Butlers in cinema

August 6th, 2013 by May

This weekend sees the release of a feature film focused on the life of a white house butler. Butlers are rarely seen in leading roles, as they often appear in films and TV as a way to show different sides of the main protagonist, or as a comic relief. The least we can do to honor them, is list 10 great butler characters:

Alfred – The Dark Knight trilogy (2005-2012)
Responsible, caring and not afraid to be harsh when circumstances call for it – Alfred was more than just a butler to Bruce Wayne. In fact he was more of a much-needed father figure, who took care of the orphaned Bruce since he was a kid and directed him down the right path. Michael Caine is so memorable in this role we can hardly remember there were other “Alfreds” before him.
WATCH: Batman: The Dark Knight Rises Review

Max – Sunset Blvd. (1950)
We meet Max as the butler of the former Hollywood star Norma Desmond, but as the film progresses it turns out he was her director and husband. In a world blind to Norma’s past glory, he is the only one willing to do anything to keep her in her fantasy world.

Mr. Carson – Downton Abbey (2010 ongoing)
Literally the heart of the house, Carson is the head butler of the lavish estate and takes care to everything going on there, from clean napkins for dinner to advising the master in delicate issues. Goodhearted and extremely loyal, Carson sees his profession as a true calling and will do anything to keep Downtown in top shape.

Geoffrey – The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air (1990-1996)
Sarcastic and wry, Geoffrey is the British butler of the African-American Banks family. He starts the show as a very prim and proper English gentleman, but soon embraces the more relaxed, humorous American tone – without losing his excellent dry humor.

Jennings – Gosford Park (2001)
Alan Bates plays the butler in an estate filled with footmen, maids, valets and every other known type of servants British aristocracy has invented. He has eyes and ears everywhere and even manages to hear a confession that might be very relevant to the murder mystery…

Lurch – The Addams Family (1964-1966)
Lurch is a tall (over 2 meters), shambling, gloomy butler who somewhat resembles Frankenstein‘s monster. He is especially known by the slow, low-voiced phrase “you rang?”, which is especially interesting since he was originally meant to be a nonspeaking character.

Hobson – Arthur (1981)
Winning an Oscar for portraying a butler is no mere thing, and John Gielgud did just that in the 1981 version of Arthur. His official title on the film may be a butler, be he actually functions more as a nanny, valet and personal caretaker to Arthur, a rich and spoiled heir who can’t seem to grow up.

Niles – The Nanny (1993-1999)
Niles is the butler and chauffeur for the Sheffield family. He is a 2nd generation butler and “inherited” his father’s position, so he and his master have known each other their whole lives. When Fran “the nanny” arrives he instantly befriends her and embraces the fresh presence she brings to their dull lives.

Emilio Lopez – Mr. Deeds (2002)
John Turturro, great as always, portrays a long-serving butler and illegitimate son of a multi-billionaire who died. He has a habit of sneaking up on people unexpectedly, and has a foot fetish. Yes, it’s an Adam Sandler movie…

Cecil Gaines – The Butler (2013)
Unlike most butlers on this list, who appeared as supporting characters and often tend to be on the humorous side, this is a serious film focusing on a butler. But not just any butler: Cecil Gaines was a white house butler under no less than 8 presidents, and through his eyes the movie portrays major social and political changes. Could this be the first Oscar bait of the season?

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The Super Bowl XLVII Winning Prediction

January 31st, 2013 by Barak

One of the biggest events in the world is taking place this weekend – The Super Bowl (the NFL‘s annual championship game.) The two teams who will compete for the title are the Baltimore Ravens and the San Francisco 49ers. And if you didn’t know it already, the head coaches of the two rival teams are also brothers!  It’s not all that special, considering we’ve already seen something very similar in the movie Warrior. What would’ve made it really interesting was if they were identical twin brothers… then there would have been no way of knowing who’s coaching which team!

We know that many people can’t wait to find out who the winners will be, so we decided to help and predict (accurately; no doubt) the game’s outcome. We chose five representative titles from Baltimore and five from San Francisco for a final confrontation. The city with the better movies/TV shows will also be the winner. You don’t believe us? Just wait and see (the movies never lie. And they can also predict the future.)


Which city has the better Hitchcock?

Vertigo (San Francisco) VS. Marnie (Baltimore)


Recently Vertigo was chosen as the greatest film of all time in an important critics’ poll. While I disagree and think that Adam Sandler’s Happy Gilmore is a far superior movie, Vertigo is still fantastic, and one of Hitchcock‘s finest films. Marnie is another great film by the master of suspense, but not nearly as good as Vertigo.

1-0 San Francisco.

Which city has the better cops?

Dirty Harry (San Francisco) VS. The Wire (Baltimore)


There is no denying that Dirty Harry is a classic, essential law enforcement cinematic piece. But The Wire is better than family, friends, love and nature put together. Well, it might not be as good as that extremely exaggerated superlative, but it’s pretty close. The Wire is a TV masterpiece.

