Friday, July 31, 2015

The Patty Smyth Story.

I just picked up Patti Smith: America's Punk Rock Rhapsodist (quite a mouthful) by Eric Wendell.  It's part of the Tempo series of introductory books on modern musicians, including Dylan, Springsteen, Paul Simon and Bon Jovi (?).  I support the concept, but the first chapter is not giving me confidence.

On Page 5, we get this: "Big Rock Candy Mountain" was Smith's first 45; however, it was not the first single that she purchased.

I can't make head or tail of this.  A 45 is a single, and earlier on the same page Wendell writes Patti purchased "Big Rock Candy Mountain," so it wasn't given to her. If Wendell knows the first single she bought, he should say so--if not, don't bring it up.  Or go ahead and pretend you know, just don't claim a 45 isn't a single.

Page 9:  [Her mother] introduced Patti to vocal jazz singers such as Chris Connor and June Christy...

Late in the same paragraph, quoting Patti from an interview on NPR:  When I was a teenager, I dreamed of being [...] a jazz singer like June Christie or Chris Connor...

1)  So I guess we know where he got the original bit of information, since he gives us the source three sentences later.

2)  There was a jazz singer named June Christy, but no one, as far as I can tell, named June Christie, so either this is a mistake, or Patti spells it wrong when she says it in interviews.

3)  "Vocal jazz singers"?  Are there another kind?

I'm not sure if I can take a whole book of this.

PS I read a bit further and on page 26:  [Playing for several weeks at an important club] proved to be detrimental in the group's forming an eternal dialogue with one another.

I'll ignore the overheated rhetoric and merely note from context I'm pretty sure he means "instrumental" and not "detrimental."

PPS  Page 33:  [Patti] wanted a producer who would have been more of a technician than [John] Cale's made genius persona.

Unless Cale was in the mob, I think Wendell means "mad genius persona."

PPPS Page 36:  [Patti's first album] Horses ends with the track "Land"...

Page 37:  [Horses'] closing track is the song "Elegie"...

Thursday, July 30, 2015

What is it with guys named Andrew?

So Breitbart isn't dead, after all.

Nine More Undercover Videos Ready To Drop On Planned Parenthood

Wicked smart. (Though it was a mistake to reveal how many.)

Dick's Picks

I just read Richard Schickel's Keepers: The Greatest Films--and Personal Favorites--of a Moviegoing Lifetime.  Schickel has spent a lifetime reviewing films, as well as writing more than twenty books and producing numerous documentaries on various cinematic subjects.  So his opinions count for something.

But while the book is pleasant enough, it tends to read as the ramblings of an old man--it almost seems like a transcript of a conversation one might have with him as he flits from one film to another.  Though his chapters generally move in chronological order, he rarely spends more than a paragraph or two on his favorites, almost never going more than two pages on any single title.  So we tend to get little more than a quick opinion or plot summary, sometimes with an autobiographical note about how he first saw the film, or met the director.  He's done much better when he's delved into subjects.

He starts with the silent era, and I was startled by one pronouncement so much I almost stopped reading: he felt the Marx Brothers were mostly forgotten. (Don't ask me why he brings them up while discussing silent comedy.) He doesn't bother to mention any particular film of theirs, saying they don't quite live up to their reputation.  Quite a claim regarding a group that not only still lives on, but manages to make audiences laugh 85 years after they started in film.  This turns out to be only the first of many claims about films' reputations that I found questionable. 

Meanwhile, for his favorite Chaplin he picks The Circus.  Really?  The least highly regarded of Chaplin's major silent features?  (I've read Schickel on Chaplin before so I wasn't entirely surprised.)  Then he chooses The Navigator as his favorite Keaton--the film I consider to be Buster's most overrated.

In general, though, Schickel mostly picks good films (as you'd expect, I suppose) in his trip down memory lane.  Certain eras he seems to like more than others--he considered the mid to late 30s perhaps the best Hollywood has to offer, for instance.  But he lists titles from every decade and chooses from every genre.  He does however, favor Hollywood over foreign titles, and discusses the popular more than the arty.

Like someone rambling, he makes many mistakes. To mention a few: He twice refers to the character Filiba in Trouble In Paradise as Filibia; he claims Sullivan's Travels, the fourth film Preston Sturges directed at Paramount, is only the second to feature William Demarest, when in fact Demarest appears in all eight of Sturges' Paramount films; and for some reason, he believes Harold Arlen wrote the music for Pinocchio.  Where was the editor?  He also has some questionable information. He notes, for example, that a Woody Allen associate assures him all of Woody's films make money.  Sounds questionable to me, but Schickel simply accepts it and passes it along.

Overall it's an enjoyable trip, conjuring up many of the biggest stars and directors films have offered in the past century.  It's far from Schickel's best, but it does offer a fair overview of his life as a filmgoer.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Rock band names

Furious naked sunbathers

That's an offal list

More than 1,000 experts in the field of artificial intelligence [signed] an open letter [that] paints a stark scenario of future conflicts akin to something from the film franchise Terminator.

Well, I don't know what Kool Aid those guys are drinking, but I for one an willing to support our new overlords in every way they know how.

Gold Dust Woman

There are a fair number of books about Fleetwood Mac.  The most recent, as far as I can tell, is Stevie Nicks: Visions, Dreams & Rumors by Zoi Howe.  I read it, mostly to find out about her early years, up through the first couple of albums with the band that made her famous.

It's an odd story, in its way.  Born in 1948, she had a natural talent, not to mention looks.  She met her future partner Lindsey Buckingham when still in high school.  A few years later, she and he were part of a band called Fritz, achieving a certain amount of success in the late 60s/early 70s.  Eventually they realized (because others told them) they had the talent to make it on their own.

They got a record deal and put out on album in 1973.  It wasn't a hit, but insiders knew they had something.  These were the years of struggle.  Stevie was the breadwinner, doing jobs such as being a restaurant hostess, while Lindsey stayed home, perfecting his musical style.  He eventually went on tour playing guitar and doing vocals with Don Everly of the Everly Brothers.  Meanwhile, Stevie worked on her songs.

But for all their talent, they probably weren't going to be famous.  Until they were noticed by Mick Fleetwood.  The British band Fleetwood Mac had been around for years, and had seen a fair amount of success--perhaps not the absolute top, but degrees about Buckingham and Nicks.  There was much internal dissension, however, most recently with band member Bob Welch quitting and suing the others.  But the band, at the time just Mick with other original member John McVie and his wife Christine, were determined to go on.  Mick wanted Buckingham, but it was understood if he were hired, Stevie had to come along as well.

