Top Cat’s Tuesday Top 10: Actor’s Improvised Scenes

I’m not an actor but I do appreciate the craft. Part of that reason lies in the fact that I love movies and TV shows. I’m just a fan of Pop Culture in general. I’m the nerdy guy that always watches the extra footage, ‘behind the scenes’, and ‘the making ofs’ of movies and TV shows. Since I’m one of those people that tries to be funny off-the-cuff; I find the improved scenes and lines of movies to be extremely interesting. So many directors allow their actors to make suggestions to the scene or just give them suggestions of how to go about their scene; which can lead to some amazing footage. Sometimes those improvised scenes or lines become more infamous than the movie or TV show itself. Take for instance what would have been my number 13 choice; Dustin Hoffman’s off-the-cuff improvisation of the line “I’m walking Here!” while walking across the street full of actual New York City traffic for the 1969 classic Midnight Cowboy. Director John Schlesinger loved the improvised line so much that he kept it in the movie, and thusly becoming one of the movies most memorable scenes. Much like the improvised quote by Michael Madsen in the torture scene in Quentin Tarantino’s infamous cult classic Reservoir Dogs, “You hear that?” Mr. Blonde, what you hear are my choices for the Top Cat’s Tuesday Top 10: Actor’s Improvised Scenes. Hopefully by the end of this blog I’ll be able to confidently ask “Do I amuse you?” just like Joe Pesci did in the scene from The Goodfella’s where he improved the line for the quick-tempered enforcer.  And much like Roy Scheider’s off-script line, “you’re going to need a bigger boat,” in the 1975 classic movie Jaws, I need a bigger list!



Honorable Mentions:

Good Will Hunting (1997) – “Farting Wife Story”

A movie which shows the life struggles of reluctant genius Will Hunting (played by a young Matt Damon), the scene I am referring to is now just as infamous than the Academy Award winning movie itself. Hunting is in a session with his therapist (played by Robin Williams), and is as always reluctant to open up about his life. So therapist Sean Maguire beings to tell him a personal story about his late wife to help bridge the gap. The story about his late wife’s sleep flatulence was improvised at the moment by Robin Williams. Damon’s genuine belly laugh is matched by the laughter of the cameraman whom you can clearly see is laughing so hard that he shakes the camera during the filming of the scene. Williams dramatic portrayal of the therapist earned him his only Academy Award but his time on the comedy stage which allowed him to improvise this scene caused him to be on my list.

A Clockwork Orange (1971) – “Singing in the Rain”

Stanley Kubrick’s film adaptation of the Anthony Burgess novel “A Clockwork Orange” had many controversial scenes. The book/movie centers around a teenager whose love for ‘ultraviolence’ finally catches up with him. One scene in particular, Alex (played by legendary actor Malcolm McDowell) and his miscreants break into a house and assault and rape a woman. Stanley Kubrick did not like the scene was turning out during filming, so he just tells McDowell to “(J)ust do whatever you want.” In the next take, McDowell breaks out in to a creepily happy version of “Singing in the Rain” while physically and sexually assaulting the woman. The take was used in the film and thusly helped reveal the truly sadistic side of Alex.

Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981) – Sword vs Gun scene

I don’t know of anyone who hasn’t at least heard of Indiana Jones. But did you know that one of the most infamous scenes from Raiders of The Lost Ark improvised? The scene is a wild chase in the Cairo market streets, and Indiana Jones (played by Harrison Ford) runs into a crowded market. The crowd separates to reveal a black-robed warrior wielding a huge sharp sword. After the warrior intimidatingly swings the sword around, Jones puts away his trusty whip and shoots the guy. It’s ruthless but it most definitely plays into his character. The scene had been rehearsed for weeks with Jones and the black-robed warrior having an elaborate whip vs sword fight. Well Harrison Ford got food poisoning, so he went to Steven Spielberg and decided to improvise. The scene became so infamous that I’m sure even Ford himself is okay with the food poisoning he endured the night before shooting that scene.


10. Dumb and Dumber (1994) – “Most Annoying Sound in the World”

Yes its dumb….but no one can deny Dumb and Dumber‘s influence on the comedy landscape. When Dumb and Dumber hit the big screen in 1994, one scene in particular has stuck in the minds of fans ever since; but would you ever imagine that this scene was completely improvised. The script just called for the duo (made up of Lloyd  played by Jim Carrey and Harry played by Jeff Daniels) to argue about jelly beans while the hitchhiker (who is actually a hitman sent to kill them) sat between them got more and more agitated. During the improvised scene, the two of them horse around until the hitman loses his cool and yells “Enough!” Thankfully for him there is a moment of calm until Lloyd breaks the silence and asks, “Hey wanna hear the most annoying sound in the world?” Then he proceeds to squeal as loud as possible in his ear. This improved scene is successfully one of the most memorable comedic scenes (to me) of all time.

9. Star Wars – Episode 5: The Empire Strikes Back (1980) – “I love you…I know”

Han Solo is cocky. To be the best pilot in the universe, you have to be. In an effort to continue the tough guy image that Harrison Ford had perfected in his Han Solo character, he Ford argued on a line in one of the more touching scenes of the movie. When Solo was supposed to show his more sensitive side and say “I love you too” in response to his Princess Leia; George Lucas told Ford to just say what he thought was best for the character. So his response to her “I love you” was…”I know”. The response meant more than it let on but it fit perfectly with his character’s cocky persona.

8. Caddyshack (1980) – “The Cinderella Story”

Bill Murray, who is to me one of the funniest human beings on the planet, created one of the best and most quoted scenes from Caddyshack. The scene; which consisted of the dimwitted groundskeeper Carl Spackler (played by Murray) mutters off a story to himself where he, an unknown golfer, wins the Masters golf tournament. Murray said in his 1999 book Cinderella Story: My Life in Golf, that “The Cinderella Story” was a spur-of-the-moment idea. ‘Get me some flowers.’ I said. ‘Four rows of mums.'” After the mums were planted and the cameras started rolling, he ad-libbed the “Cinderalla Story” and demolishes the mums golf swing by golf swing. It truly is comedy gold.

