Saturday, March 31, 2018

It's Enough

Hope you're enjoying Pesach.  Just as Thanksgiving is my favorite American holiday, this is my favorite Jewish holiday.  A chance for friends and family to get together.



Friday, March 30, 2018

EC

Yesterday we saluted an Eric. Here's another one--Eric Clapton, who turns 73 today.








Thursday, March 29, 2018

Not Idle

Eric Idle turns 75 today.  He's done a lot of stuff, though he'll be remembered, I have to assume, for his work in Monty Python.









Wednesday, March 28, 2018

The Three Mile Difference or Thirteen Years Per Mile

It's 39 years ago to the day since the Three Mile Island accident. (If you remember this, it should remind you of how old you are. If you've never heard of it, don't worry.)

To refresh your memory, a nuclear reactor near Harrisburg, Pennsylvania failed.  It was (and still is) the worst accident the U.S. nuclear industry has ever seen.  It got quite a few people scared about nuclear energy, and seriously slowed down its advancement as a power source.

I'm no expert in nuclear power, but I believe it's a relatively clean form of energy with a worse reputation than it deserves.  Yes, there are dangers, but there are serious problems associated with any form of energy (and serious problems with suddenly stopping energy production when an economy relies on it).

I wonder how things would be today if Three Mile Island hadn't happened.  (Of course, later there was the Chernobyl disaster, and Fukushima, so let's get rid of them, too.)

PS  If you're old enough to remember the incident, you're also old enough to remember The China Syndrome, a hit movie starring Jane Fonda, Jack Lemmon and Michael Douglas out at the time of the incident.  The film was about an accident at a nuclear plant.  The studio, wisely, did not take advantage of the disaster in promoting the film.

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Criminal Act

In these days of peak TV, the season never ends.  New shows seem to debut every week. Over the weekend, we saw the new HBO comedy Barry.  It's got a high concept--the title character is a hit man who decides he wants to be an actor.  Presumably he will continue his day job while taking classes.

The show was created by and stars Bill Hader.  Hader comes from the great tradition of SNL utility players, such as Dan Aykroyd and Phil Hartman, who could fill any role and hold together any sketch.  The question is can he maintain a single character for an extended run.

It's hard to say after one episode, of course.  Furthermore, I wouldn't call the show a laugh riot, but they're still establishing themselves.  How dark will it be, versus how funny?

Barry is a veteran who's been troubled since he came back from overseas (a cliché, but one that can still play), and has been fighting off his demons by killing "bad guys" for money.  When he meets the young hopefuls trying to make it in theatre, and show biz, he sees a new path.  I guess the dramatic and comic question is how will he manage both careers?

The cast also features Stephen Root as Barry's handler, and Henry Winkler as the overbearing guy who runs the acting class.  No doubt they will both pull at Barry, presumably in different directions. As Root reminds him, it's generally in the interest of a hit man to keep a low profile.

It looks like the actors in the class will be a mainstay of the show.  They were perhaps the most intriguing aspect of the first episode.  The main one looks to be Sarah Goldberg's Sally, who may become a love interest.  I also caught D'Arcy Carden in the mix--I like her a lot on The Good Place, so I hope she has a prominent role. (I also thought a saw SNL's Melissa Villasenor in a cameo, though I didn't see her name in the credits so maybe I'm wrong.)

So, far now, anyway, the show is intriguing enough to keep watching. 

Monday, March 26, 2018

Timely Once Again

A revival of Tony Kushner's epic Angels In America just opened on Broadway.  It features Nathan Lane, Andrew Garfield and Lee Pace, and is getting solid reviews.

The play is set in the 80s, with AIDS devastating the gay community.  It's understandable Kushner (writing in the early 90s) conjures up a feeling of apocalypse.  Too bad the critics--at least the ones I've read--are so predictable.  All of them feel it's important to tie the play to the world today, as well as how Trump is ravaging it.

