Archive for November, 2012

Spontaneous “Thanksgiving” Thoughts

Happy Black Friday to you!!  Are you having fun?

In my “Fringe”-inspired parallel universe, it’s still Thanksgiving for us since we’re cooking today.

My biggest contribution to our feast is finished.  My “Sweet Potato Pecan Cheesecake” turned out beautifully.  I can’t wait until noon to sample it.

sweet-potato-pecan-cheesecake

Ray is making the pretty and very dead turkey.

Ray Turkey

With about two hours left to bake, here’s what “Tom Turkey” looks like.

Turkey Baking

And, here is the final product.

Our Turkey 2012

My sister is making the dressing, green beans with ham, and deviled eggs.  Okay, she called them “scrambled deviled eggs” because she dropped them.  I’m not sure I’ll try those. 🙂

WE’RE CHRISTMASING, TOO

Faith_Hill-Joy_to_The_World

While we’re cooking, we’re listening to the angelic voice of Faith Hill and her 2008 Christmas CD, “Joy To The World”.

Santa Ray did some shopping online for Miss Gretel and I bought the movie “Rock of Ages”, season two of “Justified”, and Blake Shelton’s “Cheers, It’s Christmas”, all on sale and for free.  I used my birthday money from my mother-and-father-in-law, Donna and Ray.

WHAT, IT’S SNOWING????

Speaking of the in-laws, we’re heading to Fort Dodge later today until Sunday for Thanksgiving.

While it’s very breezy in the Quad Cities with variable clouds, light snow is falling in Mason City, Iowa, and it’s only 18° at mid-morning.  Closer to Fort Dodge, there are some snow flurries.  “Tis the season!

My friends, have a great Thanksgiving weekend.  Worry with the weight gain Monday.  I’m not counting calories this weekend.

Love,

Anthony

I’m Thankful Every Day, Not Just on Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving!  I wish you and yours the very best today and every day of the upcoming holiday season.  I’m very thankful for what I’ve been blessed with in life, especially the platypus!  More on that later.  🙂

It’s bright and early and if we were feasting today, our turkey would already be in the oven.  However, my sister works, so we’re doing our family Thanksgiving tomorrow.

Ray will be making the turkey and his amazing cheesy potatoes this year.  My sister, Tammy, is adding a Southern flair to our feast with her spectacular dressing, which is heavy on the sage, and green beans cooked with ham.  I’m making a hot corn dish and Sweet Potato Pecan Cheesecake!

Pecan Pie

This is only my second cheesecake and I hope it turns out better than the Lemon Cheesecake I made this summer. While that one tasted great, I didn’t like the consistency!

Since we’re doing Thanksgiving tomorrow, this afternoon, Ray, Vickie, a friend of ours that works with Ray, and I are volunteering for the community dinner hosted by Mr. Thanksgiving.  It’s expected to serve about 2,500 people.

CLOSURE BEFORE GIVING THANKS

As the year draws to a close, most people reflect on where they’ve been and where they’re heading in the new year.  I’m definitely one of those people.

Last weekend, I wrote my annual Christmas letter and I’ll share it with you Christmas Day.  In it, my past seven years of employment was relegated to three short sentences.  The reason is that I’m moving on and not looking back — after this blog entry.  I have something to vent about and yes, it leads me into why I’m thankful today and every day.  This is my therapy.

Regular readers of my blog already know that I learned on Halloween that my contract would not be renewed.  Yes, I was shocked and disappointed that there was no discussion on the matter.  It was just a done deal!

changes

I would be lying if I said it doesn’t bother me to have that career door slammed in my face.  I know this opens up endless possibilities for me in the future, but maybe not in television.  The thing that disappointed me the most, at the time, was the tacky way it was handled without me being given a chance to say goodbye to those that allowed me into their homes for the past seven years and to finish working out the last month of my contract.

Luckily, for me, I have my blog and Facebook to correspond with the people who matter the most.

It’s been very interesting having to sit back and let people who know little or nothing about what transpired with my employment situation make comments publicly, to which I could not respond.  (I was banned from commenting on the station’s Facebook page and that’s fine.)