Ironically, though Mick and John were where the band's name came from, it was their three singers and songwriters, Stevie, Lindsey and Christine, who'd take them to new heights.  And, when you get down to it, Stevie--the one who didn't play an instrument--was probably the most important, both for image and music.

The first album this new grouping made, Fleetwood Mac, was the band's tenth.  (The band's first album was also called Fleetwood Mac, and this was like a rebirth.) None of their albums had been top ten, and most didn't even go gold, but this went to #1 and went multi-platinum.  Their next album two years later, Rumours, was even bigger, going diamond which is platinum times ten.

Of course, along with the success came a lot of drugs--cocaine especially--and strained relationships.  Some of their songs were about how painful things were--and the other had to sing backup.  (In fact, Rumours got its title from all the questions about who was sleeping with whom.) There were plenty more hit albums and singles to come, by both the band and Stevie solo--including her #1, multi-platinum Bella Donna--but it was all done when they were superstars. It was the out-of-nowhere rise of the band that was so surprising.

Let's look at those first two albums. Fleetwood Mac has one fine song after another.  Christine McVie creates standards such as "Over My Head" and "Say You Love Me."  Lindsey Buckingham introduces "Monday Morning." But Stevie take the honors with "Landslide" and especially "Rhiannon," the highlight of many a concert and practically her theme song.

Next came Rumours, and from Christine we hear "Don't Stop" and "You Make Loving Fun."  From Lindsey "Second Hand News" and "Go Your Own Way." Stevie supplies not only "I Don't Want To Know" and "Gold Dust Woman," but once again provides the extra special number that puts it over the top, "Dreams"--the band's only #1 single in America.

Future hits from Stevie include "Sara," "Gypsy," and solo numbers like "Edge Of Seventeen."  Today, in her late 60s, she's still out there, performing.  And if Mick hadn't asked her and her boyfriend to join the group, maybe none of it would have happened.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Haven't I been saying this?

Jeb should run as a Dem. He's perfect for it. Heck, I wouldn't even mind if he were elected, as a Dem. Not sure it could save the country at this point, but it could save their party, assuming the country survives.

How about we put them at the judge's house?


So many easy, obvious things we could do if we had an American as president.

Repatriate them immediately over the border.

Improve their facilities, paid for by defunding the judge's court.

But since we don't, let's give them drivers licenses and register them to vote--really, it's a human right, isn't it?--and move them to, say, Ohio or North Carolina.

Ever Since Adam

Here's a piece in the Hollywood Reporter by John DeFore about how after Pixels Adam Sandler is finished.  Okay, it's been pretty clear his charmed career is in trouble.  But right off the bat we get this:

Adam Sandler's name on a film was never a guarantee of yuks or bucks, but once upon a time [...] it inspired more hope than dread.

I don't remember a time when Sandler's name on a movie inspired hope, but that's about taste.  On the other hand, how can a writer in one of the top show biz periodicals claim the Sandler name wasn't a guarantee of bucks?  For over a decade he was the most consistent earner of any comedy star, perhaps of any movie star.  He would occasionally try something different, and those films generally weren't big, but as long as he made an "Adam Sandler" film--which he not only starred in, but often wrote or produced--it was the surest bet in Hollywood.

Let's review his career.  After a couple of misfires, he established himself in the mid-90s with a couple of low-budget minor hits, Billy Madison and Happy Gilmore.  Then, in 1998, he had a solid hit, The Wedding Singer, which grossed $80 million (all figures domestic).  From this point on, he was unstoppable.

His next two films, The Waterboy and Big Daddy, in 1998 and 1999, were huge, both grossing over $160 million.  And while his budgets were inching up, they were still relatively low. However, his next film was a rare misfire, Little Nicky.  It grossed just under $40 million, while it was Sandler's first truly big budget, at over $80 million.

He quickly regained his footing, though, and from 2002 to 2011, every single "Adam Sandler" film made over $100 million: Mr. Deeds, Anger Management, 50 First Dates, The Longest Yard, Click, I Now Pronounce You Chuck And Larry, You Don't Mess With The Zohan, Bedtime Stories, Grown Ups and Just Go With It.  They had to gross a lot, because Sandler, being a sure thing, demanded a lot of money, and his budgets were now averaging around $80 million.

Meanwhile, every now and then he tried to stretch, and in every case the audience rejected the attempt. Punch-Drunk Love, Spanglish, Reign Over Me--none of them made even half of what an "Adam Sandler" film made.  Even when he teamed up with hot comedy director Judd Apatow and co-starred with Seth Rogen in Funny People the result was a financial fizzle.

But that was okay. It was the "Adam Sandler" films that paid the bills.  In recent years, though, even they've proved to be iffy propositions.  Jack And Jill in 2011 made $74 million.  That's My Boy in 2012 made half as much.  For big-budget comedies, these numbers aren't acceptable.  He had a bit of a comeback in 2013 with Grown Ups 2, but that was a sequel, pre-sold, and was a distinct fall-off from the first Grown Ups.

Last year he reteamed with Drew Barrymore in Blended. Their previous two films, The Wedding Singer and 50 First Dates, were hits, but this one grossed only $46 million.  It's worth noting, however, that the budget was only $40 million, half of a normal Sandler budget. Clearly Hollywood had caught on, and wasn't going to pay as much for his tarnished brand.

Pixels probably sounded like a good idea, but apparently (based on the critics--I haven't seen it) it doesn't deliver, and looks like it'll be another disappointment.  So perhaps his career has turned a corner.  Pretty much every film comedian eventually runs out of steam as the audience gets tired of his antics and moves on to the latest thing.  But even if Sandler never has another hit, he's had one of the biggest careers of any clown ever.

PS  Speaking of entertainment writers with bad math skills, look at Pete Hammond on the BBC list of top American films:

In a comprehensive new poll of the 100 Greatest American Films of all time, released this week by BBC Culture, only a measly 12 Academy Award winning Best Pictures turn up at all, and only 8 of them in the top 75.

