Barbara Harris

My old neighbor Barbara died a couple years ago.

During the 1990s while I was in my twenties, I lived with my boyfriend in the Uptown neighborhood in Chicago  – before its gentrification and massive redevelopment – when I could still swing rent as a graduate student while working weekends as a cocktail waiter in a gay bar. The red-brick building where we lived had a courtyard and each apartment had a small, ramshackle deck off the back kitchen, meaning you could poke your head out and do some Rear Window-like investigating of the other residents, even without a telescope.

Barbara Harris was prime viewing.

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The apartment building in Uptown on the north side of Chicago, where Barbara Harris and I lived in the 1990s.

At first I didn’t know that Barbara was Barbara, but I was most certainly aware of the very peculiar older woman who often floated through that courtyard in what seemed to be layer upon layer of white and earth-toned gossamer, a bizarre and extreme melange of Stevie Nicks with swirling diaphanous shawls; Isadora Duncan with fluttering scarves; sometimes a touch of Gloria Swanson from Sunset Boulevard in a loosely wound turban, or more often, an ill-defined headwrap, somewhat appropriately, à la Little Edie of Grey Gardens; all this, plus some multi-strand necklaces and a collection of slightly ostentatious brooches pinned to a billowy caftan-like garment.

Barbara made an instant impression in person, owing to that peculiar clothing, but also to the unique cadence of her voice, her keen, questioning visage, and perhaps most of all in her movement, flowing through the low-rent apartment courtyard with an odd gracefulness, all that outlandish attire drifting lazily in her wake.

I don’t remember exactly how I came to learn that this Barbara was the same Barbara who’d worked with Robert Altman and Alfred Hitchcock, who’d starred on Broadway and won a Tony, and who’d played Jodie Foster’s mother in one of my favorite films from childhood, Freaky Friday. But at some point it became the irrefutable truth:  I was living alongside a movie star, at least in my eyes.

Barbara Harris and Jodie Foster

Jodie Foster and Barbara Harris in Freaky Friday.

Maybe that’s where the story should end, with my starstruck admiration from across the courtyard, a quiet excitement living in the neighborly aura of a grand actress.

The story doesn’t finish there, though. I don’t even recall how my boyfriend and I actually came to know Barbara on a personal level. Maybe crossing paths while hauling leaky garbage bags out to the dumpster? Not the most refined means of encountering a film star, but we weren’t living the glamorous life, none of us.

I do recall feeling doubtful when someone mentioned that she had once been a famous actress. Why would a movie star and former Tony winner be living in the very untony neighborhood of Uptown? One of my friends told me that he didn’t believe it was really her – until he watched the scene in Nashville when she clambers over a highway barrier, and it all clicked. “I didn’t believe it until I saw her moving,” he confessed. As I said before, there was something very distinct about Barbara in motion.

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Julia gives a spectacular wallop of a slap to Cassandra in reaction the the presumed doom of Barnabas with the completion of the Dream Curse.

It’s a magnificent smack, matched only by the suitably striking attire of both its bearer and its target.

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I love shocking phone calls on Dark Shadows – almost as much as the unfortunate bad-news recipients’ answer-wear.

Learning of Joe’s hospitalization from Barnabas, who, if I am not mistaken, is making his first phone call of the series run (aside: Does the Old House even have a line? Did Willie give him a lesson in rotary phone operation?), Maggie has chosen a simple sunflower yellow blouse paired with an arresting magenta vest/mini-skirt combination, accented by a necktie with a polka-dot pattern incorporating both colors. I’m a little disappointed in Read the rest of this entry »

BtVS & Angel

Here it is. Initially I’d had the goal of posting a detailed review for each of the 254 episodes, and I got as far as the middle of season three before losing the energy and focus, but not the OCD need to catalogue and compare. So even as I gave up the ghost on 254 blog entries, I continued to jot down impressions of episodes and rank them within seasons. My re-watch ended up taking over three years! This summer, I dug everything up, and several hundred index cards and a spread sheet later, I have the complete list.

I waffled on whether to start at the bottom of or the top, eventually settling on the former, mostly because I believe in the old adage of saving the best for last, though I hadn’t realized how negative my takes on the lower end wound up. In my heart, though, I love both series through and through and can find something of worth in every episode.

The spread sheet is embedded at the end of the list with episodes listed in alphabetical order. The 44 episode posts that I did a few years ago are linked at the bottom of each capsule review here.

Thanks to Mr. Lousy and Doris W. for introducing me to the Buffyverse!

