Thursday, February 28, 2013

Moron of the Month - February 2013

February has only 28 days this year, so I'm getting this in just under the wire.  But, have no fear, there is a Moron this month.

Those of you outside of Los Angeles likely don't care but there is an election happening next week to find a new schmuck to lead the city.  The current mayor, Antonio Villaraigosa, is finally being shipped out after personally shepherding the town to the brink of almost certain ruin.  Here's an idiot who was so classically inept that it's almost logical that his next job will be a role in the Obama White House.  When it comes to politics, it's all about the party card in your wallet, not whether you can actually do a job.  Frankly, the only job that Villaraigosa is suiting for involves bags of orange and a nearby freeway on-ramp.  Anything else is completely out of his skill set.  Truly, "A Moron for All Seasons."

So, meanwhile, there are about six or seven clowns willing to take on this job.  Perhaps, in their spare time, they also like to stick toothpicks as well.  This will be a thankless position and one that will mimic Mary Richards in the last episode of "The Mary Tyler Moore Show."  Someone to turn the lights out while the rest of us hapless suckers sing "It's a Long Way To Tipperary."

But there is one candidate that is especially stupid.  And moronic.
Emanuel Pleitez.   Don't know the name?  That's because you haven't lived in my house for the past three weeks?  Or signed onto my computer?  If you had, you would know who this asshole is.  And hate him.

Luckily, this dope is only expected to garner about 6 or 7% of the vote.  Despite the fact that he says he is "quite frankly tired, uninspired, unimpressed by the folks who are running for office."  Pot, kettle, black.  If you do a little digging on Pleitez, you will realize he's just more of the same.

He's only thirty years old, so he clearly has no experience at anything but selecting a babysitter for Saturday night so he and his wife can go out to see the latest installment of Die Hard.  He has what my dad used to say..."all the answers to none of the questions."  

Just look at what he's done so far.  He worked at the dreaded Goldman Sachs until then-Presidential candidate Barack Obama plucked him out to be on his campaign team.   As if you didn't realize that the President owes so much to the money men he claims to hate.  The fact that Pleitez is Hispanic also helped.  Most politicians don't do a thing unless they know they are courting some voting bloc.

Meanwhile, Pleitez parlayed all this in a bunch of jobs that accomplished nothing and simply wasted taxpayer dollars.  Based out here in Southern California, his logical next step was to run Los Angeles.  Hey, the last guy didn't know what he was doing.  Why not continue the learned tradition?

Indeed, none of this checkered background makes Emanuel Pleitez any different from your own neighborhood sleazebag running for public office.  But, one thing does separate this jerk from the rest. 

His over-zealous and frenetic methods at trying to connect with the voting public.

Over the past three weeks, my phone has rung past 9PM on three different occasions.  All of them came from Pleitez' team.  At the most inappropriate late hour.  

"Can we count on your vote?"

No.  Click.

You would think these dummies would take that answer at face value?  Nah.

The same scene repeats itself on two other nights.  How fucking dare you?  On the last call, I respectively asked them to remove my number from their records.

"Can we ask why?"

Because I said so, stupid.

Meanwhile, something is happening on my computer.  All of a sudden, I am getting a steady flow of e-mails.  All about Emanuel Pleitez.  I spam them all.  Yet, they keep on coming.  How did they get this information?  

Back on Facebook, I keep seeing posts.  From "friend" Emanuel Pleitez.  How did this happen?  Who knows?  I look to see how I end this connection.  I search on Facebook how to construct a list of "enemies." 

Some might consider such outlandish attempts at getting your vote as innovative and clever.  I find it an incredible invasion of privacy.  Frankly, he lost my vote a long time ago.

Oh, wait, he never had it.  Because Emanuel Pleitez is nothing more than a cheap politician advertising himself as your best friend.  And whether it's for the office of Los Angeles Mayor or President of the United States, that just doesn't fly in my book.

Because they're really not your friend.  On Facebook.  Or anyplace else, for that matter.

Dinner last night:  Sandwich and salad.


Wednesday, February 27, 2013

This Date in History - February 27

Happy birthday, Joanne Woodward.   83 years young.  A phrase I never understand.  She's old.

425:  THE UNIVERSITY OF CONSTANTINOPLE IS FOUNDED BY EMPEROR THEODOSIUS.

Is Theodosius related to Supercalifragilisticexpiala?

1560:  THE TREATY OF BERWICK, WHICH WOULD EXPEL THE FRENCH FROM SCOTLAND, IS SIGNED.

Anything kicking the French out of anyplace is fine with me.

1594:  HENRY IV IS CROWNED KING OF FRANCE.

But, Henry, you can't go to Scotland.  Ha ha.

1776:  DURING THE AMERICAN REVOLUTION, THE BATTLE OF MOORE'S CREEK BRIDGE IN NORTH CAROLINA BREAKS UP A LOYALIST MILITIA.

There was a Tea Party back then, too.

1801:  WASHINGTON, DC IS PLACED UNDER THE JURISDICTION OF THE US CONGRESS.

They deserve each other.

1844:  THE DOMINICAN REPUBLIC GAINS INDEPENDENCE FROM HAITI.

Two more that deserve each other.

1860:  ABRAHAM LINCOLN MAKES A SPEECH AT COOPER UNION IN NEW YORK THAT IS LARGELY RESPONSIBLE FOR HIS ELECTION TO THE PRESIDENCY.

And he didn't even offer free stuff to anybody who would vote for him.

1864:  DURING THE AMERICAN CIVIL WAR, THE FIRST NORTHERN PRISONERS ARRIVE AT THE CONFEDERATE PRISON IN ANDERSONVILLE, GEORGIA.

Hence the famous Trials?

1870:  THE CURRENT FLAG OF JAPAN IS ADOPTED AS THE NATIONAL FLAG FOR JAPANESE SHIPS.

How do you say "duh" in Japanese?

1892:  ACTOR WILLIAM DEMAREST IS BORN.

Uncle Charley on "My Three Sons!"

1900:  THE BRITISH LABOUR PARTY IS FOUNDED.

Rhetorical question: why do the Brits always feel the need to add an extra "u" to certain words?  Discuss.

1902:  WRITER JOHN STEINBECK IS BORN.

Of Mice and Diapers.

1913:  WRITER IRWIN SHAW IS BORN.

