93 posts categorized "Classic movies"

11 February 2015

Oh snap: I don't get 'West Side Story'

West350r
Watch out, the Jets are getting very angry. (United Artists)

Those who have questioned my comic ability over the years, including me, must at least admit I am in complete harmony in one area with George Carlin, the brilliant late comic uncanny in his ability to observe life.

When it comes to the classic Hollywood musical West Side Story, the 1961 musical that won 10 Academy Awards including best picture, Carlin didn't and I just don't get it.

What Carlin expressed in the past and what I feel right now is the notion of two bitter rival New York street gangs who hate each other so much that they ... they ... snap their fingers angrily at each other.

Oh the humanity!

Of course the lily white Jets and the Puerto Rican Sharks eventually get around to whipping out their switchblades in this crowd-pleasing rehash of Shakespeare's classic Romeo and Juliet yarn.  But after all the finger-snapping and high-jumping choreography, though, I share Carlin's take 100 percent:

"I'll cut you, man!  But first, let's dance!"

 

A lady at one of my Movie Memories presentations suggested recently that maybe West Side Story is a "chick flick" and guys just don't get it. 

WSSposter250That may be the case for some, but I really enjoyed plenty of potentially "chick flickish" musicals.  The Sound of Music comes to mind, and so does Oklahoma!  And my disdain for West Side Story has nothing to do with all the fighting and hatred.  

And I can prove it.  My two favorite musicals of all time are Cabaret (1972) and Hedwig and the Angry Inch (2001), a little ditty about a transsexual punk rocker tormented by the fact that a certain life-altering operation didn't quite work out as planned.

Sorry, but West Side Story, the movie many consider to be one of the best -- if not the greatest -- musicals of all time just doesn't cut it for me, if you'll excuse the pun. 

I wouldn't suggest that you think ill of me for weak puns like that, either, I might just snap my fingers at you with that killer look in my eyes.

Making Movie Memories in San Antonio

Thanks to activity director Mario Garcia and all the fine folks over at Madison Estates for inviting us to spread a little cinematic (almost) Valentine's Day cheer Tuesday evening.

We had a great turnout of folks who really got into our Hollywood's Great Romantic Scenes presentation, even to the point of snapping their fingers right along with the Jets and the Sharks during the West Side Story portion of the presentation.

I can't wait to return to Madison Estates on March 22 for our Savor Those Tunes -- Great Movie Music Movie Memories presentation.  It's one of my personal favorites.

Among many others, we'll be Puttin on the Ritz from Young Frankenstein in that one.

 

If you haven't already, call 214-364-7364 to book a Movie Memories presentation for your event, group or senior community.

28 January 2015

Ready for Buddy Holly live-ish?

Holly240I'm all for free enterprise, even when it comes to making a few bucks off dearly departed spouses to pay the rent and have a little left over for other essentials such as facelifts, body lowerings, tummy tucks, plastic breasts and, of course, lip-and-hip enhancement.

Heck, I hope when I'm gone my wife Suellen writes the book I've never had the guts to write (so far) about the bizarre path of a film critic trying to maintain his journalistic dignity while tip-toeing through the vague and veiled world of celebrity entertainment.

That said, I'm having more than a little trouble understanding why Maria Elena Holly, the Texas music icon's widow, has signed off on a virtual Buddy Holly stage tour set to kick off next year, according to a story in the Hollywood Reporter.

That's right, a hologram of Holly will likely sing -- sort of -- all the hits from Peggy Sue to That'll Be the Day.  Who knows?  In this age of social media and anything-goes-don't bother-to-check-your-sources reporting, a flickering image of Holly might just sell a ton of tickets.

According to the Hollywood Reporter article:

"Hologram USA is already working on the hologram-like performance of the rock and roll icon, as well as on a similar show around Liberace, which will debut in Las Vegas. Through  the partnership with Buddy Holly Licensing, the company has access to music and images of Holly. Interactive elements involving the audience and back up band members are also being created."

Surely, Holly's widow is fighting this sort of tales-from-the-crypt nonsense to sell tickets.  That's what you and me and any sane person who respects what the guy in glasses from West Texas accomplished in such a short time in the spotlight would think.  Right?

We would be wrong about that.

"I am so excited that my partnership with Hologram USA on the Buddy Holly concert project will allow a new generation of fans to experience the thrill of seeing Buddy ‘live’ and in concert for the first time in many decades," Maria Elena Holly told the Hollywood Reporter.