Is he kidding?  12 out of 100 is 8%, a whopping huge number.  The ratio of all American films (not even including unknown indies) to Best Picture winners is what--a 100 to 1, a 1000 to 1?  And yet they managed to take one out of eight slots available.  And quite a few others on the list were nominated for Best Picture, or won an Academy Award in a different category.  Also, a few of the films on the list, like Birth Of A Nation and The Gold Rush, were released before the Oscars were given out, and might have won the top award if given a chance.

If I heard 12 out of the top 100 of an all-time list won the Best Picture Oscar, my first reaction would be what a rotten list that so ridiculously favors Hollywood favorites.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Antswers

One thing I learned from pitching movies--you can't predict what problems people will have.  A plot hole you fear is gaping gets nary a mention, while the producer doesn't buy something you thought was bulletproof.

This is probably even more true when you're in the realm of sci-fi, fantasy and action films, where normal rules don't necessarily apply, so who knows what people will or won't buy? For instance, I thought many plot points in Jurassic World were ridiculous.  One example--they can't find the new super-duper dinosaur in his pen, so they figure he's escaped and go inside.  It turns out he's still in there, and he then escapes once they open the door. Only after that do they turn on his tracker.  Here's an idea--you think he's not in the pen, turn on the tracker immediately.  But it didn't matter to the audience, apparently, who made the film one of the biggest hits of all time.

(I'm also reminded of how I wrote about Siskel and Ebert's trouble with Return Of The Jedi:

I recall Siskel and Ebert complaining about the speeder bike chase through the forest of Endor in Return Of The Jedi.  "Why don't they fly above the trees?" they asked.  Well, maybe the speeder bikes don't move vertically that well.  Maybe it was a way of getting away from people chasing you.  Maybe the branches and leaves are too thick to allow it.  Maybe the air on the moon of Endor gets very thin a few hundred feet up so repulsorlift engines don't work.  Maybe a hundred other reasons.  Yet this is where Siskel and Ebert decided to take a stand--apparently they're experts on the physics of speeder bikes, the flora of Endor and the psychology of Imperial Stormtroopers )

Yet I was surprised to read a piece by Tasha Robinson at the AV Club about how a lot of Ant-Man didn't make sense--worse than in other Marvel movies.  Odd. I not only enjoyed the film, but also felt it had a better, tighter plot than usual for a superhero movie.  So let me try to answer Robinson's questions.  Spoilers ahead, of course.

Why would S.H.I.E.L.D. house its top-secret medical storage facility, where Captain America is meant to be protected from the modern world after his hibernation, in the middle of Times Square, instead of in some remote country hideaway?

This is a preliminary question, and not hard to answer.  Supervillains can get to you anywhere (if they know where you are), and regular citizens can't get past your security, so Times Square is as good a place as any. In fact, it's better, since it's near other people and places you might need, including top-notch doctors and medical equipment.

Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) was reportedly watching Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) for a while, long enough to judge his character and superhero aptitude. So maybe he could predict that Scott was desperate enough to see his daughter that he would follow the rumor of a big score far enough to break into Hank’s house and his safe. But how in the world could he predict that Scott would a) steal what looked like a crumpled old Halloween costume, b) choose to put the thing on, and c) activate it?

He couldn't be sure, but Lang was the curious type, and finding nothing else in such a heavily guarded safe would make him wonder.  And if he didn't put it on, no big deal. The main thing was showing he was resourceful enough to break in to begin with. Even if he left the costume behind, that would have been enough for Pym to go visit Lang and explain the deal to him.  In fact, putting on the costume almost put a crimp in Pym's plan and things might have gone more smoothly if Lang had just left things alone.  (It's also possible Pym was looking at other candidates and Lang was the first to pass the test.)

When Scott first activates the suit, shrinks, and winds up in a Honey, I Shrunk The Kids nightmare, why doesn’t he just press the button on the glove again?

Lang, just being shrunk for the first time, is going through a horrifying moment. He would be in shock, or close to it, not thinking straight, so don't expect his actions to make sense. But even if he completely had his wits about him, the last thing he'd do is press the button on the glove again, since that's what got him in trouble to begin with. (And I thought you didn't press that button again, you press a different button.)

For that matter, why doesn’t it get accidentally mashed when he’s crashing into everything on the planet?

If "it" is the suit, it's built to withstand the pressure. If "it" is Lang, he's got the strength of a man but the weight of an ant, so he can take a lot.

Or if Robinson is claiming why isn't the button pushed when he gets bumped all over, there'd have to be a built in mechanism to make sure only a finger pressing the button would work or the suit would be dangerous in battle.

What’s up with the ungodly hideous stuffed rabbit-thing Scott gives his daughter Cassie? It’s sweet that she loves it because it came from him, but… Did he buy it for her because she’s actually a fan of horror-movie-worthy stuffed animals (that speak with the voice of Tom “SpongeBob” Kenny), or is he just a really clueless dad?

This shows he's a really good dad. We find out immediately that his daughter loves ugly-looking stuff.  It's a thing between them.  How did Robinson miss this?

What exactly is the MacGuffin that Scott has to fetch from the new Avengers HQ, leading to the fight with Falcon?

That's what it is--a MacGuffin that will help him in future travails.  What's the problem?

For that matter, when he still had control of his company, why didn’t he delete his research instead of “burying” it where Darren could find it? He knew it was dangerous and that he didn’t want anyone getting their hands on it, but he had enough control to obscure it, but not to get rid of it, or enlist his former staff to get rid of it?

Whatever Pym did, Darren did not have anywhere near enough information to rebuild it. There was old evidence of what Pym did available to anyone who was looking (i.e., his old adventures), but it took Darren years to rebuild the technolgy.

How much did Baskin-Robbins pay for the product placement here, not just in terms of having major scenes set in a Baskin-Robbins outlet, but to get everyone to repeat “Baskin-Robbins” over and over, while treating the company like a total badass?

The Baskin-Robbins stuff was great.  Whether or not the movie was paid for it, I don't care. I often complain films don't have enough real products, and we end up in this generic world.  If all the B-R gags were instead about some made-up ice cream place, they wouldn't have worked.

These are petty concerns, though. Here are some bigger ones you could walk a regular sized Ant-Man through: Why doesn’t Hope know what happened to her mother?

Because it was (and is still, as it's ongoing) a traumatic experience for Hank. He has trouble talking about it, and was trying to spare his daughter.

Why doesn’t Scott even ask about the downsides of the Ant Man suit?

This is Scott's chance to turn his life around. He realizes it's dangerous, but is willing to be the hero after years of being the bad guy.