Rich Baby, Poor Baby.

1917:  POLITICIAN JOHN CONNALLY IS BORN.

Duck!

1922:  A CHALLENGE TO THE 19TH AMENDMENT TO THE CONSTITUTION, ALLOWING WOMEN THE RIGHT TO VOTE, IS REBUFFED BY THE SUPREME COURT OF THE UNITED STATES.

The Constitution....anybody remember that?

1930:  ACTRESS JOANNE WOODWARD IS BORN.

You know one thing.  Her house is never short of popcorn, salad dressing, and spaghetti sauce.

1932:  ACTRESS ELIZABETH TAYLOR IS BORN.

And immediately married the doctor who handled the birth.

1934:  ACTIVIST RALPH NADER IS BORN.

Crazy at Any Speed.

1939:  THE US SUPREME COURT RULES THAT SIT-DOWN STRIKES ARE ILLEGAL. 

So how come there were so many of them in the 60s???

1940:  ACTOR HOWARD HESSEMAN IS BORN.

Dr. Johnny Fever on "WKRP in Cincinnati!"

1951:  THE 22ND AMENDMENT TO THE US CONSTITUTION, LIMITING PRESIDENTS TO TWO TERMS, IS RATIFIED.

Why do I think this is going to fall apart in about four years?

1964:  THE GOVERNMENT OF ITALY ASKS FOR HELP TO KEEP THE LEANING TOWER OF PISA FROM TOPPLING OVER.

Meanwhile, this piece of ancient rock is still standing and the World Trade Towers, made of steel, could be knocked over.

1972:  ACTOR PAT BRADY DIES.

I wonder if Roy Rogers had him stuffed, too.

1980:  ACTOR GEORGE TOBIAS DIES.

Abner!!!!

1985:  POLITICIAN HENRY CABOT LODGE DIES.

Lodge no longer offering vacancies.

1986:  HOCKEY STAR JACQUES PLANTE DIES.

And he's in the ground.

1986:  THE UNITED STATES SENATE ALLOWS ITS DEBATES TO BE TELEVISED ON A TRIAL BASIS.

If it was mud wrestling, I would tune in.

1993:  ACTRESS LILLIAN GISH DIES.

At the age of 100.  Please don't tell me this was untimely.

2003:  KIDDIE HOST FRED ROGERS DIES.

You won't be needing that sweater any more.

2004:  THE JOHN JAY REPORT, WITH DETAILS ABOUT THE CATHOLIC SEXUAL ABUSE SCANDAL IN THE US, IS RELEASED.

What???  Priests???  Are you kidding me????

2008:  AUTHOR WILLIAM F. BUCKLEY DIES.

Several months before Barack Obama was elected.   Which would have killed him anyway.

2011:  BASEBALL STAR DUKE SNIDER DIES.

No longer in center field.  Now he's under it.

Dinner last night:  Roast chicken dinner at the home of good friend Sue.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Saul and Heshe Kibbitz on the Oscars

Pastrami on rye at Nate N' Al's in Beverly Hills.  That's what our two favorite Hollywood veterans, Saul and Heshe, had for lunch yesterday as they chewed the fat over the Oscars.  The sandwiches were fine.  The Oscars?  Lots of indigestion.  Let's listen in.

"Oy."

"Oy."

"The Oscars this year.  We should sit shiva."

"Curtains on the mirrors all over Hollywood.  Bob Hope, we miss you, Bubbila."

"Seth MacFarlane as host.  Haven't Jews suffered enough?"

"Can't sing, can't host, not funny.  A triple threat."

"They should have called Martha Raye instead."

"Martha's dead."

"Still should have made the call anyway.  You never know."

"Were he and Donny Osmond separated at birth?"

"Seth MacFarlane.  Used car salesman or game show host?  You decide."

"And if he's selling cars, it's an Edsel dealership on Pico."

"Remind me again of the many great Seth MacFarlane movies."

"He's got one.  A teddy bear that curses."

"I worked with Francis the Talking Mule."

"Chill Wills was a real talent.  Not like today."

"And who was that munchkin on the red carpet?  The Wizard of Oz already had their wrap party."

"That was Kristin Chenowith."

"Call Ringling Brothers.  She needs some stilts."

"Oy."

"Vey iz mir."

"And then comes Billy Shatner to do gags with MacFarlane."

"Maybe he should have beamed him to Vulcan."

"What the hell is The Life of Pi?  The Marie Callender Story?"

"And they must be producing New Faces of 2013.  Look at them all.  Michael Douglas.  Jane Fonda.  Barbra."

"I remember the way her face was."

"I remember the way her voice was, too."

"And, hello, did you see that Jennifer Aniston?  Looking more and more like Connie Stevens."

"I shtupped Connie.  Somewhere between Hawaiian Eye and Palm Spring Weekend."

"Oueen Latifah?  What exactly is she the queen of?"

"The craft service table.  P.S., your majesty.  White's not a good color when you're as big as Lou Costello."

"Was that Adele or the Goodyear Blimp?"

"Notice that the blimp is not painted white."

"Somebody steal Adele's last name?"

"Her dress was made of charcoal filters...probably from a hot dog grill."

"P.S., Adele.  Black still means you're as big as Lou Costello."

"Sign up Adele and Queen Latifah for the Hunger Games."

"They should try the Lez Miz diet.  One croissant a week and then you die."

"Did you see?  They dusted off Shirley Bassey."

"She looked like a drag queen version of herself."

"Gold-FINGA."

"Oy."

"Oy."

"And that Jennifer Hudson.  All new.  New wig.  New face.  New tits."

"God bless.  There is a future after Burger King."

"Searching for Sugar Man?  What?  No Splenda?"

"Did you see that Les Miz?"

"No.  I draw the line.  Watching billionaire movie stars playing starving French peasants."

"Jennifer Lawrence, did you have a nice trip?"

"She went down fast.  Just like Connie Stevens."

"Lincoln, schmincon.  Spielberg, maybe it should have been a cartoon from Dreamworks."

"Steven, baby, who knew the highlight of your year would be the egg salad at your mother's restaurant?"

"Meanwhile, they're putting Daniel Day-Lewis on the five-dollar-bill."

"Ben Affleck.  Lucky bastard."

"Real hair on face, fake hair on head."

