Archive | October, 2011

Confessions of a Lifetime movie addict

18 Oct

    We’ve all done it. Bored on a Saturday afternoon, after stuffing your face full of chocolate chip cookies, you settle on the couch with a blanket and start flipping the T.V. channels. After going through dozens, you look around to make sure no one is watching, do a double take, and settle on it. Lifetime.
The guiltiest of guilty pleasures.
And Saturdays are chuck full of the material you have been longing for. Bored alcoholic housewives with cheating husbands and thieving children. A college girl being pressured by the hazing practices of the nasty, yet popular sorority. Teenage girls engaged in a pregnancy pact. The drama, the chaos, and the badly scripted mess that wraps neatly in a bow after two hours. The concept is quite beautiful, really.
The titles are exceptionally great. Not like Hollywood movies. Instead of one word answers like “Jaws” or “It” — Lifetime likes to give its viewers a brief synopsis — nothing to hide here. “Jessica’s Story: One Woman’s Story of Abuse.” “Melody’s Tale: A Mother’s Hope for her Unborn Child.” There you go. Simple, to the point, and you get a gist of what may happen.
I settled on “Thrill to Kill” this weekend. What did I expect? A bit of thrill, a bit of kill — and a fairly mediocre movie starring ‘C’ rate actors.
Summary: Innocent bartender Kelly reads a novel that oddly mirrors her sister’s tragic murder. Kelly decides to ask crime novelist Graydon to help her discover her sister’s true killer. They climb treacherous terrain, finding people in their path that don’t want the tragedy solved. Her sister had many lovers that wanted to kill her — so many lovers. Which one was it? And why so many? Why, I ask?
SPOILER ALERT: Unbeknownst to Kelly, her new gorgeous companion Graydon is the actual murderer. He gets his thrills from committing the crimes and then writing about them — which also makes him rich. Win-win for him? Anyways, I’m trailing off. He reveals to Kelly that he is going to kill her and then write about it! Gasp. Sob.
What? This is where I dropped the popcorn from my lips back to the bowl. (Yes, I was eating more food.) That surprised even me. After a lot of  screen shots of the murderer chasing the innocent pretty girl victim, Graydon ends up dead — hanging in a barn.
But, but … instead of worrying about her friend who is almost dead in an ambulance or perhaps removing the killer’s body from the barn — Kelly and the local sheriff decide to go inside her home for a pot of coffee and some cookies. To laugh and regale tales of old. WHAT? Strolling arm in arm into the house, the credits begin to roll.
That’s the Lifetime movie, I love so well. You did it again, Television for Women channel, you did it. I expect, and know, the show will wrap up as quickly as possible in the last minute of the show — no matter how awkward it makes the rest of it seem. If they don’t have time for that, someone better be walking off in the distance and there had better be at least four to five paragraphs of information to fill you in on what’s going on with the characters now.
My absolute favorite Lifetime flicks are the ones that are based on true stories. So in the back of your head, even as far-fetched and dramatic as the actors come across — there is a shred (if that) of truth somewhere in there.
The channel has been getting a lot of flack lately for the “Amanda Knox: Murder on Trial in Italy” movie. (See what they did there? Even if you have no idea who she is — you know there was a murder and a trial set in Italy. Fantastic.) Oh, I quickly condemned the movie for being biased. And I shook my head at Lifetime for sensationalizing the matter worse than the country of Italy did. And after all that — I sat down with some fudge. Yes, fudge. And watched it. Totally awesome.
But that’s why the channel is such a necessity in people’s lives (namely me.) Say goodbye to reality for a little while, for two, eight or 12 hours. Sit in jam jams, eat a couple pounds of food and let the drama unfold on the screen — rather than cause any of your own.
I heart Lifetime, so much.


Oh, Fabio. You’re my hero.