So sorry, Mrs. Holly, but no one is going to see your late, great -- let's just go ahead and say legendary -- husband again live or even, as you put it, 'live.'

The music genius from Lubbock died along with The Big Bopper and Ritchie Valens in a tragic plane crash between Clear Lake, Iowa and Moorhead, Minn. almost exactly 56 years ago.  Holly was only 22 years old.

In American Pie, Don McLean's meandering 1971 folk-rock anthem with almost hypnotic lyrics, McLean referred to Feb. 3, 1959 as "the day the music died."

Hollystory230I suggest we celebrate Holly best by just listening to his almost unbelievable collection of hits.  And if you simply must see a semi-image of the man, seek out "The Buddy Holly Story," the 1978 biopic starring Gary Busey.

Yes, that Gary Busey; the human hologram who's pushing the Amazon Fire TV Stick in commercials and can't tell the difference between a Fire Stick and a seashell.  Busey was on fire as Holly, by the way.

I know an Elvis Presley hologram concert is in the works as well.  So why not go all the way?  Bring back The Possum, the late, great George Jones, who died in April 2013.  He could sing his signature hit, although it would have to be adjusted time wise.

You know, He Stopped Loving Her Almost Two Years Ago Today.

But Buddy Holly in a hologram concert?  Line up and enjoy yourself if you must.  A word of advice:  Don't bother waiting around for an autograph.

As for me, that'll be the day-ay-ay when I ... when I ... don't know.

I've got nothing.  Rave On, indeed.

 

06 January 2015

New Year, new opportunity for ... you

Piggybank275l
(Courtesy: www.thisismoney.co.uk)

Let's just say you're retired, semi-retired or, for some other reason, looking for a way to earn some income or added income in 2015.

Many members of the baby boomer generation tell me they're bored and looking for something fulfilling to do with their time.  Is that the case with you?  Why not generate some spending money or catch up on pesky bills during that spare time, especially when you never have to leave the comfort of your home to do it and there is no buy-in required?  It costs you nothing to begin the process and seize this opportunity.

Let's just say you enjoy speaking with people on the telephone or communicating through social media via the Internet and can spare 15 or 20 hours a week to join a fun-loving team to bring Movie Memories presentations to the public.

Let's just say, then, that you are a prime candidate to join the Movie Memories with Larry Ratliff team to set up Movie Memories speaking engagements.

LightbulbMoney260
(Courtesy: www.deregulatedelectricitynow.com)

Here's an idea that could very well pad your pocketbook, ease your boredom and give you a giggle or two along the way.  Movie Memories is looking to partner with select energetic, friendly people to make calls or send emails to senior residence facilities, clubs, organizations and corporations.  You'll be booking Movie Memories with Larry Ratliff speaking engagements primarily in your city, where you are most familiar, but perhaps all across Texas and beyond.

We're looking for a few key partners in the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex, San Antonio, Houston and the Austin area to spread the word about Larry Ratliff, the public speaker, veteran film critic and humorist who has already entertained thousands and is looking to bring his informative, entertaining message of Movie Memories to tens of thousands.

Let's just say you're not a big movie fan.  That is not a deal breaker.  If you can communicate a sales message to talent buyers, activity directors and decision-makers, we would like to speak to you.  And don't worry if you're not an experienced sales person.  We'll provide the know-how and leads to get you started.

Movie Memories offers a generous commission sales return on your time above the usual level.  And there are added incentives (bonuses and rapid-pay) we are excited to speak to you about.

Let's just say you'd like to start the new year off with an exciting project to restore a sense of accomplishment, or to earn some serious money, or just to have some fun and make new friends.  That's what the Movie Memories team offers.  Call 214-364-7364 to express your interest today.  Or send an email to lrratliff@verizon.net to reach Larry Ratliff.

That's lrratliff@verizon.net or 214-364-7364.  Only a few positions are available, so call today to join our team and launch a new opportunity for yourself.  We're ready when you are.

I'm just saying.

16 December 2014

Off the beaten Christmas movie path

Don't get me wrong.  Traditional Christmas movies like It's a Wonderful Life, Miracle on 34th Street and others are a glorious way to celebrate the holidays.

Sometimes, though, when the mood is just right -- and in some cases delightfully just wrong -- it's fun to venture off the beaten path and enjoy some, shall we say, unconventional holiday ho-ho-hos. 

