Friday, November 30, 2012

The Gift You Keep On Giving

Last Saturday, while watching football, I noticed a bunch of ads for Kay Jewelers. I thought they'd picked the wrong audience until I realized the ads are there to remind men to buy jewelry for the women in their life.



I couldn't find one particularly striking ad. It's about a guy who's marrying a women with a daughter, and to show what a great father he'll be, he buys the kid jewelry (presumably after getting his hot new wife something as well).  Must be fun writing those ads, thinking up ever new scenarios where a man will have to reach into his pocket.

Ghost Of A Chance

Here's a new video featured on YouTube that's already got over 20 millions hits:



Okay. I you didn't watch it, it's a prank from a Brazilian TV show.  People are led into an elevator where the lights flicker on and off and a spooky young girl out of a horror movie magically appears and disappears, often screaming at them.  The people scream as well, and generally cower.

It's very well done and reminds me of the outrageous pranks on an American show, Scare Tactics.  And while I admit it's fascinating to see how people actually react in a true horror situation, I still find it hard to watch.  Comedy generally has us laughing at other people's pain, but it's fictional.  This is (as far as I can tell) real people in real fright.

Furthermore, they're using a young girl.  Isn't this too dangerous?  Isn't there a decent chance someone will attack her?  Or do they figure the prohibiton against harming children is too strong for people to overcome? (Or maybe liability laws are different in Brazil.)

In general, I don't like practical jokes, much less shows about them.  I don't even get them.  Working hard to make others look foolish, or be embarrassed?  Doesn't sound like fun to me.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Maybe Baby

In last night's episode of Modern Family, "When A Tree Falls," Gloria has her baby.  Or at least starts too.  She's being held in a CostCo back office with Claire when her water breaks  Except she was only pretending so they could get out of there.

I doubt many people were fooled.  Not because this wouldn't be a classic sitcom way of giving birth, but because it wasn't publicized.  In fact, what promotional ads had promised wasn't a baby, but a big showdown between Jay and Phil, who'd put on some (comically oversized) boxing gloves and have it out.

I like it when a big moment comes unexpectedly on a show.  These days, however--at least on network sitcoms--it rarely happens.  They wouldn't consider having something big like this go down without letting viewers know about it.  I suppose the idea is anything to get people watching, but it does spoil the surprise.  And in this case spoiled the non-surprise.

Not So Young Rascal

Felix Cavaliere turns 70 today.  He was a songwriter and lead singer for the Young Rascals (later just the Rascals), a popular band in the mid to late 60s.  They had three #1's--"Good Lovin'," "Groovin'" and "People Got To Be Free," but even without these they had plenty of good stuff.






Wednesday, November 28, 2012

A Regular Guy

Poor Cass Sunstein. Now back at Harvard Law School, for the past four years he was the nation's regulatory czar.

Here's the sort of comment he gets from the left:

"Sunstein left behind a muddled regulatory approach that appeared to buy into a phony, largely Republican agenda that regulations were job killers but not life savers," said Jeffrey Ruch, executive director of Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, a whistleblower group.

Here's the sort of comment he gets from the right:

So....would you rather be ruled by Montgomery Burns of The Simpsons, or Cass Sunstein of Nudge fame?  [....]  I know who’d I’d pick. Now, is it release the hounds! Or, release the regulators!

I don't happen to believe just because you're attacked by liberals and conservatives you must be doing something right, but does Cass deserve all this calumny?  I'm not familiar with most of his judgments in office, but he seemed to at least be trying to make prudent decisions, balancing the interests of both sides.  It's just that neither side wants that balance, they want it all their way.

(As some readers know, Cass Sunstein is a friend of mine, but I don't believe he reads this blog and even if he did I wouldn't say what I don't believe.)

The Right Amount Of Weird

The Cosmopolitan is a new resort in Las Vegas that's been putting out a series of bizarre ads.  I'm not exactly sure of the point, but they're memorable:





The most recent one has probably gotten the most attention:



This is the long version.  It's normally 30 seconds and stops when the guy starts singing "let me go!"  I prefer them talking "Bohemian Rhapsody." I think it's a mistake to break into song.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

More Bang For Your Buck

They must be doing something right at The Big Bang Theory, since it's in its sixth season and has higher ratings than ever.  I rarely watch it when it airs, however, since it's on Thursdays at 8, when I watch NBC (for Community or, lately, 30 Rock). So I was pleased to discover last night CBS put on an old episode of TBBT that I missed first time around.

It featured two highly farcical plots.  In the A-plot (I guess), Sheldon fights with Kripke over who will take over a vacated office.  The gags are mostly physical, with the two confronting the university's president while he's at a urinal, a former prof appearing a naked a couple times, the two playing a hapless game of basketball to win the room, and Sheldon getting it but being driven nuts by its many flaws including a hole in the wall where he eventually gets his head stuck.

The other plot has Amy giving best friend Penny a larger-than-life-size painting of the two, and Penny has to figure out how to get rid of it without offending Amy.  Almost all the gags revolve around how hideous the painting is.

In general, a weak episode. But what intrigued me was how the show, for The Big Bang Theory anyway, was fairly experimental.  This is, as far as I can tell, the only episode they've ever had that was entirely sex-segregated  The main plot featured all the guys and none of the gals, and the secondary plot had all three gals (two of whom didn't exist when the show started--it's come a long way) and none of the guys.

I like they were trying something different.  But funny is better.

The Abominable Showman

Happy birthday David Merrick. The last of the great impresarios, he loved publicity stunts, such as his famous ad for the so-so musical Subways Are For Sleeping, where he got seven thumbs up from people who just happened to have the same names as the seven top New York critics.  Then there was the time director Gower Champion died the day the Merrick/Champion production of 42nd Street opened.  Merrick came out during curtain calls looking stricken and annoucned Champion's death--perhaps he had to, but it certainly ensured the critics would say nice things about the show (which would have been a hit anyway).

He had his name on over 80 Broadway productions--dramas, comedies, musicals, all types.  He was apparently a nasty man, tough to work with, but obviously had a love of the theatre, and sure produced a lot of great shows.

Here's a selection from some of his musicals:








Monday, November 26, 2012

A New Slant

A while ago we had the AV Club's top films of the 90s.  Now we get Slant Magazine's.  Unfortunately, and predictably, Slant goes a little hard for obscure titles.  They also fall for a lot of films that are overrated and in some cases not even that good.

What do I mean?  Well, to pick a few that shouldn't be there, Naked Lunch, Babe: Pig In The City, A Perfect World, Three KingsWhite Hunter, Black Heart, The Last Days Of Disco, Magnolia, My Own Private Idaho, and Carlito's Way.

Not that there aren't some intriguing surprises such as Gremlins 2, Conspirators Of Pleasure, Terminator 2, Lost Highway, Breaking The Waves, Dead Man, Naked and Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me.

For the record, here are the top ten:

10. (David Cronenberg's) Crash
9.  A Taste Of Cherry
8.  Underground
7.  Safe
6.  Satantango
5.  Goodfellas
4.  A Brighter Summer Day
3.  Close-Up
2.  Eyes Wide Shut
1.  The Thin Red Line

Most of these aren't even known to average filmgoers, and those that are aren't that great.  I'd rather watch Showgirls than Eyes Wide Shut or The Thin Red Line--but it's only #14.