14 Oct

“What are you guys doing?”
“Are you sure?”
“Yep, we aren’t doing anything bad, promise!”
During the summers of my youth, I spent much of my time with the neighborhood gang. A rag-tag combination of friends and cousins that patrolled the blocks of Bank and Water Streets on our bikes. We’d play capture the flag until darkness took over, and held Super Mario championships like it was our job. But every once in awhile, the group split off and the girls would have time for the “pink stuff” — you know, dolls, diaries and books.
Sure, we spent loads of time reading “Sweet Valley Twins” and “The Baby-Sitters Club” series, but when we read books together, we looked for more advanced material. We found that easily in the form of womens romance novels. Preferably of the Harlequin variety.
My cousin Elizabeth and I would sneak off to her bedroom with a few of our hidden finds and start reading. We weren’t looking for characterization, heavy plot lines or themes — just for the quite obvious.
We wanted a juicy cover. Especially if it was the artistically-drawn Fabio on the front of the paperback novel — with his blond flowing mane, tan skin and protruding pectorals. Fabio’s eyes were always diverted and stormy — while he clung to a ship, horse or laid back on a green meadow. His clothing was always a bit too tight, and that was fine with us.
We’d laugh, pretend we were him, lowering our voices to give him life:
“Come on, baby, give me a kiss!”
“I’m a manly beast,” we’d say in our best Arnold Schwarzenegger impressions.
The woman was always secondary — but comic fodder nonetheless. Her flowing hair was usually ridiculous — hairsprayed and teased within an inch of its life. And her poor dress was always falling off.     The female lead never seemed to get a grasp on correct sewing, and managed to always look dippy, helpless and pathetic.
“Help me, Fabio, my dress accidently ripped again,” we’d say in high-pitched Minnie Mouse-inspired voices. “I’m going to faint, I’m so delicate.”
Elizabeth and I would take turns holding the book as we became voice actors for the dime novel, while the other would hold their stomach, painful from laughter.
After dishing it out for the dramatic cover, we’d start on the inside of the book. We never actually read all of it, just the stuff that counted. It was amazing to us that every book was constructed in almost the same way. There were usually three or four juicy parts and if you opened each Harlequin novel in about the same place — you’d eventually find the wanted section.
We’d find the two or three pages of romance, and hyena-laugh ensued all the way through. Each of us would start to read it out loud, but find that we’d fail, whispering the forbidden words in an effort not to die of embarrassment.
The writing was really an exercise in adjectives and adverbs. “He hoarsely declared his love.” “Ralph’s bulging biceps dripped with beads of sweat.” Good grief.
Becoming bored with the novels, we’d soon stumble off to find out what the boys were doing. Most likely playing outdoors, and we’d quickly forget about our amusing readings.
But when I see the books at supermarkets or stores nowadays — I always laugh, and usually take a peek inside. Nothing much has changed, with the book’s content or my instant ability to crack up.
Immaturity is a glorious thing.

For the love of school and discipline

14 Oct

Autumn could not come soon enough for me. While summer vacation was usually a good time for all, there was always this yearning to get back to hitting the books.
Actually the desire to be familiar again with my desk — very neat and orderly — started the day after school ended. I had my two hours of fun and it was back to learning and discipline.
One of my fondest memories of the summer happened to be studiously filling out the large packet of paper my teachers had given me during the elementary years. Papers that were to keep my mind molded and filled with the material that I had learned the previous year. There was a sense of urgency and panic when the packet was completed just a few days after school would let out. What to do now? I read and reread books at the library and daily would go on my bike to refill my stack at home. (Yes, I was the kid that kept falling of their bicycle while trying to manage five or six books on the handlebars while an overfilled backpack clung over the shoulders.)
Looking back, I could say that I was nerdy, a little lost and not like the rest of the kids — all looking forward to long days at the pool, watching television or frolicking outdoors. I was always in my room sitting on my bed with a Little Debbie oatmeal cookie and the friends I usually mingled with were not exactly real but were characters from various books.
I always imagined being back in that familiar place with classrooms, spending my afternoons banging erasers after the bell had rung so I could hang out with the favorite custodian and teachers. And I dreamed of those beautiful gold star stickers. So glorious and necessary for maintaining good students in a classroom.
So after a couple weeks into the summer after fourth grade, I found ways to occupy my time and stay in a classroom setting, so as to not get rusty.
My little sister, Emily, and my cousin, Elizabeth, organized a club that summer. They met in a neighbor’s yard and talked about babysitting some day and things that interested them. Seeing these 6- and 9-year-old girls wasting their time with such matters made me realize that I could put my need for order and school to good use. I came to one of their idle meetings and put them to work.
First, I appointed myself the president of the club. After congratulating them for me allowing them to stay on as members, I gave them jobs. Fluffy ones, like vice president and treasurer (for I would be at every meeting so I wouldn’t need a second-in-command and we really didn’t have any money to speak of.) I would also act as secretary so that the notes would be to my liking.
I realized that they were a little peeved for my hostile takeover and  I knew the best way to appease my new minions. I pulled out a briefcase (which was an old bright blue sewing kit of my mom’s) which contained a few sheets of Lisa Frank stickers. I then told the girls that if they went with my meeting agenda and followed along with the planned discussions, there was a good chance of receiving a beloved sticker.
It seemed to interest them to some extent. I went on with the meeting. We (I) went on to organize certain events for the neighborhood kids. We held “capture the flag” every night, but we set a specific time for the event and outlined guidelines and rules. When that was to my satisfaction, we set a Water Street and Bank Street Olympics.
Featured events for the spectacle included an astounding run around the block event, a back bend competition and a baseball game. Prizes included Lisa Frank and scratch ’n’ sniff stickers. We would divide up stickers for boys and girls according to gender colors.
After leaving the meeting to go back to my room for more planning, I felt good. A little light and airy. The 10-year-old in me was not so lost anymore without the structure of school. I could do it all without teachers guiding my every move. It would be a great summer.
Unfortunately after the next meeting, I was fired by the other two and ousted from the club. I was confused due to the fact that I still had an abundant amount of stickers to hand out. They let me manage the neighborhood Olympics, which I begrudgingly consented to.
But I again yearned for the sound of crunching leaves under my feet, the smell of sharpened No. 2 pencils and the satisfaction of another gold sticker added to my resume.

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