7. The Dark Knight (2008) – The Slow Clap

In what is arguably Heath Ledger’s greatest performance, his version of the villainous Joker is brilliant. Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy is comic book movie gold but Ledger’s performance as The Joker pushes the bounds of perfection. In this particular scene, The Joker (whom Ledger had completely embedded himself into the character) waits in a solitary holding cell in the middle of the police headquarters after being arrested. Mayor Garcia (played by Nestor Carbonell) announces the promotion of Jim Gordon (played by Gary Oldman) to the position of Police Commissioner. As the officers in the room applaud, The Joker begins (unscripted) to slowly clap while keeping the same maniacal facial expression. The result was a dark and extremely unsettling set up for the rest of the scene. This simple improvisation deserves more than a slow clap itself…it deserves the posthumous Oscar that Ledger received for his performance as The Joker.

6. Forrest Gump (1994) – “My name’s Forrest Gump.”

Okay, so Forrest Gump is full of famous one-liners but one of the most quotable was an off-the-cuff improvisation by Tom Hanks. The scene shows Forrest introducing himself to another character, Bubba. Bubba says upon inviting Forrest to sit with him, “My given name is Benjamin Buford Blue, but people call me Bubba. Just like one of them ol’ redneck boys. Can you believe that?” Tom Hanks improves a line which fits perfectly when he responses with, “My name’s Forrest Gump. People call me Forrest Gump.” The simple showcase of this man’s sincere yet simple mind is as beautiful as it is funny. It is the beginning of a relationship that would impact Forrest forever and the improvised line would be one of the most quotable lines in all of cinematic history.

5. Taxi Driver (1976) – “You talking to me?”

The phrase, “You talking to me?” has become a cultural phenomenon. People are using the quote in that context without realizing that it comes from the 1976 cult classic Taxi Driver. The movie follows the taxi driver himself, Travis Bickle (played by legendary actor Robert De Niro) and showcases how his mentally spiraling out of control. In a specifically creepy neurotic and sociopathic episode, Bickle is shown talking to himself in the mirror. The original script only called for De Niro to ‘talk to himself’ in the mirror to showcase Travis’s mental state but De Niro took it upon himself to create a whole scene. He pretends that he is confronting the politician that he plans to kill. He looks at himself in the mirror and says, “You talkin’ to me?” before whipping out and pointing a gun. The scene not only does well to showcase the irrational state of the character but De Niro delivers one of the most classic and memorable one liners ever.

4. The Warriors (1979) – “Warriors, come out to play!”

David Patrick Kelly’s improvised line is the exclamation mark to the statement about his remarkable performance as Luther in the 1979 movie, The Warriors. The script said for Luther to taunt the Warriors; but, in the moment, Kelly slipped three bottles on his fingers to clang together and screeched out “Warriors, come out to play!” The director of course kept the take in the final cut of the film and the rest is history. Pop Culture history.

3. The Shining (1980) – “Here’s Johnny”

The Shining follows Jack Torrance (played by Jack Nicholson), his wife and son as Jack goes insane inside the walls of the hotel that they are looking after during its closed down off-season. After finally snapping, the deranged husband and father runs after his family with an axe. He grabs the axe and begins to chop the door down which is only heightened by intermitted screams from his wife. After a hole is finally visible, Jack puts his head inside the jagged hole and says, “Here’s Johnny!” The quote is actually Ed McMahon’s popular catchphrase from when he introduces Johnny Carson on The Johnny Carson Show which adds all kinds of creep level when used in this context. The improved part of the scene is amazingly memorable and one of the most quoted in pop culture.

2. The Silence of the Lambs (1991) – “The Hiss”

Actors know when to improvise but sometimes it is ultimately the guidance of the director that guides the scenes and ultimately the movie. During the filming of The Silence of the Lambs, Anthony Hopkins would try to spook Jodie Foster. In one of his scenes where he describes one of his cannibalistic adventures; he gives a vivid description of his meal. You remember the meal. He was eating the liver of a census-taker with ‘some fava beans and a nice Chianti,” but it was the freakish hiss at the end that is even more devilish than the thought of the cannablistic act itself. Turns out that Hopkins would hiss during the rehearsals in his many attempts to spook her. Director Jonathan Demme decided to keep it in the film to maximize the revolting aspect of the already frightening scene. His 25 minutes of screen time earned him an Academy Award but that hiss will live on in infamy.

1. The Terminator (1984) – “I’ll be Back”

I don’t think I have to describe the synopsis about the cyborg assassin known as the Terminator who travels back in time from 2029 to 1984 to kill Sarah Connor. That’s right. I’m talking about Arnie and the Terminator! The movie that would springboard Arnold Schwarzenegger into superstardom. One of the biggest movies in pop cultural. Director James Cameron let a short unscripted moment into the final cut of his movie and he should be glad that he did. Arnold as the Terminator is not allowed into the police station, and the script simply instructed him to turn and leave in disappointment; but Schwarzenegger decided to look at the officer and say “I’ll be back.” Cameron loved the line, and it was not only used in subsequent Terminator movies but has become one of Schwarzenegger’s most memorable moments.


Images:

All gifs credited to and created by users from giphy.com. Fair use.

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Mr. Bean: An Origin Story?

I have never hid the fact that I played a lot of video games and watched a ton of TV/movies in my youth. Before my parents upgraded to the elephant sized satellite dish whose movements tracked broadcasting signals beamed down from some celestial satellite in the sky; we were stuck with the normal 80s and early 90s TV stations: CBS, Fox, NBC, and my favorite PBS. PBS wasn’t just the channel that entertained and educated me through Sesame Street and Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood but PBS made me laugh. Shows like Are you Being Served? and Keeping Up Appearances caused me to wake up my parents multiple nights from the laughter that would come from my laughter that broke the quiet in the house. PBS brought me to sci-fi comedy shows like Red Dwarf and introduced me to a show that would become one of my favorites, Doctor Who. But after that giant satellite dish was planted in our backyard, I found a familiar face on HBO: Mr. Bean.