Just to pick one example, look at Marilyn Stasio's review in Variety.  Here's an excerpt:

Extrapolating from the poisoned fruits of Kushner's historical plague, substitute Biblically scaled plagues of our times: an autocratic president at home who admires brutal dictators abroad, an epidemic of school massacres, growing threats of nuclear war, unprecedented fires and floods, and the incipient death of the planet from global warming.

Pretty much everything in her list of particulars is stupid, pointless or dishonest.  But even if it were the most accurate appraisal of the situation today, it would still be a political rant that has essentially nothing to do with reviewing the play.

Guess what, Marilyn?  Everyone who has no sense of perspective feels that the world is facing unprecedented threats, no matter when the time.  There's rarely any need to list them unless you want to show your lack of perspective, and likely your ignorance.

The play is about how time can't stop--how we have to move forward.  But the critics seem to be stuck in the same rut they always display in these situations.  Sure, years ago they'd complain about something else, or some other Republican, but it's the same mindlessness, over and over.

Sunday, March 25, 2018

Champions Of The West

I went to the Michigan basketball game yesterday.  It was in L.A.'s Staples Center, and only cost an awful lot.

Anyway, now that the Wolverines have beat the Seminoles, they've won the West region and made the Final Four. Up next, Loyola, a team they've got a good shot at beating.  After that would be the big game, likely against a considerably tougher opponent,

It was a pretty weird game.  You can tell by the low score, 58-54.  Both sides were good at defense, but the shooting, in general, was awful.  Michigan made 39% of their field goals, and a pathetic 4 out of 22 three-pointers.  For that matter, they were 16 out of 24 in free throws (and especially missed a lot in the second half).  The only reason they won was FSU was worse.  If Michigan keeps playing like that, they won't win again.

But it did show, even on an off night, Michigan could pull it together well enough to win.  If they're on their game from now on, they could take it all.

Saturday, March 24, 2018

Put That In Your Pipe

New York City is the kind of place that just won't leave you alone.  They've already banished smokers to the streets. (To be fair, a lot of cities have done that.)

The latest idea, coming from councilman Peter Koo, is "no smoking and walking on New York City sidewalks."  It would be a misdemeanor.

I don't get it.  The theory behind banning smoking in certain places is to prevent harm to others.  The least harmful form of public smoking, I would think, comes from someone who's constantly moving.  Koo is worried about someone walking behind a smoker?  Annoying, but not that big a deal.  And if you're really bothered, either pass the guy or lay back.

Besides, smokers are in bad enough shape.  Do you really want to force them to be sedentary?

Friday, March 23, 2018

Okey-dokey Artichokey

Today is OK Day.  I'd spell it "okay" but I didn't create the holiday.

It's one of our better words.  Not just because it's positive.  It represents a concept we need to express a lot, and I'm not sure if any other word works in its place.  "Acceptable"?  "All right" (or "alright")?  "Satisfactory"?  "Adequate"?  "Fine"?  None of them feel right.

I checked into its origins and no one is entirely certain where it comes from.  The most accepted story is it originated as an abbreviation for "Orl Korrect" or "Oll Korrect" which mean "all correct."  Apparently there was a fad in the 1830s for abbreviations and misspellings.

Others say it comes from the Choctaw Indians.  Others from West Africa.  Looks like we'll never be sure.  But you know what?  That's okay.

Thursday, March 22, 2018

Where's Captain Kirk?

Today is William Shatner's birthday.  It should be a national holiday. Happy 87th, Bill.








Wednesday, March 21, 2018

For The Win

There's a new show on ABC, For The People.  It's produced by the ubiquitous Shonda Rhimes, among others, and features Hope Davis, Ben Shenkman and Anne Deavere Smith.

It's a lawyer show.  There have been countless lawyer shows, so how does this one distinguish itself?  Well, there are six young lawyers just starting out.  I guess that's not too new.  They operate in the Southern District of New York, probably the most significant federal district court in the country.  Okay, but New York lawyers aren't that big a deal, and plenty of legal shows have taken on federal cases.