"He's got more wigs than Eva Gabor."

"And, oy, they have to schlep out the First Lady."

"She's got more wigs than Diahann Carroll."

"What the hell was she doing there?  You didn't see Mamie Eisenhower giving the Oscar to "Marty" in 1956?"

"I wonder what her real hair-do looks like."

"Coin toss.  Buckwheat or Farina."

"I tell you, this town has gone to shit."

"You're telling me.  They forgot my pickle!"

Thanks to today's collaborator, Andre Higgins-McMickens. 

Dinner last night:  Had a big lunch so just a sandwich.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Monday Morning Video Laugh - February 25, 2013

Back by popular demand.  A video laugh that actually stars...me.  My ill-fated ride on the Crazy Mouse at the Texas State Fair.  I was riding with my Texas friend Bill and two Mexican kids we didn't know.
Dinner last night:  Beef chili for the Oscars.


Sunday, February 24, 2013

The Sunday Memory Drawer - The First Time I Watched the Oscars

If I saw this TV Guide ad for the Oscars year ago, I probably salivated.  As I normally do every year when it comes to the pomp, circumstance, and all-around ridiculousness of the Academy Awards.  

I can remember many late New York nights tuned into the awards which seemed to run for five or six hours and often ended just as the Today Show was signing on.  I've been to Oscar parties and dinners.  It was almost required that you view this event with other folks who would crack wise right along with you.  You would get almost bleary-eyed as you waited endlessly for the announcement of the Best Picture of the Year.

Here, in Los Angeles, it's a lot easier to endure because of the time difference.  The whole shebang starts at 5PM and it's best that you get your delivery order for pizza or Chinese food in early, because it's the biggest day of the year if you sell take-out food.  As for me today, I will be cooking up a vat of chili for a friend or two.  And waiting anxiously to see how I did in my Oscar pool with NY pals Lorraine and Dennis.  Somehow, we will get through the ramblings of this year's obnoxious host, Seth MacFarlane and longing for those years when we had Johnny Carson, Bob Hope, or Steve Martin.

And I might also be thinking about way back when.  To a time when a little movie fan went through great machinations to watch the Oscar telecast for the very first time.

Even then, I was weird.  I was all about the movies.  I couldn't wait to go to them on a weekly basis.  Friday afternoons after school with Mom.  Sunday afternoons with Dad.  Actually, I learned to read at a very early age simply because my father would bring home the Night Owl edition of the New York Daily News and I would pore through the movie advertisements.  I didn't need Dick and Jane.  I had Richard and Elizabeth.

And I knew what a big deal the Academy Awards were.  I probably was the only second grader who could tell you what the Best Picture was in 1945.  It was "The Lost Weekend," by the way.  But I never got to see them given out on television.  

My bedtime on school nights was 8:30PM.  In order to stay up past that hour to watch my favorite TV show, "The Andy Griffith Show" on Monday nights required negotiations that would rival those need to avert the last NYC Transit strike.  Getting an additional night one week was virtually impossible.  Plus, in those days, the Oscar telecast started at 9 or 10PM.  I'm already supposed to be on my second nightmare by then.  Nevertheless, I would always try to float the notion.

Mom, can I stay up to watch the....

"No."

The exchange took less than three seconds.

I was always sunk.  Three thousand miles away, they were giving out Oscars.  In Mount Vernon, New York, I was reluctantly on a journey to Dreamland.  

When I was in the third grade, the matter became more annoying.  On the day of that year's Academy Awards, my foxy teacher, Mrs. Popper, devoted part of her lesson plan to the current nominees.  Besides her looks, that's what I liked about Mrs. Popper.  She was a real human being who liked the same stuff us kids did.

But, her pre-show comments about the Oscars made my bedtime that day even tougher to take.  How could I possibly participate in her post-telecast conversation tomorrow?  Here I am, a bonafide movie fan and I would have absolutely nothing to say about the Academy Awards which were unfortunately not being telecast on the back of my eyelids.

As I stumbled home from school in despair, I had an "A-ha" moment that has since been unequaled in my life.  Sort of like "bang, I could have a V-8."

Hey, stupid, haven't you forgotten?  Your parents aren't home at night anymore.

My mother went back to work as soon as I turned eight.  She worked until midnight at the Union Pen Company on McQuesten Parkway in Mount Vernon.  Dad was working at Mt. Vernon Die Casting, which inexplicably was now in Stamford, Connecticut.  He never got home until 1 AM.  The last I would see of my mother each day was when she sometimes picked me up at school around 3PM.  Luckily, she had not done so on this day as my mind was working overtime.

I could probably watch the Oscars for the first time.  The only obstacles?

Grandma and Grandpa downstairs.

Piece of cake.

The household routine in the "parents working nights" scenario was simple.  I'd eat dinner with my grandparents and do whatever homework I had.  Then, Grandpa would grab his nightly bottle of beer and take me upstairs to watch TV in my family's part of the house.  He was fairly loose about bedtime.  8:30PM could easily morph into 9PM.

On this night, I would need to work that magic and make it last until midnight.  But, to begin the charade, I would attempt to be the model grandchild and not put up a battle when 8:30PM rolled around.  I yawned.

Gee, Grandpa, I'm tired.

I went into my bedroom and ducked underneath the covers.  I closed my eyes and waited.  Grandpa was a Swiss watch.  

Ten minutes after I went to bed every night, he would pick up his empty bottle of beer and head back downstairs.  And where, like clockwork, Grandma and Grandpa would hit their own hay at 10PM.

I had to be a cat burglar.  Just like I had seen Cary Grant in "To Catch a Thief."  I waited several minutes to be sure and then crawled on all fours in the dark into the living room.  Luckily, there was a sliding plastic door on that room.  It was the only place in the house that had an air conditioner.  The door kept the cool air in during the summer.  This night, it would be my noise barrier.

I put the TV on with the volume very low and laid down in front of the set.  There was nobody to say "you're sitting too close to the screen."  I was right where I needed to be.  With one ear absorbing the soundtrack of the Oscar telecast and the other ear at the ready to discern any sounds that would get me thrown into parental prison.

Truth be told, I remember very well of that year's Oscars.  I was simply in rapture of it all.  I felt like an adult.  I knew my mom would be home by midnight so I turned off the television at 1145PM to be safe.  I might have missed some of the bigger awards but I had seen enough.  I was completely hooked.