Atkinson_RowanDuring the early 90s my family stumbled across Mr. Bean, as the sketches would be released throughout the early 90s. The British sitcom, created by Richard Curtis and Rowan Atkinson (the man that portrays Mr. Bean), was based on a character that Atkinson created while he was working on his master’s degree at Oxford University. The ‘child in a grown man’s body’ and his teddy are seen in the show solving various everyday problems, while causing disruption with the unusual solutions to the seemingly simple tasks. Mr. Bean rarely speaks in the show and this adds to the hysterical interactions with the people around him.

Mr_Bean_in_Serbian_(4333769801)During its five-year run, Mr. Bean only produced 15 episodes; but the show itself has not only has been sold in 245 territories worldwide, it inspired an animated cartoon spin-off and two feature films that found Atkinson reprising his role as Mr. Bean. Atkinson has appeared countless times as the Mr. Bean character in other venues: Countless sketches for Comic Relief, a performance at the London 2012 Summer Olympics opening ceremony, and even a Snickers commercial. The show has definitely had its impact in the world of Pop Culture, because the two most popular TV shows according to Facebook fan likes is The Simpsons and…you guessed it: Mr. Bean. Despite the show’s regular run ending over 20 years ago, Mr. Bean is the second most liked TV show on Facebook at 61.5 million as of 2015. Here’s some perspective…The Walking Dead, whom some in the Pop Culture community would consider one of the most popular shows has about half of the number of Facebook likes as Mr. Bean. And Game of Thrones has half of that!

So…besides my adoration for the show, what fuels this blog today you may ask? As I was re-watching the series for the umpteenth dozen time, a thought crept into my mind of Beanandteddywhich I had never even imagined. Who is Mr. Bean? Rowan Atkinson himself likened the Bean character to that of “…an 11-year-old boy who’s given the responsibilities of an adult but hasn’t learned better.” “There’s always this sort of feeling of a childlike innocence combined with a childlike vindictiveness and selfishness and instinctive anarchy.” So what is the origin of this naive comic hero? Don’t laugh too hard at this or scoff too loudly but I think that Mr. Bean…is an alien.

Mr._bean_title_cardNow I know that I might have lost some of you on this one but bear with me for a second. Just take for instance the opening credits of the show where Mr. Bean falls from the sky in a beam of light, while the fall is accompanied by the heavenly Southwark Cathedral Choir singing Ecce homo qui est faba which is translated as “Behold the man who is a bean”. Later episodes show Bean being dropped from the night sky in a deserted London street against the backdrop of the St Paul’s Cathedral. That’s not enough for you? How about at the end of episodes three and six, he is shown being sucked right back up into the sky in that same bean of light. Still not convinced? Well even Atkinson himself admitted that Mr_bean_animeBean has a “slightly alien aspect to him”. In the animated series episode “Double Trouble”, the alien aspect of him was brought to light when he was sucked up into a ‘UFO’ with aliens who look exactly like him. At the end of the episode he is even sent back ‘home’ in the same beam of light and similar accompanying choir-esque music.

Bean_Budapest_(5044219305)Though Mr. Bean is never actually outed as being an extraterrestrial, the evidence is there to think about and adds another dimension to the character when you re-watch the episodes, imagining that the experiences are that of an alien…trying to live in an alien world. Or if he was a man whom aliens abducted, tested upon, and is again and again re-abducted for the aliens to best observe life on this alien planet. Many fan theories out there agree with my hypothesis and in a 1993 interview Atkinson himself places more weight on the fan theory that Mr. Bean is in fact an alien. Atkinson explains that referring to the Bean character in an un-produced Mr. Bean episode,

“He sees this spaceship landing in a field and he stops the car. He looks up and suddenly the door (lowers) and this bright light comes out of the spaceship and a Mr. Bean walks out of the spaceship…and then another Mr. Bean and they all shake hands and then 25 more Mr. Beans all come out of the spaceship and pat him on the back and say ‘very nice to see you’. And then all the Mr. Beans go back up into the spaceship and the door goes up and that’s the end of Mr. Bean.”

SONY DSCHim being an alien could easily explain why everyday tasks like interacting with other humans, ordering food at a restaurant, driving around in his British Leyland Mini MK, or even going swimming are so hard for him. Either way the humor of the show comes from the absurd solutions to our everyday problems and the complete disregard for the people around him when he solves these problems. Or better yet his pettiness or even the malevolence. So does it matter if Bean is an alien or not? Of course not, but since Atkinson admits that he’ll never retire the character, maybe a new Mr. Bean movie or possibly TV episodes will finally reveal the mystery behind the ‘man who is a bean’.

Rowan_Atkinson_and_Manneken_Pis



Images:

Mr. Bean and Teddy screenshot– Fair use, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=12850641

Bean tag in Budapestby Metro Centric – Budapest, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=53778477

Mr. Bean title shot by Source, Fair use, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=24330368

Rowan Atkinson by Gerhard Heeke – Photo taken by Gerhard Heeke., CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=226929

Mr. Bean movie advertisement in Serbia by David Bailey from Laktasi, Bosnia and Herzegovina, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=53778490

Mr. Bean Cartoon image – Fair use, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=2224196

Rowan Atkinson and Manneken Pis in Brussels by Antonio Zugaldia from Brussels, Belgium – cropped verion ofDSC00220, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=2757565

Mr Bean on a Miniby Nathan Wong – originally posted to Flickr as Mr Bean at Goodwood, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=9681387

Why do Rock Stars hate brown M&Ms?

