The Quick 10: 10 Amazing Actresses in 10 Awful Movies

This whole post started a couple of weeks ago when I was researching terrible movie moms. I came across the #1 spot on our list and was stunned that Bette Davis had stooped to such a movie. I guess it just goes to show how fickle Hollywood can be. Watch out, Julia Roberts!

bette1. Bette Davis in Wicked Stepmother. Even Bette knew this 1989 movie was a total disaster "“ she dropped out halfway through filming with only part of her scenes filmed. The plot goes something like this: evil stepmother who is secretly a witch marries a nice man while his kids are away. She does terrible things like fill their refrigerator with meat (they are vegetarians). The shock! The horror!! Bette's sudden departure was dealt with in a totally believable manner "“ the script was rewritten to make the evil stepmother a mother/daughter duo who had to share the same body; whoever isn't in the body has to occupy the body of a cat. Duh. This thing practically writes itself. Bette said she dropped out of the film due to script problems, but writer/producer/director Larry Cohen said it was really due to her declining health. Although she did die just a few months after the movie came out, I'm inclined to believe Miss Davis on this one.

2. Joan Crawford in Trog. An ape-like creature is discovered in a cave and an anthropologist "“ Mommie Dearest, of course "“ wants to study him. She gets him back to her lab and starts her research, but some locals think Trog is a menace and break into the lab to kill the poor thing. Of course, Trog is the one who ends up killing the murderous mob and then goes on a misunderstood killing spree throughout town, but mostly it's self defense. Trog ends up getting gunned down and Joan Crawford is supremely saddened. As am I. As was Joan, actually. According to IMDB, she once joked that if it hadn't been against her religion, she would have committed suicide after seeing how awful the film was.

3. Myrna Loy in Ants, AKA It Happened at Lakewood Manor. Oddly, I think I've seen this film. Hopped up on insecticide, a bunch of rampaging ants attack. This 1977 made-for-TV movie is a long cry from The Thin Man series that made Loy a star.

4. Ann Margret in The Santa Clause 3. Maybe this one isn't so bad, but I have a personal distaste for the second and third Santa Clause movies.

bees5. Gloria Swanson in Killer Bees. For someone whose most famous movie quote is (arguably) "I am big. It's the pictures that got small," this is a little painful. Gloria plays Madame Maria von Bohlen, the head of a family who can psychically command a swarm of killer bees to do her bidding. Yep. It was Swanson's last film (also made for TV).
6. Olivia de Havilland in The Swarm. Apparently Hollywood couldn't get enough of enraged insects in the "˜70s, because it was 1978 that saw Olivia de Havilland, Miss Melanie Wilkes herself, in one of the worst disaster movies of all time. But she was in good company "“ it also starred Michael Caine, Richard Chamberlain, Lee Grant, Patty Duke, Henry Fonda and Fred MacMurray. All of these big names were busy fighting off a swarm of African killer bees before they wipe out the U.S. completely. It was in theaters just two weeks before it was pulled and was so terrible that director Irwin Allen has forbidden anyone from mentioning it to him ever again. He even stopped an interview when the reported dared breathe the title.

glove7. Joan Blondell in The Glove. Almost 30 years after being nominated for a Best Supporting Actress Oscar for her role in The Blue Veil, Joan took a part in another apparel-based movie. This one, however, was about an ex-con who hunted down former prison guards and killed them with a big steel glove. But it was a Troma film, so it's not like anyone should have expected cinematic genius (sorry, Troma fans).
8. Jennifer Jones in Angel, Angel, Down We Go. An Oscar, a Golden Globe and a bunch of nominations don't necessarily mean that an actress won't end up in a B-Movie later in life. Jennifer Jones, for instance, found herself in The Cult of the Damned, AKA Angel, Angel, in 1969. The plot, according to IMDB: "The overweight debutante daughter of the world's wealthiest couple falls in with a gang of tripped out, skydiving pseudo-reactionary pop stars, who take their beliefs of the American ideal to profoundly impossible heights."