And totally successful with my devious scheme.

The next day in class, Mrs. Popper, as expected, prattled on about the Oscars.  And I was delighted to be able to participate in the conversation.  I looked around at some of my classmates who had very easily watched the Academy Awards.  Oh, if I could only trade their living rooms for the stalag I was forced to live in.

After school, my mother picked me up at the door.  And, as was usually the case with parents, the teacher would use that opportunity to talk to them about their kids.  Mrs. Popper approached my mom and I suddenly had a sinking sensation in my stomach.  Crap, I know where this is going.

"Boy, Lenny really enjoyed those Oscars last night..."

I didn't wait around to hear Mom's response.

I was in bed by 7PM that night.  Not my choice.

Dinner last night:  Turkey burger at the Pig N' Whistle.


Saturday, February 23, 2013

Classic Movie Trailer of the Month - February 2013

Watch out for those crafty insurance agents.
Dinner last night:  Sausage pizza.

Friday, February 22, 2013

My Fearless Oscar Predictions - Part Two

Here's Hattie McDaniel getting her 1939 Best Supporting Actress Oscar for Gone with the Wind.  Back then, there was no hand wringing from Hollywood super-liberals.  They made her sit next to the kitchen door.  Guess who got the last laugh?  Bravo, Hattie.

Continuing along with my fearless predictions for Sunday night's Academy Awards.  My competition is with good NY pals Lorraine and Dennis.  But you can use my picks for your office pool, too.  Scroll back to yesterday for the crappy categories.  Today, it's "meat and potato" time.

Supporting Actress:  This is an easy one.  A lock that none of you should get wrong.  Take it to the bankerino.  There's one clear winner.  Amy Adams for The Master.  Thanks for playing.  Nobody liked your movie anyway.  Jacki Weaver for Silver Linings Playbook.  I had to look up your picture to see which character you played.  I am guessing lots of other people had to do the same thing.  Helen Hunt for The Sessions.  Thanks for playing, too.  And showing us ALL of your business.  The crime is that your co-star John Hawkes wasn't even nominated.   

So the real race is between two horses.  Well, fillies.  Sally Field was Abe's wife in Lincoln.  The First Lady was supposedly a little unbalanced.  Sally Field is supposedly a little unbalanced.  How much acting was needed?  Well, despite the fact that I did like you....I really, really liked you...you're not winning, Gidget.  Because when you allow yourself to get a bad haircut and physically starve yourself with nothing but Nutricrisp bars for weeks,  you secure your Oscar.  That, along with one heart-breaking solo, nailed the award for ANNE HATHAWAY for LES MISERABLES.

Supporting Actor:  This is likely the tightest race of all the acting categories.  And it has happened in the last four weeks for some reason.  Philip Seymour Hoffman for The Master.  See Amy Adams above.  Alan Arkin for Argo.  A nice job, but you got your lifetime achievement Oscar a few years back for Little Miss Sunshine.  One to a customer, Mr. Arkin.  Christoph Waltz for Django Unchained.  Didn't you just win one a few years ago?  Who do you think you are, Christoph?  Tom Hanks?  

The race is a close one between Robert De Niro for Silver Linings Playbook and Tommy Lee Jones for Lincoln.  Now, yes, De Niro has won before, but disco music was still new back then.  This could be his lifetime achievement honor.  Plus he finally acted in a movie that didn't restrict to playing that goofy type of character he did in all those Billy Crystal movies.  Personally, I take points off on Jones' side of the ledger for being Al Gore's friend, but other Academy members may not.  Plus he played a radical Republican who wanted to abolish slavery.  Now that's an acting job.  I think this could really go either way, but I will bet on ROBERT DE NIRO for SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK.  How did I break the tie?   De Niro has smiled in public once over the past six months.  Jones has not.

Actress:  Some pundits out here think this is getting close.  I think the pundits are wrong.  Let's rule out two from the get-go.  Naomi Watts was dynamite as the waterlogged mom in The Impossible.  But lots of grimaces don't necessarily make an Oscar winning performance.  If that was the case, Alan Sues would have been the most acclaimed actor in Hollywood history.  Quvenzhane Wallis for Beasts of the Southern Wild?  She's the youngest person to ever be nominated for an Oscar.  Well, Tatum O'Neal, your record is intact.  Wallis is over-matched and, in two years, we will find her cracking wise like Gary Coleman on some Nickelodeon sitcom.

The early frontrunner was Jessica Chastain for Zero Dark Thirty.  That was before everybody discovered she was simply playing a lighter and less bi-polar version of Clare Danes in Homeland.  So, the contest is between young and old.  Emanuelle Riva for Amour is making a run for it and certainly moving a lot faster than her stroke-riddled character did in the movie.  But it might be too little too late.  Silver Linings Playbook had one nomination in each of the acting categories.  It has to win one or two of them.  And that makes the winner JENNIFER LAWRENCE for SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK.

Actor:  Why am I wasting your precious reading time plus the wear and tear on my typing fingers?  If you get this one wrong, you're an idiot.  The winner will be DANIEL DAY LEWIS for LINCOLN.

Director:  The drama about this category has been fascinating.  Ben Affleck was not nominated for Argo probably because stunned Academy voters were in a shock that he actually made a great film.  Meanwhile, it's become the greatest injustice to any one person since Rosa Parks was shuffled off to the back of the bus.  Or Hattie McDaniel was forced to sit next to the kitchen.  As a result, Affleck and Argo have scored all the other awards as consolation prizes.  Plus he personally secured the Director's Guild Award.  

But he can't win the Oscar.  Of those that can, there's one who has been shamelessly campaigning for it.  And, since Hollywood doesn't like to piss off their former wunderkin, the winner will be STEVEN SPIELBERG for LINCOLN, a good but not as-great-as-Spielberg-wants-you-to-think movie.

Picture:  Nine nominees this year and I've seen seven of them.  I couldn't be bothered by either Beasts of the Southern Wild or Django Unchained.  If I had to rank my personal preference for the ones that I did see, they would go as follows:

7.  Zero Dark Thirty.

6.  Life of Pi.

5.  Lincoln. 

4.  Silver Linings Playbook.

3.  Amour.

2.  Les Miserables.

1.  Argo.

And, almost miraculously, I think that's the way it will go on Sunday night.  Forget all the nonsense about the Ben Affleck snubbing.  Argo is a classic Best Picture winner.  Well-made with something to say and exciting to boot.  In my book, it was the Best Picture of the Year.