Rusty-s_TV_and_Movie_Car_Museum_Jackson_TN_020.jpg

1993 brought a lot of things that are now forever ingrained into the Pop Culture landscape. Millions journey to and get engaged at the top of the Empire State Building because of Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan’s rom com hit “Sleepless in Seattle”. ‘The Truth was finally out there’ when The X-Files first aired or how about Bill Murray’s continuously looping “Groundhog Day”. Jurassic Park beat E.T. to become the highest-grossing film at that time. Nirvana was a musical guest on Saturday Night Live’s fall season premiere which was hosted by Charles Barkley. Shall I go on? No? I didn’t think so but while we’re hinting around at the cultural influence that Saturday Night Live had during the 90s; and the fact that the powerhouse pushed out Pop Culture hits in 1993…like the sequel to Wayne’s World. Wayne Campbell and Garth Algar returned to the big screen in 1993. “Party on Wayne.” “Party on Garth.” We found them filming their public-access television show inside of an abandoned factory building in Aurora, Illinois but after an Aerosmith concert, Wayne’s life is forever changed. Jim Morrison and a weird naked Indian comes to Wayne in a dream and tells them to organize a major music festival. He instructs them that they must hire and find his former roadie, Del Preston. Del Preston was a roadie for some of the biggest names in the Rock n Roll business and he tells them a story about Ozzy in which he says:

So there I am, in Sri Lanka, formerly Ceylon, at about 3 o’clock in the morning, looking for one thousand brown M&Ms to fill a brandy glass, or Ozzy wouldn’t go on stage that night. So, Jeff Beck pops his head ’round the door, and mentions there’s a little sweets shop on the edge of town. So – we go. And – it’s closed. So there’s me, and Keith Moon, and David Crosby, breaking into that little sweets shop, eh. Well, instead of a guard dog, they’ve got this bloody great big Bengal tiger. I managed to take out the tiger with a can of mace, but the shop owner and his son… that’s a different story altogether. I had to beat them to death with their own shoes. Nasty business, really. But, sure enough, I got the M&Ms, and Ozzy went on stage and did a great show.

Del preston meme

David Crosby and a Bengal tiger? Ozzy requesting a 1000 brown M&Ms in a brandi glass? Seems ridiculous right? I always was intrigued by this story because I had always heard of the elaborate demands that bands make before they’ll go on stage but there is no way that something like this could be true. Right? Well the story might not be as far fetched as it would seem.

Well all know that rock concerts have come a long way since the Beatles were Beatles_Metropolitan_Stadium_ticket_1965performing in hockey rinks and dance halls. The bigger the band got…the bigger the venue got. Along side the band growing, was the growing list of demands that the bands would require of promotors. No longer did they just ask for a few bottles of Pepsi and some clean towels…oh no. The larger the crowds, the more money that there was to be made. The rock stars could command higher dividends, and also make sure that their luxurious accommodations would be satisfied by the promotors. Bands and performers started to make frivolous demands of promotors just because they could. Example: In college I worked for UNCW and at one of our on campus concerts; Hootie and the Blowfish refused to perform unless we had a specific beer for them….so away we flew to the grocery store to buy their specific brand of beer. Another example is the true story that inspired Del Preston’s M&M story from Wayne’s World 2.

VAN_HALEN_2008The most notorious band provision contract was that of Rock n Roll legends Van Halen. No one can deny that Van Halen ruled the world throughout the 80s and 90s and are still filling arenas to this day; but what’s up with the M&Ms? The band requests included the surface that the stage would be built on all the way to the snacks that they wanted in their dressing room. Potato Chips with assorted dips, nuts, pretzels, Twelve Reese’s Peanut Butter cups, assorted Dannon Yogurts, and a bowl of M&Ms with all of the brown M&Ms taken out were just a few of the items listed. Wait a minute….no brown M&Ms? \Supposedly the presence of even one single brown M&M in a bowl of M&Ms was sufficient enough to cause the band to break legal bindings with the venue and peremptorily cancel a scheduled appearance without notice. Sometimes finding one brown M&M would cause the band to proceed with the full onslaught of destruction to the dressing room. Since it has been confirmed that this contract clause was real (due to a copy of the contract rider from Van Halen’s 1982 world tour has confirmed it); what in the world did Van Halen have against brown M&Ms?

The now legendary ‘no brown M&M clause’ was not included in the contract for a gastro-influenced reason. It provided a simple way of determining whether the technical stipulations of the contract had been thoroughly read and complied with. Van Halen lead singer David Lee Roth explained in his autobiography that when they began touring that they were rolling up to venues with a convoy of eighteen-wheeler trucks, full of gear and the venue would not have bays for them to unload their equipment. Or the steel girders of the stage would sink into the floor due to the weight or the doors weren’t wide enough to even bring in the stage gear. A contract rider is a huge document that sometimes the punch list of items were not followed through by the facility. Roth says that, “…if I saw a IMG_3254brown M&M in that bowl….guaranteed you’re going to arrive at a technical error. They didn’t read the contract. Guaranteed you’d run into a problem Sometimes it would threaten to just destroy the whole show. Something like, literally life-threatening.” So if part of the stage was not structurally sound due to the venue not fully reading the contract then the results could be devastating. So if they saw brown M&Ms that meant that they would have to do a complete line-check of the entire production to prevent damage to equipment or to prevent potential harm to crew, band or concert attendees. Sure the M&M stipulation got a little out of hand when Roth did $12,000 worth of damage to a dressing room while the production equipment did about $80,000 worth of damage to the floor of the Colorado University basketball court. So of course news outlets and MTV thought that a story of a drugged Rock n Roll band doing $95,000 worth of damage to a University because of the lead singer’s distaste for brown M&Ms sounded better than said university not following the protocols of a contract thusly resulting in damage to their new basketball court.



