Fandango’s A to Z Reflections

If you were expecting to be reading a new Fandango’s Provocative Question in this time slot, please forgive me. I will resume them again next week. Instead, this post is my wrap up post for the 2022 Blogging from A to Z Challenge.

The folks behind the A to Z Challenge have tasked us to reflect upon this year’s challenge. To that end, they’ve suggested that we respond to a bunch of questions. However, I’m just going to give my overall thoughts and impressions.

Back on March 9th, in my Theme Reveal post, I said that I would be working my way through the alphabet during the month of April with movie titles and short blurbs about each movie. And that is exactly what I did.

I have to admit that I winged it all month long. I know many of you who participated in the challenge had your posts — or at least a lot of them — drafted, and maybe even schedule to be published, well in advance. In my case, though, I scheduled my A to Z posts to publish at 6:00 am Pacific time each day, but I didn’t actually start to write most of them until the night before.

In fact, it was often the night before when I Googled “Movies that start with the letter ___,” where the blank was the letter of the day. So that meant a few late nights for me last month.

But in the end, it was worth it. I enjoyed rediscovering so many great movies across a number of different genres: comedy, drama, horror, science fiction, thrillers. And, based upon the comments and likes my movie posts received, it seems that many of you enjoyed them too.

On the other hand, when it came to views, my top A to Z view getter, S is for Some Like It Hot, was only my 18th most viewed post of the month.

Stats-wise, I published 166 posts last month — my highest monthly posts total since August 2020. Of course, only 26 of those were my A to Z posts. My blog received 10% more views, 11% more visitors, 16% more likes, and 14% more comments in April than it did in March. So that felt good.

For those of you who follow my blog and who also participated in the challenge, I read all of your A to Z posts and I thought you all really did a great job. So bottom line, I’m glad I stepped up again this year, my fourth consecutive year participating in the A to Z Challenge. And assuming I’m still around next year, I probably will again in April 2023.

I am looking forward to reading the Reflections posts from those of you who also participated this year.

If you’re interested in reading any of my A to Z posts from this year’s challenge, please click on any letter of the alphabet: A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z

Z is for Zorba the Greek

For this year’s A-To-Z Challenge, my theme is MOVIES. I will be working my way through the alphabet during the month of April with movie titles and short blurbs about each movie. Today’s movie, the last one in this year’s challenge, is “Zorba the Greek.”

“Zorba the Greek” was a 1964 comedy-drama film written, produced, edited, and directed by Greek Cypriot filmmaker Michael Cacoyannis. It starred Anthony Quinn, Alan Bates, Lila Kedrova, Irene Papas, and Sotiris Moustakas. The film was based on the 1946 novel The Life And Times Of Alexis Zorba by Nikos Kazantzakis.

“Zorba the Greek” was a critical and commercial success, grossing over nine-times its production budget at the U.S. box office alone. At the 37th Academy Awards, the film won awards for Best Supporting Actress (Kedrova), Best Cinematography, and Best Art Direction. Other nominations included Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Actor for Anthony Quinn, whose performance has been cited as one of the most iconic in film history.

The film focused on a young well-dressed, introverted English writer of Anglo-Greek origins, Basil (Alan Bates), with a case of writer’s block. He returned to his Greek roots when he learned he’d inherited an old lignite mine from his Greek father. Basil is met upon his arrival in Greece by Alexis Zorba (Anthony Quinn), an eccentric, crude, exuberant, and impulsive Greek peasant. Basil decided to take Zorba with him to Crete on a whim. Zorba promised to teach Basil about mining and how to be a real Greek and have a zest for life just by letting himself go using Greek culture to pursue wine, women, and song.

In Crete, in the poor rural village, Basil was introduced to the lovely widow (Irene Papas), the love object of everyone on the island. With Zorba’s help, Basil got over his shyness and made love to her. Meanwhile, Zorba took up with the woman who ran their hotel (Lila Kedrova). When things go wrong on Crete, Zorba told Basil that there’s a silver lining in all this misery and that is to learn to live with the inescapable suffering that is part of life and, therefore, when things go well one can truly taste life’s sweetness. The answer to combating life’s downward turns is doing Zorba’s unique Greek dance, as Basil learns to accept the things in life he can’t control and to enjoy life even under the most trying circumstances.

“Zorba the Greek” is a paean to life in all its diverse aspects, ranging from the farcical to the tragic, as epitomized by the lusty title character, Zorba, a wise and aging peasant, a free soul who is totally committed to life no matter what it holds.