So, unless you have a reading impairment and can't understand what I just wrote, the winner will be ARGO.

Good luck to all.  Don't blame me if you lose.

Dinner last night:  German salami sandwich.


Thursday, February 21, 2013

My Fearless Oscar Predictions - Part One

Time for Oscars 2013.  People who call it that don't realize that it should be called Oscars 2012 because that's when the movies were realized in order to qualify to get an award in February 2013.  Pure confusion and always a question for the ages.  Sort of like "why do you park on a driveway and drive on a parkway."

I digress....

Well, my first fearless Oscar prediction for this year (or is it last year?) is that Bob Hope is still dead and, therefore, unavailable to host the telecast.  Instead, we will be stuck with Seth McFarlane who's about as hilarious as pancreatic cancer.  By Monday morning, everybody will be moaning and groaning over how insipid it all is.  Yet, every freakin' year, we will tune in to watch.

I tune in to see if I am getting another free dinner.  Regular readers will know that I annually participate in an Oscar pool with good friends back in NY, Lorraine and Dennis.  We start with predicting the nominations in the major categories.  I've already got 27 points.  Lorraine is at 25 and Dennis is at 24. Now we keep adding points by counting the number of correct predictions for the actual award night.  The winner gets a free meal.  It's been yours truly the past several years.  Will I be triumphant again?  Well, let's see.  

Today, I'll tackle everything but the major categories.  You know what I mean.  The stuff nobody gives a Greer Garson about.  Best Tacos Served by Craft Services for a Science Fiction Production.  Everybody yaks through these presentations but they are the ones that usually make or break you in the office pool.  So, read on and use my predictions with your own discretion.

Production Design:  The sheer name of the award makes you want to see if there's another slice of pizza left in the kitchen.  Basically, this is an Oscar given to the movie that looks like it spent the most money in the prop department.  Of the five nominees, only one movie is set in America.  It's that kind of bizarre logic that has found me not picking up a dinner check for Dennis and Lorraine in some time.  I'm not messing with past history.  The winner is LINCOLN.

Sound Editing:  Editing, my Aunt Fanny.  This is all about what movie can get the loudest.  And, since none of the nominees feature Ethel Merman, I will have to settle for James Bond.  The winner is SKYFALL.

Sound Mixing:  Mixing, my Aunt Fanny.  This is all about which movie can throw as many voices up on the screen at one time.  Of the nominees, there's an obvious choice.  Lots of actors in tattered clothes building a barricade out of old Ikea furniture in the middle of a Parisian street, all the while singing and not missing a beat.  The winner is LES MISERABLES.

Costume Design:  Tried and true Len rule.  Always go for the movie set several centuries ago in a country farthest from America.  Les Miserables is nominated, but I looked at a map and Russia is farther.  Besides everything in the former looks like it came out of a Goodwill dumpster on Pico.  The winner is ANNA KARENINA.
  
Makeup and Hairstyling:  Only three nominees.  Hitchcock is one of them and personally Anthony Hopkins looked more like Elmer Fudd than the legendary director.  There's the Hobbit, but I wouldn't pick that just on principle.  Meanwhile, they gave Anne Hathaway a haircut that looked worse than one you would get at Supercuts, so the winner has to be LES MISERABLES.

Visual Effects:  This is so easy I'm embarrassed even including it.  Of all the nominees, there's one movie that was nothing more than a two-and-a-half hour visual effect.  Plus the credits at the end were essentially the White telephone pages of Mumbai.  The winner is LIFE OF PI.

Film Editing:  Even though it was complete CGI, I jumped every time the tiger popped out of the bottom of the boat.  If your editing can scare Len, you deserve an Oscar.  The winner is LIFE OF PI.

Original Score:  John Williams is nominated for Lincoln but I'm guessing that, viewing his embarrassment of riches, even he doesn't vote for himself anymore.  I think that, along with the film editing, the music crescendos every time the tiger popped out of the bottom of the boat were impressive enough to merit an Oscar.  The winner is LIFE OF PI.

Original Song:  The only nominee that I remember was quite distinctive when I saw the movie.  I recall saying that it was the closest thing to a James Bond hit song since Shirley Bassey sang "Goldfinger" or Paul McCartney sang 'Live and Let Die."  Besides it was written by that Adele and she's hotter than a burrito at your local food truck for the neighborhood gardeners.  The winner is SKYFALL.

Foreign Film:  Of the five nominees, only one scored in this category as well as in the Best Picture grouping.  When that has happened in the past, the film in question always goes home with this one.  Despite it being as depressing as the last time you tried to watch an episode of "Rules of Engagement,"  the winner is AMOUR.

Animated Feature:  I didn't see any of the nominees so I have to depend upon the viewpoints of younger people in my life.  I have been assured that one is "the real shit."  The winner is WRECK-IT RALPH.

Documentary Feature:  This is always where Hollywood gets to show how socially conscious they are.  Well, they're not really, but, then again, it is a town of make believe.  Films that win usually have something to do with the Holocaust or Hurricane Katrina.  Now, if somebody would do a movie about a concentration camp in New Orleans during a hurricane, they could dust off their mantel right now.   This year, there's a nominee about AIDS, almost a sure fire winner for any Academy voters living between Kings Road and Laurel Avenue in West Hollywood.  But, wait, there's one about two South Africans trying to track down their favorite jazz musician.  Short of a hurricane or a tsunami, that will do.  The winner is SEARCHING FOR SUGAR MAN.

Documentary Short:  Who goes to see these things?  Why, my friends Dennis and Lorraine do.   Here in LA, they always play them at the Nuart Theater near me.  There is never a long line of people outside.  The rumor is that Academy voters let their housekeepers fill out this part of their Oscar ballot, which automatically gives a leg up to any short filmed in El Salvador.  For Documentary Short, all socially conscious rules for Documentary Feature apply as well.  There's one about a homeless teenage artist in California.  That should get the voters' attention.  Not that they'll give the kid any money if he stops them on a freeway off-ramp.  The winner is INOCENTE.