What angered me, in the aftermath, was having a woman make public comments on the WQAD Facebook page and then send private correspondences to a friend of mine informing her of what really happened.  I know this woman was upset that people started attacking others in the weather department because of what transpired.  I did ask several times for people not to personally attack those still working at the station.  Some of them I’m friends with now and some I didn’t care for then or now!

The reason I’m bringing up this woman’s comments (and I’m being a gentleman by not calling her the more appropriate word) is that it’s been standing in my way of putting this horror story to rest!  She informed my friend, “I thought you should know there is more to things with Anthony then you are aware of…. Anthony has never made it a secret that he has been unhappy for years. I have numerous Christmas letters with his notes of discontent. He has talked for years about getting out.”

I will give her partial credit for that.  In 2007, I wrote “Although I completed my contract with the station, I’m actively looking to leave.  After two years in the Quad Cities, I decided it was time to move on to a bigger TV market.  There are many contributing factors to this decision: no social life, a horrible work schedule, the station was sold, and a series of news director and general manager changes in just two years.  However, I’m being very selective in my search, so it may take some time for me to find out where we’re heading next.”

And, here’s what I wrote in 2008.

2008 Part One

2008 Part Two

After that letter went out at Christmas 2008, three months later Ray and Gretel came into my life and you know the rest of the story.

In 2009, I wrote, ” Work is going great.  In July, I was moved to the morning show and I love it.”  Needless to say, if she had gotten that letter or the ones in 2010 and 2011, she would have noticed that I found the missing part of the puzzle  — a fulfilling home life that make the professional life more enjoyable.  But, then again, that doesn’t make for a juicy story!

I’ll give her credit for remembering that or for whatever reason she was saving the letters, but here’s where I contemplated long and hard about using her name publicly since she’s already been talking publicly about my dismissal.

In the correspondence, she told my friend, “He really shouldn’t have told them he was going to leave over and over again. They gave him his wish….. We hope nothing but good things come Anthony’s way as I’m sure they will.”

The bottom line is that I wish she wasn’t acting like a rat under the table talking about me.  On November 1st, when I blogged about what happened, it was public.  So were many of her comments.  She could have addressed that with me instead of talking behind my back.

Now that I’ve gotten that off my chest, I don’t want friends to attack people in my defense.  I’ve always joked to Ray and Tammy to never fight my battles publicly because I’m capable of doing it myself and I don’t want to be a weak man who has to have someone else do it for him.

By expressing this, I have the weight lifted off my chest that has been bothering me all of November.  This topic is now behind me unless she goes all Crazytown on me and then the gloves will be off.  Otherwise, I’m looking to 2013 and new beginnings.

NOW, TO GIVE “THANKS”

Family Arnold's Park

As I mentioned while venting earlier in this blog, my life in the Quad Cities changed in late February 2009.  I’m so blessed to have a loving husband and daughter and to have my sister living just across town from me.  Ray and Gretel have brought me so much love and happiness over the past four years.  The two of them made the last three years of Miss ABBA’s life even more incredible.

For Thanksgiving, I didn’t get two golden retrievers.  That is a battle that Miss Gretel and I are losing.  Ray is opposed to it right now. 🙂  (And, to be honest and keep this a secret, I am, too.  The time isn’t right!)

However, I did get a platypus!

IMG_0765

That is Priscilla, or “Prissy” for short.  Gretel made it in her art class recently.  When she saw the picture of it on the fish pond, she was horrified thinking it could have fallen into the water.  Does she think I’m clumsy???  After the holidays, I told her that “Prissy” can sit on the fireplace mantle.

I’m very thankful not just this Thanksgiving, but everyday, to have a beautiful daughter to make things in school that I’ll cherish forever.  Who cares that she still calls me “Anthony” most of the time.  It’s only Dad #2 when she wants something or on Father’s Day! 🙂

WEDDING GIFTS

As you know, Ray and I got married on September 30, 2011 and we had our beautiful reception the following day.  I don’t think we’ll ever run out of wine and liquor since that’s what we asked for in lieu of other gifts.  But, we did get a gift card from Johnny’s Italian Steakhouse in downtown Moline and more than a year later, we finally had lunch there yesterday!