Here are some of my favorites to watch out for, either on TV movie channels, available to order at movie websites or perhaps waiting to be discovered and rescued from the bottom of those giant bins of DVDs at discount stores.

Traditional but not widely seen

HolidayInn275lYou're probably familiar with White Christmas (1954), starring Bing Crosby and Danny Kaye as song and dance men who put on a show to save a Vermont inn.  Turn back the clock a dozen years to 1942 and there was Crosby also crooning White Christmas in Holiday Inn, opposite Marjorie Reynolds and teaming up with Fred Astaire.

I'm not saying Holiday Inn is the better film.  Let's just say it's a different take on a similar theme.  But wait, there's more.  Holiday Inn spans a little more than a year in the lives and loves of its major characters.  What other holiday movie serves up two Christmas seasons and an Easter parade?

Angels275rTo venture even farther off the usual holiday path, see if you can get your hands on a copy of We're No Angels, circa 1955.

Humphrey Bogart, shortly after his best actor Academy Award for his performance as the river boat vagabond in The African Queen, gives comedy a go as one of three Devil's Island escapees hiding out in the home of a kind elderly man and his family at Christmas.

Peter Ustinov and Aldo Ray play Bogart's partners in crime and comedy.  When the going gets tough, let's just say a pet in a box helps solve the situation.

Wicked and wacky

Looking for something Christmas themed and silly?  We can do silly.  Let's begin with Home Alone (1990) and add progressively hilarious doses of wickedness from there.

HomeAlone250lMacaulay Culkin was 10-playing-8 when he got his first starring role as Kevin McCallister, the son left at home by mistake when all the other McCallisters hopped a jet for the holidays.  So much for no child left behind.

Two of my favorite character actors, Joe Pesci and Daniel Stern, portray the bungling burglars who are no match for young Kevin on his home turf.  Be sure and put on your silly hat when you press "play."  Everyone in the movie will already have theirs on.

Mixed Nuts is another offbeat holiday gem.  Featuring a dandy ensemble cast led by Steve Martin, Madeline Kahn, Rita Wilson and Adam Sandler, this 1994 comic-drama directed by Nora Ephron and written by the Ephron sisters (Nora and Delia) never quite caught on at the box office.

If you're looking for some great lines, though, you could do a lot worse than this outlandish story about the crazies running a crisis hotline during the holidays.

Once the kids or grandkids are asleep, pop Bad Santa into the DVR and hang on for dear life.

From this aisle seat, the 2003 caustic comedy about an alcoholic, womanizing ne'er-do-well who takes a job as a department store Santa with robbing the place blind in mind constitutes Billy Bob Thornton's finest performance since his Oscar-nominated turn in Sling Blade in 1996.

You might want to turn the lights down low to match the low-down comedy in this one.  That way, no one can know for sure whether or not you're laughing.

11 December 2014

The Movie Memories road show

It's been a busy, but joyful week for Movie Memories.  Two "Happy Ho-Ho-Holidays:  Great Holiday Movies" presentations in the Dallas area have, hopefully, spread a little cinematic Christmas cheer to folks in North Dallas and Garland.

Santa_Clause280lIt was a pleasure speaking to receptive groups at The Forum at Park Lane on Tuesday evening (Dec. 9) and at Garland's Central Library on Wednesday afternoon (Dec. 10).  Both groups were receptive to the idea of revisiting some Christmas movie classics such as Miracle on 34th Street, The Bishop's Wifeand White Christmas and having a little silly fun with more modern takes on the holiday season like The Family Stone and National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation.

Both audiences got a big kick out of revisiting The Santa Clause, the 1994 comedy starring Tim Allen as an everyday dad magically transformed into what you might call an extremely reluctant Santa Claus.

So thanks to Ellis Paddack, the Forum's director of healthy generations, and Gina Lombardi, librarian at Garland's Nicholson Memorial Library System, for making the "Happy Ho-Ho-Holidays" presentations possible, fun and even a little inspirational.

 

There's still time to book your holiday event

Santa
Natalie Wood and Edmund Gwenn in "Miracle on 34th Street." (20th Century Fox)
Whether it's a corporate Christmas party, a country club holiday gathering or a retirement community seasonal celebration, the "Happy Ho-Ho-Holidays" Movie Memories presentation arrives bearing gifts of laughter, nostalgia and holiday joy.
 
In a presentation lasting a little over an hour, Larry combines Christmas classic movie clips with behind-the-scene Hollywood insight and tales of Christmases past sure to entertain your group and inspire and touch hearts along the way.
 
