Sunday, December 28, 2008

Dame Maggie Smith, an Oldie but a Goodie

I watched The First Wives Club for the umpteenth time on cable last week. I saw the film a number of times in the late nineties, enjoying the kooky capers of a cast-off lot of revenge-seeking first wives, but this was my first viewing in the 21st century. It's a silly, good-natured comedy showcasing lots of grrl/womyn power in the female leads, with talents ranging from Diane Keaton to Goldie Hawn, Bette Midler, Sarah Jessica Parker, and Elizabeth Berkley (loved in Saved By the Bell, Razzied in Showgirls).

I had forgotten that the unsinkable Dame Maggie Smith was featured in the movie as a wealthy New York socialite who aids the first wives in their revenge schemes against their former husbands and their mistresses, and when she appeared on screen, as spicy (and old) as always, I felt all warm and fuzzy inside.

I've loved Maggie Smith, the perpetual old lady, since I first saw her in Hook, as the extremely endearing and decrepit Wendy, all grown up and with great grand children. It wasn't until years later that I realized the makeup department must have "olded" her up a bit for that particular role - I just assumed she visited the same Fountain of Youth as Sean Connery and that was why she looked younger every year in subsequent film roles (ala the Curious Case of Dame Maggie Smith).

The other old lady roles that deepened my love of the Dame?
  • Clash of the Titans (1981, as Thetis - bordering on middle aged)
  • Sister Act (1992, as Mother Superior)
  • The Secret Garden (1993, as Mrs. Medlock)
  • Gosford Park (2001, as Constance Trentham)
  • Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood (2002, as Caro Eliza Bennet)
And of course, the entire Harry Potter film series, in which she plays the severe and yet infinitely lovable Professor Minerva McGonagall. Maggie took a short break from filming in 2008 while undergoing treatment for breast cancer but appears to be back in action for the sixth and seventh film installments.

What I have recently come to realize, thanks to infallible Internet sources like IMDB and Wikipedia, is that Dame Maggie Smith was not, in fact, born old (although I'm still trying to make my case for it in the Wiki user boards). She was young once upon a time, and apparently, she was a great actress back then too!

I spent an hour browsing Maggie's IMDB page and discovered lots of interesting tidbits, including the following:

Dame Maggie Smith is a two-time Academy Award winner for her roles in The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie (1969, Best Actress in a Leading Role) and California Suite (1978, Best Actress in a Supporting Role), in addition to being nominated four other times for her roles in Othello (1965), Travels With My Aunt (1972), A Room With a View (1985), and Gosford Park (2001).

Maggie appeared alongside that other fabulous Dame, Judi Dench, in several movies I need to add to my Netflix list, including A Room With a View (1985), Tea With Mussolini (1999), and Ladies in Lavender (2004).

Wikipedia also states that Maggie Smith plans to temporarily retire from acting in 30 years, after which she will be cryogenically frozen and revived in the year 3012 so that future generations will be able to continue to enjoy the Dame's performances*. How great is that? Dame Maggie Smith: perpetually old, perpetually awesome.

*These statements have not yet been verified and are still under peer review.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

The Doctor's Always In

In the wee-hours of the morning while channel surfing for something other than infomercials, I'm grateful for the USA network and its late-night programming. While other cable channels are running 6 Week Body Makeover and Cash Flow Generator ads as early as 2am EST, USA's programming often runs until 5am or, even better, all night!

I enjoy most of USA's original programming - Monk, Psych, The Starter Wife, and even In Plain Sight if there's nothing else on - but the best late night USA programming is syndicated from the big four networks.

While I love six straight episodes of Law & Order: SVU as much as the next person, the best late-night USA marathons are back-to-back-to-back episodes of the FOX medical drama House M.D. On Thanksgiving, USA played 24 hours of House, and I watched most of them. 24 hours of yummy Hugh Laurie + co-stars??!! Huddy-, Hameron-, and Hilson-shippers are sure to be pleased! My fingers are crossed that their Christmas marathon is just as fabulous.