Hot And Funny

Happy birthday, Gabe Ward. He was singer and clarinetist for the Hoosier Hot Shots.  Spike Jones might be more famous, but I think they may be my favorite novelty band.







Sunday, November 25, 2012

Screw You

Recently, my bank disagreed with my checkbook's balance. So I visited the local branch and asked what was up.  We went over recent checks and discovered they'd paid out more for one than I'd originally written on it.

So we went to their computer and looked at a copy.  There was my signature, but everything else had been wiped clean.  It was made out to a person I'd never heard of (of course--it would be quite a coincidence if I knew the name).  The malefactor had also rewritten the amount, increasing it by about a hundred. (Guess he didn't want to go too much higher, figuring it might bounce.)  It was creepy, especially seeing how all the numbers and letters were written in ways foreign to me.

The part that got to me most, however, was what I saw in the memo line: "Thank You." Did the crook know I'd see it some day?  Was he giving me the finger. (Or thanking me?)

PS  Don't worry about me.  The bank had made me whole, and hopefully capture the criminal.

Major Achievement

Larry Hagman has died.  All the obits talk about his performance as the villainous J.R. on Dallas, by far his most famous role.  I'll let you in on a secret.  I've never seen a second of the show.  To this day I don't know who shot J.R.

As a young actor Hagman performed on Broadway and did a fair amount of TV.  He'd go on to appear in such movies as Fail-Safe, The Group, Harry And Tonto, Mother, Jugs & Speed and S.O.B.  But it was as Major Anthony Nelson in the sitcom I Dream Of Jeannie that he really left an impression on me.  For those of you who don't remember much about the show, here's a refresher course:



The show was not great, and the main attraction to most viewers, I think, was sexy Barbara Eden, but Hagman was the one who held it all together.  It was one of the more impressive performances of the era.  No matter how outrageous the action got, he anchored the show with the true gravity that farce demands. On top of which, he had true chemistry with Eden.  I still marvel at how much he was able to do with so little.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Woody Hayes All In My Brain

Today's the big day--the Wolverines versus the Buckeyes.  I don't recall it generally being played Thanksgiving weekend, but that's the new (and inferior) Big Ten schedule.

Both teams are winners this year (and if Michigan hadn't lost its quarterback it might be an even bigger winner), so there's a lot at stake here. Ohio is undefeated, and that's fine with me--let's go into Columbus with a chance to ruin their season.

Check out my favorite college football blog, The M Zone, which has a nice collection of videos showing how pathetic and bizarre Buckeye fans are.

PS  The game is over.  Michigan had plenty of chances to win but refused to take advantage of any of them.

Nice Of You To Notice

I took this test a few years ago and was surprised at the result.



There are other versions, but I believe this is the original.  It's fascinating to watch a second time and get different results.

As long as we're taking tests today, here's one that has nothing to do with the previous video:

Friday, November 23, 2012

Pierce Parts

So Chevy Chase is leaving Community.  At present, this means he won't appear in a couple episodes of the 13 that have been ordered this season, and since that may be the end of the show, fans will hardly notice his absence.  But if the show is picked up, this is sad news indeed.

Chase's character Pierce may do less than most of the others, but all seven in the student group are important to the show's appeal. (Dean Pelton and Chang are far less significant.  Either could leave without much effect on the show--Chang leaving might even be an improvement.)

This is because all seven balance each other.  They're all different and represent an aspect of the group that no other character does.  Pierce was generally the odd man out, being angry, out of it and borderline racist, but that was a good thing--it allowed him to say things no one else would.  It's true his character wasn't always used that well, or given much to do, but he still filled a gap.  (If I had to remove one character from the group, it'd probably be Shirley. Sorry Yvette.) 

It's not exactly a surprise.  While some might think this role was good for his image--a movie star long past his prime appearing in a highly-regarded sitcom--Chase always seemed to think it was beneath him.  Not only was it a comedown from his former stardom, but it was a sitcom, and Chase started out as an alternative type who despised conventional television.  He regularly was at odd with creator Dan Harmon, and even after Harmon was removed this season, Chase still blew up at how ugly his character was getting. (It's a character, Chevy, not you.)

Chase did a good job, even though the part wasn't a great fit for his particular talents.  He's too old to play a lot of bumbling physical comedy, so there wasn't much of that, and the smart-ass character he's known for is already on the show--Joel McHale's Jeff Winger.  I'm guessing a lot of lesser-known actors could have done as good a job, but Chase was a name and probably helped the show get on the air.  So we'll be missing him. Pierce, we hardly knew ye.

Sock It To 'Em, JB

Happy birthday, Jerry Bock.  He's best known for the Broadway shows he composed with lyricist Sheldon Harnick.  Their biggest hit by far was Fiddler On The Roof--in its day the longest-running Broadway show ever--but even if you don't include it in their catalogue, they've got plenty to be proud of.





Thursday, November 22, 2012

Killed It

Back in the 70s, Talking Heads had a different sound but also a different look when drummer Chris Frantz's girlfried picked up a bass and joined the band.

So happy birthday, Tina Weymouth.  Here she is performing what's got to be her most famous bass line.  A little pitchy, actually.


Fryday?

Happy Turkey Day.  It's my favorite holiday.

For those of you in a hurry:

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Search Me

Google--or to be fair, search engines in general--have revolutionized research.  What used to take hours, days, even weeks to track down can often be discovered in a few seconds.  We should all be grateful.

But isn't it overkill?  I'm going to type something into Google right now--"toy robots." (I don't particularly care about the subject, but I have a friend who's an expert and anyway, it's something that's likely to get a reasonably large amount pulled up from the net.)  What happens?  Well, in 0.19 seconds I got "about" 15,100,000 results.

I have to take Google's word for it, though I have no reason to doubt them.   But really, if it said 15,000, or 1500, even 150, it'd be more than I know what to do with.  Fifteen would be about right.  In fact, I'm trying to think of the last time I went beyond the first page of my Google results.  Pretty rarely, and I don't think I've ever gone beyond page three.

I suppose the results get a little less on point the further you go, but anyway, while it's nice to know there are thousands of pages out there, is this useful information or something closer to bragging?

Was A Friend Of All Of Us

Happy birthday, Lonnie Jordan. He was a founder of War (the band, not the card game--or the activity, for that matter).  Their funky sound was big in the 70s, and still sounds pretty good today.





Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Stand-Up Guy

Happy birthday, Dick Smothers.  Comedy aficionados know how important the straight man is, and Dickie was one of the top guys in the business. He also went out on his own a few times, most notably playing a corrupt state senator (vaguely based on Harry Reid) in Casino.  But it's for his tenor singing, bass playing and wonderful timing as part of a team that he'll be remembered.

I've seen the Brothers live several times, and while they often did the same material, it was never the same twice.



These Are Their Verdicts

Here's something interesting sent to me by a reader: statistics on how the 456 episodes--all 20 seasons--of Law & Order ended.  Guilty, not guilty, or otherwise.  As you'd expect, the vast majority of episodes end with "guilty" or some equivalent.  After all, no one wants to watch a show about a bunch of losers.