How does a helmet protect Scott from the Pym Particle, when his brain inside the helmet is being atomically altered along with the rest of him?

So Robinson is an expert on how Pym Particles work?  I have to assume the helmet protects against what it has to protect again, while not stopping the things it's not needed to stop. If you can buy shrinking, you can certainly buy this.

“As long as I am alive, nobody will ever get that formula.” Brave words from Hank Pym, but he’s dealing with Hydra, which is not known for being gentle with recalcitrants, or respectful of ultimatums.

I assume Pym believes he won't give up the formula, and that's that.  What else should he do, kill himself?

How the hell did Janet or Scott disarm machinery while subatomic and shrinking into a quantum world?

I hadn't thought about this, and it's a good point.  I assume while you're shrinking you get through and cause damage, and even while subatomic you mess with stuff so the machinery doesn't work.

Why don’t the shrink/grow shurikens shrink/grow things infinitely? They don’t have belt regulators, which we’re told is the only reason a person in the suit doesn’t shrink forever. For that matter, why, when Scott is subatomic and wants to grow back to regular size, does he shove one of those shurikens into his belt-regulator spot as if they’re plug-and-play devices, when they’re actually impact weapons?

Once again, because that's how Pym built them.

When Scott is in a sub-sub-subatomic space “where time and space are meaningless,” how can he still hear his daughter yelling for him as if they were in the same space?

I thought about this when it was happening, and I just figured either he heard her as he was shrinking, and it echoed in his mind, or, knowing he was fighting for her, heard her in his imagination.

Hope this clears everything up. Any other questions?

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Kudos given where kudos due

I've been rather aggressive in detracting from our governor, so I would be remiss indeed if I did not praise him when he shows some courage and insight.

There are three or four staffers--cabinet officers--that I know personally who are top notch. One of them, Dick Ross, education superintendent, has been the target of a concerted Democrat and newspaper attack for several weeks now, pushing him toward resignation. In fact, we had heard rumors it was a fait accompli, made more likely by the resignation of a subsidiary official that created momentum (rather than blunting it).

The subsidiary official deserved what he got and more. Dick Ross didn't deserve the criticism at all. But with a presidential campaign winding up, the governor being a loose cannon on the decks of government, and too many Republican nitwits caving to anything the Democrats and newspapers (but I repeat myself) say, who knew what could happen? The safe bet probably would have been for another resignation (even though that would just add fuel to the fire).

But look what happened:

With some Democrats calling for the removal of state schools Superintendent Richard A. Ross, Gov. John Kasich was asked after a Michigan campaign stop on Saturday whether he was still 100 percent behind Ross.
“No, I’m not 100 percent behind him, I’m 1,000 percent behind him. He’s one of the best superintendents we’ve ever had,” the governor said.
Ross has taken heat for a top assistant scrubbing data to make charter schools look better, and for drawing up plans for a state takeover of Youngstown schools in private.
“Youngstown schools failed for nine years in a row, and this is the best thing that’s happened to Youngstown schools, and one of the best things that’s gonna happen to the city of Youngstown,” Kasich said. “And thank goodness we’ve got a superintendent that understands all this, and he is great — period, end of story. Stop the whining.”

It's not likely the state will do any better with the city school district, but that's not what's important to Democrats or newspapers. They're upset that Republicans exercised their power. Only Democrats are supposed to exercise power.

And who knows. There's always a chance that a tribe of monkeys will type Shakespeare, and maybe the Youngstown schools will improve after all.

(And let's not forget the obvious: Just because Kasich said it on Saturday doesn't mean he'll still be saying it Monday or next Saturday. But he's said it, firmly and in public, so hat's off to him.)

Maybe it's because customers know what they like

IMDB is in pain, but I think I know how to relieve them:

Trainwreck, the Judd Apatow/Amy Schumer comedy, was off 43.7% from last week's $30M take, with an estimate $16.9M weekend. It is hard to determine whether the horrific events in Lafayette, Louisiana, where an assailant shot 11 people, killing two of them in a theater playing Trainwreck, affected patronage elsewhere and it's painful to even have to consider it. The film has a domestic cume of $61.2M. 

Yes it is hard to determine. It's even ridiculous. How about it's just a sweet enough movie that doesn't quite live up to the Schumer promise? But hey, we're glad to know you think those events are horrific. We could use leaders like you.

Aw, mom, not brain-eating amoeba again

brain eating amoeba has, once again, been found in the St. Bernard Parish water system

Ya work, ya work, and ya work some more, and what good does it do?

Was Something In The Water?

In the early 1940s, a lot of people were born on July 26th who'd go on to make great music.  Some examples:

1941



1941 again



1941 yet again



1942



1943

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Appealing authority

Well, he does have a license:
 
The group claims the videos demonstrate that Planned Parenthood profits from fetal tissue donation (which would be illegal) and that they are “haggling” over the price of “baby parts.”


These are not "baby parts." Whether a woman has a miscarriage or an abortion, the tissue specimen is called "products of conception." 

I'm a doctor, dammit, not a rhetorician!

More logic

Fewer Republicans view own party favorably

This makes perfect sense. Democrats lie to the public at large, so the extreme base is happy. Republicans lie to the base, and let the media lie to the public, so the honest base is unhappy.

Best part: You knew it had to be in the article, the *opposite* explanation, that this poll results from kowtowing to extremist Republicans, which by and large don't extist, rather than kowtowing to the libs, who are generally extremist--and there it is: Pew's latest poll was conducted early last week amid a nascent 2016 presidential race that has been dominated in the media by businessman Donald Trump . . .  Trump, a Republican candidate, has enjoyed weeks of attention for his controversial comments on "rapists" and other criminals coming across the border from Mexico . . . Despite the controversy, he sits atop a crowded GOP field  . . .

Well, "despite the controversy," it just goes to show how racist the Republicans are, even when it's costing them the support of so many moderate Republicans.

As my old friend Justice Rehnquist would have said--indeed did say--"Post hoke airgo prope ter hoke."

Broadway The Odd Way

I just read The Gentleman Press Agent. It's a life of Merle Debuskey, one of the top press agents in Broadway history.  He represented over 100 shows, including How To Succeed In Business Without Really Trying, Man Of La Mancha, Jesus Christ Superstar, The Pirates Of Penzance, and The House Of Blue Leaves.

I don't have much to say about it.  It's not especially well written, but does have some fun backstage stories about actors, playwrights, directors, etc.  Of course, along with it, there are many stories of dealing with the press.