What makes the show different, it would seem, is three of the lawyers work for the prosecution and three for the defense.  Usually a show is on one side, or follows just one lawyer or firm.  Here it's on both sides--they can even face off against each other.

Is this a good idea?  Who are we supposed to root for?  Is it going to be on a case-be-case basis?  Won't we feel whipsawed after too long?  Actually, the ratings haven't been great, so perhaps it won't matter.

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Bet Your Bottom Dollar

It always strikes me as odd when a cashier uses that felt tip pen to check if a $100 bill is good.  I mean, if someone's gone to the trouble of counterfeiting money, you'd think they could figure out how to pass the magic marker test.

In fact, I bet those pens don't work.  They're like the "close door" button on a elevator--it makes you feel good, but doesn't do anything. In any case, I'm sure the security thread test, or the watermark test, are a lot harder to pass, and certainly easier to check for.

Anyway, if you really want to discover a bogus bill, there are machines that do it.  Don't be a skinflint.  Buy one and be safe forever.

Recently, I've noticed they've been checking smaller denominations.  Just yesterday I had a $20 bill checked, and I swear I saw someone check a $5.  Come on, is it worth it?  You're slowing down business, and anyway, if someone's going to counterfeit something, wouldn't it be the largest denomination?

I wonder if it's all part of a grand scheme to phase out money.  I'm still not ready for that.  Sometimes you want your purchases to be off the grid.

Monday, March 19, 2018

Roomy

I enjoyed the movie The Disaster Artist, about how Tommy Wiseau made The Room.  I figured I should read the book of the same name to see what really happened.

The movie was released in 2003, and grew into a cult classic.  The book came out in 2013.  It's written by Greg Sestero--Tommy's friend who acts in The Room--with a lot of help from journalist Tom Bissell. The book features alternating chapters on the making of the film and the story of their friendship up to the point where Tommy writes the script of The Room.

The portrait of Wiseau surprised me.  The movie paints him as a goofy, talent-free dreamer.  The book is much harsher.  Tommy may be a dreamer who doesn't recognize his lack of talent, but he often comes across in the book as a monster.  Some of the time Sestero does seem to like Tommy, but most of the time Wiseau appears to be manipulative, creepy, truculent and just this side of a psychopath

The book also makes the shoot for The Room sound like a nightmare--grueling months made worse by Tommy's insistence on doing things his way, no matter how nonsensical.  Any suggestions to do things the rational way would be mocked or ignored.  And while Wiseau spent lavishly and wastefully on equipment, he would deny basic requests that the crew and actors would want (and would get on any other shoot).  It's no wonder two DPs walked out during production.

Also included is a sort of biography of Wiseau that Sestero put together, apparently from what little he was able to gather.  Tommy didn't and still doesn't like to talk about his personal life--where he's from, how old he is, how he seems to have so much money.  According to the best guess of the book, Wiseau was born in an Eastern European nation during the days of communism.  He was able to escape to France while still quite young, where they worked him like a dog.  He eventually got to the U.S. through connections, and after some years in New Orleans, made it to San Francisco, the place he really loved.

Tommy started selling trinkets on the street, worked tirelessly, and built up a multi-million dollar business (and changed his name to Tommy Wiseau).  After making the money, he tried--more than once--to be an actor.  He finally figured if Hollywood wouldn't take him, he'd force himself on show biz.  He financed his movie and, though it wasn't the Tennessee Williams-level drama he was hoping for, it was odd enough to garner an audience and has presumably made a profit by now.  Only in America.

Oddly, the film ends with Tommy and Greg attending the premiere.  Just as the curtain's going up we're done.  Books can't go on forever, but I would think the reader would want to know the reaction afterward, and how Tommy didn't give up and turned his film into an event.  Or does Sestero think there'll be a sequel?

Sunday, March 18, 2018

Hot Stuff

Perhaps due to attrition, editing has never been worse at a lot of major magazines.  I constantly see errors in the two bibles of show biz, Variety and The Hollywood Reporter.