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And, for dessert, we had banana cheesecake!

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Thanks Chris and Lindsay!

I have so much to be grateful for this Thanksgiving and holiday season–  including not having to juggle work, family life, and the holidays!

And, I’ll leave you with a smile and maybe even a laugh on this Thanksgiving!

FB Turkey

And, here’s Reba channeling Lucille Ball in Reba’s 1994 television special!

Anthony

My Favorite Thanksgivings

Our turkey is thawing in the refrigerator and I can’t wait to smell its aroma Thursday as it bakes in the oven.  I hope you’re ready for a very Happy Thanksgiving.

Ray, Tammy, and I will be preparing our feast for lunch on Friday since Tammy is working Thanksgiving.  Ray and I are volunteering to help out at Mr. Thanksgiving’s community feast for the first time Thursday afternoon.  On Friday, after we enjoy our belated Thanksgiving, we’ll spend the weekend with Ray’s family.  My sister, Tammy, won’t be going with us because she has to work.  So, if you eat out at Ryan’s this weekend and my sister waits on you, tip her well. 🙂

Since I have a Thanksgiving blog for tomorrow, today I’m reflecting on my favorite Thanksgivings.

TG2011

This was our feast from last year, which was Tammy’s first Thanksgiving with us in the Quad Cities.  It was also the first turkey day that my sister and I spent together since 1993, my last fall in Kentucky before I moved to Chicago.

MyPlateTG2011

Last year was also special, too, because it would be the last Thanksgiving that I would glance down from my plate and have two of the most beautiful, brown eyes looking up at me asking a bite.   A bite of anything would do as long as it wasn’t bananas, jello, or apples!  As you can see from my plate, I was eating for two.  This year, I can’t use that excuse.

ABBATG2011

Miss ABBA, Daddy A will have an extra bite of turkey this year just for you!

Two years ago, Ray’s parents, Ray & Donna, and his sister, Ann, and her family joined us for a family feast.  Gretel is on top of the world any time she gets to spend time with her cousins, Sydney and Addison.

GretelCousinsTG2010

In 2009, the first Thanksgiving Ray and I were together, we spent the afternoon with our friend, Tracy, and her family.  She also invited us over last year for appetizers and wine since my sister was working!

TracyTG2009

Also, at Thanksgiving 2009, Christopher, my Chicago friend, and Betty (Mom) were in St. Thomas, so Miss ABBA was doggie sitting for Mr. Panda.

ABBA Panda TG 2009

On Black Friday, we drove Mr. Panda back to Chicago and cooked Thanksgiving for Betty and Christopher.  The next day, we met Gretel in downtown Chicago for a stroll through Macy’s before coming back to the Quad Cities and picking out and putting up our Christmas tree.

TG2009Chicago

While we’ve had people over in the past, here is how ABBA and I spent Thanksgiving 2007.

ABBATG2007

While Miss ABBA ate her fair share of goodies that day, she only sat at the table for the photo.  But, she definitely was sniffing the turkey and the gravy!

As a child through the early 1990s, all of our Thanksgivings were at my Aunt Norma’s house.  After that, I moved away and usually worked on the holiday.  In the late-1990s through the early 2000s, I spent my Thanksgivings with Betty’s family in Andover, Ohio.

And, my final memorable Thanksgiving was in 1996.  I was living in Rhinelander, Wisconsin, for my first television job.  There were many of us that were new at the station that fall and none of us were able to go home.  So, I made a big feast and then we went out partying afterwards.  Closing down the bars and then working the morning show two hours later probably wasn’t a good call.  Luckily, that only happened once!

One of my friends celebrating with me that night was Elizabeth Goodsitt, who anchors at KWQC in Davenport, Iowa, the number one television station for news in the Quad Cities.

Elizabeth TG 1996

With this flashback, I wish you a “Happy Thanksgiving” one day early!