And that's the odd thing.  I've read many books about Broadway, but most deal with the creative side.  Debuskey, as honest and beloved as he was, was mostly a guy responsible for promotion.  That's not unimportant, but he rarely had anything to do with the artistic side of any production.

So a decent enough book for those interested in American theatre, but not from an angle you'd normally expect.

Friday, July 24, 2015

Les Is More

Happy 80th, Les Reed.  He's a British songwriter who composed many hits for acts across the pond.  Some of those titles made it to these shores.





Thursday, July 23, 2015

Bet he can't find his azimuth with both of Doug Preisse's hands

"The Sun Is Going To Rise To The Zenith In America Again"

Good lord. Is his five minutes of fame over yet? What's next? "A Time for Inscribing Elliptical Orbits"?

Highlights:

"Paraphrasing both Jesus Christ and Ronald Reagan . . ." [Who's the biggest moron, the reporter, the editor or Kasich?]

"Kasich gives somewhat meandering speech (no script per an aide) Themes include: Sun rising. Big ideas change the world. 2 black guys love me." [I thought the black guys referred to Montel Williams and Frank Jackson, but it turns out it was two guys at Wendy's. Hope he confirmed how they identified and didn't profile them.]

"Kasich speaks for 43 mins. Longer than expected. [Indeed.] Meandering speech without notes. [Indeed.] Final song? U2 Beautiful Day" [No Death or Glory?]

Whole Poll

Here's a BBC poll of film critics around the world on the 100 best American films. Should be fun. Let's see what they say (with the occasional note as I read them):

100. Ace in the Hole (Billy Wilder, 1951)
Good to see it on the list--not always mentioned in Wilder lists
99. 12 Years a Slave (Steve McQueen, 2013)
98. Heaven’s Gate (Michael Cimino, 1980)
Still trying to push this one
97. Gone With the Wind (Victor Fleming, 1939)
Surprisingly low, but fair
96. The Dark Knight (Christopher Nolan, 2008)
95. Duck Soup (Leo McCarey, 1933)
Way too low--wonder what McCarey would think if he knew this is the film he'll be remembered for
94. 25th Hour (Spike Lee, 2002)
Interesting this has become a Spike Lee classic (as it should be)
93. Mean Streets (Martin Scorsese, 1973)
Like many films on this list, overrated
92. The Night of the Hunter (Charles Laughton, 1955)
91. ET: The Extra-Terrestrial (Steven Spielberg, 1982)
90. Apocalypse Now (Francis Ford Coppola, 1979)
89. In a Lonely Place (Nicholas Ray, 1950)
Of course we'd see Nick Ray.
88. West Side Story (Robert Wise and Jerome Robbins, 1961)
87. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (Michel Gondry, 2004)
This film should lose its reputation.
86. The Lion King (Roger Allers and Rob Minkoff, 1994)
A good film, but I'm certain better Disney features won't be here
85. Night of the Living Dead (George A Romero, 1968)
84. Deliverance (John Boorman, 1972)
83. Bringing Up Baby (Howard Hawks, 1938)
Good to see Hawks on the list
82. Raiders of the Lost Ark (Steven Spielberg, 1981)
So better than ET. (I probably agree)
81. Thelma & Louise (Ridley Scott, 1991)
80. Meet Me in St Louis (Vincente Minnelli, 1944)
79. The Tree of Life (Terrence Malick, 2011)
78. Schindler’s List (Steven Spielberg, 1993)
Will Spielberg have the most titles?
77. Stagecoach (John Ford, 1939)
76. The Empire Strikes Back (Irvin Kershner, 1980)
75. Close Encounters of the Third Kind (Steven Spielberg, 1977)
He just may. (In general, I find the list too modern)
74. Forrest Gump (Robert Zemeckis, 1994)
73. Network (Sidney Lumet, 1976)
72. The Shanghai Gesture (Josef von Sternberg, 1941)
This is the von Sternberg they choose?
71. Groundhog Day (Harold Ramis, 1993)
70. The Band Wagon (Vincente Minnelli, 1953)
69. Koyaanisqatsi (Godfrey Reggio, 1982)
Didn't know this was considered American
68. Notorious (Alfred Hitchcock, 1946)
67. Modern Times (Charlie Chaplin, 1936)
There better by more Chaplin higher
66. Red River (Howard Hawks, 1948)
The more Hawks the better
65. The Right Stuff (Philip Kaufman, 1965)
Not even a good film
64. Johnny Guitar (Nicholas Ray, 1954)
Yet another auteur classic for Nick Ray
63. Love Streams (John Cassavetes, 1984)
I don't think we need any Cassavetes.
62. The Shining (Stanley Kubrick, 1980)
61. Eyes Wide Shut (Stanley Kubrick, 1999)
Two in a row by Kubrick, neither particularly good
60. Blue Velvet (David Lynch, 1986)
Hope there's more Lynch
59. One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (Miloš Forman, 1975)
58. The Shop Around the Corner (Ernst Lubitsch, 1940)
Great to see this title but it should be in the top five
57. Crimes and Misdemeanors (Woody Allen, 1989)
There should be several Woody movies on this list, but not this one
56. Back to the Future (Robert Zemeckis, 1985)
55. The Graduate (Mike Nichols, 1967)
Should be higher
54. Sunset Boulevard (Billy Wilder, 1950)
More Billy, and I'm sure more to come
53. Grey Gardens (Albert and David Maysles, Ellen Hovde and Muffie Meyer, 1975)
A rare documentary
52. The Wild Bunch (Sam Peckinpah, 1969)
Another one of those overrated titles
51. Touch of Evil (Orson Welles, 1958)
50. His Girl Friday (Howard Hawks, 1940)
Hawks scores again
49. Days of Heaven (Terrence Malick, 1978)
48. A Place in the Sun (George Stevens, 1951)
Overrated
47. Marnie (Alfred Hitchcock, 1964)
Hitchcock has so many good films, what's this bizarre auteur classic doing here?
46. It’s a Wonderful Life (Frank Capra, 1946)
45. The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (John Ford, 1962)
I'd do fine with no Ford here, but this one?
44. Sherlock Jr (Buster Keaton, 1924)
Finally some Buster.  Should be more.
43. Letter from an Unknown Woman (Max Ophüls, 1948)
42. Dr Strangelove (Stanley Kubrick, 1964)
Ranked too low
41. Rio Bravo (Howard Hawks, 1959)
I'm glad to see it on this list, but Red River is better
40. Meshes of the Afternoon (Maya Deren and Alexander Hammid, 1943)
More of historical interest than anything else
39. The Birth of a Nation (DW Griffith, 1915)
38. Jaws (Steven Spielberg, 1975)
Maybe Spielberg's best, but Wilder is catching up
37. Imitation of Life (Douglas Sirk, 1959)
If there's got to be Sirk, might as well be this one.
36. Star Wars (George Lucas, 1977)
35. Double Indemnity (Billy Wilder, 1944)
Wilder's picking up steam
34. The Wizard of Oz (Victor Fleming, 1939)
33. The Conversation (Francis Ford Coppola, 1974)
32. The Lady Eve (Preston Sturges, 1941)
Preston should have two or three--not a bad choice, but not my favorite
31. A Woman Under the Influence (John Cassavetes, 1974)
One Cassavetes was more than enough
30. Some Like It Hot (Billy Wilder, 1959)
Wilder's best
29. Raging Bull (Martin Scorsese, 1980)
One of the most overrated films (I fear they'll be others above)
28. Pulp Fiction (Quentin Tarantino, 1994)
Should be in top ten
27. Barry Lyndon (Stanley Kubrick, 1975)
Are they picking every bad Kubrick film?
26. Killer of Sheep (Charles Burnett, 1978)
A good film, but I'm kind of surprised to see it on this list of big titles.
25. Do the Right Thing (Spike Lee, 1989)
24. The Apartment (Billy Wilder, 1960)
I figured it'd be his highest--though it shouldn't be
23. Annie Hall (Woody Allen, 1977)
Too low
22. Greed (Erich von Stroheim, 1924)
21. Mulholland Drive (David Lynch, 2001)
20. Goodfellas (Martin Scorsese, 1990)
19. Taxi Driver (Martin Scorsese, 1976)
Scorsese scores a double
18. City Lights (Charlie Chaplin, 1931)
17. The Gold Rush (Charlie Chaplin, 1925)
Chaplin gets a double, and both could be top ten
16. McCabe & Mrs Miller (Robert Altman, 1971)
Good to see more Altman
15. The Best Years of Our Lives (William Wyler, 1946)
14. Nashville (Robert Altman, 1975)
13. North by Northwest (Alfred Hitchcock, 1959)
12. Chinatown (Roman Polanski, 1974)
11. The Magnificent Ambersons (Orson Welles, 1942)
10. The Godfather Part II (Francis Ford Coppola, 1974)
9. Casablanca (Michael Curtiz, 1942)
8. Psycho (Alfred Hitchcock, 1960)
7. Singin’ in the Rain (Stanley Donen and Gene Kelly, 1952)
6. Sunrise (FW Murnau, 1927)
5. The Searchers (John Ford, 1956)
This was one of those vastly overrated film I feared would be rated high (such as on the list at all)
4. 2001: A Space Odyssey (Stanley Kubrick, 1968)
This is another vastly overrated film I feared would be rated too high.
3. Vertigo (Alfred Hitchcock, 1958)
Yet another third vastly overrated film I feared would be rated too high.
2. The Godfather (Francis Ford Coppola, 1972)
1. Citizen Kane (Orson Welles, 1941)

