Once upon time slightly before the turn of the 21st century, there used to be a day called “Black Friday’ ‘. This was a day created by retailers for those stores to start out the annual Christmas/Holiday shopping season with a bang. The idea of this day is to offer deep discounted bargains on selected items found within their stores to encourage their shoppers to not only buy what’s on sale, but to keep the store’s bookkeeping for the season period in the “black”. That is, making the store is making a profit rather than a loss. That loss was calling itself “in the red”. (This writer assumes that these colors were associated in creating spreadsheets with black ink used detailing a profit, and red ink signifying a loss.)
This “Black Friday” shopping period, or “BF” for short, would take place the day after Thanksgiving, the official start of the Holiday season. (Note: Although this period that usually ran between the last Friday in November through December 24th has traditional been called “Christmas”, is now known as “The Holidays” or “Holiday” because of other seasonal holidays where the exchange of gifts are part of its rituals usually fall within this time period. So this writer will call this time “The Holidays” or “Holiday”) Here, selected retail outlets, usually in the “discount department store” range, although other retailers would participate, would offer great deals in items from the store’s opening as early as 5:00 AM, and offer the goods until supplies last. There would be no rain checks or layaways. You had to get the goods right then and there, and if you missed out, that was tough beans!
This notion worked for a while. News reports would show people camping out in front of the retailer’s doors overnight just so they would be the first inside to grab the goods. Once inside the stores upon opening, crowds would grab the discounted goods however they could. Fights would sometimes break out with folks just getting hell bent on making sure that got that big screen TV set as much as 40% off, or that new fangled whatchamacallit for the incredibly low price of low prices. In spite of the mob riots, most stores came out rather well for how it stood. Folks did get their discounted goods, and retails were able to finish off their seasonal year writing their spreadsheets in that black ink.
If there is a way to complete a task, somebody is going to attempt to buck the system by making it better (or worse!!). The “hack” in this case is to offer BF sales a day earlier–Thanksgiving day! Selected outlets would open on Thursday afternoon or early evening. (Around 6:00 PM local time). This would mean that instead of camping out in front of the store overnight where the weather may be cold(er), one can enter the outlet from one’s Thanksgiving table to grab the goods. Those working at these outlets would have to work on a holiday, meaning that the retailer would have to pay time-and-a-half wages to those employees on duty. Still, folks would still be roaming in to get what’s available, even if they still carried half noshed turkey legs while in the process.
Then something else occurred. Retails started to push BF much earlier. A week before Thanksgiving. Then right around Veteran’s Day. Then on Halloween. However, perhaps the biggest culprit of them all was another retail outlet that was nowhere in a physical sense, but everywhere, and everywhere! That “store with no store” was Amazon, and thanks to their version of BF called “Prime Day”, they can offer discounted items on selected goods to whoever desires to get them. There would be no camping out in front of a retailer for hours at a time. One could order online, have that credit card handy, and before you knew it, that item would be plopped on your doorstep within 48 hours!
And “Prime Day” would be offered in October. To sweeten the pot, Prime Day (or “Prime Days” as it was a two-day event) would also take place in middle July, perhaps as a “sneak preview” to the event in October. Before long, folks would take upon membership in Amazon’s Prime club to not only take advantage of those Prime Day specials, but to get other incentives such as “free” shipping, getting your goods within that two day period extended no matter what day you ordered, as well as getting access to Amazon Prime, their entry to the “over the top” streaming TV service. And for you football fans out there, in 2023, they will be offering NFL football on the day after Thanksgiving, so you can get your football jones while shopping for goods you will get my cyber Monday i.e. The Monday after the Thanksgiving weekend!!
As one can expect, BF was getting a bad rap. There were tiffs going around for folks breaking out in riots just so they can get discounted items for cheap. Stores open on Thanksgiving to jump ahead of Friday wasn’t solving the problem. And stores that pushed BF well into September were making this shopping day lose its luster, assuming that there was luster to be lost to begin with.
So retailers such as Walmart, Target, Kohl’s, and other places announced that they would be closed on Thanksgiving Day. And they would offer BF deals online, meaning no camping out and breaking into fight modes. And among these so-called deals on can get, the question remains. What kind of deal one is getting? Is the item on sale even something worth its purchase? After all, how many big-screen TV sets one can have, unless one has the hot nut to have a TV in every room of their homestead.