Baltimore equalizes, it’s now 1-1.

Which city is more romantic and funny?

Going the Distance (San Francisco) VS. Cry-Baby (Baltimore)


Going The Distance is a very nice and funny  romcom, with Drew Barrymore managing to be tolerable, or even a bit beyond tolerable in it (saying she’s likable might be taking it a step too far.) The musical comedy Cry-Baby is campy and quite weird. I can’t stand musicals, and yet, I love Cry-Baby, which means it must be really good. I guess there’s an important lesson in that – we shouldn’t be prejudice or generalize. Not all musicals are bad, and even not all cats are bad (There are Garfield and Heathcliff for example.)

2-1, Baltimore takes the lead.

Which city has the better gender benders?

Mrs. Doubtfire (San Francisco) VS. Hairspray (Baltimore)


Mrs. Doubtfire isn’t a musical, and that already gives it an advantage over Hairspray. It was also made in a time when Robin Williams‘ insanity was still cute. Robin Williams in drag beats John Travolta in drag (and not a word about Travolta’s latest scandals, because we don’t care about gossip and we don’t do yellow blogging; but did you hear that Shakira had a baby?!)

2-2, San Francisco equalizes.

Which city travels better in time?

Time After Time (San Francisco) VS. 12 Monkeys (Baltimore)


I’m not particularly interested in time travel since I don’t make mistakes (and therefore don’t have to go back in time and fix them), but other people do find the subject fascinating. In Time After Time, a very good 1979 movie with Malcolm McDowell, Jack the Ripper escapes 19th-century London in a time machine stolen from H.G. Wells and time travels to 20th century San Francisco. Against it stands 12 Monkeys; a modern classic and one of the best time travel movies ever made. It’s definitely Terry Gilliam‘s best movie (at least in my opinion. I think that while Brazil the country is awesome, Brazil the movie isn’t.)

3-2 Baltimore! What a dramatic victory, now all the Baltimore Ravens have to do in order to win, is just show up. Congratulations!

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Holiday Titles with a Twist

December 27th, 2012 by Uri

With the cheerful holiday season around us, it’s time to list some of our favorite festive titles. Since Christmas and Hanukkah sometimes collide (as well as Passover and Easter) we’ve decided to mix these two December holidays together… the more the merrier, right? So bring on the Latkes and Eggnog!

Life of Brian

This controversial – yet extremely hilarious – film follows a quasi-Christ as he reluctantly finds himself leading a popular movement against the Roman Empire. Of course, in best Monty Python tradition, the film is laced with biting political and social observations, some of which are still relevant today.

Bad Santa

Billy Bob Thornton is a criminal anti hero in this cynical skewing of the Christmas spirit. Working as a mall Santa, alongside Santa’s little helper, a constantly cursing midget, they use the holiday as an opportunity to pull off a heist. That is, until “Santa” creates an unlikely friendship with a young and bizarre kid, despite his antisocial behavior. But don’t you worry, this won’t make him a much nicer, or less funny, person.

Bad-Santa

Ushpizin

Set during the Jewish holiday of Sukkot, this uplifting tale gives the audience a rare glimpse at the everyday lives and struggles of ultra-Orthodox Jews. A married couple is visited by a pair of old friends linked to the husband’s shady past. This visit makes him contemplate his life’s purpose and meaning.

The Nightmare Before Christmas

A Gothic stop motion animated musical for a family outing? This is not such an odd concept, apparently. This story of a Halloween skeleton who schemes to take over Christmas not only ends happily, but also won multiple awards and critical acclaim.

The Nightmare Before Christmas

The Hebrew Hammer

A tough private detective is on a mission to save both Hanukkah and Kwanzaa from the clutches of Santa Claus’s evil son in this offbeat blaxploitation homage. It’s heavy on silly humor and light on political correctness. Beware – the creators of this silly tale are out there on a crowed-funding quest, targeting all of us as potential investors for a sequel!!

Lemale et Ha’halal

A tragic event during Purim (a Jewish holiday similar to Halloween, costumes-wise) sets a chain of events into motion, leading a young woman to face a moral dilemma. She must choose between her heart’s wish and her family duty in this Venice Festival winning, touching melodrama about Hassidic society.

Eight Crazy Nights

Adam Sandler brings his signature brand of gross out humor to animated form in this Jewish rendition of holiday redemption stories. As you can guess, being animated doesn’t hold Sandler back from being offensive. If anything, it only encourages him to push it to the limits.

Die Hard 2

John McClane, in a time when he was still surprised by the fact that “the same sh*t happens to the same guy twice”, fights terrorists and saves the day on Christmas Eve in the second, and arguably the best, installment in this ever expanding series of boys’ night blockbusters.

Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale

In this dark humored comic fantasy from Finland, based on a short film, some legends and myths about Santa Claus gets a fresh new twist. Instead of delivering gifts to kids, the old man is mostly responsible for putting children in danger.

It’s a Wonderful Life OR Christmas Vacation?

Not to be completely iconoclastic, we’ll sign off by giving you the opportunity to choose between the ultimate Christmas classic and a Christmas cult classic. Frank Capra’s paean for Americana and small town life, or Chevy Chase‘s irreverent efforts to have his family enjoy a holiday vacation. Both make us feel good (as can be evident by those tweeting with #SMTA, at least regarding the later).

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The Sandler Secrets to Parenting

June 14th, 2012 by Barak

A new movie starring Adam Sandler called That’s My Boy is coming out about a father who’s way more immature than his son. Can you tell who’s the father and who’s the son?

Like many other Sandler movies, the lead character played by Sandler will be some kind of a man-child – a child trapped in a man’s body. In honor of this highly expected movie (well, at least for Sandler fans), we looked at TV and movies to try to find 10 parents that haven’t really fully embraced all of their responsibilities, parents that have yet to mature into fully grown adults:

10. Phil Weston – Kicking and Screaming (2005)

Will Ferrell plays a dad (Phil Weston) who becomes the coach of his kid’s soccer team in order to be a better dad and support his son. His ultra-competitive father, played by Robert Duvall (Buck Weston), coaches a competing team. Pretty soon Phil, determined to triumph over his dad’s team, becomes blind to anything besides winning.

9. Sonny Koufax – Big Daddy (1999)

Adam Sandler‘s Sonny Koufax is a lazy law school graduate who does more or less nothing,  while living off the money he got a while back from a petty lawsuit. When a young kid appears at his front door, he becomes an unlikely foster parent. This is one of Sandler’s best movies in my opinion; it’s funny and sweet, silly and warm.

8. Royal Tenenbaum – The Royal Tenenbaums (2001)

20 years ago Royal Tenenbaum suddenly moved out of the house, leaving his wife and young children behind, ruining their lives. From happy and successful geniuses, his children became alienated with a strong sense that their best years are long behind them. Even when Royal was still at home, he wasn’t much of a parent to begin with: he constantly demonstrated favoritism among his kids, even shooting one of them intentionally with a BB gun, and he couldn’t help but repeatedly remind his daughter that she is in fact his adopted daughter.

7. Thornton Melon – Back to School (1986)

Rodney Dangerfield is hilarious, as always, in the role of Thornton Melon, who enrolls in college in order to help his son get through his academic years. Thornton is a free spirited, rich businessman, who spends his time as a college student, not doing much studying, but doing a hell of a lot of partying instead. However, the thing he does the most, is embarrass his son.

6. Hank Moody – Californication (2007-?)

Hank Moody is a respected writer, a father and a husband, but he is first and foremost a playboy. When Hank was in his teens and the teachers at his school explained to the students that they should say no to drugs, alcohol and sometimes even to sex, Hank was at the beach doing all these things. Hank’s lifestyle of drugs, sex and alcohol makes it kind of hard for him to be a good role model for his daughter Becca.

5. Peter and Kate McCallister – Home Alone (1990)

It’s forgivable if you leave your dog behind, or even if you go down the elevator and then remember that your elderly parent is still upstairs, but it’s never ok to forget your young kid. Peter and Kate McCallister flew to Paris and forgot their 8 year old son, Kevin, at home, a whole continent away.

4. George Bluth – Arrested Development (2003-?)

George Bluth redefines the term irresponsible – when his kids were still in school he gave their teachers’ poisoned muffins in order to intimidate them. Later on, he was separated from his family because he went to jail following some creative accounting on his behalf. He continued his somewhat irresponsible behavior when he faked his own death and performed some light treason in the form of dodgy dealings with Saddam Hussein.

3. Homer Simpson – The Simpsons (1989-?)

Homer Simpson is probably the most famous lazy, irresponsible father figure in the world. Here are 2 examples of Homer’s parenting style: “Kids, you tried your best and you failed miserably. The lesson is, never try.” Talking about his younger days, Homer said: “It’s not easy to juggle a pregnant wife and a troubled child, yet somehow I managed to fit in 8 hours of TV a day.”

2. Wayne Szalinski – Honey, I Shrunk the Kids (1989)

When a parent has something dangerous around the house like a gun, or a machine that shrinks things as in this case, he should tell his kids to be extra careful or just hide the bloody thing. Wayne Szalinski forgot to tell his kids to be careful (or hide the bloody thing) and had to tell his wife: “Honey, I shrunk the kids.”