We'll begin by boarding The Polar Express, with stops along the way at everything from White Christmas to The Santa Clause.  Of course our final holiday stop simply must be ... Well, you just have to join us to find out.
 
Itsawonderfullife
James Stewart, Donna Reed and joyus family in "It's a Wonderful Life." (Courtesy: RKO Radio Pictures)
Or, maybe your group would prefer to go behind the scenes of one of the most beloved holiday films of all time, It's a Wonderful Life.

You’re probably aware that an angel gets his wings and grumpy old Mr. Potter (Lionel Barrymore) tries to run everything in Bedford Falls.

But did you know that at least one film historian says Henry Fonda was considered for the role of reluctant small-town banker George Bailey?  Of course that became a signature role for James Stewart.

And just where is Bedford Falls?  Is it a real place?  There are lots of things to learn about film critic Larry Ratliff’s favorite holiday film of all time.

 
Call 214-364-7364 or email MovieMemories@verizon.net to book your one-of-a-kind  "Happy Ho-Ho-Holidays" or It's a Wonderful Life Movie Memories presentation.  We travel anywhere in Texas, especially the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex, San Antonio, Austin and Houston, with special discounts for multiple corporate bookings.
 
Hurry, though, time is running out.  Call or email today to lock in prime holiday dates while they last.

10 November 2014

'Elsa & Fred': Tedious and clichéd

Elsa-fredposter225
(Millennium Entertainment)

No one has ever accused Hollywood filmmakers of capturing, or even attempting much reality in the fictional movie genre, especially when it comes to romance. 

However, just in case no one has bothered to say it before, screenplays about senior citizens dating, romancing and/or falling in love don't have to come across as mundane, tedious and over the top as it often does and definitely does in Elsa & Fred, the new so-called romantic-comedy pairing elder movie stars Shirley MacLaine and Christopher Plummer.

What went so wrong in Michael Radford's attempt to remake the Spanish-Argentinian film of the same title that was much better, by the way, in 2005?

Click this link to my full movie review and find out.

A new Santa clause:  Time to book Movie Memories

Santa
Natalie Wood and Edmund Gwenn in "Miracle on 34th Street." (20th Century Fox)
Whether it's a corporate Christmas party, a country club holiday gathering or a retirement community seasonal celebration, the "Happy Ho-Ho-Holidays" Movie Memories presentation arrives bearing gifts of laughter, nostalgia and holiday joy.
 
In a presentation lasting a little over an hour, Larry combines Christmas classic movie clips with behind-the-scene Hollywood insight and tales of Christmases past sure to entertain your group and inspire and touch hearts along the way.
 
We'll begin by boarding The Polar Express, with stops along the way at everything from White Christmas to The Santa Clause.  Of course our final holiday stop simply must be ... Well, you just have to join us to find out.
 
Itsawonderfullife
James Stewart, Donna Reed and joyus family in "It's a Wonderful Life." (Courtesy: RKO Radio Pictures)
Or, maybe your group would prefer to go behind the scenes of one of the most beloved holiday films of all time, It's a Wonderful Life.

You’re probably aware that an angel gets his wings and grumpy old Mr. Potter (Lionel Barrymore) tries to run everything in Bedford Falls.

But did you know that at least one film historian says Henry Fonda was considered for the role of reluctant small-town banker George Bailey?  Of course that became a signature role for James Stewart.

And just where is Bedford Falls?  Is it a real place?  There are lots of things to learn about film critic Larry Ratliff’s favorite holiday film of all time.

 
Call 214-364-7364 or email MovieMemories@verizon.net to book your one-of-a-kind  "Happy Ho-Ho-Holidays" or It's a Wonderful Life Movie Memories presentation.  We travel anywhere in Texas, especially the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex, San Antonio, Austin and Houston, with special discounts for multiple corporate bookings.
 
Hurry, though.  Call or email today to lock in prime holiday dates before they're all taken.

14 October 2014

Let Movie Memories provide your group's happy-ho-ho-holiday cheer

Santa
Natalie Wood and Edmund Gwenn in "Miracle on 34th Street." (20th Century Fox)
Whether it's a corporate Christmas party, a country club holiday gathering or a retirement community seasonal celebration, the "Happy Ho-Ho-Holidays" Movie Memories presentation arrives bearing gifts of laughter, nostalgia and holiday joy.
 