Anthony

Charity Begins With You & Me

It’s easy to get distracted this time of the year with everything that we have to get done between work, our families, and the holidays.  It’s easy to forget those in our communities, our country, and around the world that can’t forget that they’re cold and hungry and they won’t have a bright and cheery holiday season.

ChristmasTree

The holidays are upon us.  There is no way to escape it.  It begins with eating ourselves into a stupor this week.  We then focus our attention on fulfilling everyone’s Christmas dreams by shopping until we drop.  And, then there’s New Year’s Eve where many party and drink like fish to ring in 2013.

Candy

In the next six weeks, most Americans will devour so many extra calories and spend so much money for a few moments of bliss, whether it’s eating homemade candy, cookies, or treats, or buying some present that may be re-gifted, taken back to be exchanged, or never used.

I consider myself a very charitable person.  I donate money and my time to emcee and organize fundraisers that help everything from animal shelters to domestic violence centers to fight hunger and to raise awareness in the fight against HIV/AIDS.  I’ve also donated money to fight cancer, to help fund school programs, and just last week, I donated money for Habitat for Humanity, a charity that I donate to on a regular basis.  Those are just a few things that I do.

Habitat

I’ve even had to wrestle with my conscience when I bought popcorn from the Boy Scouts outside stores when those little faces ask you to help them out.  I struggle with it every time that I drop a dollar into the red kettles for the Salvation Army.  I know both of those organizations do good things for the community and for our kids, but why do they have to be so homophobic and judgmental?  I really struggle with that and I always have hope that both organizations will evolve and love all one day.

But, this is not about me.  It’s about making a difference.

I know many of you struggle to pay your rent and your utility bills, to keep your families fed, and to pay for medication.  I know you may not have extra dollars in your wallet or purse to make sizable donations to charities.  But, it’s true that every dollar and every coin makes a difference.

When it comes to me, I know that if I have the money to buy a compact disc (even if it’s on sale for $9.99), buy a DVD, go to the movies, or plan a vacation, I have the money to make small donations to charities that can help others.

HappyTG

A couple of my friends are asking for volunteers and donations to help their church in Moline, Illinois, present their first ever Thanksgiving lunch Thursday.  I’m sure they could still use some donated food or money to buy what they need.  I bet they could even use volunteers.  Give them a call to find out.  (309) 764-6721.

Thursday afternoon, Ray and I, and our friend, Vickie, are volunteering for Mr. Thanksgiving, a 40-year event that feeds about 2,500 people.  It’s for those that may not have money for food for a feast or for people who may not have family and just want to be around others at the holidays.  It takes place at SouthPark Mall in Moline from 4-6:30 p.m.  You can donate money at many local grocery stores to help offset the cost for the public event or you can drop by Thursday afternoon at 3 p.m. to volunteer.

Sandy

This Thanksgiving and Christmas will be a tough one for Americans living along the mid-Atlantic coast and in New England.  In late October, Hurricane Sandy brought wind, flooding rains, and heavy snow, that caused more than $52.4 billion  (that’s with a “B”) in damages and displaced so many people.

new-york-flooding

There have been many functions and telethons in the past few weeks that raised tens of millions of dollars to help the American Red Cross in the relief efforts.  Celebrities are donating huge sums of money, too.  Leonardo DiCaprio has pledged $500,000 from his Foundation, and “Mother Monster” Lady Gaga has put up ONE MILLION DOLLARS!

Gaga

It’ll make me feel good to know that when I see Gaga in January 2013 in Las Vegas that part of my ticket price went to helping others.

donate-hurricane-sandy

Here is an update posted on the American Red Cross website Monday:  “Some people are still unable to return to their homes. About 750 people spent Sunday night in ten shelters.”

“The Red Cross is looking ahead to the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday and will be working with various organizations and community groups to get Thanksgiving meals to people in the areas affected by Sandy. This will include distributing food before the holiday, supporting faith-based and community Thanksgiving meal programs, and serving Thanksgiving meals from Red Cross kitchens on Thanksgiving.”