L&O clearly had a formula, and it extended to the final scene, even if they tried to break things up occasionally.  Turns out the defendant lost, one way or another, over 80% of the time--if you include the 30%+ plea bargains (in real life, the vast majority of cases plead out)--while you get "not guilty" or a mistrial or a hung jury or charges dismissed a bit over 10%.  Then there are the handful of cases where the defendant is killed (I'd rather be found guilty) or flees.

The last few seasons had the lowest rates of "not guilty" verdicts.  In fact, the final season had none.  The suspicion is producer Dick Wolf tried to help sagging ratings with more victories for the good guys.  I guess that cancelation was the viewers' final verdict.  (Nothing lasts forever.  Much smarter, to keep the show's budget in line, Wolf figured out no one in the cast was indispensable.  This helped hold salaries down during renegotiation.)

The irony is I never thought the show would last.  From the start it seemed silly to make heroes out of prosecutors.  For years, Perry Mason spent one week after another keeping innocent people out of  jail (any stats on that?).  Now that's a concept.  Solving tricky crimes is one thing, but putting people away is closer to dog bites man.  What this often meant, dramatically, was the prosecutors stretching the law and finding novel interpretations of statutes so they could convict people. Half the time I was rooting against them.  (Actually, I got off the L&O bandwagon about 16 seaons ago, so I don't know if things continued this way.)

I guess the thing to do next is figure out who the criminals were.  How many were murderers, drug dealers, Wall Street fat cats, etc?  I'll let you know if anything new comes out.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Before B-5

The AV Club has an occasional series that gives the ten most representative episodes of a series.  It's just done Babylon 5. The theory is that this is an important if forgotten show since it helped bring on the age of serialization of drama we're still living in.  Earlier sf shows had general arcs but each episode was meant to be taken on its own.

I haven't watched the show in years (I watched it all at once the first time through) but I think it does deserve attention.  I agree with the AV Club--for all its weaknesses (effects, acting, dialogue, even some seasons) when it was good, it was great.

Unfortunately, not having watched in so long, it's hard for me to judge if their ten episodes represent the show well. I do wonder why four of them are from season two. I suppose it might be highly represented in that so many important revelations occured, but I seem to recall season three was the height of the show.

PS One of the quirks of Sheldon Cooper--of The Big Bang Theory--is he hates Babylon 5.  I've always wonder how the producers decided to give him that trait.  Is it personal?

Pump Him Up

For much of his life, Arnold Schwarzenegger has been a figure of fun.  People mock him for his muscles, his accent, his acting, his ambition. I've never understood why.  This is a man who has risen to the top of three separate professions, each time against impressive odds. You've got to admire that.  Anyway, I do.  So I was fascinated to read his recent autobiography, Total Recall.

I've heard it isn't selling as well as hoped.  I'm not surprised, since we've sort of had our fill of him.  He's certainly not the movie star he was, he wasn't popular as governor when he left office and, of course, he was involved in a scandal regarding marital infidelity.  The book may be a victim of bad timing, but I've got to give it to him, he approached it with the same energy he approaches all his projects.  At over 600 pages, the title makes sense--he goes through every aspect of his life, giving fans what they want.

He was born in Austria in 1947.  It was a tough time for the country (thankfully), since a few years back they thought they were heading for glory and ended up in humiliating defeat.  They were also stuck in-between the free West and the communists.  Arnold looked to America as the land of opportunity, the country where he knew he'd end up.  But how? His family wasn't rich, what could get him there?

He had a tremendous work ethic, and an interest in growing muscles.  While still in his teens he started winning body building contests in the German-speaking world. He soon got to London and eventually Los Angeles, garnering numerous titles for his sculpted body.  I admit the "sport" does seem rather silly, but Arnold, who had a sense of promotion, helped it grow until it got international attention.

Meanwhile, he was also busy creating other businesses, as body building was no way to make a living.  He started a mail order business for his books and supplements, had a bricklaying business with fellow bodybuilder Franco Columbu, and started buying Southern California real estate, flipping one building after another.

He also set his sights on movies.  He even got to star in a horrible film called Hercules In New York in 1969. It went nowhere (though it resurfaced years later to embarrass him) and his real start came when director Bob Rafelson cast him as a bodybuilder with soul in the 1976 cult film Stay Hungry.  Arnold, who had taken acting lessons, got good notices. Soon after, he showed his charisma in the documentary Pumping Iron. But Hollywood was still wary. Arnold slimmed down a bit, but he was still freakishly huge--could he be a movie star, or just a curiosity?

Arnold refused smaller parts, figuring he'd be a star or nothing. He got the perfect role in John Milius's Conan The Barbarian.  It was a big-budget film that did well, though a softer sequel ended the series.  But by then he had taken the role in the film that would define him--The Terminator. He was up for the hero (O.J. Simpson was supposed to be the Terminator) but after meeting with writer-director James Cameron, they realized the part for him was the villain.

It was low-budget, but well-reviewed and successful  It's also probably the best thing he did.  Arnold was now established as an action star, and rose to the top with films like Predator and Total Recall. He branched out into comedy, making titles such as Twins and Kindergarten Cop.  He had his biggest hit with Terminator 2 and gave perhaps his best performance in another James Cameron film, True Lies, which combined action and comedy.

Meanwhile, he'd met Maria Shriver of the Kennedy clan. They hit it off and Arnold, a Republican due to his support of the entrepreneurial spirit, started hanging out with America's most famous Democrats.  They marred in 1986.  Arnold dipped his toes in politics, serving as the George H. W. Bush's exercise czar, promoting physical fitness across the nation.  He considered going fully into politics, though Maria objected--she'd been through the whole political game with her father Sargent Shriver.  However, when California Governor Gray Davis was recalled, Arnold decided to run, and in 2003 easily defeated a slate of other names.

Movies have three acts and after bodybuilding and movies, this was Arnold's third.  However, instead of triumph, there was mostly failure. He tried to bring reform to the state but was met with opposition from entrenched interests at every turn.  When he left office he was highly unpopular. Schwarzenegger is quite open in the book about all his problems.

But being a failed governor wasn't the low point.  After he left office, he admitted to fathering a child out of wedlock with his housekeeper. (He didn't even know at first it was his child, but eventually everyone could see the resemblance.) He and his wife separated, and that's where we're at today.

Arnold has returned to films, but it's hard to be an action star in your 60s.  Even the last few films he made before he became governor showed a serious slowdown in box office.  As to his politics, his failure is sad.  He may not be the perfect politician, but he was a Republican willing to compromise with Democrats, which made him unpopular with both parties.

Arnold offers some lessons at the end of his book, but I think the best lesson is his own life.  It's hard to think of a better example of what hard work can get you.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Enlisting Abe

In the Hollywood Reporter noted playwright Tony Kushner, who wrote the screenplay for Steven Spielberg's Lincoln, states our 16th President would be a Democrat today:

The Republican party today has turned into a group of people who don’t actually believe that government is a good thing. You can’t have any connection to Abraham Lincoln if you think that. Lincoln was a lawyer who had a profound belief in the conviction that government was a great blessing for humanity, and certainly wouldn’t have read Ayn Rand. He wouldn’t have had any interest.

Actually, Tony, if Lincoln were around today I think he'd stay away from the theatre.