In a presentation lasting a little over an hour, Larry combines Christmas classic movie clips with behind-the-scene Hollywood insight and tales of Christmases past sure to entertain your group and inspire and touch hearts along the way.
 
We'll begin by boarding The Polar Express, with stops along the way at everything from White Christmas to The Santa Clause.  Of course our final holiday stop simply must be ... Well, you just have to join us to find out.
 
Itsawonderfullife
James Stewart, Donna Reed and joyus family in "It's a Wonderful Life." (Courtesy: RKO Radio Pictures)
Or, maybe your group would prefer to go behind the scenes of one of the most beloved holiday films of all time, It's a Wonderful Life.

You’re probably aware that an angel gets his wings and grumpy old Mr. Potter (Lionel Barrymore) tries to run everything in Bedford Falls.

But did you know that at least one film historian says Henry Fonda was considered for the role of reluctant small-town banker George Bailey?  Of course that became a signature role for James Stewart.

And just where is Bedford Falls?  Is it a real place?  There are lots of things to learn about film critic Larry Ratliff’s favorite holiday film of all time.

 
Call 214-364-7364 or email MovieMemories@verizon.net to book your one-of-a-kind  "Happy Ho-Ho-Holidays" or It's a Wonderful Life Movie Memories presentation.  We travel anywhere in Texas, especially the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex, San Antonio, Austin and Houston, with special discounts for multiple corporate bookings.
 
Hurry, though.  Call or email today to lock in prime holiday dates before they're all taken.
 
 

Great acting alone can't save 'The Judge'

Judgeposter250Naturally, one would think that a courtroom drama that features a volatile standoff between an ornery father and town judge suddenly forced into the defendant's chair and an equally stubborn attorney who happens to be the judge's estranged son would result in something quite intriguing on screen.

One would especially think that when the two leading men are excellent dramatic actors Robert Duvall, an Oscar winner, and Robert Downey Jr., a two-time Oscar nominee.

Well, one would be wrong.

The Judge, despite superb acting by Downey and Duvall, the two Roberts, if you will, has more potholes than the small Indiana town main street it plays out on after a heavy rain.

What could possibly be so wrong?

Click here for my full review of The Judge and find out.

 

 

23 September 2014

Must-see TV: Balancing the ugly

Osgood350
Charles Osgood works weekends. (newsgirlabouttowns.com)

Excellence.  TV news.

We don't see those words connected in thought much these days; not in a TV-watching era when local news anchors announce twice without any sort of correction that a man was arrested for "indacent" exposure instead of indecent exposure.

First the bad news, but stay with me.  I promise some very good news is forthcoming.  We are constantly barraged with a plethora of indecent exposure on TV these days from Dancing with the Has-Been Stars  (Tommy Chong:  Really, man?) to Dating Naked and too many so-so sitcoms to even count.

Check out the TV evening network news and you'll be inundated with a constant backwash of gruesome stories about ISIS militants beheading innocents, college students disappearing off college campuses and other carnage almost too grisly to mention; most recently a man in Florida calmly calling 911 to report to police that  he has just shot and killed his daughter and his six grandchildren.

Now the good news.  Let's make it the wonderful news.  There's an oasis to be found in the TV airwaves that seem so glutted with depressing news sludge.  It shines like a beacon of goodness, of hope and of people doing things not to bring the human race to the brink of a worm hole of depression and hate that we -- tired of endless worldwide despair -- appear to be all-too eager to leap into.

For lack of a better term, let's call it an offsetting balance to the ugly.

If you've never seen CBS Sunday Morning, hosted by veteran CBS newsman Charles Osgood and airing at 8 a.m. in many markets; 7 in others and 9 in a few, I assure you that you are in for a treat.

Now I would like to issue a challenge to you -- yes you.  I would like you to raise your right hand and say these words out loud:

"I, ____________ ______________, promise to watch one complete episode of CBS Sunday Morning before declaring to everyone I know that Larry Ratliff has finally lost it."

That's all I'm asking, just one full show without fast-forwarding, multitasking or in any other way (including snacking) distracting yourself from what I feel is the most intelligent television available today.

Granted, Osgood, whom CBS calls its poet-in-residence, is 81 now and is prone to leaning a bit to one side from time to time.  What this remarkable journalist broadcaster brings, though, is smooth, confident calmness to a world many believe may be spinning out of control around him.

It all begins with the soothing notes of Abblasen, a trumpet fanfare originally played in recording by Don Smithers, later Doc Severinsen, Johnny Carson's Tonight Show bandleader, and now by Wynton Marsalis.