Previous A2Z 2022 posts: A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z

Y is for Young Frankenstein

For this year’s A-To-Z Challenge, my theme is MOVIES. I will be working my way through the alphabet during the month of April with movie titles and short blurbs about each movie. Today’s movie is “Young Frankenstein.”

“Young Frankenstein” is, arguably my favorite movie. Certainly my favorite comedy movie. It was a 1974 American comedy/horror film directed by Mel Brooks. The screenplay was co-written by Brooks and Gene Wilder. Wilder also starred in the lead role as the title character, a descendant of the infamous Dr. Victor Frankenstein, and Peter Boyle as the monster. The film co-starred Teri Garr, Cloris Leachman, Marty Feldman, Madeline Kahn, Kenneth Mars, Richard Haydn, and Gene Hackman.

The film is considered to be one of writer-producer-director Mel Brooks’ best films. It’s a nostalgic, hilarious spoof-tribute to classic horror films. “Young Frankenstein” was, like many of Brooks’ films, filled with physical gags, terrible puns, one-liners, and shattered taboos. Old-style wipes, fades to black and iris shots were numerous throughout the movie.

Dr. Frederick Frankenstein (Gene Wilder) is the grandson of the infamous Baron Von Frankenstein. But he wants to distance himself from this legacy, going so far as to insisting that his name be pronounced “Fronk-en-steen.” After telling his students at an American university that there is no way to generate life after nerves are severed and declaring that the work of his grandfather was “doodoo,” he is confronted and informed by Herr Falkstein (Richard Haydn) that he has inherited his family’s Transylvania estate and must travel there immediately.

Upon his arrival, Dr. Frankenstein meets Igor, (Marty Feldman), pronounced “Eye-gore,” his hunchback servant, and Inga (Teri Garr), his beautiful assistant. At the castle, he meets the frightening housekeeper, Frau Blücher (Cloris Leachman). Soon, Dr. Frankenstein discovers a secret entrance into his grandfather’s laboratory, where he finds a book written by his grandfather entitled, How I Did It, by Victor Frankenstein. Dr. Frankenstein, along with his sidekicks, and driven by a curiosity about his grandfather’s work, begins to experiment with creating life. Stealing the body of a hanged criminal (Peter Boyle), Dr. Frankenstein begins to recreate and improve upon his grandfather’s legacy. Igor, entrusted with the task of procuring the brain of a famed historian, drops the container holding the brain, damaging it beyond use. Instead, he takes the abnormal brain, assumed to be the brain of a criminal. Dr. Frankenstein is successful in his experiment and “The Monster” is brought to life.

Hilarity ensues as Dr. Frankenstein and his sidekicks, along with Inspector Kemp (Kenneth Mars), and a group of angry villagers, trying to contain “The Monster” who only wants to be loved, hates being mocked, and will only be soothed by the melancholy music of the violin. All ends well as Dr. Frankenstein succeeds with a partial “transference” meant to switch the brains of himself and “The Monster” in order to make “The Monster” more human. Dr. Frankenstein then marries Inga, and “The Monster” marries Elizabeth (Madeline Kahn), Dr. Frankenstein’s ex-fiancé.

A bit of trivia. You’re heard of the band Aerosmith, right? Well, band member Joe Perry came up with the guitar riff for a song and the band developed the track, but four days later Steven Tyler still didn’t have any lyrics for the song. With no lyrics forthcoming, they considered dumping the track, but inspiration struck when the band (minus Tyler and Perry) took a break and went for a walk around New York City, where they were recording.

“Young Frankenstein” was playing in Times Square, so they went to see it. There is a famous scene in the movie where Igor tells Dr. Frankenstein to “Walk This Way,” meaning to follow him. Dr. Frankenstein imitates Igor’s walk, which the band thought was hilarious. When they saw Tyler the next day, they informed him that the title of the song would be “Walk This Way.” Other than the title of the song, though, it and the movie had nothing in common.

Interesting factoid: “Young Frankenstein” was filmed in the same castle and with the same props and lab equipment (created and loaned by property manager Ken Strickfaden) as the original James Whale 1931 horror film “Frankenstein.”

If you’ve never seen this movie, and if you like to laugh, I highly recommend watching it. I promise you won’t regret it.

Previous A2Z 2022 posts: A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z

X is for Xanadu

For this year’s A-To-Z Challenge, my theme is MOVIES. I will be working my way through the alphabet during the month of April with movie titles and short blurbs about each movie. Today’s movie is “Xanadu.”