Images:
Garth’s Merthmobile photo by and attributed to Thomas R Machnitzki (thomas@machnitzki.com) – Own work, CC BY 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=19551735
Beatles ticket by and attributed to Unknown – http://www.rarebeatles.com/photopg7/mn82165.htm, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=16847200
Van Halen image by and accredited to GHOSTRIDER2112 – Flickr (http://www.flickr.com/photos/ghostrider2112/2523049277/), CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=15278712

Just in the Nick of Time: A History of Interesting Idioms and Colloquial Phrases – Part 7

Sometimes the idioms or colloquial phrases that we use in our every day language sound completely ludicrous, but much to our surprise they have very real and amazingly explainable origins. Today we will look into origins and meanings of some of the silliest sounding idioms and colloquial phrases that have pretty unbelievable origins. Today we will look at: Cry crocodile tears, Grandfathered in, What in tarnation, Blowing smoke up your a**, Brand spanking new, and Throwing a hissy fit. 



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Cry crocodile tears” – 

Origin: There is an ancient myth that alludes to crocodiles crying while they devour their prey. This allusion is partially due to the fact that the crocodile has a lachrymal gland which produces ‘tears’ that lubricates their eyes just like humans do. The animal does not however show remorse while it is devouring a deer or even a human…so they do not cry as a result of an emotion. There have been stories about this crying myth for many centuries but the first printed references to this myth is found in French reports as far back as 1230. In The Voyage and Travail of Sir John Maundeville, (circa 1400) the writer says that “…there are many crocodiles – these serpents slay men, and then, weeping, eat them…). This is a direct reference to the myth but in the 16th century; Edmund Grindal, the Archbishop of York and Canterbury, used the phrase as it commonly used by saying that: “I begin to fear, lest his humility…be a counterfit humility, and his tears crocodile tears.” So it would appear that the scientific realization that the tears of a crocodile are insincere and thus the phrase made its way across the ocean and has continued on throughout the years.

Meaning: Putting on an insincere show of sorrow.



Grandfathered in” – 

Origin: In the Southern states of the United States, the term ‘grandfathered in’ is used frequently, but if they were to have used it in the late 1800s…it would have had a completely different meaning. The dictionary states that a grandfather clause is ‘a portion of a statute that provides that the law is not applicable in certain circumstances due to preexisting facts’ and the specific grandfather clauses which popularized this phrase were the use of clauses that were originally intended to prevent Blacks from voting. These provisions were adopted by the constitutions of some states and were sought to interfere with an individual’s right to vote by setting forth difficult requirements. The common requirements were ownership of a large amount of land or the ability to read and write portions of the state and/or federal constitutions. The name grandfather clause arose from the exception that was made for veterans of the Civil War. If the veterans were qualified to vote prior to 1866, their descendants were also qualified. This literally, in effect, mean that if a person’s grandfather could vote…then so could they. This of course was created to benefit white Americans and to keep black Americans from voting. Thankfully this was found to be unconstitutional later and Despite the extremely negative past, the phrase has continues to be heard (specifically when your cell phone company wants to tell you about some program that you were grandfathered into).

Meaning: a clause exempting certain classes of people or things from the requirements of a piece of legislation affecting their previous rights, privileges, or practices.


What in tarnation?” – 

Origin: “What in tarnation” was one of those colloquial sayings that was even too country for my family. The euphemistic expression gained popularity in the 18th and 19th century throughout America as a replacement certain four letter explanations which would offend the Puritan ears of that time period. The phrase is similar to the “what in Sam Hill” which strangely enough was NOT named after a guy named Sam Hill. While we do not really know who in the Sam Hill that Sam Hill was or why that saying gained popularity; we do know that ‘tarnation’ is a euphemism that is a modification of the word ‘darn’ation which is a cleaned up version of the word ‘damnation’. The root of the word ‘tarnation’ is a derivative of the word ‘tarnal’ which means ‘eternal’. So…how would the religious invocation of ‘eternity’ be used as a curse? At some point, someone in a moment of high emotion took the word tarnal and joined it together with damnation to say ‘you eternal enemy’. Maybe? Sounds logical to me.

Meaning: Euphemism for the word ‘damnation’.


Tobacco_smoke_enema_device

 “Blowing smoke up your a**” – 

Origin: You’re probably hoping that this figure of speech is not based on anything but I hate to break it to you; its based on a real thing. The figure of speech, which now a days mostly means that you are a insincerely complimenting someone in order to ‘inflate’ the ego of the person being flattered; but back in the 1700s, doctors would quite literally blow smoke up your butt. Believe it or not, it was a regular medical procedure that was used, among many things, to resuscitate people who were otherwise presumed to be dead. It was in fact such a commonly used procedure for drowning victims that ‘smoke blowing equipment’ hung along the River Thames. This equipment was donated so kindly by the Royal Humane Society. Yeah let that sink in. SO….people would keep the ‘smoke blowing equipment’ near swimming holes, much like we keep defibrillators at gyms, hospitals, etc. So….how did it work? Well I’m glad you asked. Smoke was blown up the person’s butt by inserting a tube that was connected to a fumigator which bellowed the smoke into the rectum when compressed. They thought that the nicotine in the tobacco stimulated the heartbeat and that the rectum was a quicker way into the body…than lets say…the nose or mouth. The use of tobacco didn’t just start in the 1700s (early Greeks and Native Americans were using smoke enemas to treat people and animals); but thankfully, over the decades to come, scientists realized that nicotine was toxic to the cardiac system and ‘blowing smoke up someone’s butt’ became a thing of the past.

Meaning: A mostly insincere compliment to boost the ego of the recipient.


Brand Spanking New” – 

Origin: Mostly every single human being on this planet has experienced the origin of this idiom. It happens right after the birth of a baby usually calls for a slight slap on the hind end of the baby to get it to cry…thusly causing the baby to take its first breaths and to stimulate the baby. The practice is not necessarily used anymore but it is a wildly known practice. The other part of this idiom is the use of the word ‘brand’. Most of us think of ‘brand’ as a brand of jeans or our favorite brand of soda but since at least 950 AD, to brand something meant to ‘make an indelible mark of ownership. This practice was usually the name (you get it now) of the person that owned the livestock that received the ‘mark’. So if something if ‘brand new’ then that something has a fresh branding while if something is ‘brand spanking new’…well that means that it is so new that it is baby spanking new.