With that being said, I just made a donation to the American Red Cross to help out in New England and I’ll make it easy for you to do the same by providing the link.  If you donate, I appreciate it and I know those people who we’ll probably never meet will be thankful that you did, too.

http://www.redcross.org/charitable-donations

GivingThanks-floral

My friends, I wish you the very best this holiday season.  Regardless of what is going on in our lives, good or bad, I know that for most of us, there’s another day that will follow.  We can only hope that it’s a good one.

Here’s my last thought to pontificate about before you donate.

We’ve all heard about the good that charities do and we’ve also heard about the few cases of funds being misused.  I still donate and I always will.  When I offer my time or money, I rely on hope and faith that the money is being used to make life better for many.

Happy Thanksgiving early and be thankful for your blessings.

Anthony

Here’s a bonus — a powerful message behind a powerful and beautiful voice.  In 1997, my idol, Reba McEntire recorded a charity single for the Salvation Army and I’ll share “What If” with you now.

They Said What??? Stevie Wonder, Rahm Emanuel, Mitt Romney, & Bobby Jindal

SINGER STEVIE WONDER

(performing at the “American Music Awards” to remember Dick Clark with a special message to the world):  “I just remember his friendship, his kindness and I remember his love for music and love for people.  I challenge you, you as communicators, leaders, politicians, spiritual leaders, put your love first as we musicians put our music and songs first, and unite the world. And then we can be jamming ’til the break of dawn!”

OPENLY GAY “LINCOLN” SCREENWRITER TONY KUSHNER

“I don’t feel that there was any evidence at this particular moment that Lincoln was having sex with anybody.  He seems to have not slept and taken no time off during this period.  I don’t say in my movie whether the Lincoln character was gay or straight. You can ask Daniel what he was playing, but it did not seem to me a thing to make a movie about now…..  I personally believe that there is some reason to speculate that Lincoln might have been bisexual or gay.”

WXIX-TV (CINCINNATI, OHIO) ANCHOR TRICIA MACKE

(after a personal Facebook post calling MSNBC anchor Rachel Maddow “an angry young man”): “I apologize to Ms. Maddow and any others who may have been offended by my comments, as they do not reflect my firm beliefs in individual and equal rights, and they certainly did not represent the opinions or position of my employer WXIX-TV.”

KEVIN CLASH, PUPPETEER AND VOICE OF ELMO FROM “SESAME STREET”

(a man accused him of having sexual relations with him when he was only 16 and recanted the story):  “I am a gay man.  I have never been ashamed of this or tried to hide it, but felt it was a personal and private matter. I had a relationship with the accuser. It was between two consenting adults and I am deeply saddened that he is trying to characterize it as something other than what it was. I am taking a break from Sesame Workshop to deal with this false and defamatory allegation.”

REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL WANNABE AND LOSER MITT ROMNEY

“What the president, president’s campaign did was focus on certain members of his base coalition, give them extraordinary financial gifts from the government, and then work very aggressively to turn them out to vote.”

REPUBLICAN LOUISIANA GOVERNOR BOBBY JINDAL

(shooting back at presidential loser Mitt Romney):  “I absolutely reject that notion. I think that’s absolutely wrong.  I don’t think that represents where we are as a party and where we’re going as a party.  That has got to be one of the most fundamental takeaways from this election.”

CHICAGO MAYOR RAHM EMANUEL

(about Illinois offering marriage equality instead of just civil unions):  “The time is right, the time is now.  Today, we must take the next step on that journey by affording the opportunity to marry to all Americans — and we can continue that march by quickly enacting marriage equality here in Illinois.”

Anthony

 

New Christmas Sounds: Two Are Great & One Is A Lump Of Coal

When it comes to Christmas music, the standards are hard to beat.  While there are newer originals that are incredible like “Secret of Giving” by Reba (1999), there are also some really bad new songs each Christmas season.  This Christmas, the Trans-Siberian Orchestra, Colbie Caillat, and Cee Lo Green all have new albums.

And, while I’ve already bought three new Christmas CDs this year, there are two more that I want to pick up.

Blake Shelton Christmas

Blake Shelton’s “Cheers, it’s Christmas” is one of them and to be honest, while I like his voice, I really want it because he does a duet with Reba on “Oklahoma Christmas”.

