THE DEN

Cocooned in my house, I try to find things to do. I can make a mask out of my underpants, can recite all the words in the U.S. Constitution and have tipped off the cops about my neighbors’ 11-person gatherings. If you can get the “Jeopardy!” questions right (The question: “1736?” I shouted: “Follows 1735!”), I have some suggestions.

Watch old movies and TV shows.

If you like those about foreign intrigue, then watch “Foreign Intrigue” (1956). A reclusive millionaire dies suddenly on the Riviera, and an aide investigates his employer’s mysterious past. In the search, people keep asking, “Did he say anything before he died?” Great ending.

“Foreign Correspondent.” This anti-Nazi movie never mentions the Nazis, but found one fan: Nazi Propaganda Minister Joseph Goebbels, who called it “a masterpiece of propaganda.”

“Pimpernel Smith” (1941), a thriller about a mild-mannered British professor who rescues prisoners from the Gestapo. The film helped to inspire Raoul Wallenberg to run his real-life rescue operation.

There have been 26 Bond movies, with another due to come out this spring, but it was delayed until next fall because of the pandemic. They all go like this: Opening scene is a chase, then come the credits with that catchy theme song. Bond drinks a martini, makes love to a beautiful woman, his boss sends Bond on a suicidal mission, with the warning, “James, be careful.” He is captured by the evil Captain Drano, works free, ends with a huge explosion. There have been 12 actors playing Bond over 57 years — and one script. Accounting for inflation, the Bond films have amassed over $14 billion — shaken, not stirred.

Change to something funny? Watch the “Three Stooges.” They appeared in 190 short subjects and five films. The trio changed some members, but Larry, Moe and Curly were the mainstays. There are seven Pink Panther movies, the funniest is “A Shot in the Dark.”

Watch “O Brother Where Art Thou?” It’s directed by Joel and Ethan Coen. When the name of the writer pops up on the screen, “Homer,” that’s because the story is loosely based on Homer’s poem, The Odyssey. “Loosely” because it’s set in the Deep South during the Depression. Speaking of the Coen brothers, check out their “Fargo,” (the movie, not the TV series), a dark comedy. On the other hand, avoid the Coens’ “Raising Arizona” an attempted comedy that makes no sense. Also avoid “The Blair Witch Project” (1999). It was hailed by critics as a masterpiece. It stunk.

One unexpected point in watching old movies is you (or at least I) have forgotten parts of the film and will say, “I don’t remember that scene.” So it’s practically new.

For a change, watch some TV news shows, and check out what’s behind the talking heads at home. Every one of them has neatly lined shelves of books in the background. The only exceptions are the doctors. Their books are all over the place and their desks are a mess, papers piled high. Obviously they have been working overtime.

Moving (or movie) on, the TV mystery “Murder, She Wrote” with Angela Lansbury is still good. (Barbara Bush must have been a viewer. She referred to Lansbury as “that woman.”) There were more murders in Cabot Cove, Maine, than in South Chicago, because the show ran for 12 seasons with 264 episodes from 1984 to 1996, so you have plenty to watch. It was among the most successful and longest-running television shows in history, averaging more than 30 million viewers per week in its prime (sometimes hitting above 40 million viewers).

After watching 23 “Road Runner” cartoons, “Shane” (1953) still holds up, so do “Gigi (1958) and “The Front Page” (1974 version). Never mind that all the stars have died. The 1969 version of “True Grit” is much better than the re-make of 2010. Two prison movies, “The Green Mile” and “The Shawshank Redemption,” both written by Stephen King, are long but have great plots.

Here are a couple of feel-good films that might brighten up your mood: “Pretty Woman” and “The Breakfast Club.” For a fun comedy mystery, watch “Who is Killing the Great Chefs of Europe?” The chefs are each killed in a way reflecting their most famous dishes (for example, the lobster chef is drowned). Robert Morley steals the show as a pompous, fat, food critic.

Just stay 6 feet from the screen. Now pass the popcorn.

Lynn Ashby is a Houston-based columnist. Contact him at ashby2@comcast.net.

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