Meaning: Something that is entirely new.


Throwing a hissy fit” –

Origin: The origin of the idiom or colloquial phrase ‘throwing a hissy fit’ quite literally has two direct links. The term originated during the mid 20th century in the United States and is an expression alluding to someone hissing and spluttering their words during a temper tantrum…or it is just a contraction of the word hysterical. And hysterical is definitely what you are when you are ‘throwing a hissy fit’.

Meaning: A temperamental outburst or tantrum.


 

Images:
Tears of a Crocodile by and accredited to Sankalp Ranjan – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=49511935
A 1776 drawing of a tobacco smoke enema device by Unknown – Medical textbook published in Berne, Switzerland, 1776. Reproduced in André Holenstein (Ed.): Berns goldene Zeit, p.76 [ISBN 978-3-7272-1281-9], Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=5290890

Nacho Libre and the real Priestly Luchador

Nachopost
In the summer of 2006, the world was introduced to a half-Mexican priest who secretly wrestled as a masked luchador to raise money for the orphans at his monastery. The sports comedy starred the always funny Jack Black in a movie written by Mike White, Jerusha Hess and Jared Hess (yeah…Napoleon Dynamite). My family and I fell in love with the simple, family friendly comedy; but recently I unexpectedly found out that the movie is loosely based on a true story.

320px-Jack_Black_(25747103295)Nacho Libre, though loosely based on the life of real-life Catholic priest in Hildago, Mexico, centers around a priest who works as the monastery’s cook but dreams of being a luchador. The priest, Ignacio, loves the orphans that he works with but the orphanage does not respect him nor do they give him money for the quality ingredients needed for good food. This causes his food to become more and more inedible (much to the literal and metaphorical distaste of the head priest). One night while collecting the free leftover chips from a restaurant in town, he was jumped by a street vagrant named Steven. He and Steven eventually joined forces once Nacho had reached his breaking point the next day when the already terrible meal was without the only redeeming factor…the chips. Even though he is losing almost every match, Ignacio is enjoying the fruits of being a semi-pro 640px-Jackblackandtomhowardluchador. To keep his identity secret (because the monastery thinks that wrestling is a sin), Ignacio adopts the name “Nacho” and Steven becomes “Esqueleto” (Skeleton in Spanish). The reason that wrestling is a sin? Because they are wrestling for vanity. When Nacho finally realizes that the Lord will bless him if he wrestles for the children…he becomes a professional luchador and even beats the greatest wrestler to ever live.

The man who inspired Nacho Libre, Sergio Gutierrez Benitez, got his inspiration after watching two Mexican wrestling movies in which the protagonists of the stories are poor priests who support the children of their orphanages by becoming lucha libre wrestlers. Sergio went to Rome and Spain to train as a priest and even taught in many Roman Catholic universities when he got back to Mexico. After a time, he became a priest in the Diocese of Texcoco and founded an Orphanage; just like the movies that had influenced him to become not only a priest but a luchador wrestlers. He founded “La Casa de los Cachorros de Fray Tormenta” and he became the masked luchador Fray Tormenta. He hid his face, much like Nacho Libre, because he was afraid that no one would take him serious in the wrestling ring if they knew he was a priest (and vice versa).

180_FrayTormenta-01Fray Tormenta retired from the wrestling business in 2011 after a 23 year professional wrestling career. He still works passionately with the orphans as a priest. The soft spoken Fray Tormenta has lived an epic life but humbly still preaches in a simple old church in Mexico. The larger than life character has influenced movie writers to create amazing characters; as well as comic book, cartoon and video game creators. The Mexican padre might not be exactly as Nacho Libre portrayed him to be but this loyal luchador did what he had to to provide for the orphans. Which just happened to allow him to intertwine the two things that he was truly passionate about: wrestling and his orphanage. He managed to bring his beloved religion into the sport that he loved and even managed to bring some of his sport into the church. Fray Tormenta still dons his lucha libre mask while carrying out his priestly duties. Seriously, did you think I meant that he would throw an unrelenting church member into his the figure four leglock called “the Confessional” if they weren’t listening to his sermon? I do know that I would never fall asleep in his church. 🙂

fray-tormenta

 


 

Featured Image: Luchador masks image by and accredited to StellarD – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=56891280
Nacho Libre movie poster by and accredited to Paramount Pictures, Fair use, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=3953967
Jack Black red carpet photo by and accredited to Eva Rinaldi from Sydney Australia – Jack Black, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=47516745
Jack Black and Tom Howard training for Nacho Libre image by and accredited to Tom Howard, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=8302967
Fray Tormenta black and white image by and accredited to alchetron.com, Fair use, http://www.traditioninaction.org/revolutionphotos/Images%20(101-200)/180_FrayTormenta-01.jpg
Fray Tormenta Priest and Luchador by and accredited to Vice Sports, sports-images.vice.com/images/2015/01/08/addict-priest-luchador-the-incredible-semi-true-life-of-fray-tormenta-body-image-1420677603.jpg

 

Top Cat’s Top 10: Best of 2016 and Most Anticipated of 2017

As I looked glanced to the bottom of my MacBook screen the other day at work, it occurred to me that we are almost through the first month of 2017. SO much has already happened within the first 24 days of 2017 but this doesn’t take away from the memory of the most memorable events of 2016. From North Korea conducting missile/nuclear tests to the Donald quite controversially being elected our 45th President to the Chicago Cubs winning a World Series after a 108 year drought. (Glad the curse of Murphy the Goat was finally lifted.) We had a lot of ups and quite equal amount of downs, so I think its important to now look back at the Top 10 Most Memorable Moments in Pop Culture that happened in 2016. These lists are completely based on my opinion….so, here we go. 🙂