Lincoln was up against an unprecedented threat, fighting to hold a union together, so he needed a strong central government. In fact, he often went against public will to establish one--sometimes in ways that would get him called a fascist or war criminal by today's left.  That hardly means he believed government was simply a good thing--he certainly didn't think much of the one the Confederates created. (In fact, Lincoln is about his strenuous activities to pass the Thirteenth Amendment, which greatly limited what governments could do.)

But Kushner's not alone.  Historian Doris Kearns Goodwin, who wrote the book the film is based on, also says Lincoln would be a Democrat. Some of the evidence:

[Lincoln] believed government had a role in helping people rise to the level of their talent in their discipline, that sort of equal opportunity role, in that sense he might find the principles of the Democrats congenial.

This is why leftists like Kushner and Kearns Goodwin embarrass themselves when they engage in such speculation.  They not only suggest their understanding of Lincoln is shaky, they show no understanding of today's Republican party.

In addition to being transparently partisan, the game they're playing is pointless.  It's easy enough to claim or disavow any historical figure.  I can show you how Hoover and Nixon were Democrats while FDR and JFK were Republicans without breaking a sweat.  The truth is the parties have changed tremendously over time, as have general political beliefs, so it's hard to compare then and now with any specificity.

For instance, today's Republicans, by Lincoln's standards, believe in a government that is almost unimaginably vast. (Please let's go back to the size of government in Lincoln's day--or even FDR's.) Meanwhile, the way Lincoln talked about religion he might be called a theocrat today, while Republican's views on race relations would make them radical leftists by the standards of just a few generations ago.

So basically the Kushner/Kearns Goodwin arguments breaks down to "Lincoln good. Democrat good.  Lincoln Democrat."

Monkee Business

The Monkees recently played LA. I've already explained why I didn't go see it, but I did read the review in the Hollywood Reporter.  The song list sounded pretty good, with hits but also a fair amount of surprising choices:

Last Train to Clarksville
Papa Gene's Blues
Your Auntie Grizelda
She
Sweet Young Thing
I'm a Believer
(I'm Not Your) Stepping Stone
I Wanna Be Free (video tribute)
You Told Me
Sunny Girlfriend
You Just May Be the One
Mary, Mary
The Girl I Knew Somewhere
For Pete's Sake
Early Morning Blues and Greens
Randy Scouse Git
Daily Nightly
Tapioca Tundra
Goin' Down
The Porpoise Song
As We Go Along
Daddy's Song (video tribute)
Can You Dig It?
Circle Sky
Long Title: Do I Have to Do This All Over Again?
Daydream Believer
What Am I Doing Hangin' Round?

Encore:

Listen to the Band
Pleasant Valley Sunday

Okay, maybe a bit too much psychedelia, and definitely too much Head, but still fun--maybe that weird stuff works better in concert, anyway.

They mostly avoided Davy songs, and when performing "Daydream Believer," they plucked someone from the audience to sing lead.  They also had a couple video tributes to Davy. I only hope the version of "I Wanna Be Free" they showed wasn't the lousy one from their album, but the good one from their pilot:


Saturday, November 17, 2012

Mitch Bitch

Over at the Billy Wilder Theater in Westwood they're holding a Mitchell Leisen festival.  Leisen is a stylish director who turned out quite a few hits at Paramount in the 30s and 40s.  His films are certainly worth reviving.

But the irony here is as a screenwriter Billy Wilder hated Leisen for how the director mangled his scripts. In fact, Wilder claimed one of the reasons he became a director in Hollywood was to protect himself from people like Leisen.  Preston Sturges, who'd also had scripts shot by Leisen, said--and did--the same thing.

PS  The first showing of the series featured what are probably Leisen's two best films--Midnight (script by Billy Wilder and Charles Brackett) and Easy Living (script by Preston Sturges).

In the Los Angeles Times here's how the 7:30 screening was listed:

Midnight Friday: "Easy Living"

I hope not too many people missed these two fine movies.

Mindermast

Peter Cook would have been 75 today.  He died, too young, in 1995.  One of the original members of Beyond The Fringe, he was thought by many to be the fastest, smartest and funniest of all British comedians of our age.






Friday, November 16, 2012

Simple Simon

David West Read's The Performers, starring Henry Winkler and Alicia Silverstone, just opened on Broadway.  It got some decent reviews, but received a pan from Ben Brantley in The New York Times, which is a death sentence.

Here's Brantley:

... Mr. Read’s perky account of innocents in porn land, centered on a film awards presentation in Las Vegas, feels like a throwback to the more discreetly risqué entertainments of 40 and 50 years ago. Though its author is only 29, “The Performers” is like an early Neil Simon farce with an X-rated vocabulary [....] In those days middle-class audiences—alarmed and titillated by the loud groans of a sexual counterculture it couldn’t ignore—found reassurance in stage and screen fare that skirted the wild side but wound up nestled down by the family hearth.

So Neil Simon now stands for unfunny, square comedy?  Which titles are Brantley referring to? Barefoot In The ParkThe Odd CouplePlaza SuiteThe Prisoner Of Second Avenue?  Definitely The Last Of The Red Hot Lovers.

I'm not denying there were corny, old-fashioned, sitcommish comedies on Broadway 50-odd years ago (though not quite so many 40 years ago), but Neil Simon is a bit better than that.  He's a masterful comedy writer who based his work in character and doesn't indulge that much in snickering, even when dealing with direct sexual topics.  It's sad that Brantley feels he can casually refer to Simon's early work--which is some of his best--as dated and beneath the notice of a modern playgoer.

Pyling On

Not long after I saw Galaxy Quest I remember spotting this tall, beautiful woman on the street and asking myself is that the one from the movie? I went up to her and sure enough it was.  I told her what a great job she did. It was Missi Pyle, whose birthday is today. (I'm too gallant to tell you her age.)

Since Galaxy Quest, she seems to pop up in every other movie and TV show I watch. So happy birthday, Missi!





Thursday, November 15, 2012

GAS

The Great American Smokeout used to mean something, but since it started in the 70s, smoking has become so banned and villified that a day dedicated to not smoking seems superfluous. It almost makes you think we should turn things around and make today the one day we enjoy cigarettes.






Everyone's Favorite PC

Petula Clark, who started as a child star, turns 80 today. Unlike most child stars, she became a bigger name as an adult, especially as a singer in the 60s.

She had a bunch of hits, but her biggest, and the one that broke her in America, is "Downtown."



Her other #1 song was "My Love" (which is a rare title that was #1 for two songs. Can you name the artist who did the other version?).


Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Switched

Walter Carlos was born exactly 73 years ago.  By the early 1970s, Walter became Wendy.  But before then, Carlos had created one of the top-selling classical albums of all time, Switched-On Bach. which played the master's music on synthesizer.  Carlos went on to weave the same sort of magic in Stanley Kubrick's A Clockwork Orange.


Chooseday

I'm glad to see there's been a sitcom comeback over the past several years.  For a while it looked like the form may be dead, but now there are plenty.  In fact, looking over last night's schedule, I wonder if there isn't a glut.

From 9 to 10 on NBC:  Go On and The New Normal

From 9 to 10 on ABC:  Happy Endings and Don't Trust The B---- In Apartment 23

From 9 to 10 on Fox:  New Girl and The Mindy Project

Luckily, I don't love any of these shows, so I don't have to make a tough choice,* like when Community went up against The Big Bang Theory.  Still, it's odd that three networks would schedule shows that are essentially reaching for the same demographic.  Someone's gonna get hurt.