Here's Todd McCarthy on what he calls a bizarre list.  Hitchcock, Kubrick, Spielberg and Wilder all have five titles.  Coppola and Hawks have four.  Chaplin, Ford, Scorsese and Welles have three.  The 1970s is the top decades with 21 titles.  Coppola, Hitchcock and Welles have two in the top eleven.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Pick your Dick

Kudos to Frank Easterbrook for citing controlling authority: Nudge, nudge, wink, wink, you know what I mean” can amount to extortion under the Hobbs Act, just as it can furnish the gist of a Monty Python sketch.

The guy must do great at standup. "Well, you know, that's the gist of it."

(Really reprising LAGuy this morning. What can I say, when it fits it fits--although the  Donald Trump Insult Generator did say "Why does ColumbusGuy constantly seek out trivial nonsense?")

What does John Kasich say when you take away his drugs?

Prickly John once got kicked out of a Grateful Dead concert.

He's got that going for him, at least.

As to the main question, it's pretty clear Trump deserves a Congressional Medal of Honor: ". . . the difficulty is the continued presence of Donald Trump, who has taken much of the oxygen out the room over the past several weeks. Kasich’s launch is the most recent example of Trump’s overshadowing. As the Ohio governor made his pitch, Trump garnered a large crowd in South Carolina, where he made news by insulting Sen. Lindsey Graham and other contenders."

TB

Theodore Bikel has died.  He was a fine actor--nominated for a Tony as Captain von Trapp in The Sound Of Music and an Oscar as Sheriff Muller in The Defiant Ones--but was perhaps better known as a folk singer and musician.








Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Stop And Take A Look

AMC surprised Hollywood when it renewed it's drama Halt And Catch Fire.  The show was set during the computer revolution of the 1980s.  The channel hoped for a new Mad Men, and instead got a low-rated series without much critical approval.  It would have been easy enough to declare it a mistake a move on.

But I liked it.  The first season was muddled at points, and the central character, Joe, a spellbinder with a big secret, was too on the nose in trying to be another Don Draper.  But it still managed to capture the excitement of creating something new, and being in on the ground floor of something big.  So I was happy it was getting a second season.

And, to my surprise, the second season is even better.  In the first, Joe came to a hidebound company and managed to create something forward-looking and innovative, destroying anything that got in his way.  This season takes us ahead a year, where the two main female characters, Cameron and Donna, are running their own company, an online operation named Mutiny that features original games, while Joe is off on his own, engaged to a new character, Sara, whose father is a rich businessman.  And Gordon, the other lead from the first season, a hardware specialist who cashed out, is trying to start his own Dell-like mail order computer business.

Joe has been removed from the center, and is, in fact, often seen as the enemy, and somehow this has enlivened the action.  We follow the women at underdog Mutiny (and the many nerdy male employees), seeing their ups and down, while Gordon and Joe revolve around them, sometimes working independently, sometime trying to get involved.