9. Teresa Wright in Flood! You might not know the name, but Teresa Wright won an Oscar for Mrs. Miniver and was nominated for The Pride of the Yankees. But for 1976's Flood!, another Irwin Allen movie, she wasn't nominated for anything.

10. Tippi Hedren in Satan's Harvest. As one of Hitchcock's favorite blondes, Melanie Griffith's mom could do no wrong for a few years "“ she won a Golden Globe for "best newcomer" for her role in The Birds and got rave reviews for Marnie. But starring in Satan's Harvest in 1970 didn't really continue her streak. One of the movie's tagline was "She's a good girl "“ until she smokes R-E-E-F-E-R!" if that tells you anything. It's about a man who inherits his uncle's ranch in South Africa and has to deal with attempts on his life all of the time; he can't figure out why until he discovers that the ranch is actually a marijuana goldmine. And to be fair to Tippi, I think it's not her fault that she had to stoop so low "“ when she declined to work with Alfred Hitchcock again after they had some personal problems, he told her that he would ruin her career. "And he did," Tippi has said.

Also, pretty much every actress from the "˜30s and "˜40s who was still alive in the "˜80s appeared on either The Love Boat, Falcon Crest or both.

I'm positive you guys have more to add "“ and why limit it to older actresses? If you want to talk about the flops that present-day movie stars have been in, feel free to throw those in as well. I mean, seriously, Jamie Foxx went from Ray to Stealth? Meh.

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Zach Hyman, HBO
10 Bizarre Sesame Street Fan Theories
Zach Hyman, HBO
Zach Hyman, HBO

Sesame Street has been on the air for almost 50 years, but there’s still so much we don’t know about this beloved children’s show. What kind of bird is Big Bird? What’s the deal with Mr. Noodle? And how do you actually get to Sesame Street? Fans have filled in these gaps with frequently amusing—and sometimes bizarre—theories about how the cheerful neighborhood ticks. Read them at your own risk, because they’ll probably ruin the Count for you.

1. THE THEME SONG CONTAINS SECRET INSTRUCTIONS.

According to a Reddit theory, the Sesame Street theme song isn’t just catchy—it’s code. The lyrics spell out how to get to Sesame Street quite literally, giving listeners clues on how to access this fantasy land. It must be a sunny day (as the repeated line goes), you must bring a broom (“sweeping the clouds away”), and you have to give Oscar the Grouch the password (“everything’s a-ok”) to gain entrance. Make sure to memorize all the steps before you attempt.

2. SESAME STREET IS A REHAB CENTER FOR MONSTERS.

Sesame Street is populated with the stuff of nightmares. There’s a gigantic bird, a mean green guy who hides in the trash, and an actual vampire. These things should be scary, and some fans contend that they used to be. But then the creatures moved to Sesame Street, a rehabilitation area for formerly frightening monsters. In this community, monsters can’t roam outside the perimeters (“neighborhood”) as they recover. They must learn to educate children instead of eating them—and find a more harmless snack to fuel their hunger. Hence Cookie Monster’s fixation with baked goods.

3. BIG BIRD IS AN EXTINCT MOA.

Big Bird is a rare breed. He’s eight feet tall and while he can’t really fly, he can rollerskate. So what kind of bird is he? Big Bird’s species has been a matter of contention since Sesame Street began: Big Bird insists he’s a lark, while Oscar thinks he’s more of a homing pigeon. But there’s convincing evidence that Big Bird is an extinct moa. The moa were 10 species of flightless birds who lived in New Zealand. They had long necks and stout torsos, and reached up to 12 feet in height. Scientists claim they died off hundreds of years ago, but could one be living on Sesame Street? It makes sense, especially considering his best friend looks a lot like a woolly mammoth.

4. OSCAR’S TRASH CAN IS A TARDIS.

Oscar’s home doesn’t seem very big. But as The Adventures of Elmo in Grouchland revealed, his trash can holds much more than moldy banana peels. The Grouch has chandeliers and even an interdimensional portal down there! There’s only one logical explanation for this outrageously spacious trash can: It’s a Doctor Who-style TARDIS.