#254: The Girl in Question (Angel 5.20)
written by Steven S. DeKnight and Drew Goddard
directed by David Greenwalt

! Angel - The Girl in Question

Egregiously tone-deaf, sorely misplaced comedy episode that derails the building momentum toward the series finale. As everyone reels from the death of Fred and the impending apocalypse, Angel and Spike go on a goofball mission to Italy and match wits with a never-seen, never-before-mentioned nemesis. It’s a trip filled with one thudding joke after another, like a disastrous pilot for a sitcom spin-off. Worse yet, it’s a deflated goodbye to Buffy, shown only briefly by a body double and referenced by the unfunny, unwelcome Andrew. And worst of all, the flashbacks flop miserably, making our series farewell to Darla and Cordelia a footnote begging to be expunged from the show’s lore. All of this stands in jarring contrast to the B-story, a surprise visit from Fred’s parents and Illyria’s impromptu impersonation of the deceased. These potentially powerful, tragic scenes lose most of their impact from the inane Abbott (Angel) & Costello (Spike) bickering that they’re thoughtlessly sandwiched between. A mind-numbing misstep torpedoed into one of the Buffyverse’s greatest arcs. Read the rest of this entry »


I forgot my password for this blog. And I forgot about having an image. So now I have just enough time to just key everything in. I thought about doing reviews but there’s so much I’ll be more interested to see if there’s anything here anyone even cares to talk about.
Biggest takeaway? I watch A LOT of TV now. Partly because we’re home more with the baby and also just – so – many – shows.

Interesting to note the year began and ended with Star Wars. I am not apologizing or unhappy for that.

1 – Star Wars – The Force Awakens
2 – The Wolfpack
3 – Attack the Block
4 – Boyhood
5 – Bolshoi Babylon
6 – Rocky – I’d never seen it before
7 – Hail Caesar!
8 – Up
9 – Spy
10 – Maze Runner – Scorch Trials
11 – Becoming Mike Nichols
12 – Big Eyes
13 – Imitation Game
14 – The Avengers 2 – Age of Ultron
15 – 10 Cloverfield Lane
16 – Deadpool
17 – The Lobster – I really liked it
18 – OJ Made in America
19 – Dig
20 – Die Hard
21 – Stanford Prison Experiment
22 – Lucy – didn’t get it
23 – Room
24 – The Big Short
25 – The Insider
26 – Spotlight
27 – Eddie the Eagle
28 – Jiro Dreams of Sushi
29 – The Girl on the Train
30 – Green Room
31 – Highlander
32 – Captain America – Winter Soldier
33 – Joy
34 – Me, Earl and the Dying Girl
35 – St. Vincent
36 – The Witch – sooo creepy and good
37 – Hitchcock/Truffaut
38 – Doctor Strange
39 – Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them – I really admire JK Rowling
40 – Arrival – a beautiful story about accepting your fate
41 – Keanu – saw it night before George Michael died
42 – 20 Feet from Stardom
43 – LaLaLand – eh
44 – Hateful Eight
45 – Rogue One – I liked it
46 – The Departed

This is new but necessary I think to see where I’m spending my entertainment time. I just listed everything in no particular order.

1 – Fargo
2 – Making of a Murderer
3 – Jeopardy
4 – Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries
5 – Sherlock
6 – Downton Abbey
7 – Man in the High Castle
8 – Family Tree
9 – Angie Tribeca – delightfully stupid
10 – Catastrophe
11 – War and Peace
12 – With Bob and David
13 – iZombie
14 – The Grinder – RIP, truly sad it’s not renewed
15 – Fresh Off the Boat
16 – Elementary
17 – X-Files
18 – blackish
19 – Better Call Saul
20 – The Walking Dead – brutal, I don’t know if I can handle watching psychotic bullies now that we have one as President-elect
21 – Last Week with John Oliver
22 – Chicago Tonight
23 – Mr. Robot
24 – The Americans
25 – Love
26 – People v OJ Simpson
27 – Grantchester
28 – Call the Midwife
29 – The Night Manager
30 – Silicon Valley
31 – Orange is the New Black
32 – Game of Thrones
33 – The Mindy Project – so much better on Hulu
34 – Veep
35 – Late Show with Stephen Colbert
36 – Late Late Show with James Corden
37 – Full Frontal with Samantha Bee
38 – Brain Dead
39 – Dancing on the Edge
40 – The Good Place
41 – Night of
42 – Westworld
43 – Crazy Ex-Girlfriend
44 – Poldark
45 – 60 MInutes
46 – BSG – we started rewatching. On S2.
47 – Drunk History
48 – The Crown
49 – Fleabag
50 – Gotham
51 – Search Party
52 – Black Mirror

Shows I started and stopped watching. Why do they all begin with “M”?
Mercy Street
Mozart in the Jungle
The Muppets

I read more than last year but still not up to my pre-baby numbers.

