Inspiration Peak’d

Creativity takes a lot of people to a lot of different places. The solitude of a green park with water and trees suit some quite well, aiding their muse, prompting words from their inner recesses.

Word comes today about how one major newsmaker gets HIS quiet time. When THIS major personality needs to begin composing his remarks often quoted around the world, he:

“heads straight to the bathroom, turns on a large fan to create a blast of white noise that blocks out sound, draws a hot bath, strips off his clothes and settles into the water for at least an hour and sometimes two.”…

Wanna guess who composes his work naked?
Continue reading Inspiration Peak’d

My Oscar Rant (Part the Second)

OK, boys and girls now that the dust has settled a bit on Oscar night it is time to tally up the score sheets, Sure, everyone is falling all over themselves to congratulate Clint Eastwood’s Million Dollar Baby (a great flick, and one of Clint’s best roles), and sure it did garner four statues:

Actor In A Supporting Role (Morgan Freeman)
Actress In A Leading Role (Hilary Swank)
Best Picture (Clint Eastwood, Albert S. Ruddy And Tom Rosenberg)
Directing (Clint Eastwood)

but it actually didn’t receive the most awards that night, that honor went to The Aviator with a total of five awards:

Actress In A Supporting Role (Cate Blanchett)
Art Direction (Dante Ferretti (Art Direction); Francesca Lo Schiavo (Set Decoration))
Cinematography (Robert Richardson)
Costume Design (Sandy Powell)
Film Editing (Thelma Schoonmaker)

Making The Aviator the big winner over Million Dollar Baby (sure, sure Million Dollar Baby received the more prestigious awards but to settle for that is to not know how to spin-doctor in Tinseltown).

The next big winners (quantity wise) were a tie for third place with Ray and The Incredibles landing two statuettes apiece.

Ray
Actor In A Leading Role (Jamie Foxx)
Sound Mixing (Scott Millan, Greg Orloff, Bob Beemer And Steve Cantamessa)
Incredibles
Animated Feature Film (Brad Bird)
Sound Editing (Michael Silvers And Randy Thom)

In the category of writing (a personal favorite of mine), we have Best Screenplay (original and adapted from another medium)

Adapted Screenplay
Sideways Screenplay By Alexander Payne & Jim Taylor
Original Screenplay
Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind Screenplay By Charlie Kaufman; Story By Charlie Kaufman & Michel Gondry & Pierre Bismuth

I’ve got to say that Sunshine was truly one of the top five most original movies I have ever seen, and while it’s mode of storytelling is certainly not for everyone — it completely knocked me down. The fact that such a non-linear storytelling technique was utilized can only make me hope that there are other unusual films of this ilk on the cinematic horizon.

Also scoring one Oscar each were:
Spider-Man 2 Visual Effects John Dykstra, Scott Stokdyk, Anthony Lamolinara And John Frazier
Finding Neverland (Music: Score) Jan A.P. Kaczmarek
The Motorcycle Diaries (Best Song)Al Otro Lado Del Río” Music And Lyric By Jorge Drexler
Lemony Snicket’s A Series Of Unfortunate Events (Makeup) Valli O’reilly And Bill Corso

OK, you all knew that I wasn’t going to let an opportunity go by without having my say about how way cool Spidey 2 was. I actually knew that Doc Ock was going to be a great visual way back when Universal launched it’s Marvel Island some years back and we were all treated to that commercial with the kid in the airplane watching Spidey and Ock go at it out on the wing span. Well, this movie was that good, only better! I also just read how director Sam Rami asked for (and got) another year to put together Spidey 3. Which means that third time is most assuredly going to be the charm (I’m predicting either the Lizard and maybe Harry Osborn as the new Green Goblin, or he’s going to go whole hog, and recreate for us the cinematic version of the Sinister Six (those two plus Ock, and supplement them with three of the following classic Spidey villains Kraven the Hunter, Mysterio, The Vulture and/or Sandman—Lizard wasn’t part of the original six, while the others were, but as this is a whole new version of Spidey, anything’s possible, and given how success Mr. Rami was on his first two outings, I, for one am entirely game for it!)