If one view that cyberspace has to say on this, one suggested that grocery stores should offer BF deals on everyday items such as meats, dairy, vegetables, and so on. With inflation as it stands, getting a deal on something for everyday consumption really makes it a deal. Ditto for gasoline! Anyone that operates a vehicle could use a BF deal while at the pump. Granted, getting a tank full of gas may not be a holiday gift to somebody, but it does help with the discount.
So come this Friday, November 25th, take it easy shopping wise. You can always find a price breaker on just about anything nowadays thanks to online shopping. And retailers will offer bargains through the season and the rest of the year. Download a retailer’s app on your phone, follow them on social media, and join their mailing list so you can be informed when the next sale will take place. No camping out at a store’s doorstep and/or participating in a riot, It’s that easy if you know how to buck the system!
PS..if anyone knows a gas station that will offer a BF deal, let this writer know. That gift will wind up as something “from me, to me”! So much for pathos!
Theater 40 of Beverly Hills present as its third production for the 2022-23 season is GUESS WHO’S COMING TO DINNER?, Todd Kreidler’s stage adaptation of the story of a young woman’s marriage announcement to her family with a man that is different than the rest based on not who is is, but what he is!
The setting is San Francisco c.1967. The city is undergoing some changes with the rise of the presence of “flower children” as well as a progressive music scene. In the Drayton household set in a well-to-do community, Joanna Drayton (Abigail Stewart) arrives at the residence of her parents, Matt and Christine (Larry Eisenberg and Diana Angelina) bringing her fiancé Dr. John Prentice (Marc Antonio Pritchett) home for dinner. He’s a well respected doctor who will be traveling to Geneva, Switzerland for a research project he’s involved with. With the credentials Dr. Prentice possesses, he would be perfect to have this man as part of the family. But there is one element that the doctor holds, and has nothing to do with his practice. He just happens to be “Negro”, something that doesn’t bode too with Christine and Matt.
This play, adapted from the feature film of the same title and from William’s Rose’s original screenplay, speaks upon a situation that was going on during the period of the 1960’s between the fine line of blacks present in a so-called white society. The civil rights movement was in full swing and not too far removed from the period of a “whites only” dividing line. It shows what this era was dealing with where the Negro race (the term used during this period of time) were beginning to be intergraded with the rest of the “majority” population.
As to the cast of players appearing this his production. The four leads appearing are very prime to their roles that they present. Taking a note to the film itself, Larry Eisenberg and Diana Angelina hold a resemblance to Kate Hepburn and Spencer Tracy where Eisenberg mimics much of Tracy’s mannerisms. Marc Antonio Pretchett as Dr. John Prentice is more robust in stature than what his character appeared in the feature. (The legionary Sidney Poitier appeared in that role!) Along with the other players that appear in this stage production, Frederick Dawson and Patricia A. Lewis as John Prentice, Sr. And Mary Prentice, John Jr.’s parents, stand out on their own. And following up are Jenn Robbins as Hillary St. George, an art dealer that works with Christina, David Hunt Stafford as Monsignor Ryan, Matt’s friend and golfing buddy, and Crystal Yvonne Jackson as “Tillie” Binks, the “colored” domestic help a.k.a. maid.
Another element to note is Michael Mullen’s costuming that harks from the period of the 1960’s, Judi Lewin’s hair, wig, and markup design that complements the costuming, and Theater 40’s resident set designer Jeff G. Rack creates the Drayton residence that is ultra modern for the era from its furnishing, the fixtures and artwork that line the walls, as well as its color scheme.
This play’s focus as directed by Cate Caplin is how race relations were set domestically during the second half of the 20th century. Since that period, much of what is spoken about within this program has eased up a bit. However, its full potential is still a work in progress. Only time, as well as its full integration, will allow this transaction for completion. But for now, it’s a stage production that is crafted very well and shows that everyone can indeed get along, assuming that its acceptance is fully unabridged.
GUESS WHO’S COMING TO DINNER?, presented by Theatre 40 and performs at the Reuben Cordova Theatre, located within the campus of Beverly Hills High School, 241 South Moreno Drive (off little Santa Monica Blvd.) Beverly Hills, until December 18th. Showtimes are Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights at 7:30 PM, and Sunday afternoons at 2:00 PM. Additional performances take place on Wednesday, December 7th and 14th at 7:30 PM. No performances on November 24th and 25th.