*Yes, I know there are ways to watch them when I want, but you can get behind and give up.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

A New Day

It's belatedly come to my attention the USA Today has a new design.  As far as I can tell, it's to make it look more like a regular paper.

Say it ain't so.  USA Today was created to be McPaper, TV in print.  Turning it into just any other paper is pointless.  We've already got other papers.  Even if you want a national paper we've got The New York Times and the Wall Street Journal.

I don't know much about the business part of the journalism business these days, but if USA Today can't make it is a bright, fun, shallow, easy-to-read daily (Monday through Friday), what's the point?

Eddie On The Bottom

Happy birthday, Eddie Calhoun.  He was a great jazz bassist, who worked behind almost everyone.




Monday, November 12, 2012

Giving No Quarter

One of the problems with the AV Club providing quick takes on TV episodes is the reviews are often slipshod. For instance, in the discussion of last night's Family Guy episode we get:

In “Yug Ylimaf,” the show doubles back on the time travel premise—not just going back to the beginning of the show, but going back… backward. [....] “What does that even mean?” Brian asks in anguish of Stewie (who is staring out the window in horror, having uttered the devastating pronouncement). Then Brian looks out the window, and watches as everyone walks, bikes, and drives backwards through the street and, presumably, their lives. “Oh,” he observes. “Now I get it.”

This was not the joke.  Stewie already saw that at the window. When Brian gets there, he sees Mort, the Jewish character, stop, take a quarter out of his pocket, and place it on the sidewalk.  Then he says "Okay, now I get it." Commercial.

That's the kind of offensive gag FG is known for--and there were plenty more, including vomiting gags, poop gags, an attack on Republicans, and a throwaway about how pleasant dining was during segregation. Missing the Brian gag makes one not only lose confidence in the reporting, but also the critic's basic understanding of the show.

Ross Loss

A limited run of Glengarry Glen Ross starring Al Pacino was supposed to open on Broadway last night, but has been postponed till December 8th due to Hurricane Sandy. (There was a notable revival seven years ago, so I'm surprised it's back, though Pacino in a play is always worth producing.)  He also starred in the 1992 screen version, though there he played hot shot real estate salesman Ricky Roma while this time he's essaying the role of over-the-hill Shelly Levene, portrayed by Jack Lemmon in the film.



I'm not sure if the Pulitzer Prize-winning play is a classic, but it sure is fun, for actors and audiences. And I think everyone's favorite moment is the speech that Alec Baldwin gives at the beginning of the film.



Just one problem. It's not in the play.  And as far as I can tell, the new production, also featuring Bobby Cannavale, Richard Schiff and John C. McGinley, does not incorporate the Baldwin character. I suppose Broadway audiences are hip, but when you're paying $100 a ticket, won't some people feel disappointed?

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Anywhere You Wanna Go

Happy birthday, Jim Peterik.  He was a performer and songwriter who wrote the hit "Vehicle" for his band The Ides Of March.  It's got to be one of the most rousing songs ever.

He was still a teenager when he wrote it.  It was about a girlfriend he'd lost.  She still asked him to give her rides, and he got tired of just being her vehicle.  The great thing is they ended up together.


Double Day

It's November 11 (11/11), which can only mean two things--we're going to post two great songs that share the same title:




Saturday, November 10, 2012

Hello, George

I was recently in my favorite store.  I gave the cashier a twenty and she gave me back a bunch of bills.  As I put them in my wallet, I made sure they were all right-side up, face to the front.

I stopped for a second.  What is the point of this?  It makes as much as sense as arranging the coins in your pocket in monetary order.

It's not quite OCD, but I know if I stopped doing it I'd feel less comfortable. And I get the feeling I'm not the only one who does this. (On the other hand, I don't apologize for putting the bills in order of value.  That's efficient.)

Far-Flung Correspondence

Thought I'd keep you abreast of my latest correspondence.  Here's an email I received from an important Los Angeles lawyer:

From: Irving Osser. Esq.
The Osser Law Offices.
3345 Wilshire Blvd Ste 911, Los Angeles, CA 90010
United States.
Email: irvingosser@gmail.com

Good Day.

How are you doing, i hope you are fine. I am A. Irving Osser,Esq. From the United States.

I have a secure business proposal to discuss with you. The amount of money involve is $30 Million US Dollars. I want a straight forward and honest person for this. I will share with you equal part if you can be trusted for this. I am an old man and i have been an ATTORNEY for years. So please i want an honest person for this business deal. I will give to you $15 Million Dollars if you are able to execute this business with me. If you are okay for this. please write directly to this email.

I invite you to visit my website: www.osserlaw.com

Write to me on this Email: ( irvingosser@gmail.com )

Sincerely,

A. Irving Osser,Esq


Sounds interesting, but I just don't trust people who fail to capitalize "I."

Here's something I received from a Mrs. Sheila Johnson:

Dearly Beloved sorry to border you , I am Mrs.Sheila Johnson, wife of the Late Mr. Harold Johnson who worked with shell oil company , and he died after a brief illness ,Presently I have been diagnose of Esophageal cancer and I am in a hospital receiving treatment , the doctor informed me that I have only few day to live,my heart directed me to you so i am picking you to help me use our wealth for charity and to help the less privileged. Please contact me via email : mrs-sheila@gmx.com

Unfortunately, I've been sitting on this email for a few weeks so it's probably too late to do anything. Oh well.

Finally, here's something I got from a Mrs. Franca Lee:

Your funds payment of $1,500,000.00 USD has been approve by UNITED NATIONS (UN)
and you will be receiving $7,600.00 Daily through Western Union. Do send your
Name, Address & Phone Number to Mrs. Franca Lee, via
westernu.moneytransfer@aol.com
Or Call: +6010 3770 946

Yours truly,
Temp Fred
For: Western Union® Payment Center.


Why did the United Nations choose me?  Maybe they looked at my place and decided I needed some disaster relief.  I'd confirm except I lost the address of my local Western Union office so I'd never be able to collect.

Friday, November 09, 2012

Sad To Say

Maybe it's because I've seen so many movies and am too aware of the manipulation, but I'm rarely moved to tears at the cinema.  I'll look around me, see the hankies coming out and register that the film should do pretty well, but I'm not crying myself.

The Champ, which won Wallace Beery an Oscar, is a famous tearjerker from 1931.  It was a little different in that most such films were built around women, but this one is about a down-on-his-luck boxer and his son.  It's hardly a classic, but it works well enough.  It was remade in 1979, starring Jon Voight in the title role along with Faye Dunaway and a young Ricky Schroder.  The critics were not kind.  I saw it on TV and thought it was fairly ridiculous.

But it turns out to be more potent than I suspected.  According to an article in The Smithsonian, the modern Champ is used by researchers studying sadness.  If they need a short clip to find out something about people crying, they use the death scene at the end.  Unfortunately it can't be embedded, but here it is.

The whole thing seems odd to me since I would think a film needs to earn emotion. Good or bad, you need to get to know the characters and the situation until you're invested enough to care.  But apparently the scene itself is enough to get the waterworks flowing. (In fact, maybe it works better if you haven't seen what preceded it).