Live Action Short:  These nominees also play at the Nuart.   And I still don't go.  If I'm going to see a live action short these days, it better feature either the Three Stooges or Our Gang.  The titles of this year's nominees look dreadful.    The winner will be CURFEW.  Why?  I'll be damned if I know.

Animated Short:  These nominees also play at the Nuart.  And....wait for it, everybody...I didn't go.  But now I see one of the cartoons featured Maggie Simpson.  Okay, it's not exactly Bugs Bunny or Popeye, but I always enjoy me a bit of the Simpsons.  Oh, well, I doubt it will win anyway.  I hear there's one done by a Disney animator in his spare time.  Well, that's a lot more productive than using the office computer to watch Korean porn.  The winner is ADAM AND DOG.

Cinematography:  This usually matches up to the movie featuring the Best Director winner.  Now, I'm not telling you that until tomorrow, but here's a spoiler alert.  This year, the two awards won't match up.  Even though it was almost all CGI, one film was a stunner for the eyes.  The winner is LIFE OF PI.

Original Screenplay:  I'm not nominated for 'The Memory Drawer," but I might be in 2016.  Oh, damn, now I told you what I'm doing in my spare time.  Okay, let's slice up those that are nominated this year.  Quentin Tarantino for Django Unchained?  Next.  No Academy member over the age of 40 would vote for this "pisher."  John Gatins for Flight?  Er, that was nothing more than The Lost Weekend in a 757.  Moonrise Kingdom?  Clever as hell and those scripts never win.  Amour?  Strong but weepy.  There was tons of bad press about how accurate Mark Boal's screenplay for Zero Dark Thirty was.  And, as I wrote here, it was nothing more than an episode of Homeland.  I doubt the voters care.  The winner is ZERO DARK THIRTY.

Adapted Screenplay:  Well, two months ago, Tony Kushner's screenplay for Lincoln was such a sure shot it might have been fired by John Wilkes Booth in Ford's Theater.  But, then, director Ben Affleck got screwed by the Academy and did not receive a nomination for Best Director with Argo.  Now that movie has won everything but the Nobel Prize.  Truth be told, Chris Terrio's script is incredibly taut and exciting.  Not a sympathy vote in my eyes.  The winner is ARGO.

See you tomorrow for the big stuff.

Dinner last night:  Ribeye steak at Hal's Bar and Grill.


Wednesday, February 20, 2013

This Date in History - February 20

Happy birthday, Sandy Duncan.  If you don't know who she is, you've obviously never eaten a Wheat Thin cracker.

1472:  ORKNEY AND SHETLAND ARE PAWNED BY NORWAY TO SCOTLAND IN LIEU OF A DOWRY FOR MARGARET OF DENMARK.

So what does this mean?  She got a pony?

1547:  EDWARD VI OF ENGLAND IS CROWNED KING OF ENGLAND AT WESTMINSTER ABBEY.

I just realized it's "Westminster" not "Westminister."  Even the blog writer learn a lot on these days.

1792:  THE POSTAL SERVICE ACT, ESTABLISHING THE US POST OFFICE, IS SIGNED BY PRESIDENT GEORGE WASHINGTON.

The only day in its history where the employees were not overpaid.

1798:  LOUIS ALEXANDRE BERTHIER REMOVES POPE PIUS VI FROM POWER.

Somebody make sure you get the jewelry back.

1816:  ROSSINI'S OPERA "THE BARBER OF SEVILLE" PREMIERES THE TEATRO ARGENTINA IN ROME.

For those who thought this was originated by Alfalfa in a "Little Rascals" episode.

1835:  CONCEPCION, CHILE IS DESTROYED BY AN EARTHQUAKE.

Mis-concepcion.

1872:  IN NEW YORK CITY, THE METROPOLITAN MUSEUM OF ART OPENS.

So when was the first school field trip?

1873:  THE UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA OPENS ITS FIRST MEDICAL SCHOOL IN SAN FRANCISCO.

And who was the first Asian to be accepted?

1877:  TCHAIKOVSKY'S BALLET "SWAN LAKE" RECEIVES ITS PREMIERE PERFORMANCE AT THE BOLSHOI IN MOSCOW.

For those who thought this was originated in a Bugs Bunny cartoon.

1895:  POLITICIAN FREDRICK DOUGLASS DIES.

No debate here.  He's dead.

1901:  THE LEGISLATURE OF HAWAII TERRITORY CONVENES FOR THE FIRST TIME.

Hawaii One-O.

1906:  ACTOR GALE GORDON IS BORN.

"Mrs. Carmichael!"

1913:  KING O'MALLEY DRIVES IN THE FIRST SURVEY PEG TO MARK COMMENCEMENT OF WORK ON THE CONSTRUCTION OF CANBERRA.

For those who thought King O'Malley was the owner of the Dodgers.

1914:  JOURNALIST JOHN CHARLES DALY IS BORN.

"Thirty dollars down, Miss Kilgallen."

1924:  FASHION DESIGNER GLORIA VANDERBILT IS BORN.

She designed lots of nice clothes and gave birth to Anderson Cooper.  Well, not every creation can be a hit.

1925:  DIRECTOR ROBERT ALTMAN IS BORN.

B*O*R*N*.

1927:  ACTOR SIDNEY POITIER IS BORN.

Guess who's coming to breastfeed?

1929:  ACTRESS AMANDA BLAKE IS BORN.

Miss Kitty!

1931:  THE CONGRESS OF THE UNITED STATES APPROVES THE CONSTRUCTION OF THE SAN FRANCISCO-OAKLAND BRIDGE.

Which later collapsed.  So now we know who to blame.  The federal government.

1933:  THE US CONGRESS PROPOSES THE TWENTY-FIRST AMENDMENT THAT WILL END PROHIBITION IN THE UNITED STATES.

Okay, so not everything they do sucks.

1933:  ADOLF HITLER SECRETLY MEETS WITH INDUSTRIALISTS TO ARRANGE FINANCING FOR HIS NEXT NAZI PARTY ELECTION.

So how is this different from what politicians in America do?

1935:  CAROLINE MIKKELSEN BECOMES THE FIRST WOMAN TO SET FOOT IN ANTARCTICA.

Sent there likely by Mr. Mikkelsen.

1938:  ACTOR RICHARD BEYMER IS BORN.