For instance, in the latter, there was recently an oral history of the sitcom M*A*S*H.  Here's a story about censorship from star Alan Alda.

Alda:  I wrote an episode where Margaret sees a jock strap on the table and starts going nuts.  "How dare you parade that thing before me?"  Standards and Practices said we couldn't show a jock strap.  I got really angry because we'd had countless episodes where we showed braziers and women's panties.  Hawkeye had walked through a clothesline and had them slapping him in the face. Is there something holy about the male genitalia?  They never gave a good reason.  They just stuck to it.

Now it's possible they'd shown a lot of braziers in previous episodes.  Perhaps one had even slapped Hawkeye in the face.  But somehow, I think he was referring to brassieres.

Saturday, March 17, 2018

PB

Pattie Boyd turns 74 today.  She's led quite a life.  A model who appeared in the film A Hard Day's Night, she caught the eye of George Harrison.  They married, though she later left him and married his friend, Eric Clapton.  They split up in 1989.  (A few years ago, she married property developer Rod Weston, but he can't play guitar, so who cares?)

Pattie inspired great songs from both Harrison and Clapton.  For example:



(Alas, YouTube no longer features Beatles' originals, so it's got to be a cover.)




Friday, March 16, 2018

Drawing A Line

I was watching the new NBC show Good Girls.  It's set in the Detroit area, where I was raised.  It doesn't look that much like Detroit, but what can you do?  Apparently not much, as I learned in the latest episode.

In it, the three lead women have to smuggle something in from Canada.   They drive to the border, which was a fairly simple checkpoint on an unimpressive road that seemed to be set in the middle of a rural area, with trees in the background.

I've crossed over into Canada at the Detroit-Windsor Tunnel, the Ambassador Bridge and the Blue Water Bridge up in Port Huron. The bridges are impressive, and the tunnel has an urban setting.

Okay, it's a TV show.  I guess they don't have the budget to shoot on location, or even have convincing effects. But still, this is the best they can do?  I'm guessing a lot of people in Detroit were shaking their heads.

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Poor Jennie

I just read Hiding The Elephant by Jim Steinmeyer.  It's a history of the world of magic in the late 1800s and early 1900s, particularly in Britain and America.  David Devant, Harry Kellar, John Nevil Maskelyne and Howard Thurston may not be very well known today, but a century ago they were literally names to conjure with.

Of course, there's the biggest name of all, Harry Houdini.  He transcended the genre.  The book's title refers to the famous trick where he vanished an elephant (her name was Jennie and she was 8 feet high).  Houdini is just one of the characters in the book, but he haunts it, because, if he wasn't the greatest magician, he was certainly the best self-promoter, which is why we still talk about him--magic is as much about presentation as anything, and Houdini was presenting himself, not his tricks.

And what about his trick?  It actually wasn't that great, since it was done on a giant stage (the Hippodrome, as big as a football field) and only a small portion of the audience had proper sightlines.  Everyone else had to pretty much take Houdini's word for it.  But that's the point--Houdini did it, and then promoted that fact relentlessly.

Indeed, he wasn't necessarily as talented as the top magicians of his time, but he was the greatest escape artist (though that involved plenty of trickery as well) and knew how to get his name in the papers.  He was also a bit of a jerk, quite jealous and ready to attack any contemporaries if he felt threatened.

It's understandable that Houdini might fear for his reputation.  When you think about it (as author Steinmeyer has--he's been designing magic tricks for decades), there are only a handful of moves magicians have.  Those at the top and bottom of the craft are doing essentially the same tricks--what makes it magical is how it's perceived by the audience.  Hiding The Elephant appreciates the art, and hearing the stories of great illusionists like Devant and Thurston gives you an appreciation of how true (i.e., fake) magic works.

By the way, Steinmeyer does explain how many of the famous tricks of the past were done, including Houdini's elephant.  If you want to know, read the book (or some of the other books that give away such information, or go the YouTube, for that matter).  But be warned, knowing how a trick done is often disappointing.  It appears so mysterious when you don't know, and so dumb when you do.  Generally, it's smoke and mirrors (and in the book, mostly the latter).  But how the tricks are done is gravy.  Making the world of a century or so ago come alive is the real fun.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

NE

Nokie Edwards, lead guitarist for the Ventures, has died.  That makes him one of the least known yet widely heard guitarists of all time.





Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Going To California

Looks like President Trump is in California today.  Really?  The state voted 2-1 against him.  Didn't he get the message?

He's coming out here to inspect border wall prototypes.  Fine--sounds like he'll be down around San Diego, where they're a bit more conservative.  But it also turns out he'll be in Beverly Hills for a fundraiser.

Not acceptable.  President Obama used to come here regularly, and when he did, the impossible Los Angeles traffic became even worse.  Large swathes of the city were all but shut down to let the President move about without hindrance.  People still talk about how they were stuck in crosstown traffic for hours.

To add insult to injury, the visits were generally for purposes of raising money, not to perform any significant presidential task.

Many votes are concerned whether or not Trump will keep his promise to build the wall.  I really don't care.  However, I will vote for any presidential candidate who promises never to come to Los Angeles.

Monday, March 12, 2018

Khrushed

Over the weekend I saw The Death Of Stalin, a film about the aftermath of the Soviet tyrant, as the top men maneuver for position. Instead of straight drama, it's played as farce.

It's directed and co-written by Armando Iannucci, who created Veep and also directed and co-wrote the well-done political comedy In The Loop.  The cast includes Steve Buscemi, Michael Palin, Jeffery Tambor, Paddy Considine, Rupert Friends, Jason Isaacs and Andrea Riseborough.

During the end credits, there were photos of the players as their characters, some of them scratched out.  That was how it worked in the Soviet Union.

Then I realized something.  While I would never compare Stalin's era to anything in America (though too many facile comparisons have been made already), it occurred to me that one of the lead actors--Jeffrey Tambor--has become, in real life, a non-person.  He's been accused of bad action and fired from his job.  For years he was one of the busiest character actors around, and now, whether he can be employed again, or even show his face at a Hollywood gathering, in is doubt.

Sunday, March 11, 2018

Scary

According to this piece in the Hollywood Reporter, Tommy Wiseau, creator and star of the classic bad movie The Room, will be the leading man in new film.

It's called Scary Love.  Wiseau will play a bounty hunter searching for a lost love in a dystopian Los Angeles.  He won't direct this time.  The director, Jennifer Jones Stratford of Telefantasy Studios, describes the project as "a science fiction tale told in the style of classic B-movies and outfitted with practical special effects, laser beams, and lunatic ideas which are guaranteed to make it the next big midnight movie hit."

This doesn't sound good. It sounds like they're trying to make a bad movie, or at least a hokey one.  Midnight movies shouldn't be planned as such, they should arise naturally.

The Room (which, I admit, I haven't seen, though I've seen bits of it, as well as The Disaster Artist) was created by a man trying to express himself, and tell a deeply felt story.  That it failed laughably in that goal is what makes it fascinating to millions who have seen it.  Cutting out the middle man, and making a film bad intentionally, is cheating, and I think an audience can sense it.

Saturday, March 10, 2018

Are We There Yet?

Ever since I moved to Los Angeles, the New Beverly Cinema has been one of my favorite hangouts.  In a world where revival houses are dying, the New Beverly could be counted on to have great double features of classics and rarities.

And since Quentin Tarantino refurbished it a few years back, it's only gotten better.  The tickets and refreshments are cheap, and QT shows stuff, I believe, from his private stash.  Films (only films, no video) from the last few decades of the 20th century (whereas the old New Bev mostly showed stuff from the middle of the century).

However, since the beginning of the year, the theatre has been closed for repairs.  While I am happy to know they're trying to improve it, it's been over two months already.  I pass by the theatre in my car pretty regularly, and look up to see if there are any titles on the marquee.  How much longer can this go on?  I know QT has been having problems of his own lately, but let's start with the movies already.