For ticket reservations, call (310) 364-0535, or via online at http://www.Theatre40.org
THE FABELMANS (Universal) stars Gabriel LaBelle as Sammy Fabelman. He lives with his family that are of the Jewish persuasion consisting of his dad Burt (Paul Dano), an electrical engineer, mother Mitzi (Michelle Williams), who plays classical music on the piano for mostly her family and nobody else, and his three sisters Natalie (Alina Brace, Keeley Karsten), Reggie (Birdie Borria, Julia Butters), and Lisa (Sophia Kopera). And there’s “Uncle” Bernie Lowet (Seth Rogen), who really isn’t their uncle, but Burt’s co-worker and best friend. He’s so close to the family, Sammy’s own clan adapts him as an uncle.
Sammy’s own journey in life starts out when he’s seven years old when Burt and Mitzi take him to the movies to see the film The Greatest Show On Earth. He becomes mesmerized by what he sees on the screen. Mitzi, always doting on her kids especially Sammy, knows that he was fascinated with the movie that he saw, and gives him Burt’s 8mm movie camera to play with. From there, he makes little films with his camera to entertain his family. Things change for the family when Burt receives a job transfer to Phenix, Arizona having the group relocate. While in Arizona, Sammy continues to make movies shot on 8mm film with his boy scout troop, eventually graduating to 16mm. The family’s third (and final) relocation takes them to “Northern California”. Although Sammy, or now called Sam as he phases himself in his teen years, discovers more about his family than he ever expected. As Sam’s folks begin to head off toward one separate direction, Sam phases into another that will later involve photographing images that move at twenty-four frames a second.
This title can be called “The Steven Spielberg Story ” as this film parallels the early life of Steven S. as he witnessed what was really going on through his personal life and the family members that came with it all. Although much of what is depicted on screen is generally influenced on Steven’s early days, it’s not necessarily a factual or even true “bio” film in the traditional sense. It mostly plays out as a medium-light melodrama that depicts his mom and dad, his siblings to a lesser extent, as well as other friends and relations that make up how Steven got his growing pains while playing with his film camera creating scripts, shooting the said script, editing the exposed imagery, and winding up showing his mini movie epics to whatever audience is accessible and available.
The feature, written by Steven Spielberg and Tony Kushner, never strays off into the world of stereotypical biographical-type productions that depicts the central character progressing into the life and style that the protagonist will always be known for. It mostly depicts many of the invisible skeletons that exist within Sam’s virtual closet(s). Such as a teen attending high school, he runs into a group of guys that serve as his bullies, even ragging on him because of his spiritual persuasion i.e. being a Jew. (Diversity wasn’t practiced by teenagers in the early-middle 1960’s!) And the movie concludes with Sam meeting with a well known film director of “oaters” that gives him some hard advice. Whatever he did with that device made him well known and respected within the annals of moviedom.
But there’s more to this feature than the players that speak the lines and act them out. Rick Carter’s production design along with Karen O’Hara’s sets show off the eras that this film depicts. (1952 through 1965.) Janisz Kaminski, Steven Spielberg’s cinematographer, is back with making sure that the images photographed are to Steven’s linking. (Steven Spielberg also directed this film in case you didn’t know!!) And another cronies of S.S., John Williams, also scored the music even though there are other period music numbers that’s scattered throughout the movie’s soundtrack, from period rock ‘n roll to music scores from other films released around the time Sam desired to squint through an eyepiece of a film camera to capture the imagery best to his liking.
Two more players that appear in this film to make note of. Judd Hirch is featured as Sam’s Uncle Boris. (A “real” uncle than an adapted one!) His character just drops in from nowhere (or so it seems) to give Sam some important advice found in life, only to leave the family right away in the same way as he arrived–by way of catching a cab! And Jeannie Berlin appears as Hadassah Fableman, Mitzi’s elderly mother who is a classic example of a Jewish mom/bubbie that is from the old county and plays it strictly old school. (Both of these characters appear too briefly to make any real impact to what this feature is really all about!)
We can also mention a monkey named Crystal billed as “Bennie the Monkey” in the end credits. This reviewer won’t make any note of his/her appearance since this isn’t a film featuring a boy and his monkey. Besides that, the animal serves as Mitzi’s pet!
The movie itself is rather entertaining, never becoming too sweet, too sappy, and keeps the melodramatic elements appear toward its point. And since Steven’s own movies are titles that are bigger than life, this notion could become the reason why it stuck to being a theatrical release rather than a title appearing on Universal’s streaming service Peacock. Besides, playing this movie in theaters will allow it to become eligible to win major movie based awards, including a possible Oscar or two. But that award giving will be up to the voting members of those groups that fob off such awards! But as for now, this title will play in theaters first and streaming for later! (Check your local listings!)
THE FABELMANS is rated “PG-13” by the MPA for occasional cussing and mild TV style violence. Now playing in real movie houses nationwide.