Also, I’m not an “American Idol” fan even with the amazing Kelly Clarkson and Carrie Underwood.  However, I finally broke down this past summer and bought my first “AI” alumni CD, “Trespassing” by Adam Lambert.  It was great, but it totally bombed!

With that being said, I was very apprehensive about the new holiday disc from last year’s winner Scotty McCreery.

ScottyMcCreery

Yes, he’s cute and he has that great, masculine Josh Turner-like voice, but did I really want to take a chance on “Christmas With Scotty McCreery”.  I finally decided yes, so I’ll going to buy it.

So, what about the three new Christmas CDs that I bought?  Two are fantastic, but one of them has a drawback.  The third is acceptable and I would only recommend it for one reason.  It would be closer to a “lump of coal”.

coal

“MERRY CHRISTMAS, BABY” — ROD STEWART

Rod Stewart

Ladies and gay men, you may have swooned in the 1970s when he sang “Da Ya Think I’m Sexy” and “Young Turks” in the 1980s, but does that gravelly voice translate into holiday cheer?

“Merry Christmas, Baby” is Rod Stewart’s first holiday disc and I can’t believe that we made it through all of the past holidays without him.  This disc is definitely going to be a holiday classic.

Stewart excels in the classics, “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas”, “Santa Claus Is Coming To Town”, “White Christmas”, “Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow!” and “Blue Christmas”.

Several duets are featured and my favorite is  “Winter Wonderland” with Michael Buble.  He also has nice duets with Cee Lo Green on “Merry Christmas, Baby” and “We Three Kings” with Mary J. Blige.

Rod does a great duet with the late Ella Fitzgerald on “What Are You Doing New Year’s Eve?”  God rest her soul, but I have to say that I’m not a fan of singers recording new songs with people who have passed on.   (If this trend continues, I hope Madonna releases a Christmas CD next year and does “Happy Xmas (War is Over)” with the late John Lennon.)

There is one original song on the disc, “Red-Suited Super Man”, and it’s a fun song.

“Merry Christmas, Baby” has been played many times since I bought it.  I love this disc.

GRADE:  A

“ON THIS WINTER’S NIGHT”  — LADY ANTEBELLUM

Lady Antebellum Christmas

I absolutely love the harmonies of country music’s hottest trio, Lady Antebellum.  I saw them open for Reba a few years ago and I love their energy and their voices.

You can’t go wrong on their new Christmas album, “On This Winter’s Night”.

Every song on the disc is pure Christmas joy from the upbeat fun of Hillary Scott’s “Holly Jolly Christmas” to Charles Kelley getting down on a fun “Blue Christmas”.  Other perfect standouts are “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)”, “All I Want For Christmas Is You”, “The First Noel”,  “Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow!”, “Silent Night (Lord of My Life)”, and “Silver Bells”.

My only gripe, and this is a big one that long time fans may agree with me on, is that this disc feels like a ripoff to make some quick money on their popularity.

Of the twelve songs, six of them were released on the trio’s 201o EP, “A Merry Little Christmas”.  So, if you’re a fan and you bought that one two years ago, you’re paying for the same six songs this year with only six new songs!  (Santa may place the record company on his “naughty list” for marketing the recycled songs!)

Putting that behind me, if you made confectionery concoctions as tasty as any song on this disc, you’d definitely be in demand year around for your baking!

GRADE:  A 

“This Christmas”  — JOHN TRAVOLTA & OLIVIA NEWTON-JOHN

John Olivia Christmas

John Travolta & Olivia Newton-John set the world on fire with the 1978 blockbuster, “Grease”.  Their hit song, “You’re The One That I Want”, is one of the best-selling duets of all-time.  However, while lightning does strike twice, that doesn’t always happen in the entertainment business.  Their follow-up movie together, 1983’s “Two of A Kind”, was a box office bomb, but Olivia did score a top 5 hit, “Twist of Fate”, from the movie soundtrack.