Friday, March 09, 2018

JR

Jerry Ross would have been 92 today.  However, he died when he was 29.

He was half of the songwriting team of Adler and Ross, who had two big hit musicals--Pajama Game (1954) and Damn Yankees (1955)--before Ross died of a lung disease.  Who knows how many more songs and shows we'd have.







Thursday, March 08, 2018

Got Proof?

Today is National Proofreading Day.

I'm a big believer in proofreading (despite what you may think from the evidence on this blog). Which means I'm often shocked when reading internet comments.  I expect some mistakes, sure, but there are certain words people clearly can't spell and they just don't care. (I'm not even going to get into bad grammar, or dumb but understandable mistakes like "your" for "you're" or "there" for "their.")

It's not like it's hard to get the correct spelling.  You don't even have to walk over to a dictionary.  You can look it up on the same machine you're using to write your comment.  But this is just too much work.  People believe they can spell a word however they want and we can just guess what it means.

Anyway, doesn't your computer correct mistakes, or at least point them out, half the time?  You'd think we'd be living in a golden age of proofreading, but it's like the Wild West out there.

Wednesday, March 07, 2018

Levels

I recently watched Jim & Andy: The Great Beyond on Netflix.  It's a documentary about the making of Man On The Moon--the Andy Kaufman biopic starring Jim Carrey.  But Jim & Andy is more than that.

Much of it is taken from footage shot on the set of the movie, almost 20 years ago, that has never been released.  In it, it seems as if the spirit of Kaufman, and worse, the spirit of Kaufman's nasty alter-ego Tony Clifton, have taken over Carrey.

Kaufman himself was always pretending to be someone else, and taking it further than anyone else ever had in comedy.  He was more a performance artist than a standup. 

I don't think Man On The Moon really captures Kaufman. Yes, it shows his performances, wonderfully recreated by Carrey, but it's too literal, and ploddingly directed (by Milos Forman) with too many shots of the squares in the audience not getting it.  It never captures any inner life--how he got this way, why he kept doing it.

For one thing (and you might not get this from the movie), Kaufman knew what he was doing.  He was canny.  You don't work your way up through the business over the years, getting on the Johnny Carson show and Saturday Night Live, without ambition and understanding what plays with a crowd.

And by the way, the audience, for the most part, got him.  They knew it was a put-on, and enjoyed the show.  True, plenty didn't especially care for Kaufman's comedy--he was the sort of "hip" act that turned some off--but he was able to carve out a career because he connected.  He died very young, only 35 (so naturally people thought it was a hoax), and who knows if he could have kept it up at the same level.

In many ways, the documentary of Carrey submerging himself in Andy Kaufman is better than the film they made.  Carrey truly seems to have lost himself.  Director Forman seems to have trouble corralling him. Of course, at this point, Carrey was gigantic, and had to be indulged.  In 1994 he'd become an overnight star (after years of working on it) with three big hits, Ace Ventura, The Mask and Dumb And Dumber.  By the time he got to Man In The Moon, he was still riding high--the film didn't do that well, incidently, breaking his streak.

Jim & Andy is also interspersed with a present-day interview of Carrey that's weird in itself.  He comments on how he felt back then, but it's not entirely clear where he--much older and no longer the star he was--is at today.

So you've got an older man with an odd perspective looking back on lost footage of an actor famous for impressions losing himself in a character or two based on a person who confused reality with fiction as a norm.

Weird, man.

PS  I just checked and both Kaufman and Carrey were born on January 17th.  Someone should have mentioned that.

Tuesday, March 06, 2018

Homey

This season of Homeland is a continuation of last season, which is unfortunate.  Following a new presidential administration, a crazed right-wing TV talk show host, and a domestic insurrection seems to be wrong for the show. I mean, Homeland was originally about CIA agents.  They deal with foreign threats.

But that's how it goes.  I still like the show.  Yet one thing this season really takes me out of it. The FBI has been involved in a Waco-like standoff.  And the head FBI agent is played by Matt Servitto.  If you've heard of him, it's likely because he was a recurring character on The Sopranos.  Where he played an FBI agent.