Top Cat’s Top 10 Most Memorable Moments of 2016: Pop Culture edition

10. Carpool Karaoke – It doesn’t seem like that long ago that James Corden was the reluctant flat mate of Matt Smith’s Doctor in the fifth series Doctor Who episode “The Lodger”. As we not only have a new Doctor Who, it seems that James Corden has done very well for himself since his short stint on one of my favorite TV shows of all time: Doctor Who. Corden succeeded Craig Ferguson as host of the Late Late Show. Corden’s Late Late Show’s popular segment Carpool Karaoke tipped the scales of popularity in 2016 when the sketch with pop singer Adele became the biggest YouTube viral video of 2016. The segment which aired in January of 2016 was viewed over a staggering 135 million times! I say that the reluctant companion of Doctor Who has done well for himself and doesn’t look like he shows any signs of stopping.

leonardo_dicaprio_berlin_film_festival_2010_2

By Siebbi – ipernity.com, CC BY 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=14740864 

9. Leonardo DiCaprio gets an Oscar – Dare I ask if there is a more versatile actor in Hollywood than Leonardo DiCaprio. I didn’t think so. Leo has been everything from a booger eating mentally challenged boy in What’s Eating Gilbert Grape to the reluctant lover boy in the Titanic to a broken father in the movie that would bring him his Oscar: the Revenant. The movie which gives us a glance inside of the dark window that is our nation’s past. Besides the amazingly written script, the spectacular cast, the breathtaking scenery or even a completely terrifying showcase of what it would be like to be attacked by a bear; the movie allowed us to see just how dedicated to his craft that Leo was and is. Leo deserved his award and his Oscar win most definitely deserves a spot on the top 10 memorable events of 2016.

640px-ghostbusters_publicity_statue_waterloo_station

By Ethan Doyle White at English Wikipedia, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=50463988

8. Ghostbusters – The Cultural icon that is the Ghostbusters brand was rebooted with an almost exclusive Saturday Night Live, all-female lead cast. Leslie Jones, Melissa McCarthy, Kate McKinnon and Kristen Wiig did their respective nod to the original Ghostbusters movies while cementing their own legacy as the ‘new’ Ghostbusters. I’m still not sure how I feel about the movie it was definitely memorable.

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By Gage Skidmore – →This file has been extracted from another file: Cast of Fantastic Beasts & Where to Find Them.jpg, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=53413122

6. Fantastic Beasts and where to find more Harry PotterHarry Potter fans around the world rejoiced with the release of the first companion (or prequel if you will) book to J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series. Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them allowed Harry Potter fans to delve deeper into the wizarding world. The movie which showcased a world that took place almost a century before Harry Potter was even born, allowed us to fall in love with new characters and fill the void that has been in fan’s hearts since 2011’s Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2.

stranger_things_logo

By Lowtrucks – Own work, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=50284157

5. Stranger Things and the year of the Woman – 2016, could possibly go down as the year of the woman. From Hillary Clinton to both DC and Marvel Comics putting a woman in the forefront of their own show (both Jessica Jones and Supergirl) to the almost all female ghost killing ensemble in Ghostbusters (who are helping to redefine what it means to be a leading lady) has help solidify the influence of women in the world and Pop Culture. We are seeing women discussing Hollywood wage gaps based on sex and seeing more and more parts being written for women. In the case of Millie Bobby Brown’s character Eleven from Netflix‘s Stranger Things, the psychokinetic preteen impressed us more and more with each episode. The 80s sci-fi series truly set itself apart from anything else out at the time. Thankfully for us, Netflix renewed the show for a second season so we can witness the strange story unfold even further.

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By Pierregagne98 – Own work, CC0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=10879401  

4. Civil War – To we ‘geek types’ the term Civil war doesn’t refer to the Boko Haram conflict in northeastern Nigeria or even the American Civil War fought from 1861 to 1865..no no…to we geek types Civil War is Team Captain America or Team Iron Man. A decision that is harder to make than trying to figure out what to put on  your Subway footlong. I, of course, followed blindly to whatever side that Scarlett Johansson would meander but it did cause quite the stir to movie goers and serious fans. The controversial ‘ownership’ of certain characters caused the original Marvel Comics storyline  to be altered but despite the set backs, the movie was a box office success.

348px-death_drawing_plain

By Incry – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=202115

3. “Where have all the cowboys gone?” – After losing the lead singer Lemmy Kilmister ,of one of the most iconic rock bands of all time, it would seem like losing the singer of Motorhead was the hardest thing for us to handle but it was not the end…it was merely just a break until the beginning of 2016. 2016 was not an easier pill to swallow in regards to losing some of our most loved celebrities. I don’t know whether we had a lot of celebrities die, or if we just have a lot people famous for a lot of different things. But most notably we lost some musical icons that have shaped the face of music for decades: Prince, George Michael and David Bowie. In their respective fields, each of these entertainers have been and will continue to be innovators. As the pantheon of celebrities gone too soon would be done due to the end of the year coming soon; we lost Carrie Fisher and her mother, Hollywood icon Debbie Reynolds.