“Xanadu” is the only movie, of all 26 I will have highlighted in this series, that I’ve never seen. When it comes to movies, X is not an easy letter. Unless you go with one of the many “X-Men“ films or the movie that was based upon the TV show, “The X-Files,” there ain’t a whole lot to choose from. Anyway, let us proceed.

“Xanadu” was a 1980 American musical fantasy film written by Richard Christian Danus and Marc Reid Rubel, and directed by Robert Greenwald. It starred Olivia Newton-John, Michael Beck, and Gene Kelly in his final film role.

“Xanadu” was a major box office disappointment, and earned scorching negative critical reviews. For example, when the movie first came out, film critic Roger Ebert wasn’t a fan. He said that, “‘Xanadu’ is a mushy and limp musical fantasy, so insubstantial it keeps evaporating before our eyes.” According to Wikipedia, the movie was an inspiration for the creation of the Golden Raspberry Awards to recognize the worst films of the year.

But where the film was a bust, the soundtrack album became a huge commercial success around the world. It was certified double platinum in the United States. The song “Magic” was a U.S. number one hit for Newton-John, and the title track (by Newton-John and Electric Light Orchestra) reached number one in the United Kingdom and several other countries around the world.

Olivia Newton-John stars as Kira, one of the nine muses of Ancient Greece. Kira is sent to Earth (via an outdoor mural depicting the mythological sisters) to inspire Sonny Malone (Michael Beck). Sonny is a talented but discouraged freelance artist. Unable to make a go of it on his own, Sonny reluctantly returns to a record company, where he feels trapped painting album covers. Sonny cannot find enthusiasm for anything anymore, especially his work. But he became instantly attracted to Kira, an anonymous woman randomly photographed in the background of one of his assignments. Kira is also on the scene to motivate Danny McGuire (Gene Kelly), an aging, well-to-do entrepreneur who she might have possibly inspired decades ago when he was a Big Band musician. After his heart was broken, Danny hung up his clarinet and became comfortable managing his family’s construction business. With Kira’s help (and much dancing, singing, and roller-skating along the way), Sonny and Danny befriend one another and decide to partner up and construct “Xanadu,” a disco/roller-skating club.

Interestingly, the movie has apparently become a bit of a cult classic for the way it mixes the storyline from an old-fashioned 1940s fantasy with modern aesthetics featuring late 1970s and early 1980s rock and pop music on the soundtrack.

Previous A2Z 2022 posts: A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z

W is for Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory

For this year’s A-To-Z Challenge, my theme is MOVIES. I will be working my way through the alphabet during the month of April with movie titles and short blurbs about each movie. Today’s movie is “Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory.”

“Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory” was a 1971 American musical fantasy film directed by Mel Stuart. It was an adaptation of the 1964 novel Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl. The film and starred Gene Wilder, Jack Albertson, and Peter Ostrum.

In 1972, the film received an Academy Award nomination for Best Original Score, and Wilder was nominated for a Golden for Globe as Best Actor in a Musical or Comedy. Although the movie received generally positive reviews, it remained in relative obscurity until the 1980s, where it gained a cult-like following and became highly popular due to repeated television airings and home video sales. In 2014, the film was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry.

The movie follows five children who find the handful of golden tickets hidden across the globe by famed and reclusive candy tycoon Willy Wonka (Gene Wilder). Nobody wants the prize more than young Charlie Bucket (Peter Ostrum), but as his family is so poor that buying even one bar of chocolate is a treat, buying enough bars to find one of the five golden tickets is unlikely in the extreme. But thanks to his Grandpa Joe (Jack Albertson), Charlie gets the prize of his dreams! Charlie, along with four somewhat odious other children, get the chance of a lifetime and a tour of the factory, led by Wonka himself, who shows them fantastical rooms and unbelievable inventions. Wonka guides the children through the facility, glibly leading the party as the naughty children get picked off the tour one-by-one.

I really enjoyed the movie when I first saw it and each time I’ve seen it since then. I thought Gene Wilder was outstanding and the movie was fun and imaginative.

In an interesting factoid, Dahl was credited with writing the film’s screenplay. However, David Seltzer was brought in to do an uncredited rewrite. Against Dahl’s wishes, changes were made to the story and other decisions made by the director led Dahl to disown the film.

There was a 2005 remake of the movie, titled “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory,” from director Tim Burton and starring Johnny Depp as Willy Wonka. I did not see that remake, but while some claimed it was more true to Dahl’s book, the film met with mixed reviews. If any of you saw both the original with Gene Wilder in the title role and the remake with Johnny Depp as Willy Wonka, please share your thoughts in the comments.

Previous A2Z 2022 posts: A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z