Can they do that?  Should they do that?  Is he supposed to be the same guy, a little bit older and relocated?  It doesn't matter, since it's impossible not to think of him that way.  It's quite distracting.

Every time you hire an actor known for another role, he'll bring a little of that into his new part.  But when he seems to be playing the same role, it makes you think there's a crossover going on.  Homeland has enough trouble being realistic without reminding you it's a TV show.

Monday, March 05, 2018

Oscared

Thought I'd post something on the Oscars, but I have very little to say.  I guess it was special in that, for the first time I can remember, there wasn't a single surprise winner.  In recent years, the show has gotten more predictable, but there's always some award somewhere that's somewhat surprising.  Not this year.  Nothing but favorites.  (See yesterday's post for my predictions, if you have any doubt.)

Also predictable--it ran long.  The show is listed as running three hours, but it was close to four.  (The In Memoriam tribute didn't even start till after the three-hour mark has passed.) They know it'll run overtime.  Why not just say so?
 
Okay, another surprise: The orchestra played a surprising number of Cole Porter tunes. Was some tribute going on I wasn't aware of?
 
Yet another surprise: James Ivory, who won a highly undeserved Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay, is American.  Always thought he was British.
 
By the way, some thought it was absurd to give Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway a second chance to announce the Best Picture winner, but I thought it was brilliant. (And though the favorite had won every award up to that point, there was still some tension.)
 
Overall, the show was too political, which was a relief, since last year it was way too political.

Sunday, March 04, 2018

The Only Award Show That Matters

The Oscars are tonight.  This will be the 90th ceremony. (The Academy was actually started to fight unions, but we're long past that.)

The following are the top categories with my predictions and choices.

Best Picture:
“Call Me by Your Name”
“Darkest Hour”

“Dunkirk”
“Get Out”
“Lady Bird”
“Phantom Thread”
“The Post”
“The Shape of Water”
“Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri”
 
It's tricky to predict winners with so many nominees--the voting goes in so many directions it's hard to say which cancels out what.  But the two favorites are The Shape Of Water and Three Billboards, with Get Out perhaps coming through.  I'd be happy if either of those first two won, but it would be unfortunate if something as slight and silly as Get Out did.  I'd give Shape Of Water the edge.  I'd prefer to see something like I, Tonya or The Florida Project win, but they're not nominated, so I'd personally go for Three Billboards. 



Lead Actor:
Timothée Chalamet, “Call Me by Your Name”
Daniel Day-Lewis, “Phantom Thread”
Daniel Kaluuya, “Get Out”
Gary Oldman, “Darkest Hour”
Denzel Washington, “Roman J. Israel, Esq.”
 
A weaker crowd than usual.  Gary Oldman is the lock of the night.  I'd vote for him, partly due to lack of competition. Sorry James Franco wasn't nominated.

Lead Actress:
Sally Hawkins, “The Shape of Water”
Frances McDormand, “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri”
Margot Robbie, “I, Tonya”
Saoirse Ronan, “Lady Bird”
Meryl Streep, "The Post"
 
A competitive category.  The only one who can't win is the one who's already won a bunch of times, Meryl Streep.  I'd say it's a fight between Frances McDormand and Sally Hawkins.  Even though McDormand has won this award before, I'd call her the favorite (because her character is edgier, and gets to talk).  If I were voting, I'd choose Margot Robbie.
 
Supporting Actor:
Willem Dafoe, “The Florida Project”
Woody Harrelson, “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri”
Richard Jenkins, “The Shape of Water”
Christopher Plummer, “All the Money in the World”
Sam Rockwell, “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri”
 
It's between Willem Dafoe and Sam Rockwell.  I give the edge to Rockwell, though he may lose some votes to his co-star Woody Harrelson.  I would personally choose Dafoe.
 