There have been movies that made their mark over the many decades since movies became a way of life within the domestic lifestyle. Some titles become fast hits. People flocked to their movie theater houses to catch a glimpse of these features making them instant classics. And there are movies that came and went, only to be discovered long after the fact. These titles were not appreciated when first released and were not necessarily artistic in any ways or means. However, they gained a following emphasizing something of value toward these films. Its circle spans from becoming unique in their own right, to being a movie that became so bad in quality, they were good in appeal!
These types of movies were called “cult movies” since they attracted a small yet devoted audience. Sometimes they are called “underground films” because they fell under the radar so to speak, only to pick up their momentum to be obliged for what they are: movies that can be campy, schlocky, unintentionally comical, and are so distinctive, other filmmakers make an attempt to copy and possibly upstage them, even through its original source wasn’t very good to begin with.
Millie De Chririco, programmer for TCM’s Underground slot to highlight these sort of features that almost became forgotten, and Quatoyiah Murry, former editorial programmer at TCM, compiled their book TCM Underground: 50 Must-See Films from the World of Classic Cult and Late-Night Cinema (Running Press) that write and compiles fifty of these titles that made them what they are: Movies that grew in stature because a dedicated audience discovered (or re-discovered) them again, enough to earn these feature titles into the annals of cult status.
In their book, the authors write and review these movies that range from comedy, drama, action/adventure, and fantasy. (The core of these movies were released in the 1960’s through the 1980‘s, yet a few 1950’s titles were added for their “artistic” value!)
In their book, Chririco and Murry divide their fifty into categories such as crime features loaded with action, and plenty of it with an emphasis of using black/ghetto culture as its origins. (Across 11th Street, Friday Foster, and even I’m Gonna Get You Sucka, a parody of “Blaxploitation” features!) There are films consisting of domestic families that are twisted, weird, and even homicidal. (Eating Raoul, Secret Ceremony, and Fleshpot On 42nd Street). Horror titles fall into cultdom rather easily since horror titles carry themselves on their own (Blackula, The Brood, Let’s Scare Jessica to Death, etc.) Then there’s the youth rebellion titles featuring teenagers and young adults (under the age of 25) that start taking over the joint because they can and even succeed in the process! (Born in Flames, Little Darlings, Roller Boogie) And rounding up this collection are movies that fall into the category of so-bad-it’s-good, such as Mac And Me and The Garbage Pail Kids Movie. The former title is a cross between an “E.T” rip-off and a ninety minute commercial for McDonalds, complete with an appearance of Ronald McDonald!! The latter title is based on a bubble gum card series featuring ugly kids dwelling in garbage cans that itself was a parody of the Cabbage Patch Kids line of plush dolls. There are musicals that went bad to good, such as Xanadu, a big budget film from Universal Pictures featuring Olivia Newton-John following up to her previous appearance in Grease for Paramount, and dancer Gene Kelly appearing in his final feature. And there’s the comedy Thank God It’s Friday, an ensemble piece that takes place on a “typical” night at a disco. Its song, “Last Dance” sung by Donna Summer was even good enough for voting members of the Motion Picture Academy to award an Oscar to that movie for “Best Song” that year!
Of course, there’s a lot more movies they write about in this book. And most, if not all, of these titles were nearly ignored by movie goers through their theatrical runs. They were discovered later through cable TV showings as well as home video releases, making them available for multiple runs on odd hours of the day, as well as seen on videotape to screen as long and as often as the viewer desired. Just long as they don’t forget to return the tape back to the video store it came from and didn’t forget to “be kind-rewind!
These kinds of movies have finally deserved their spotlight that the filmmakers never thought that they would wind up at. Now these movies that do exist are appreciated because they are different and very unique. After all, such cult titles as David Lynch’s Easurehead and John Water’s Pink Flamingos were worthy enough to be listed as registered films through the Library of Congress’s Film Preservation board. (Who would ever know??)
With an introduction by Patton Oswald and loaded with photos, illustrations, as well as sidebar notes that range from “OMG” to “WTF?” moments to look for in the said film, Underground is a book that would fit nicely into anyone’s book collection of movies that are deemed classic in their own right. Perhaps over the years, other titles released in the 1990’s and even into the 21st century will be cult enough to have its own tally into cultdom. A few titles are already earning that status. Just give it more exposure on the streaming sites or on DVD to find its devoted audience. Time and taste will tell!
TCM Underground is available wherever finer books ore sold, both in store and online.
Also available as an electronic “e” book.
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