My one complaint with House marathons is that the episodes are rarely aired in any real order. A majority of the episodes may be from a single season, but the order will skip around and the first few episodes will run again towards the end of the marathon. That's no way to run a marathon!

If I could have House marathons my way, they would go something like this:

House, M.D. Marathon: 24 Hours of "It's Not Lupus"
  • "Pilot" (1.1) Introducing Dr. House: he's an ass, but it's hard not to love him.
  • "Maternity" (1.4) The choices doctors make are never easy. This clinic case - 'woman with a parasite' is one of my favorites.
  • "Babies & Bathwater" (1.18) Cuddy finally stands up to Vogler, and there is a bittersweet ending for the patients.
  • "Kids" (1.19) There's a meningitis outbreak at the hospital following a competitive swim meet, and it's a 12 year-old diver who seems to be the sickest.
  • "Three Stories" (1.21) Carmen Electra guest stars in House's diagnostic fantasies and we finally learn the sacrifice House made that ended his marriage and left him a pill-popping cripple.
  • "The Mistake" (2.08) Chase's negligence leads to the death of a patient and consequences for all.
  • "Skin Deep" (2.13) The eventual diagnosis of a supermodel's symptoms is one of the series' most surprising.
  • "Safe" (2.16) Buffy alumnus Michelle Trachtenberg guest stars in a role she was apparently born to play: whinny, annoying teenager.
  • "All In" (2.17) House meets a boy with the same symptoms as an elderly woman he wasn't able to save years ago. The question is, how far will he go for his diagnosis?
  • "Euphoria Parts 1 & 2 (2.20 & 2.21) A patient puts Foreman's life in danger and Foreman puts Cameron's life in danger. Tensions amongst the team have never been higher.
  • "No Reason" (2.24) The first, of apparently several, episodes where someone pulls a gun on House. And maybe for good reason.
  • "Meaning" (3.1) See House Run. Plus one of the show's happiest endings for this week's patient.
  • "Son of Coma Guy" (3.7) While bordering on fantasy, this episode offers more insight into why House is the way he is. Although it's never quite clear if he's being honest.
  • "Finding Judas" (3.9) House suffers Vicodin-withdrawal symptoms and puts his young patient in further danger. The 'House in pain' episodes are always good ones. Karma, much?
  • "Merry Little Christmas" (3.10) Guest star Meredith Eaton is one of the few characters sharp-tongued enough to keep up with House. She's a pleasure to watch.
  • "Airborne" (3.18) House's diagnostic skills have never been more vital than when he and Cuddy are trapped on an airplane at 35,000 feet with a dying and potentially contagious man.
  • "Alone" (4.1) Wilson kidnaps House's guitar and refuses to return it until House hires a new team. The (sexual?) tension between the two men in this episode will satisfy any Hilson-shipper.
  • "Frozen" (4.11) House diagnoses a patient in the South Pole, and even though he and guest star Mira Sorvino can only communicate via webcam, their chemistry more than heats things up.
  • "House's Head" (4.15) As House struggles to remember who he saw dying following a serious bus crash, we see inside his head where Cuddy does a strip-tease.
  • "Wilson's Heart" (4.16) I don't think anyone is capable of watching this extremely moving fourth season finale without crying like a baby. If you weren't already in love with Wilson, you will be when it's over.
  • "Lucky Thirteen" (5.5) The writers really try to make you like Thirteen despite her many personal failings, and in this episode, they almost succeed.
  • "Joy" (5.6) Cuddy struggles to save the pregnant woman whose baby she hopes to adopt. The episode ends with a moment Huddy-shippers have been waiting for.
  • "Let Them Eat Cake" (5.10) This episode aired for the first time on Tuesday and I've only seen it once, but the Kutner-Taub patient scam/fiasco was just so entertaining, I had to include it.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

December Playlist

10 Random Songs from my December Playlist

Building a Mystery Sarah McLachlan
Holiday Green Day
Save Me Remy Zero
The Dark Night of the Soul Loreena McKennitt
Sugar Water Cibo Matto
Dangerous Type Letters to Cleo
Trapped in a Box No Doubt
Chariot Gavin DeGraw
My Lover's Gone Dido
Pay Attention The Eames Era