Well, that’s about it for now, except to observe where the heck was Jack Nicholson? I thought he was always sitting in the front row of the Oscars, and can’t hardly remember a time when he wasn’t — even when he wasn’t up for any awards.

The Perfessor

Valued Villany

With expensive movies, you would normally wait until you get a successful box office opening until you start signing up your cast for the sequel. It’s a bit of hubris to automatically expect a great box office, but with the big Fantastic Four coming out, I guess the movie studio thinks they have a lock on a return audience. Hey, it’s their money, sometimes gambles pay off. Announce your next movie early and lock up some prime real estate for the next summer season… I get it.

Here’s the rub: They re-signed the villian.

“I’m signed on to do the sequel, but I really have to be honest with you, the way that I would look at it if I was Fox and those guys, it depends on how well Von Doom is received and how well you could fit him back in again.”

Julian McMahon (Victor Von Doom/Doctor Doom in the new Fantastic Four)

So, here we have a villian that obviously survives the climax of the first movie and has the audacity to come back in the second. (Hey, it worked for X-Men!)

 

But here’s the issue:
A comic book based hero (heroic team) is sometimes only as good as the villian(s) they do battle with. Superman fighting Lex Luthor? You bet! Superman fighting lame ass Richard Pryor and smarmy Robert Vaughn? Eek! So, this recycling of villians is tried and true in the comic book biz, PLUS it has the advantage of giving the audience a bad guy who they already know.

(It also helps give a better sequel when the rest of your cast is not that uh, dynamic.) In the mythos of the comic book (which I quit following around 1970… sorry, Marvel!) The Fantastic Four have had more “Final Showdowns” with Dr. Doom than the Rolling Stones have had retirement tours… and that’s a lot!

What I’m getting at here are two things, primarily. One, if you’re going to have an action-adventure movie, make sure it’s got a great villian, and if you’re going to have a sequel, make sure it’s got a great villian, BUT ALSO make sure that the SECOND movie is not just a continuation of the FIRST movie. If your audience smells that, they will feel like your hero(es) are not uh, quite “super”. After all, you’re only as strong as those you defeat. If you don’t defeat your enemies, you’re not strong at all.

If Dr.Doom’s villiany is not deemed “villianous” enough, there’s no reason to watch the second movie. THAT’S the big risk here. You need to have your bad guys be… BAD. I mean, you could support a Dr. Doom character in a second movie with other bad guys, but that would be a bit like the fourth Superman movie where they brought Gene Hackman back. Don’t remember that clunker? Don’t worry, nobody else does either.

So, the success of the Fantastic Four movie depends not on the main characters, but on the the guy they’re trying to defeat.

Sure I’m a Convicted Rapist, but does that make me a bad guy?

So while some of you out there might have heard about this story to me it is headline news because I live in (ok, not in, but near) the community where it occurred. Alex Kelly is a convicted rapist frat-boy who hails form the gilded community of Greenwich, which is the gold of Connecticut’s Gold Coast; one of the richest communities in the richest county in the U.S. Back in the late ‘80s while he was still a teen, he forced himself on a couple of underaged girls, only he apparently didn’t see the crime of it all back then (and, near as I can guess, still doesn’t, but I’ll get there in a moment).

Well, one (or was it both, I no longer recall some of the salient details) of these girls complained, and an investigation was conducted and eventually a warrant was issued for his arrest. Well, being that his parents were quite well off, and that rules shouldn’t apply to their son (plus, as we all know, girls can run faster with their skirts up than boys can with their pants down, making this a “boys will be boys” sort of thing, not really a crime, ya kno) Mr. And Mrs. Kelly bundled off their pride and joy to Europe where he spent close to a decade cavorting around the Continent while the Justice Dept. passively hunted him down.