The scene from The Champ is part of a short list that a couple researchers compiled to elicit certain emotions.  Their paper on how they chose the titles is fascinating.  Here's the list, though I don't think it's too helpful without the actual clips:

Amusement: When Harry Met Sally and Robin Williams Live
Anger: My Bodyguard and Cry Freedom
Contentment: Footage of waves and a beach scene
Disgust: Pink Flamingos and an amputation scene
Fear: The Shining and Silence of the Lambs
Neutral: Abstract shapes and color bars
Sadness: The Champ and Bambi
Surprise: Capricorn One and Sea of Love

Mary In The Morning

It's Mary Travers' birthday.  Her name came last, but I think she made Peter, Paul And Mary.  In the first video she's the one on the left:





Thursday, November 08, 2012

Latin Lover

Predictably, conservative after conservative is explaining how Mitt Romney lost when he could have won so easily if he'd just [fill in the blank].  Well, that's how a close race goes.  All he needed to do was shift the vote slightly in a handful of races.  Sometimes it's easier to lose big so you don't feel so haunted.

Still, there was one thing that many were expecting him to do that he didn't.  And I have to wonder if it would have made that difference. Probably not, but I guess we'll never know.

What we do know is I, along with millions of others, suggested it last year:

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Veepstakes

I don't know who'll be the Republican nominee for President, but let me predict the running mate--Marco Rubio. They'd have to be nuts not to choose him.

He's a young, attractive candidate who seems destined for the national game. His politics are popular with the conservative base but probably won't be too scary for independents. No one, as far as I know, is questioning his competence or intelligence. And he's popular in Florida, a state the Republicans need to win.

Above all, he'll help in the outreach to Latinos. It's very possible the 2012 election will be decided by this group, and if Rubio can bring just a small percentage over to the GOP, it could make the difference.

Maybe the bigger question is will he accept.

Byrned

David Byrne's How Music Works is a bit of a mish mosh.  Unlike the autobiography the publisher no doubt would have preferred, it's about music itself, approaching the subject from ten different directions in ten chapters. A large portion of the book, however, deals with Byrne's own work--not enough for a full-blown bio, but at least enough for fans to get some insight into what he's done.

A central thesis of the book turns a conventional view of music on its head.  We're used to thinking of composers as being inspired, creating their work internally and then, with any luck, having it spread out to the rest of the world. But Byrne starts with the world and works his way in.  Composers react to their culture. Not just the style of music being written, but the venue where it'll be played.  If it's for a salon with a few people listening, the music can be subtle and intricate.  If it's for a communal dance, it'll be rhythmic.  If it's for a crowded bar, it'll be loud.

Then, a little over a century ago, music went from something live to something recorded (more often than not). That changed music quite a bit. For instance, 78s couldn't pack much more than three minutes per side, so that's how long the songs of the day were. There's also the idea that you can keep doing something until you get it right, and once you do, it stays right forever.

But it's not for his speculation on music that I checked out the book. That may have been why Byrne wrote it, but he's probably smart enough to know that's not why most are reading it. Byrne's main claim to fame is as the lead singer and songwriter of Talking Heads, and it's Heads fans who'll be buying the book. So he goes into fair detail about Talking Heads (as well as pre and post TH music), discussing how he developed his music, performed it, wrote it, recorded it, even got paid for it.

One might recognize Byrne's writing style from other ventures--an odd mix of naivete and sophistication. How Music Works is also fairly erudite, and sometimes reasonably witty.  He lets his politics peek through a few times (and they're as dreary as you'd expect), but he doesn't reveal too much about himself personally.  I've heard his former bandmates don't particularly like him, but you're not going to get his side of the argument here.

(Also, for a books that's designed within an inch of its life--from its soft hardcover to the different colors of each chapter title to the lettered illustrations--I was surprised to find a handful of typos.)

So the book is an oddity.  The stuff on music is sometimes fascinating, though if it weren't written by Byrne, I'm not sure how interested the general public would be.  But if you want to get info on Byrne's creative life, this must be the book.

Wednesday, November 07, 2012

I Was Born In A Crossfire Hurricane

Not too much to say about the election, since it turned out pretty much as expected.  Four years ago the people excitedly elected a new President who brought the promise of hope and change.  This time around he (and his programs) were much less popular, and the people essentially exhausted, but his timing was good, and it turns out there are enough bodies out their who'll automatically vote Democrat.



The House stayed in Republican hands, so there may be gridlock ahead.  The Senate is still firmly (if not filibuster-proofedly) in Democrat hands.  The Republicans will have to ask themselves about that. I understand how the base of both parties demands political purity, but how many more seats might the Repubs have won in the last two elections if they ran different, and generally more moderate, candidates?  (Though some would suggest more intelligent candidates.) We'll never know. Though we do know the base will always say, in either party, if we lost it's because we weren't conservative/liberal enough. (And add something like Look at Scott Brown--he was practically a Democrat and he lost.)

So it looks like the Republicans will have to play defense for a while.  They'll also have to pray that five Supreme Court justices stay healthy.  While they're doing that they'll have to figure out their future.  They should ask if things have changed for good, or if this is just another temporary setback--they've been written off before.

Phony Joni

Joni Mitchell turns 69 today.  She's best known as an interpreter of her own material, but other people have done good work as well.





Tuesday, November 06, 2012

Aspects

I promise this is the last time I'll write about the election (until later). While I still thinks we can be fairly confident how it'll turn out, it was even more obvious four years ago.

Anyway, I watched and listened to a bunch of pundits yesterday, right and left, and maybe I'm reading too much into it, but I thought the Democrats looked and sounded confident while the Republicans seemed more on the defensive.  I'm not saying the latter didn't talk a good game, but it generally seemed more hollow, or at least more qualified, than when the Democrats did it. No matter, we'll know the results soon enough.

Some Republicans even seemed ready to start recriminations, listing the mistakes Romney made--usually related to the idea that he played defense in the last few weeks. (Some also started blaming the media, though that's a separate issue.)

There was also a general feeling on the right that Hurricane Sandy is a central factor in Obama's bounce, while some on the left wanted to discount the theory, saying Obama was coming back anyway.  I guess if Obama wins in a reasonably close battle, we'll never know if it made the difference.  Some Republicans added that things are still awful in the wake of Sandy, and if there were another few days before the election, the public would turn completely on the issue.  Even if true, all I can say is timing is everything.

Which brings me to the right's last big hope.  It's a thin reed, but I guess they'll take what they can get.  They claim after last week, where Obama had a big rebound, there's now a counter-rebound.  Maybe not huge, but the voters are moving back to Romney.  This is possible though, from my view of the latest polling, it's so small it may not even exist.

So it's now up to the voters (many of whom have already voted).  And there are probably still millions who haven't decided yet.  Imagine--closing the curtain and still not knowing which way you're going.

When you read this, I may be at my polling place, where I know my vote for President (and Senator) can't possibly count.  But hey, at least we've got some wacky propositions to vote against.

Sing It With An Accent

Britain's a weird place.  So like us, yet so different. Anyway, that's what I thought when the Official Charts Company, in Britain, celebrated its 60th anniversary by listed the top musical acts of all time.