There are still two more episodes, and Mutiny looks like it's in trouble.  Whether or not it makes it through the season, the bigger question is if the show will be renewed.  The ratings, alas, are even worse this time around, so I doubt it.  But it would be nice to get just one more year out of it--we know computers are about to explode as never before, so let the characters get to see it.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Doubtful

Someone asked me to read Divinity Of Doubt by Vincent Bugliosi, so I did.  Bugliosi, who died last month, was a bestselling author and perhaps best known as the prosecutor in the Charles Manson case.  Most of his books deal with legal or criminal issues, but this book is his take on religious belief.  In short, he looks at (or puts on trial) theism, agnosticism and atheism, finding the first and last wanting.

The book is almost unbelievably bad.  Even when I agree with him, he makes his arguments quite poorly and worse, spends very little time doing so--more than half this book is his mocking others for being so stupid or silly or hateful.  And much of the rest is personal anecdotes that barely relate to the issues at hand.

Bugliosi spends a few chapters discussing atheism, but the bulk of the book looks at belief from the Christian point of view. (He does clean up at the end, spending a few pages on Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism and Mormonism, but it seems more an afterthought).  He goes into certain classic arguments--first cause, the argument from design, the problem of evil, etc.--though generally on a cursory level, making points that have been made before in far better ways.  But even that I could take if he stuck to his basic premise.

Instead, we get long sections mocking what believers think and do.  Whether or not they deserve to be mocked, what does that have to do with the basic truth or falsity of what they believe?  Take, for example, his chapter on the Catholic Church, the longest in the book.  Most of it is taken up with what he doesn't like about their practices--covering up pedophilia, opposing contraception, not fighting against Hitler strongly enough, etc.  Once again, you may agree with these points, but what have they got to do with whether or not there is creator to the universe, or even if Jesus is divine?

Even worse, if a much smaller part of the book, is Bugliosi's treatment of atheism.  He looks at bestsellers written by three leaders of the "new atheism" movement, Christopher Hitchens, Sam Harris and Richard Dawkins.  But when he wants to discuss Hitchens (who was still alive when this book was published), he spends an entire page discussing Hitchens' politics.  The discussion is foolish and demagogic, but even if it were wise, of what relevance could it be?  When he gets around to Dawkins, he notes the biologist leans heavily on Darwin to make his argument yet never mentions that Darwin himself was a professed agnostic.  For some reason, Bugliosi considers this damning, and spends over two pages on it.  Whatever difference does Darwin's (well known) views on religion make?  Darwin is not a god, he was a scientist whose work helped lead to the modern-day understanding of biology. Nothing he says--not even his claims about evolution--hold any special weight just because he said them, and his personal views on all sorts of private matters--religion, politics, race, etc., may be of interest for biographical reasons, but have no bearing on Dawkin's arguments.

On another chapter regarding Darwin and evolution, Bugliosi shows himself to be generally ignorant of the theory.  To give one small examples, he writes "the struggle for life caused organisms to mutate, to change, to adapt to their demanding environment, the changes making them more complex." In general, mutation happens, regardless of the environmental stress.  It's when they're helpful, often at a later date, that they come more into play.  And the changes that have occurred don't necessarily make animal more complex.  They simple make them better adapted to their environment.  He also claims that "evolution holds that early organisms were locked in a fierce struggle with other organisms for food, water, safety." Early organisms?  The ferocity may vary in different periods, but the struggle is ongoing.

He even asks the monkey question--if we did evolve from them, why are monkeys still around?  First, we both evolved from a common ancestor. Second, though Bugliosi elsewhere states if you've evolved from an ancestor then that ancestor must be extinct, in fact part of a population can separate and evolve (the process is fairly common) while the remnant sticks around.

He also makes some foolish statements about the fossil record which suggest he's been reading creationist literature and not actual biology textbooks.  And, personally, he just can't see how bacteria can evolve into people.  Well, perhaps it is anti-intuitive, but that's the point--evolution explains things that previously seemed difficult or impossible, and fits in with all the known evidence.  He also finds it hard to imagine that humans can evolve further.  Why?  If we evolved in the past, why not in the future? Perhaps we'll take over our own destiny as no other animal could, or perhaps we'll destroy ourselves, but the idea that evolution has reached an end is just another sign of his ignorance on the subject.

He also spends four pages of this chapter relating anecdotes about his cat for reasons I still can't divine.

The book is an embarrassment.  If I were his publisher, I would have rejected it just to protect Bugliosi's reputation.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

First seat reserved for Wesley Clark


I've got a dollar that says Clark isn't interested in enforcing immigration laws.

And I have to admit, I was sure this article would be about people who exercised Second Amendment and First Amendment rights, which is to say, anyone who didn't vote Democrat, but of course it wasn't. Even so, I've got another dollar that says Alan Colmes will be calling for this very thing for conservatives; heck, I'm guessing he's already done so.

Norman Invasion

Happy 90th, Sue Thompson.  She was a major pop singer in the early 60s.









Saturday, July 18, 2015

Slaving Away

I thought 12 Years A Slave was a pretty good picture.  Not necessarily worth of the Best Picture Oscar, but pretty good.  What was odd, though, was some defended its importance by saying it was a useful reminder of the horrors of slavery.  First, I like good films, not films that are good for you.  Second, I wasn't aware that there was a major movement afoot saying slavery wasn't so bad.

But this attitude still pops up here and there.  Look at this line from a pan at Deadline Hollywood of the new show on Broadway Amazing Grace:

The timing certainly couldn’t be better, as Americans continue to grapple with the legacy of slavery as if there were two sides to the argument.

What is critic Jeremy Gerard referring to?  Please point out to me the pro-slavery contingent, Jeremy.  Yes, there's an important debate on how to deal with the legacy of slavery, which is a very complex problem, but no one I'm aware of is suggesting a return to the practice, or claiming it was a good thing.

Perhaps Gerard likes to imagine how morally superior he is, and this illusion helps.

PS  Here's Cass Sunstein on Margaret Mitchell's Gone With The Wind.  Now that came out in a time where apologists for the era of slavery were widespread.  He mentions Twelve Years A Slave in passing.

Friday, July 17, 2015

What about executing that retard?

This is something new. Bill Clinton apologizing for something Bill Clinton did: Bill Clinton says he made mass incarceration issue worse.

"In that bill, there were longer sentences," he says. Great. Another Grammar Nazi. As if we give a crap how the language is.

Is that what they're calling Obamacare now?

Artificial Intelligence To Soon Eliminate Family Doctor

Not sure how to interpret this. Will it do so before or after it eliminates the rest of us?