Then, just before they actually caught up with him,
Continue reading Sure I’m a Convicted Rapist, but does that make me a bad guy?

Newsmania
(not the news, but an incredible simulation)

OK, so Martha Stewart is getting out (or rather has gotten out by the time you read this) of the slam, and it’s the lead story of Newsweek.

Martha Stewart on the cover of Newsweek

 

Only, that’s not really Martha on the cover.

According to Newsweek itself, that’s really Martha’s head Photoshopped onto the body of a (slimmer, younger) Model.

 

 

The Real Martha

 

According to Newsweek, this is okay, because “everyone understands or knows “ that’s not really in the photo, but it is merely a “photo rendition” or some such nonsense.

 

 

 

 

 

(Yea, like that wasn’t really Oswald in the photo holding the rifle, with the shadows going the wrong way, it was simply a “representation of what someone wanted you to think”)

 

Why has this gotten me all Ramboed up? Simple, when Comedy Central’s The Daily Show has Ed Helms reporting “live” from Mars, or Rob Cordery, reporting “live” from Baghdad I know that they are pulling my chain, because the show’s host Jon Stewart freely admits that he is a fake newsman on a fake news show, and yes, I get the joke. However when Newsweek fakes a photo for effect, it (a legitimate newsmagazine, reporting actual news) has crossed the line. How can I now trust it to accurately represent the news, when I know that it faked a photo for effect?

Perhaps the next time Newsweek will simply pose actors in a situation, and take a photo to “show us how Lacy Peterson’s husband probably strangled her”. Isn’t that what the tabloids do? Doctor up photos for the purpose of sensationalism? (I’m reminded of the story about how Denzil Washington was walking out of a restaurant and happened to run into Diana Ross as he was exiting. A Paparazzi snapped a picture of them leaving together, and Ross told him to quickly call his wife and explain what happened. Washington asked why, and Ross told him that their picture was going to appear in a tabloid with a story about how they were having an affair. He didn’t believe her at first but sure enough, the following week, there it was. With nothing to back up the story, and nothing to go on but a candidly snapped photo of a chance meeting, the scandal sheet built an entire story about how the two were seeing each other.)

So yeah, I’m just a little bit miffed.

But to get back to Martha. So she spent what? seven, eight? months in a minimum security prison for securities fraud and lying to the Grand Jury, and now she is out. Her net worth has like tripled, her show has been re-syndicated all around the country and is now in more markets than it was when she went in, and she has to spend the next year confined in her $40 million mansion. All because she is a lying, cheating, selfish thief. While she was in jail, she continued to conduct business, meet with advisors, and generall have the run of the place. Yeah, that’s what prison is all about.

Somebody ought to pimp-slap that bitch around for the next several months so she gets a real feel of what the justice system is all about, eh? And of course the real crime is that some poor shulb out in Texas who got busted for a quarter oz. of weed back in ’74 is still doing hard time. I seriously tell you there oughta be a law!

The Perfessor

My Oscar Rant (Part the First)

Well, the Oscars are over except for the bragging rights, As a fellow who has been reviewing movies for the past 15 years or so (check out some of my more recent reviews here) I have to tell you that I love watching the Oscar telecast, and this year was no different. While many reviewers like to make Oscar predictions, and to rank movies, that’s not what I’m all about as a reviewer. I mean, how can you compare the gut-wrenching drama of Saving Private Ryan with the flat-out silliness of Airplane (perhaps the funniest non-Marx Brothers film ever made). While some of you might look at Toy Story and see an entertaining kiddie animated flick, I saw a top-flight buddy film on the order of Lethal Weapon (except, ya know, funnier)