After Travolta got a text from Olivia last year about how successful their “Grease” duet still is, they decided to do a Christmas CD together to benefit her charity, “The Olivia Newton-John Cancer and Wellness Centre” in Melbourne, Australia and his charity, “The Jett Travolta Foundation”, in memory of his 16-year-old autistic son, Jett, that died in early 2009 in the Bahamas after he fell and hit his head.

I’ll get the bad news out of the way first and then focus on the good.  The opening song, “Baby, It’s Cold Outside”, is probably the worst version I’ve ever heard.  As much as I love Olivia, she couldn’t get “Physical” enough to save this disaster!  Three songs later, “This Christmas” would have been better without John’s vocals.

Enough picking on John.  I like the man and I love his acting.  He does a fine job singing solo on “This Christmas Waltz”.

He and Olivia are joined by Barbra Streisand on “I’ll Be Home For Christmas” and it’s excellent.  Four songs later, Cliff Richard joins them on “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas” (you may remember Cliff from Olivia’s 198o’s hit, “Suddenly” from “Xanadu”).  Tony Bennett and The Count Basie Orchestra show up on “Winter Wonderland” and James Taylor drops in on “Deck The Halls”.

Olivia’s solo, “Silent Night” is incredible and their medley “Auld Lang Syne/Christmas Time Is Here” is a great closer to an uneven album.

The most exciting song on “This Christmas” is the one that I think should have been sequenced as the first song on the album, “I Think You Might Like It”.  It’s a very fun song and if I close my eyes while listening to it, I see Danny & Sandy in “Grease” dancing to it around the Christmas tree.  Here is the new video from Olivia & John!

GRADE:  C+   (There are great songs on it and there are some not so great songs, but the album is for a good cause.  It’s Christmas and the holidays are about charity!)

And, while we’re talking about amazing Christmas albums, these three are still my favorites.

Happy listening and Merry Christmas early!

Anthony

Oscar Is Tempting Us Into Movie Theaters

Going to the movies these days is not a cheap date.  By the time you buy two tickets (even at matinee prices), a large popcorn, and two large sodas, you’re looking at over $30.  I guess that’s not really all that bad for two hours of entertainment, but what if the movie is disappointing.

Prior to last night, I’ve gone to  the movies seven times this year.  I saw “This Means War”, “Abraham Lincoln:  Vampire Hunter”, and the original “Halloween” in the cheap theater.  As for first run movies, I saw “Dark Shadows”, “Magic Mike”, “Argo”, and “The Perks of Being a Wallflower”.  I really hope that when the Oscar nominations are announced in January that we hear “Argo” and “Perks” among the nominees.

oscar-statues-02

When we get to November and December, we start seeing movie companies baiting Oscar.  The superheroes and the serial killer/slashers are replaced by more thought-provoking theatrical releases.  I saw one of those movies last night.

Lincoln

LINCOLN”

“And, the Academy Award for Best Actor goes to [sound of opening envelope] Daniel Day-Lewis for “Lincoln”.  There’s no need to draw this until the Oscars on February 24, 2013.

When the Oscar nominations come out in January, we’ll be seeing this movie nominated for Best Picture, Best Director (Steven Spielberg), Best Screenplay (Tony Kushner), Best Actor (Daniel Day-Lewis), and likely nominations for Best Actress or Best Supporting Actress (Sally Field) and Best Supporting Actor (Tommy Lee Jones).

Much of the 2.5-hour-long movie takes place in January 1865 as the Civil War rages on and President Lincoln works behind the scene toward getting the 13th Amendment passed that would end slavery.  (In case history was your weak subject, he was assassinated in April 1865).

While watching the movie, I didn’t see Daniel Day-Lewis portraying our 16th president, I saw Abraham Lincoln!  Day-Lewis, who has already won two Best Actor Oscars for “My Left Foot” (1989) and “There Will Be Blood” (2007), was mind-blowing and has a very good chance of picking up his third Oscar.

I could have sat there for another two hours watching him play Lincoln.  You could see the heartbreak he felt about losing one of his sons and the hundreds of thousands of soldiers that died in the Civil War, and his quest to ensure that slavery would be abolished.  But, Spielberg and Kushner also gave us a chance to see Lincoln’s fun side when he would tell stories and jokes.