5. IT’S ALL A RIFF ON PLATO.

Dust off your copy of The Republic, because this is about to get philosophical. Plato has a famous allegory about a cave, one that explains enlightenment through actual sunlight. He describes a prisoner who steps out of the cave and into the sun, realizing his entire understanding of the world is wrong. When he returns to the cave to educate his fellow prisoners, they don’t believe him, because the information is too overwhelming and contradictory to what they know. The lesson is that education is a gradual learning process, one where pupils must move through the cave themselves, putting pieces together along the way. And what better guide is there than a merry kids’ show?

According to one Reddit theory, Sesame Street builds on Plato’s teachings by presenting a utopia where all kinds of creatures live together in harmony. There’s no racism or suffocating gender roles, just another sunny (see what they did there?) day in the neighborhood. Sesame Street shows the audience what an enlightened society looks like through simple songs and silly jokes, spoon-feeding Plato’s “cave dwellers” knowledge at an early age.

6. MR. NOODLE IS IN HELL.

Can a grown man really enjoy taking orders from a squeaky red puppet? And why does Mr. Noodle live outside a window in Elmo’s house anyway? According to this hilariously bleak theory, no, Mr. Noodle does not like dancing for Elmo, but he has to, because he’s in hell. Think about it: He’s seemingly trapped in a surreal place where he can’t talk, but he has to do whatever a fuzzy monster named Elmo says. Definitely sounds like hell.

7. ELMO IS ANIMAL’S SON.

Okay, so remember when Animal chases a shrieking woman out of the college auditorium in The Muppets Take Manhattan? (If you don't, see above.) One fan thinks Animal had a fling with this lady, which produced Elmo. While the two might have similar coloring, this theory completely ignores Elmo’s dad Louie, who appears in many Sesame Street episodes. But maybe Animal is a distant cousin.

8. COOKIE MONSTER HAS AN EATING DISORDER.

Cookie Monster loves to cram chocolate chip treats into his mouth. But as eagle-eyed viewers have observed, he doesn’t really eat the cookies so much as chew them into messy crumbs that fly in every direction. This could indicate Cookie Monster has a chewing and spitting eating disorder, meaning he doesn’t actually consume food—he just chews and spits it out. There’s a more detailed (and dark) diagnosis of Cookie Monster’s symptoms here.

9. THE COUNT EATS CHILDREN.

Can a vampire really get his kicks from counting to five? One of the craziest Sesame Street fan theories posits that the Count lures kids to their death with his number games. That’s why the cast of children on Sesame Street changes so frequently—the Count eats them all after teaching them to add. The adult cast, meanwhile, stays pretty much the same, implying the grown-ups are either under a vampiric spell or looking the other way as the Count does his thing.

10. THE COUNT IS ALSO A PIMP.

Alright, this is just a Dave Chappelle joke. But the Count does have a cape.

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iStock
A New App Interprets Sign Language for the Amazon Echo
iStock
iStock

The convenience of the Amazon Echo smart speaker only goes so far. Without any sort of visual interface, the voice-activated home assistant isn't very useful for deaf people—Alexa only understands three languages, none of which are American Sign Language. But Fast Company reports that one programmer has invented an ingenious system that allows the Echo to communicate visually.

Abhishek Singh's new artificial intelligence app acts as an interpreter between deaf people and Alexa. For it to work, users must sign at a web cam that's connected to a computer. The app translates the ASL signs from the webcam into text and reads it aloud for Alexa to hear. When Alexa talks back, the app generates a text version of the response for the user to read.

Singh had to teach his system ASL himself by signing various words at his web cam repeatedly. Working within the machine-learning platform Tensorflow, the AI program eventually collected enough data to recognize the meaning of certain gestures automatically.

While Amazon does have two smart home devices with screens—the Echo Show and Echo Spot—for now, Singh's app is one of the best options out there for signers using voice assistants that don't have visual components. He plans to make the code open-source and share his full methodology in order to make it accessible to as many people as possible.

Watch his demo in the video below.

[h/t Fast Company]

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