He starred in "West Side Story."  Even his first cry in the delivery room was probably dubbed.

1944:  DURING WORLD WAR II, THE "BIG WEEK" BEGAN WITH AMERICAN BOMBER RAIDS ON GERMAN AIRCRAFT CENTERS.

Perfectly time to coincide with a "sweeps" week.

1946:  ACTRESS SANDY DUNCAN IS BORN.

Two-thirds down in this blog entry and I'm sure some of you are still wondering who the hell she is.

1952:  EMMETT ASHFORD BECOMES THE FIRST BLACK UMPIRE IN ORGANIZED BASEBALL.

And didn't make it to the major leagues for another ten years.

1962:  ABOARD FRIENDSHIP 7, JOHN GLENN BECOMES THE FIRST AMERICAN TO ORBIT THE EARTH.

Not including Alice Kramden who was sent to the moon ten years earlier.

1966:  ADMIRAL CHESTER NIMITZ DIES.

Now he's sunk.

1971:  THE US EMERGENCY BROADCAST SYSTEM IS ACCIDENTALLY ACTIVATED. 

"Duck and cover!"

1972:  JOURNALIST WALTER WINCHELL DIES.

A scoop he didn't have.

1985:  VOICE ACTOR CLARENCE NASH DIES.

The death of Donald Duck.

1987:  IN SALT LAKE CITY, A BOMB SET OFF BY THE UNABOMBER EXPLODES IN A COMPUTER STORE.

Would the second explosion make him "the dualbomber?"

1992:  ACTOR DICK YORK DIES.

The first Darrin on "Bewitched."

1999:  CRITIC GENE SISKEL DIES.

Thumb way down.

2001:  ACTRESS ROSEMARY DECAMP DIES.

I love her baked beans.

2003:  DURING A GREAT WHITE CONCERT IN RHODE ISLAND, A PYROTECHNICS DISPLAY SETS THE CLUB ABLAZE, KILLING 100.

Sparklers can kill.

2005:  ACTRESS SANDRA DEE DIES.

Imitation of Death.

2005:  BROADWAY ACTOR JOHN RAITT DIES.

The Carousel stops.

2006:  SPORTSCASTER CURT GOWDY DIES.

Broadcast both the Mets 1969 World Series win and the Jets' victory in Super Bowl III.  You gotta love this guy.

2010:  POLITICIAN ALEXANDER HAIG DIES.

Hey, who's in charge now, asshole?

Dinner last night:  Spaghetti and meat sauce.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Sadness on Steroids

Feeling glum about your life?  I invite you to go see the Oscar-nominated "Amour."  You will leave thinking that, compared to the folks in this movie,  your world is Hayley Mills in "Pollyanna" in comparison.

Don't get me wrong.  "Amour" is as powerful and well-made as a film can be.  The lead performances, especially that of the Oscar-nominated Emmanuelle Riva, are nothing short of spectacular.   It's just not easy to take.  Because, at its heart, there is a subject matter that all of us have likely gone through at least once in our lives.

Watching somebody you love die a slow death.

So, you're right to expect that "Amour" won't give you any uplifting scenes.   Yep, no Fred Astaire tap dancing on the ceiling.  Instead, you get a woman whose health is slowly failing.   And the husband who is relegated to helping through it all.

Emmanuelle Riva plays the prospective patient.  She's a former music teacher and has some very famous pupils.  One morning while eating a poached egg with her husband, veteran French actor Jean-Louis Trintignant, she starts to stare off into space for several minutes.  Frankly, I do the same when I think about the New York Mets' prospects in 2013, but this woman is obviously sicker than that.  

Surgery for a carotid artery is botched and this precipitates more strokes than Michael Phelps.  Step by step and scene by scene, Riva begins a downward slide that you know will wind up with her death.   Is that a spoiler alert?  Nah.  The story is told in flashback and you see her laid out in the bedroom as the film opens.  The bulk of the movie shows you the pain and anguish for both husband and wife.

Are you smiling yet?

The wife needs diapers, a wheelchair, and probably a damn good undertaker.   The husband is a hero as he tries to acquiesce to her wishes that she not be hospitalized.  There is anger.  There is frustration.  There is slow acceptance of fate.

Towards the last third of the movie, it all hit home for me.

In the last stages of her illness, Riva starts to moan one word over and over and over.  The French word for "hurt."

God, I remember that now.   It was the same with my grandmother.

She had a similar end, although at the ripe old age of 90.  After falling and breaking a hip, she came home but was never the same.  She also didn't want to be in a hospital again.   And did not want anybody but my father helping her.

Effectively, my dad spent the first year of his own retirement as a caregiver.  He was certainly not experienced.  But, he was forbidden from reaching out to anybody else.

So, for a year, I saw "Amour" myself.   The anger.  The frustration.  The slow acceptance of fate.

And, my grandmother would moan one word all day and all night.  I don't know what that word was.  It was essentially incomprehensible.  But it was uttered constantly for the last two months of her life until she ultimately went into a life-ending coma.

When I saw "Amour,"  director Michael Haneke brought this memory right back to me.  And I realized that the plotline of this film likely resonates with everybody.

So, while there are no smiles, there is certainly enough to make you feel, react...and remember when.

Dinner last night:  Bacon and cheese omelet.


Monday, February 18, 2013

Monday Morning Video Laugh - February 18, 2013

It's always time for a classic "I Love Lucy" scene.  Here she tries to climb down the terrace of Cornel Wilde's hotel room.   Pay particular attention to Vivian Vance here.  She almost steals the scene.
Dinner last night:  Sausage pizza at Vito's.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

The Sunday Memory Drawer - Bye Bye Birdie

I was recently horrified.  I heard from a friend that, at this very moment, there is a remake of "Bye Bye Birdie" being written somewhere out here in the bowels of Hollywood.

Bowels, indeed.

Why don't you just kill me now?  At least start the process and then please know that you will have to finish when some fool ultimately decides to do remakes of my all-time favorite films, "The Apartment" and "Some Like It Hot."

There is nothing sacred anymore.  Not even formerly pristine memories from my childhood.

I think about "Bye Bye Birdie" and wonder just what a remake would look like. 

Instead of Elvis Presley going off to the Army, is the 2013 plot finding a Justin Bieber knockoff headed off to prison as he serves his sentence for a DUI convicton?