1. Kenny Powers – Eastbound & Down (2009-2012)

The lifestyle of Kenny Powers includes a lot of drugs and alcohol. Kenny is extremely rude and has a poor work ethic. In the beginning of season 3 the worst role model in the world becomes a single father. At one point Kenny makes a Moses out of his son – he puts him in a basket and sends him up the river… How’s that for good parenting?

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The TV Seasons they are a-Changin’

May 10th, 2012 by Barak

Nearing the end of the TV spring season and looking forward to the summer season, we have mixed feelings of disappointment and hope. We had high hopes for some of the new series that came out this spring but they were all more or less disappointing. In this bittersweet post we’ll mention the 5 spring TV shows that disappointed us the most and the 6 upcoming summer shows we are most looking forward to (that’s one “hope” more than “disappointments” to show you that we’re positive and optimistic in nature). First the bitter part, the 5 shows that left us demanding a refund on the precious time we lost watching them (although, to my surprise, none of them were cancelled so far):

5. Missing

Missing promised to be just like Taken, only on a smaller screen and with Ashley Judd instead of Liam Neeson (huge difference as we soon discovered). Unfortunately, it lacked the fast and exciting pace of Taken, including its suspenseful action scenes and everything else that made Taken what it was (a very good action film in comparison to the boring Missing.)

4. NYC 22

Produced by Robert De Niro and with a nice ensemble cast that included Leelee Sobieski and Adam Goldberg, NYC 22 is about rookie cops working the streets of New York. It tries to be as realistic as possible and was done in the spirit of Detroit 187, Southland and The Chicago Code, but sadly it’s not nearly as good as either of those shows.

3. Veep
We hoped it would be a clever, witty and most importantly hilarious political satire. What we got instead was a silly (stupid would be a more appropriate word) series that doesn’t offer many laughs (if any). The actors and writers of Veep think it’s fresh and edgy, but the biggest compliment this series deserves is that it’s sporadically mildly amusing.

2. Magic City
Just like in other Starz productions like Spartacus and Boss, Magic City enjoys a generous amount of female nudity combined with some splashes of violence. It tries to imitate Boardwalk Empire and Mad Men but it isn’t nearly as good as the two. Magic City can be proud of an almost impossible achievement – it manages to be boring despite the violence and the nudity.

1. Girls
HBO’s comedy drama is produced by the king of comedy Judd Apatow, and Lena Dunham is the star and the writer/creator of the show. Sadly, it’s much more similar to Dunham’s film Tiny Furniture (which showcased a bunch of obnoxious and self-involved twentysomethings) than to Apatow’s previous works; it also borrows a little bit from Sex and the City which is obviously not a positive thing.

And now to the sweet part, 6 upcoming new shows we’re looking forward to:

6. Common Law
Warren Kole and Michael Ealy star in this humorous USA network series about two police detective partners who can’t stand each other, and get an order from their commander to go see a couple’s therapist. The trailer for this series, premiering May 11th, suggests that they are in fact the craziest misfit partners since Lorena and John Bobbitt.

5. Longmire
Some dare call it the new Justified, which means it will definitely be worth checking out. This new series by the A&E network (premiering June 3rd) is based on the Walt Longmire mystery novels by Craig Johnson and will revolve around a Wyoming sheriff, his family and his friends.

4. Moone Boy
Rising star Chris O’Dowd (Bridesmaids) and comedy great Steve Coogan will star in Sky’s new comedy coming out this May. The series will take place in 80′s Ireland and will focus on a little boy and his imaginary friend (played by O’Dowd). The show will also include animated segments and will have a unique visual style.

3. Sinbad
Sky’s production Sinbad promises to be an epic adventure fantasy series. Elliot Knight and Naveen Andrews will star in this 12 part exciting sea escapade. The show’s creators are calling it a combination between Doctor Who and The Prince of Persia. It’s going to be great even if they’re only half right.

2. Copper
The first original series by BBC America is set in 1860 New York and follows a tough Irish cop working the tough streets of New York. Tom Fontana is the series creator and with Oz and Homicide: Life on the Street on his resume, he will probably get this one right to.

1. The Newsroom
There are at least three reasons that immediately come to mind for why it’s gonna be a great series: 1. Aaron Sorkin created it. 2. The series is written by Aaron Sorkin. 3. Aaron Sorkin. Beside these reasons, The Newsroom will also enjoy a terrific cast: Jeff Daniels, Emily Mortimer, Alison Pill, Sam Waterson and Dev Patel. As the title more or less suggests, it’s going to be a media version of The West Wing – the series will follow a cable news anchor, his producer and the rest of the staff as they go about their business of delivering the news to the public, while also juggling their own personal issues.

Other shows that might turn out to be worth something: Hatfields & McCoys (The History Channel’s Western mini-series starring Kevin Costner), Anger Management (based on the Adam Sandler movie and starring Charlie Sheen), Political Animals (Starring Sigourney Weaver) and Dallas. (Dallas?!)

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