Supporting Actress:
Mary J. Blige, “Mudbound”
Allison Janney, “I, Tonya”
Lesley Manville, “Phantom Thread”
Laurie Metcalf, “Lady Bird”
Octavia Spencer, “The Shape of Water”
 
Either Janney or Metcalf will win.  I give the edge to Janney, whose role is a more showy.  I'd probably vote for Janney (and it'll be good to see I, Tonya pick up an award).
 
Director:
"Dunkirk," Christopher Nolan
“Get Out,” Jordan Peele
"Lady Bird," Greta Gerwig
“Phantom Thread,” Paul Thomas Anderson

“The Shape of Water,” Guillermo del Toro
 
Guillermo del Toro will likely win for a real director's movie.  They didn't nominate some directors I think they should have, but of this group, I'd pick del Toro as well. 
 

Adapted Screenplay:


“Call Me by Your Name,” James Ivory
“The Disaster Artist,” Scott Neustadter & Michael H. Weber
“Logan,” Scott Frank & James Mangold and Michael Green
“Molly’s Game,” Aaron Sorkin
“Mudbound,” Virgil Williams and Dee Rees
 
I fear the very dull Call Me By Your Name is the favorite here. Of this group, I'd choose The Disaster Artist.

Original Screenplay:
“The Big Sick,” Emily V. Gordon & Kumail Nanjiani
“Get Out,” Jordan Peele
“Lady Bird,” Greta Gerwig
“The Shape of Water,” Guillermo del Toro, Vanessa Taylor
“Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri,” Martin McDonagh
 
A decent group, but as I keep noting, no I, Tonya or Florida Project, though it is good to see a nomination for The Big Sick.  It'll be a battle between Get Out, The Shape Of Water and Three Billboards.  I give the slightest edge to Three Billboards, but due to a number of reasons, it's hard to count out Get Out.  I would choose Three Billboards.
 
A few other notes.  Coco will likely win animated feature.  I'd like to see Garden Party or Negative Space win animated short, but it seems unlikely. I'd also like to see DeKalb Elementary wtake live action short, and, because it's about a school shooting, it now has a chance--which would be a stupid reason for it to win. Blade Runner 2049 will likely win for its cinematography. Dunkirk will likely win both sound awards (though Baby Driver may give it some competition). "Remember Me" from Coco is the favorite for best song (and while it isn't much, it's better than anything from The Greatest Showman.). Phantom Thread--a movie about costumes--will probably win Costume Design.

Saturday, March 03, 2018

You Can Do Better Than That

With the Academy Awards close at hand, here's a list that purports to be the best Oscar-winning films of the past forty years.  (Why just forty?)

Here goes:

10.  Spotlight
9.  Dances With Wolves
8.  Terms Of Endearment
7.  Million Dollar Baby
6.  Forrest Gump
5.  Braveheart
4.  Gladiator
3.  The Hurt Locker
2.  The Silence Of The Lambs
1.  Schindler's List

Not that impressive a list.  Spotlight was okay, but not great.  Dances With Wolves was interesting, though a bit much.  Terms Of Endearment and Million Dollar Baby aren't even good.  Forrest Gump is a different sort of film, and a lot of fun until it runs out of steam about two-thirds in.  Braveheart is okay.  Gladiator I don't really go for. The Hurt Locker is pretty good (though I don't know if I'd want to see it again).  The Silence Of The Lambs has a memorable performance by Anthony Hopkins, but I've never understood its reputation.  Schindler's List should definitely make the list.

To be fair, there's only so much to choose from.  The Academy sometimes picks decent films, but rarely chooses the best film of the year.

Friday, March 02, 2018

HS Musical

Harvey Schmidt has died.  He was the composer who worked with lyricist Tom Jones to write Broadway musicals 110 In The Shade, I Do! I Do! and Celebration.  But the show they're best remembered for is The Fantasticks, which ran for 42 years off-Broadway.  I performed in the show for community theatre, and saw it done in its original location, the Sullivan Street Playhouse in Greenwich Village.









Thursday, March 01, 2018

Make Some Noise!

Purim is upon us, so let's celebrate.




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