To no one's surprise, the Beatles, with 22.1 million in combined sales, came out on top, in any category.  Behind them, in top groups, was Queen. A bit of a surprise, I'd have to say.  After them, ABBA (huge throughout Europe), the Rolling Stones (that's more like it), and Oasis, another flower that bloomed a lot bigger across the pond.

For male artists, Elvis was #1, and just below the Beatles in overall sales.  Almost tied with Elvis (just 200,000 units behind) is Cliff Richard, who's been big forever in England, but means nothing in America.  Then comes Michael Jackson, Elton John and David Bowie.

For female artists, Madonna is first.  Rihanna, surprisingly, is second.  She's young enough that she may be #1 yet.  Then comes Kylie Minogue, another odd taste, followed by Whitney Houston and Lady Gaga. All fairly modern names compared to the other lists.

When it comes to top singles, things get even weirder.  Let's look the top eleven.

11.  "Mary's Boy Child/Oh My Lord" by Boney M.  Christmas songs do well, but Boney M?

10.  "Love Is All Around" by Wet Wet Wet.  Like the song, but this version?

9.  "Unchained Melody/(There'll Be Bluebirdes Over) The White Cliffs Of Dover" by Robson Green & Jerome Flynn. Once again, who?

8.  "She Loves You" by the Beatles. Finally, a great song by a great act. But note this is the Beatles' biggest seller--not "Hey Jude" or "I Want To Hold Your Hand" (and "Yesterday" wasn't even released as a single there in the 60s).

7.  "Relax" by Frankie Goes To Hollywood.  A silly (if fun) song by a silly band.  Hardly top ten material.

6.  "Rivers Of Babylon/Brown Girl In The Ring" by Boney M.  Who can get enough Boney M. Shocking they're not outselling the Beatles.

5.  "You're The One That I Want" by John Travolta & Olivia Newton-John (whose "Summer Nights" is 20th on the list).  Grease obviouly looms large there.

4.  "Mull Of Kintyre/Girl's School" by Wings.  Yep, this sentimental Paul McCartney tune, which means less then nothing in America, is a bigger seller than anything by the Beatles.

3.  "Bohemian Rhapsody" by Queen.  So now we see why Queen was so big. (And why wouldn't Queen be big in a country with royalty?)

2.  "Do They Know It's Christmas?" by Band Aid.  The song is bad enough, but why is it huge while "We Are The World" doesn't even register?

1.  "Something About The Way You Look Tonight/Candle In The Wind" by Elton John.  This is really more a keepsake to commemorate Princess Di, but it's still a weird song to top the list.

Monday, November 05, 2012

Was It Too Much To Ask For?

All I wanted was an exciting election night.  Three weeks ago it looked like we might have one.  But with the polls in the last week moving in the direction of Obama--who was already leading--Romney doesn't seem to have much of a chance.

Obama looks to be 40 to 50 Electoral College votes ahead. In Ohio, Obama is ahead on average by around 3%.  If it were half that I'd say it's too close to call, but right now it's hard to see how Romney takes this state.

That would pretty much be enough to win it for Obama, but he's also recently gone into slight leads in New Hampshire and Colorado, and holds solid leads in Iowa and Nevada, and even bigger ones in Michigan, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Minnestoa.

It's true Romney has a decent chance of taking Florida, North Carolina and Virginia, but all that does is allow him to knock on the door. On the other hand, if he doesn't take this trio it's probably over.

So if you're an Obama fan, you can rest easier.  If you're a Romney fan, you can fret.  And if you want some excitement, watch Homeland.

PS  Someone insisted I at least mention the Republican argument as to why the polls are wrong. Without going into any numbers, the idea is that in 2008 Democrats were elated and Republicans were depressed, so the D's voted in much higher numbers than usual and the R's in lower numbers.  Furthermore, in the last four years, many people who took a chance on Obama have become disenchanted and are now voting against him. Pollsters, however, are still basing their models too much on old turnout. (Some Republicans also claim they've seen the early voting numbers which confirm their claims, though I'd like to know where they get their data since no one else seems to agree.)

There is some truth to all this. I can tell you right now Obama won't win as overwhelmingly as he did against McCain.  But you've got to look at the numbers.  Pollsters are aware of the general situation and aren't trying to get it wrong.  If the majority of polls show Obama taking a state by a solid margin, the odds are pretty good he will.

He Is Spartacus

Spartacus is hardly a classic, but as movie spectacles go, it's better than most.  And Kirk Douglas's book on the making of the film is better than most such works as well.

It's called I Am Spartacus!: Making A Film, Breaking The Blacklist.  It's the subtitle that had me scared. I thought oh great, another book about HUAC and its fallout in Hollywood. I must've read that story a hundred times. But Kirk Douglas was right in the middle of it, and can tell it on a personal level.

Actually, considering all the problems it had, it's amazing Spartacus the film made it across the finish line.  The set-up is McCarthyism, and unfriendly witnesses being put in jail.  Two of them were author Howard Fast and screenwriter Dalton Trumbo.  Fast, who disavowed communism after Stalin's crimes came to light, was still untouchable, so when he decided to write a novel about a slave revolt in ancient Rome he had to print the books himself.  It still became a success.

Kirk Douglas, who had become a big star while all this was happening (and wasn't touched by the witch hunts, though he had to go along with loyalty oaths and the like), started his own company, Bryna.  He wanted to produce a film version of the novel, but Howard Fast insisted on writing the screenplay.  It was deadly dull so Douglas called on Trumbo--a fast, talented but still blacklisted writer--to come up with something fast that wasn't Fast.

That Trumbo had to work quickly and stay hidden was only a minor problem on the production.  Other problems:  Another studio was planning a Spartacus film, and had the jump on Douglas.  Douglas had trouble getting Laurence Olivier (whom he'd just worked with on The Devil's Disciple) to appear if he wasn't the lead.  Charles Laughton was unhappy about almost everything.  Friend Tony Curtis kept bothering him for a role (partly to work off his contract at Universal).  And Douglas couldn't find a leading lady.  He settled on a beautiful German actress, Sabina Bethman, who could barely speak English.

Then there was the matter of finding a director.  The studio forced Anthony Mann on Douglas, but it soon became apparent during production he wasn't working out.  They paid him off and Douglas brought in a personal favorite, Stanley Kubrick, who had directed him in Paths Of Glory.  Kubrick was not a major director yet, but, in his cold, heartless way, he took over--even though the veteran crew couldn't stand him. Kubrick didn't care.  He didn't care what others thought as long as he was in control.  He fired Sabina Bethman immediately, and she was replaced with Jean Simmons.  The only challenge he couldn't ignore was star Douglas, who brought him in but still fought with him. (Douglas the old man looks back at himself a few times in the book and wonders why he was so angry all the time.)

Then Trumbo threatened to quit.  He'd worked hard on the screenplay, but was tired of Peter Ustinov writing his own scenes.  Douglas convinced Trumbo to stay, and promised, when the film came out, he'd let Trumbo use his own name, which would effecitvely end the blacklist.

When the top people watched the rough cut they were disheartened. It wasn't the big film they wanted.  Trumbo wrote a lengthy memo explaining how to fix it, while Kubrick convinced Douglas and Universal to spend even more to get the big battle scenes they needed.  Even though the film's budget had tripled--and it wasn't cheap to begin with--it was a solid hit, and is still respected to this day. (It was disavowed by Kubrick, however, who was a control freak and couldn't bare to take credit for anything where he wasn't completely in charge from the start.)