Don't Get Up, It's Not The Oscars

The Emmy nominations have been announced.  A lot of old favorites with some new names--a lot of nominees in general thanks to new rules. Let's look at the main categories, shall we?

Comedy Series
Louie
Modern Family
Parks & Recreation
Silicon Valley
Transparent
Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt
Veep


A lot of the usual suspect--though how did something as odd as Louie get to be a regular here.  The big question is will Modern Family win yet again, even if it's getting tired?  P&R gets its last chance, but the real news is two shows--Transparent (if there's a PC vote it's for this show) and Kimmy Schmidt--that aren't even shown on real TV, whatever that means.  No Big Bang--the biggest hit comedy on TV--and nothing animated.

Drama Series
Better Call Saul
Downton Abbey
Game of Thrones
Homeland
House of Cards
Mad Men
Orange Is The New Black


Mad Men used to regularly win. Now it's lucky just to get nominated.  Better Call Saul takes the spot that Breaking Bad used to have.  In general, the same names we always see, except Orange, which should probably be considered a comedy.  Note the two most-watched dramas, Empire and Walking Dead, are nowhere to be seen.  No Good Wife either.

Lead Actor in a Drama Series
Kyle Chandler
Jeff Daniels
Jon Hamm
Bob Odenkirk
Liev Schreiber
Kevin Spacey

Major TV names, though I'm not that impressed--the supporting actor category is more exciting.  Jon Hamm's last chance, and isn't it time for him to finally win (even if it wasn't his best season)? No Bryan Cranston or even Damian Lewis to get in his way.

Lead Actress in a Drama Series
Claire Danes
Viola Davis
Taraji P. Henson
Tatiana Maslany
Elisabeth Moss
Robin Wright

Some interesting choices.  Moss's last chance, though I don't see it. (And she's close to supporting in Mad Men.)  Maslany, finally nominated, does an amazing job, but I feel with each new character she's giving the show offers diminishing returns.  Henson is the upstart here, with the most popular show--on broadcast TV no less--that's not getting much love in general.  Biggest surprise--last year's winner Julianna Margulies is missing.  So will Claire Danes take it again?

Lead Actor in a Limited Series or Movie
Adrien Brody
Ricky Gervais
Timothy Hutton
Richard Jenkins
David Oyelowo
Mark Rylance

A lot of interesting choices.  Ricky Gervais stretched a bit--will he be rewarded?

Lead Actress in a Limited Series or Movie
Maggie Gyllenhaal
Felicity Huffman
Jessica Lange
Queen Latifah
Frances McDormand
Emma Thompson

Nothing but famous names.  Not sure if it's because they get to make such shows or the Academy likes to honor them.

Lead Actor in a Comedy
Anthony Anderson
Louis C.K.
Don Cheadle
Will Forte
Matt LeBlanc
William H. Macy
Jeffrey Tambor

Quite a shock here--Jim Parsons, who has won four out of the last five years, doesn't even show up.  I'd say the smart money is on Tambor, who's been nominated six times (as supporting actor) but never won.  I like Matt LeBlanc, though many would rather ignore Episodes.  Not sure what Don Cheadle is doing here except he's a movie star on TV.

Lead Actress in a Comedy
Edie Falco
Lisa Kudrow
Julia Louis-Dreyfus
Amy Poehler
Amy Schumer
Lily Tomlin

J L-D has won the last three years.  If she wins again, she'll tie Candice Bergan and Mary Tyler Moore for a record five wins in the category.  Some familiar names (including Tomlin, whose first nomination was over 40 years ago), but where is Ellie Kemper?

Supporting Actor in a Drama
Jonathan Banks
Ben Mendelsohn
Jim Carter
Peter Dinklage
Alan Cummings
Michael Kelly

They're still nominating Carter of Downton Abbey. I'm surprised that tired show gets any recognition.  It'd be nice to see Jonathan Banks finally win an Emmy, especially after all the great work he did in Breaking Bad as the character he's presently playing.

Supporting Actress in a Drama
Joanna Froggatt
Lena Headey
Christina Hendricks
Christine Baranski
Uzo Aduba
Emilia Clarke

Two gals from Game Of Thrones. Both been nominated but never won--probably blocking each other.  It'd be nice to see Hendricks win on her sixth nomination, though it may not be in the cards.  I still don't get why Aduba gets so much attention of all the cast members of Orange Is The New Black.  I would nominated Taryn Manning as Pennsatucky.

Supporting Actor in a Comedy
Andre Braugher
Adam Driver
Keegan-Michael Key
Ty Burrell
Tituss Burgess
Tony Hale

This category used to be the place for four Modern Family nominations, and now it's down to one--trouble?  The entire cast of Brooklyn Nine-Nine does a great job, but I guess the deadpan Braugher is the name who gets the nomination.  Same with Tony Hale of the men in Veep.  I wonder if Key getting a nod will cause trouble with Peele.  Don't quite get the love for Tituss Burgess, who strikes me as a weak link in Kimmy Schmidt.

Supporting Actress in a Comedy
Niecy Nash
Julie Bowen
Allison Janney
Kate McKinnon
Mayim Bialik
Gaby Hoffman
Jane Krakowski
Anna Chlumsky

A lot of regular nominees who haven't yet won, with a couple who have.  One of these days I'd like to see Eden Sher.   With this group, I'd choose Kate McKinnon for her killer Hillary Clinton and a number of other roles (though it's hard to compare sketch performers with those in sitcoms)

Reality-Competition Program
The Amazing Race
Dancing With the Stars
Project Runway
So You Think You Can Dance
Top Chef
The Voice


I don't care.  Let me note, however, this is the thirteenth time this award is being given, and so far The Amazing Race has ten times.

Variety Talk Series
The Colbert Report
The Daily Show With Jon Stewart
Jimmy Kimmel Live
Last Week Tonight
The Late Show
The Tonight Show


A brief history of this award.  It used to be given to actual variety shows, like Andy Williams, Danny Kaye, Carol Burnett, Flip Wilson and so on, but those show don't exist any more.  So it's mostly guys sitting behind a desk doing comedy and talking to people.  From 1998 to 2002, Letterman won.  From 2003 to 2012, Stewart won.  From 2013 to 2014, Colbert won.  This is pretty much their last chances (though Colbert could win in this category in a different show).  But I hope the TV Academy is not sentimental, since John Oliver deserves it.

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