre master, tackling and succeeding in screwball comedy, musicals, drama, western, film noir, and even sci-fi. 
If the name Howard Hawks doesn’t immediately ring a bell with you, odds are good you’ve seen at least one of his bigger films: “Bringing Up Baby,” “The Big Sleep,” “Rio Bravo,” “To Have and Have Not,” “Red River,” “Gentlemen Prefer Blondes,” and the film which this week’s column is about, “His Girl Friday.” Released in 1940 by Columbia Pictures, “His Girl Friday” stars Cary Grant & Rosalind Russell, and is based upon the 1928 stage play “The Front Page” written by Ben Hecht and Charles MacArthur.
Grant plays Walter Burns, the determined and hard-boiled editor of “The Morning Post,” who learns his ex-wife and forme…

Wait Until Battleground

2017 is getting off to a robust start for blu-ray releases, for as much goodness that Warner Archive brought to HD last year, this year gets started with four titles. “Battleground,” “Wait Until Dark,” “Bells are Ringing,” and “Bad Day at Black Rock” all get Blu-Ray debuts this month, I’ll be talking about the former two this week. One is a film I hadn’t seen before, and the other is one of a handful of films that I find truly terrifying (standing in such great company as “Baby’s Day Out”).

Released in 1949 MGM’s “Battleground” was the first major film about World War Two produced after the war had ended. MGM head Louis B. Mayer initially had hesitation about producing the film--which went on to be MGM’s largest grossing film in five years--feeling that audiences wouldn’t want a war movie so close to World War Two having ended. Where “Battleground” differs from most war films is that it’s more of a human story than a war story. A film with very little action sequences. Focusing more on…