So, given all this, what did I think of this year’s Telecast? Great! At the risk of being both redundant and trite, Chris Rock Rocks! His opening monologue was perhaps the funniest Oscar opening monologue I have ever heard (and I’ve been watching this show for as long as I can remember). So when he started trashing not only specific movies (Pootie Tang—in which Rock himself stared) but specific stars (Jude Law) as well I was hysterical. I mean, you just never do that kind of thing at the Oscars (I was reminded of Bobcat Goldthwaith’s bit at the first MTV Awards, all the presenters were doing “safe” comedy bits, and Bobcat comes out and trashes The Monkeys who were in the middle of their third (fourth?) revival — He did a bit where he said “hey, did anybody see The Monkeys? Man don’t they look old!” Then he grabbed a stool that was onstage and using it as a walker began to sing “Here we come, walking down the street.. Man, I wish my mother invented Whiteout (Former Monkey, Mike Nesbith’s mom had something to do with the invention of White Out and he was now so wealthy that he was passing on joining the new tour, which the other members needed to pay the bills).

Anyway, since I don’t pick winners, I’m never really disappointed with who wins (except for last year when Bill Murray was robbed of his best Actor award for Lost in Translation). Still, having said all of that, I was extremely pleased that Spider-Man 2 won for Special Effects, and (unlike our man, Walt) quite pleased that The Incredibles won for best-animated film. Yea you could make the argument that The Incredibles was derivative, but any crank can claim that anything (film, book, TV show, etc.) is derivative of something else (I know one such individual who insists that every film made since The Wizard of Oz is somehow derivative of that classic. I don’t know how, but that’s his claim, but all you have to do is ask him, and he’ll tell you).

Sure, sure it borrowed heavily from Marvel’s The Fantastic Four, and from DC’s Superman and Batman mythos, as well as from virtually every other superhero comic ever written. Who cares? I know that I certainly don’t. By tapping into this uniquely American, enormously rich, and entirely (and unfortunately mostly overlooked) vein, Director, Brad Bird cobbled together a thoroughly enjoyable story forming an entertainingly rich tapestry. Plus, given that these two films (The Incredibles and Spider-Man 2) came away with Oscars proves (to me at least) that comicbooks aren’t just disposable kiddie fare. That they are indeed legitimate entertainment and that I’ve been right about this all along (I’ve been reading comics since the early ‘60s, and have never been embarrassed that I — even at my advanced age — am still reading them.

OK, I’ll give you that Catwoman was crap, that the Joel Schumacher Batman films were ghod-awful, and that Hulk, Daredevil, and Electra all could have played better (I have longer rants on these last three films that I will get to another time, be patient, I actually do this stuff for a living, so I have paying clients that I have to get to first, plus, I unlike some in this particular arena, I do have like a life and stuff, ya know). If you wer to ask me (and yeah, I know that you didn’t but you are still reading, aren’t you?) The problem with Catwoman was that it completely departed from the source material (that and it was badly done, woodenly acted, and horribly animated the “action” sequences).

As for the Schumacher Batman films, they were just badly done (to the actor’s credit, Val Kilmer was them most athletic of the three actors who portrayed the Darknight detective (and thus closer to the comicbook incarnation, making him my personal favorite) George Clooney looked the best in the Batman suit, and Michael Keaton was actually the best Bruce Wayne. (I’m going to wait until Christian Bale’s turn in Batman Begins hits the screen later this year to go through my entire rant on this series, leave it to say now that Shumacher’s Batman was more like what he remembered Batman in the comics to be than what it actually was.)

The biggest problem with comicbook translations that make to the big screen (and why they mostly blow) is that the writers of the comics take the material, the medium, and the characters very seriously, while the writers of the movies, and TV shows don’t, and treat the source material as disposable pabulum crap. Only what they always fail to realize is that if the thing is popular enough in its original incarnation (and popular enough to be picked up as a movie or TV show) that it obviously does work as originally conceived, so why dick around with it? But they do, and when it fails miserably, everyone goes “See, I told you that this stuff was crap.” And then they go on to write and produce more crap based on respected works.

The Perfesser