1 – A Swiftly Tilting Planet/Madeleine L’Engle
2 – Home Fires/Julie Simmons
3 – Sketchnote/Mike Rohde (for work)
4 – Call the Midwife/Jennifer Worth
5 – Allegiant/Veronica Roth – I had it and struggled to just finish it
6 – Rose Under Fire/Elizabeth Wein
7 – Harry Potter and the Cursed Child/JK Rowling
8 – The Girl on the Train/Paul Hawkins
9 – Mapping Inner Space/Nancy Margulies (also work)
10 – Grand Canyon – Fodors, Frommers, National Geographic
11 – Bryce Canyon and Zion Canyon – Fodors, Frommers, National Geographic
I read enough that they count.
12 – Life Hacks – Dan Marshall
13 – Life of Pi/Yann Martel
14 – Eleanor and Park/Rainbow Rowell
15 – Who Moved My Cheese?/Spencer Johnson
16 – Black Dove, White Raven/Elizabeth Wein


todas-sus-guerras-dvdThe title mirrors Mexican film great María Félix’s autobiography, Todas mis guerras, so I thought the documentary would bear semblance to the book, which was really a doozy, packed with sex, scandal, international name-dropping, outlandish diva behavior, and insight into the mind of a star so egotistical she bordered on sociopathic.

Instead, you get a chronological review of her films (almost all of which are presented with dreadful sound quality), littered Read the rest of this entry »

A forerunner to both Murder, She Wrote and The Golden Girls, the 1971 TV-movie Do Not Fold, Spindle or Mutilate stars Helen Hayes, Sylvia Sidney, Mildred Natwick, and Myrna Loy as ladies who not only lunch, but occupy their idle hours by pranking people, in the case of this film, by inventing a fictitious woman to enter into a computer dating service in order to find some voyeuristic fun in exposing and manipulating strange men’s emotions and desire.

Their geriatric, proto-catfishing makes me feel hopeful that my own twilight years may be filled with crafting mayhem and engaging in semi-malicious larks alongside likeminded seniors. I have always cultivated friendships with such promise; only now do I understand the end game.


True to ladies in their seventies during the decade of the seventies, the group never slacks off in fashion. In fact, there are never slacks at all. All four make a point of putting themselves together; it’s Sylvia Sidney, however, who repeatedly cuts the most stunning figure, here in this smart emerald green dress, accentuated by the brooch, black belt, and matching black hat. She always wears a hat.

Their dating scam draws the initial interest and eventual ire of a psychopath, whose internal monologues we are treated to at astounding length via urgent voiceover whispers as the actor fumbles about his apartment, marches angrily down city streets, broods inside phone booths, and takes languorous bubble baths. Read the rest of this entry »

Do Not Disturb posterA lesser entry in the swath of Doris Day sex comedies from the sixties, Do Not Disturb never escapes the disjointed, episodic confines of the script by Richard L. Breen and Milt Rosen. The film tries out several angles for Day – the Read the rest of this entry »

mr allison lobby cardThis 1957 WWII film sounds like sexploitation in synopsis:

A rugged marine and a prim nun find themselves stranded on an island and confront sexual temptation amidst mortal danger and unrelenting tropical heat.

Yet as realized by director/co-writer John Huston, the sexual tension never ventures into tawdriness, though the two leads, Robert Mitchum and Deborah Kerr, Read the rest of this entry »

malenka posterSometimes I watch a film that is so terribly written and sloppily realized that my mind drifts from what I am actually witnessing on the screen to what I imagine the creators – the writer, the director, the set designers, the costumers, the performers – discussed and observed while they prepared for and wheeled into reality their cinematic travesty.

What inkling of the disaster might be revealed in the words and minds of the very people who brought it forth?

I was besotted by such musings during Fangs of the Living Dead, otherwise known as Malenka, a supremely schlocky European horror film from the twilight of the sixties directed by Spanish director Amando de Ossorio and starring Swedish sex siren Anita Ekberg. It’s a wreck from beginning to end, especially the end, though I confess abandoning it never truly Read the rest of this entry »