The film is fun, and the English actors, whose parts were beefed up to lure them in, are especially good.  And while it has size, it also has human dimensions.  Douglas was never at his best in historical roles, but he has his moments here, and mostly pulls off the part. He worked like crazy to get it done, so I'm sure he's glad it's one of the films for which he'll be remembered.

PS.  Douglas has an epilogue where he speaks to us today.  It's fine, though he attacks modern-day "demagogues" like Rush Limbaugh.  Really?  Is he as bad as the red-baiters in the 50s who prevented people from working? Today, being liked by Rush Limbaugh would make it tough to work in Hollywood. In fact, someone should tell Douglas that Limbaugh was prevented from being part owner of an NFL team because of his politics.  How's that for blacklisting?

Sunday, November 04, 2012

Leftover Vanity Plates Of The Month

On a Volvo: I[heart symbol]AXELS.  At first I thought it was a misspelling of "axle," but now I think this person's a figure skater.

2 HO APT.  Don't really know what it is, but you gotta love the idea of a two whore apartment.

CWY METS.  Don't know the first half, but definitely a NY Mets fan based on the bumper sticker I saw.

1SRVIVR.  This is LA, so maybe the driver was on the show.

PHRISKY:  Phatuous.

Heavy Beats

Happy birthday, Damon Wimbley, better known as Kool Rock-ski.  He was one of the Fat Boys, a high-caloric rap trio in the 80s.



Saturday, November 03, 2012

Not A Believer

The Monkees reunion tour is passing through LA soon.  I don't think I'll see it.

I like the Monkees.  Who doesn't (except for a few aging hippies who still think they're manufactured while everyone else has gotten over it)? But really, what's the point without Davy Jones?  When he died earlier this year, that was the end of the band.  Without him there's something essential missing.  I could see them without Peter Tork, but Davy sang lead on a bunch of songs and was the cute one.  (Not to mention his tambourine playing.)

The irony is they toured for years without Mike Nesmith, who just wasn't interested--and was independently wealthy, having inherited his mom's liqued paper fortune.  So for years, decades really, fans were denied a true reunion when it would have been easy.  Now that it's impossible, suddenly Mike wants to tour.  Thanks a lot.

My main question is will they be doing songs associated with Davy, like "Daydream Believer"?  And who will sing lead?  Better not be Mike.

The Full Facts or Tootie Duty

I just caught this week's Don't Trust The B---- In Apartment 3. (Yeah, I watch it.) It was their Halloween episode.  The main plot had Chloe--the B of the title--picking someone to ruin each Halloween. In this case, she had a normal relationship with some obnoxious guy and planned to dump him. To make it worse, she was going to walk out on him while the theme from Facts Of Life was playing in the background, just like it did when his mother left.

Here's the weird thing.  I watched with the CC on, and while the Facts Of Life song was playing...



...we read on the CC...

What ever happened to predictability?
The milkman, the paperboy, evening TV.


Everywhere you look , everywhere you go (there's a heart).
There's a heart
A hand to hold onto.


Everywhere you look , everywhere you go.
There's a face
Of somebody who needs you.

 
Eveywhere you look,
When you're lost out there and you're all alone,
A light is waiting to carry you home,
Everywhere you look.
Everywhere you look.


It's the Full House theme.

I watched the scene again, and noticed when they talked about the Facts Of Life, their lips were actually saying Full House.

So I guess the producers planned to use Full House--a fellow ABC show--but couldn't get permission, so they had to change to a show with a name that could be reasonably lip-synced to Full House, even if it was originally on NBC.

Maybe that's why I use the CC--never know when you're going to catch them at something.

Friday, November 02, 2012

Wreck-It Reilly

Wreck-It Ralph opens today.  Driving by a billboard that featured the four lead characters I noticed something a bit different about this film. At least I can't recall it ever being done before.

Look at the main characters, voiced by John C. Reilly, Sarah Silverman, Jack McBrayer and Jane Lynch.  Each of the visualizations seems to be based, if somewhat vaguely, on the person speaking the words.

It's sort of interesting, if a bit distracting.  The idea is generally to create a new character, not an outrgrowth of what the actor already is. (In fact, in the old days, most voice talent wasn't known, so when they created a character, you weren't thinking of them.)  The movie's gotten good reviews and is expected to do well, but I don't think anyone will be turning out to see, for example, a heroic cartoon version of Jane Lynch.

Map Quest

Here we are at the weekend before the election.  It's possible there'll be a slight shift in voter sentiment by Tuesday--and with a close race, a slight shift is all you need--but right now it looks like President Obama is going to be reelected. In fact, the most recent polls suggest he's stabilizing his support, or perhaps increasing it. (Some say Hurricane Sandy helped, as it allowed him to look like a powerful, committed leader in a non-controversial way while shoving a lot of other stuff off the front page.  They also point to growing consumer confidence.)

I'm not saying it's a done deal, or even that it'll be that surprising if Romney takes it, but I can't ignore the polls.  Right now, the two men are essentially tied in the nationwide popular vote, but if each takes the states he's leading in, Obama will win by a decent if not overwhelming margin in the Electoral College.

There are paths for Romney to get 270 Electoral votes, but not nearly as many as for Obama. (You can play along on this interactive map.) First, he pretty much has to win Virginia, Florida and North Carolina.  He's got a decent chance at doing that, though it's hardly guaranteed.  Assuming he takes them--and all the other states he's leading in--he'd still only have 248 Electoral votes, 22 short of victory (21 short of a tie!).  Which means he'll have to take some states where Obama is presently leading.

Which ones? The state to watch, as just about everyone knows, is Ohio.  Obama is consistently up over 2 percentage points there in polls.  But if Romney can somehow manage it, he'd only be 4 Electoral votes away from victory, and thus would only need another small swing state--New Hampshire, Iowa, Nevada or Colorado.

On the other hand, if he loses Ohio, there's not much hope.  He'd have to take all four swing states mentioned above, or take a few of them along with a surprise state such as Michigan or Wisconsin.  (Minnesota and Pennsylvania seem like longshots.)

There are some pundits confident Romney will win, but they all seem to be Republicans.  I'm not saying that makes them wrong, but it's easy to succumb to false hope, or boosterism.  Some of them note that Obama isn't doing nearly so well in early voting as he was four years ago (and why do we know that?).  It's not a bad argument, but still, no one expects Obama to do as well as he did last time, they just expect him to win--he beat John McCain by 7% and nine-and-a-half million votes, so he can drop a fair amount and still finish first.

Aside from last-second shifts, there is one big unknown.  No matter how good the pollsters are, they still have to base their results on expected turnout, and no one knows how that'll work.  Once again, all it takes is for them to be wrong by a percentage point or two and all bets are off.

Thursday, November 01, 2012

Vanity Plates Of The Month

On an Infiniti I saw LBRTY ST.  Hey buddy, if you want to ride down Libert Street buy American!

SAVMOR1.  It wasn't a cheap car, so maybe he figures quality sves you in the long run.

HOW2B1.  Be one what?

LUV2L[heart symbol]V.  You're working too hard at it.

OHICOOK.  I wouldn't know what this means if the car also didn't have on it elsewhere Ojai Cook.

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