The famed "Telephone Hour" production number?  Gee, let's update that by having all the Sweet Apple, Ohio texting each other about Hugo Peabody and Kim McAfee being pinned.

Of course, some genius out there will try to connect to the original movie by including former stars Ann-Margret and Bobby Rydell in cameo roles.  Wow, they can be exasperated parents now.  Or maybe the mayor and his wife.

Ugh.

If the lunatics entrusted with this reboot were smart, they would throw the money back and walk away from the project right now.  As a creative work, "Bye Bye Birdie" is almost hopelessly and joyously bound to the 1960s.  First as a Broadway musical and then as the 1963 film, it was a product of its time.  And works only in that context. 

Now, the movie is a bit different from the Broadway production.  The filmmakers felt a need to make it even more rooted to the decade that spawned it.  There is a subplot tied to the Cold War and Russian hostilities.  Numerous gags reference Nikita Khrushchev and John F. Kennedy, the latter made even more painful because he died a short six months after "Bye Bye Birdie" was released. 

But, still.  The movie still works.  For me.  I just watched the recently remastered Blu-ray edition and fell in love all over again.  I still hear the dated jokes.  I can recite most of the lines.  I can show you a blooper where you can actually see the glass ramp that the drugged turtle zooms up.  I can point out to you amongst the teenagers Linda Kaye Henning of "Petticoat Junction" and Elaine Joyce.

I am truly a geek when it comes to "Bye Bye Birdie."  A movie that came in at #12 when I documented my Top 25 Favorite Films of All Time on this blog over five years ago.

Indeed, "Bye Bye Birdie" was my first non-edible obsession. When I initially saw it when it arrived at the Loews Theater in Mount Vernon, I couldn't get enough of it. Because I wound up seeing it six times over the next seven days. I'm not sure why I skipped a day, but it must have been, in the most Biblical of senses, our day to rest.

How did I wind up there in the darkened theater all week?  Very simple.  Neither of my parents had any interest.  My mother wasn't particularly fond of musicals.  And my dad?

"I can't stand that Dick Van Dyke.  He falls downs a lot."

A bit of a random reaction I agree.  But, even at this tender age, my parents acknowledged the safer world around us. 

"Okay, we'll drop you off at the theater and pick you up after the movie." 

Just to be clear, I wasn't completely unchaperoned.  My father would slip five dollars to the guy taking the tickets or maybe the deadly theater matron with her dreaded flashlights.  They were entrusted to watch over me.  And did so gladly.  Back in that day, five bucks went someplace.

Of course, my absolutely crazed reaction to the first viewing of "Bye Bye Birdie" made me want to go back and back and back.  My parents surprisingly didn't care.

"Well, it's your allowance."

I often wonder if each visit to Loews for "Bye Bye Birdie" cost them five dollars for the in-theater babysitting service.  Or, after the third or fourth time, they threw their hands in the air and said "what the hell."  He came back in one piece.  Maybe he doesn't need the supervision.

I certainly wasn't going to raise a ruckus as I sat gaping at my very favorite movie of all time.  I was completely mesmerized.

You see, "Bye Bye Birdie" also probably marked the official grand opening of Len's Hormones.

The ribbon cutter was none other than Ann-Margret. The record album cover at the top of today's posts gives her limited justice. I immediately used my very next allowance to go to Brodbeck's Record Store on Fourth Avenue in Mount Vernon, New York to purchase the stereophonic long playing soundtrack record.

And I will tastefully refuse to tell you what I used to do with that record jacket.

In an incomprehensible twist, the other thing that made me love this movie was the presence of Paul Lynde as the father. I was, of course, way, way too naive to understand all the sordid details of Mr. Lynde's private life. All I knew was that I thought the guy was a stitch and that I wished secretly my father was just like this guy. Years later, I doubt that I wanted my dad to be cruising Santa Monica Boulevard looking for teenage boys.

I played the "Bye Bye Birdie" soundtrack on my record player constantly. I knew all the words to every song and wanted desperately to be in the show if it ever was done in my school. In retrospect, I creep myself out at how nuts I was about this movie. And now I wonder what the hell drew me to it, beyond Ann-Margret's multiple scenes in Spandex.

Well, the music is quite underrated. There are shows/movie musicals that have been more successful, but I couldn't tell one song from another. Indeed, "Bye Bye Birdie" harkens back to a simpler time. Perhaps it's all this teenage angst that drew me in. It was a harbinger of things to come. Amid all the drama of the world, these kids seemed to be okay and even thriving. Maybe that was the future I was hoping for. That life would be so comfortable that I could sit on the telephone and talk to my friends all day like the kids of Sweet Apple, Ohio did.
And perhaps I would be grown up enough to dance around in a night club just like this trailer shows.  The famous "Birdie" dance. 

Admittedly, it's probably a little weird that I would walk to grade school, singing the lyrics to "I"ve Got a Lot of Livin' to Do." I mean, think about it.

"There are chicks just right for some kissing and I mean to kiss me a few."

I can almost hear the call from my teacher and the school psychologist right now. The express train to puberty making no stops. So, if I spent a year obsessed with "Bye Bye Birdie," big freakin' deal! I think I turned out okay.

What did my parents think? Well, consider the song that could have been their anthem as well.  

"Kids, I don't know what's wrong with these kids today."

As I wrote above, I now have the newly restored Blu-ray.  And they recently released a remastered CD with some of the musical numbers, originally omitted, now included.  The album cover is intact.  And, years later, I still stare at the damn thing.

Luckily, I did get to see "Bye Bye Birdie" on a big screen a few years back when the Alex Film Society ran it. It was a true time machine. I felt like I was back in the Loews Mount Vernon, eyes riveted on the screen with a mouthful of Pom Poms. Now, I want to experience that all over again.  It's the 50th anniversary of its original release.  I wait for some film society like the Egyptian or the Aero here in Los Angeles to put together a night devoted to the film.  Dick Van Dyke is still with us.  So are Ann-Margret and Bobby Rydell.  They would be available for a Q & A after the movie.  In my fantasy world, I am the moderator.

But, rest assured, I probably won't be sharing what I was doing with that record album cover. But, before you let your dirty minds go too far off course, keep in mind that I wasn't even ten yet.

Dinner last night:  Honey walnut shrimp and garlic chicken at Panda Inn.