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By vagueonthehow from Tadcaster, York, England – Suicide Squad, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=49480910

2. Suicide Squad – Much like 2014 was the year of the Guardians of the Galaxy for my family, 2016 was definitely the year for Harley Quinn. I mean the year of Batman’s bad guys. I mean Suicide Squad. The now Oscar nominated film (despite any and all negative reviews) dominated the box office, DVD sales, digital downloads and merchandise throughout the pop culture world. This antihero team not only unveiled a new Joker, but this blockbuster hit gave us our first glimpse at the big screen version of everyone’s lovable yet psychotic hottie: Harley Quinn. Suicide Squad was not only one of the highest grossing movies of 2016 but it has made DC comics A LOT of money in merchandise. I’m pretty sure that my family has watched it 6 times since it was released for Digital download and that was after the initial time at the theaters. As a matter of fact, just talking about it makes me want to watch it again this weekend. 🙂

1. Pokemon Go – Okay, so I won’t deny the fact that I am a grown man that has chased digital Pokemon down the street. I’ve ridden in the passenger side seat while my wife drove Daniel and myself to Pokemon gyms or to catch another Dratini. It seemed like everyone in the world became completely engrossed in Pokemon Go. It seemed like everyone you saw walking down the street had their phone in their hand. People who had had nothing to do with Pokemon in their whole entire life suddenly knew Bulbasaur and wanted the illusive Pikachu. Alas it seemed that Pokemon Go faded just as quickly as its popularity skyrocketed. People got tired of not being able to find 25 Squirtles much less a Pikachu. I still pull it up every now and then for nostalgia purposes but its short lived. I’ll see a Weedle or maybe even a Rattata on a good night. I don’t think I can ever delete the app from my phone based on how awesome the memories were and how much time was put into it but 2016 will be remembered as the year of Pokemon Go. Just thank God its 2017.

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By Flirtey – Flirtey, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=54823032

Wonder what fad I’ll get into next. From a new President to Amazon delivering food via drone; we’ll have a really entertaining year.

I mean look what we have to look forward to: Lego Batman: The Movie, Logan, King Arthur: Legend of the Sword, Taboo (TV Show), Ghost in the Shell, Fast and Furious 8, Guardians of the Galaxy 2, Game of Thrones (TV Show) – Season 7, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales, Legion (TV Show), Wonder Woman, Cars 3, Despicable Me 3, Spider-Man: Homecoming, Thor: Ragnarok, Justice League, and Star Wars: Episode VIII – The Last Jedi.

Separating the Wheat from the Chaff: Upcoming Movies

People Watching a Movie in Movie TheatreIt’s so easy to get caught  in the whirlwind of videos that just get continuously thrown your way on youtube and this is especially true when you find the upcoming movie trailers lineup. I have always loved the movies and the movie going experience; so I watch new movie trailers to see which movies that I should get excited about. The bad part about watching movie trailers to see which ones that you will be excited about is that you have to (to crudely use a biblical reference here) separate the wheat from the chaff. The reason why….well let’s face it, some movies are bad and sometimes even the movie trailers can’t hide how bad that the movie is going to be.

Since I am definitely a trusted authority on the quality of a movie (oh that is just bleeding with sarcasm), I am going to give you my opinion and a short review on the upcoming movies that I think is the wheat or what should be tossed in the garbage:

Separating the Wheat from the Chaff:

rogue-one

 

wheat isolated

Sweet Wheat

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

 

Ever since we found out that they were doing stand alone Star Wars stories, everyone got excited; but when the trailer for Rogue One played when we watched Star Wars: The Force Awakens in theaters back in 2015, excited was not the word that you could use to express how excited everyone was. So this stand alone Star Wars story (which would fall chronologically between Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith and Star Wars: Episode Iv – A New Hope) introduces Jyn Erso, a Rebel soldier and a Han Solo-esque criminal, who is asked to steal the plans for the Death Star. Should be exciting to see old faces (ie Darth Vader, Bail Organa) and finally see the on screen debut of Saw Gerrera and K-2SO (who is played by Alan Tudyk!). And don’t worry if you think that you’ll be confused because you are confused why you don’t see Luke and Leia.

office-christmas-party

garbage

Trash!

Office Christmas Party

Besides having a cast made up of a couple of Hollywood’s hottest actresses (Jennifer Aniston and Olivia Munn), this crap storm of a ‘holiday’ film will not be worth the price of your bucket of popcorn. The movie showcases everyone’s second favorite pothead, T.J. Miller (coming in a cold second to weed giggles himself – Seth Rogen) whose uptight sister tries to stop their epic company Christmas party. The party gets out of hand and you get to see wasted people do stupid things. Sorry but I have better things to do…..like stump my toe on a coffee table or….accidently step on a thumb tack…..or you forget to take all of the shell off of your boiled shrimp and it gets stuck in the back of your throat and you almost choke to death. I think those scenarios would work out better than watching that movie.

 

transformers-5

half-trash

Half Trash

Transformers 5: The Last Knight

SO……They made another Transformers movie. Some of you are over joyed but most of you are probably like me, wondering why in the world Michael Bay is talking these production companies into sinking millions and millions of dollars into a failing movie franchise. There are so many other dynamic movie ideas (IE other 80s toy lines that could be made into Blockbuster movie franchises (Thundercats, He-Man, or M.A.S.K.). The movie’s storyline is much like the rest of the Transformers movies: Optimus Prime realizes that his home planet of Cybertron is now a dead planet and he feels like he is the one who is responsible for its destruction. Now that he feels that way, he tries to bring his planet back to life but the artifact that he needs is on Earth. And people are trying to kill him. People will work with him to help him find it. Blah blah blah. Honestly the graphics for the movie look great; and the storyline looks pretty dark nor does it look any worse than the other Transformers movies. It definitely won’t be a movie that I’ll be seeing before it comes out for free on Amazon Prime.

 

why-him

garbage

Trash!

Why Him?

Loathe is a extreme word to use in regards to a movie but I almost LOATHE all romantic comedies. I especially loathe romantic comedies that use shock value to gain more viewers. Why Him? stars everyone’s favorite meth making high school chemistry teacher Walter White. Well this time we have a conservative Midwestern Bryan Cranston as a father of a beautiful young daughter who has fallen deeply in love with a sweet yet overwhelmingly vulgar internet billionaire named Laird (played by the almost irrelevant James Franco). The movie looks like your usual ‘dad hates guy that daughter loves…so lets try to get her to see how terrible he is but I end up falling in love with him just like the rest of my family does’ movie. Throw in the extreme vulgarity that Franco’s character spews in the previews and it looks almost unbearable. Of course, if you’re into that sort of thing….feel free to fill your mind with this mind numbing piece waste of film.