Sally Field definitely took advantage of the stories we’ve read about Mary Todd Lincoln’s unpredictable and unstable personality.  While going off the deep end in some scenes, she was very much in touch with the politics that her husband was dealing with and you could tell how much she supported him in other scenes.  Portraying both sides of Lincoln definitely raises Field’s chances for a third Oscar.

After the big vote about the future of slavery and the end of the Civil War, we see President Lincoln walking down the hallway and down the stairs at the White House.  If Steven Spielberg had asked me, I would have faded from that scene to the last scene of the movie of Lincoln giving a speech that led into the credits.  I would have cut out the five minutes or so of the movie (two scenes) that Spielberg left in there.  I won’t say what those two scenes were, but the movie didn’t need them.

But, who am I?  He’s Steven Freaking Spielberg!

GRADE:  A

“RISE OF THE GUARDIANS”

This Thanksgiving, many people will park themselves at the table or on a couch watching parades and football, while others will go shopping for “Black Friday” bargains.  Many will be heading to the movies and feasting on “Lincoln”, “The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 2”, “Life of Pi”, “Silver Linings Playbook”, “Red Dawn”, and “Rise of the Guardians”.

Rise_of_the_Guardians_poster

However, on Wednesday before Thanksgiving, Gretel and I have a date to see “Rise of the Guardians”.  (If we can convince Ray to go along with us, we’ll wait until the weekend of Thanksgiving!)

Why not hangout with Jack Frost and the Guardians (Santa Claus, the Tooth Fairy, the Easter Bunny, and the Sandman) all in the same movie as they fight off the evil Pitch, the Nightmare King?  Chris Pine, Hugh Jackman, Alec Baldwin, Isla Fisher, and Jude Law voice the main characters in this $145 million dollar fantasy movie.

It looks fun and there’s even Oscar buzz for this movie for Best Animated Feature.

There are three other movies that are on my list to see this holiday season, but one will not open wide until January 11, 2013, although it opens before Christmas in New York City and Los Angeles.

“ZERO DARK THIRTY”

ZeroDarkThirty

This is the follow-up to Oscar-winning director Kathryn Bigelow’s “The Hurt Locker”, which also won “Best Picture” and “Best Original Screenplay, along with three other wins.  It follows the hunt to eliminate al-Qaeda founder Osama Bin Laden and stars Oscar nominee Jessica Chastain.

It’s being billed as “the story of history’s greatest manhunt for the world’s most dangerous man.”

“THE IMPOSSIBLE”

the-impossible

Another touching movie that I want to see is already getting award season buzz.  “The Impossible” follows one family during the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami that left around one-quarter of a million people dead.

It stars Ewan McGregor and Naomi Watts.  The $45 million movie has already made its money back since it was released in some foreign markets in October.  Most of the $46.3 million that the money has made is in Spain.

I know the movie opens December 21st in the United States, but I can’t confirm if that’s limited or wide release.  (I’m leaning toward limited.)

“LES MISERABLES”

les mis

And, finally, on Christmas Day, the movie adaptation of the successful stage musical, “Les Miserables”, opens across the country.

Watching a movie about a man who goes to prison for stealing bread and a poor woman who is ridiculed for having an illegitimate child and forced into prostitution!  What a depressing way to spend a glorious holiday that already depresses many people!

This movie has OSCAR written all over.  It’s directed by Tom Hooper, who also directed the Oscar-winning “The King’s Speech” and stars Hugh Jackman (“Real Steel”, “Swordfish”, and the “X-Men” series), Russell Crowe (“Gladiator” and “A Beautiful Mind”), Anne Hathaway (“The Devil Wears Prada” and “The Dark Knight Rises”), Amanda Seyfried (“Mamma Mia”), Eddie Redmayne (“My Week With Marilyn”), Sasha Baron Cohen (“Hugo” and “Borat”), and Helena Bonham Carter (“The King’s Speech” and “Dark Shadows”).

What movies are you excited about this holiday season?

Anthony