Then there's Osgood, with a bow tie perhaps a little askew, standing beside an image of a welcoming sun, as if the world has another chance -- a new beginning -- to get things right.

And this show does get it right, offering a varied progression of extremely well-produced human interest, in-depth features and historical stories that might just make you wonder -- as it does my wife and me -- if the next segment can possibly measure up.  But they do, and not solely because of Osgood, who is tremendous.

This is a show with an award-winning, experienced staff of behind-the-scenes people and reporters who know how to ask questions and report the news, whether it be a story about the Queen Mary, the infamous ocean liner that hasn't sailed in 50 years but is pretty much ready to go, to the finest Joan Rivers memoriam I saw.

Teichner250r
Martha Teichner (cbsnews.com)

My favorite reporter on the show is Martha Teichner, a former war correspondent and eight-time Emmy Award winner who joined CBS in 1977 and has worked on CBS Sunday Morning since 1993.  If you'd like an example of Teichner's outstanding reporting, click on this link to view one of her recent stories, Monument Valley:  Mother Nature's Scene-Stealing Movie Star.

And don't you dare think of CBS Sunday Morning as old-fogey news.  There are stories of 11-year-olds making a difference in this world, for instance, and some younger journalists on the staff.  I prefer not to judge the elders on the show by notches on the calendar, but as seasoned vets; able, smart, vibrant reporters and anchors wise beyond even their somewhat advanced years.

You learn things from watching this show, things that you will enjoy learning and that will enrich your life.  Did you know, for instance, that the Queen Mary was so fast for its day that during World War II it out-ran German subs and even German torpedoes?  You would know if you watched on Sept. 21.

My final point:  The world is not really divided between the young and those older separated by a great abyss of misunderstanding.  Sometimes the two can meet in a truly magical way.  You might be amazed what really good journalists can do with the simple news that Tony Bennett and Lady Gaga recorded an album together.  Please click the arrow below.

 

Now repeat after me:  "I, ____________ ______________, promise to watch one complete episode of CBS News Sunday Morning ..."

17 September 2014

Get your wallet running ...

Easy330r
The late Dennis Hopper, left, Peter Fonda and Jack Nicholson in "Easy Rider." (Columbia Pictures)

I see them everywhere, middle-aged men (OK, a little older than that) dressed in leather that's often what we could call seam-challenged vrooming around on the motorcycles they wished they had been able to buy in their early 20s.

You know, when they wanted to feel the wind in their hair (when they had hair) as they rebelled against the man and rode, with buddies of like mind in tow, across the U.S. of A. without a care in the world, except the threat of the occasional redneck pulling alongside in a pickup and leaning out of a window aiming a loaded shotgun.

Well, good news guys.  Captain America, the customized Harley-Davidson chopper that Peter Fonda rode in the gritty drama Easy Rider in 1969 is going on the auction block on Oct. 18 at the Profiles in History auction house in Calabasas, Calif.

"The seller is Michael Eisenberg, a California businessman who once co-owned a Los Angeles motorcycle-themed restaurant with Fonda and late Easy Rider co-star Dennis Hopper. Eisenberg bought it last year from Dan Haggerty, perhaps best known for his roles in the Grizzly Adams TV show and movies, who was in charge of keeping the custom-designed bike humming during the 1969 movie's filming," according to a post on the CBS News website.

Even if you can't rustle up the $1 million or $1.2 million Captain America, that proud symbol of freedom once enjoyed by hippies everywhere, is expected to go for, it would still be a fun ride from Wherever, U.SA. to Calabasas.

I'd go with you, except for a couple of reasons.  I'm still limping from a mountain bike mishap a few weeks ago.  I wiped out on perfectly good asphalt; not even on a rocky dirt trail, so I may not be ready to straddle a hog for an extended ride right now.

Also, I'm saving all my movie auction cash for the piano used in the flashback sequences of Casablanca.  It comes up for auction every few years these days.

Let's see, right now I'm somewhere between $3 million and $4 million short, but still hopeful.

Hope.  That's what freedom is all about, man.

19 August 2014

Please say they're kidding

China300r
(Courtesy: rixbury.com)

I've seen a lot of strange things going on in the semi-dark of movie theaters over the years.

There's been no shortage of smuggled-in food, of course.  Nothing dilutes a gripping drama more than whiff's of store-bought chicken livers and gravy when Meryl Streep is bringing tears to our eyes.  And who among us hasn't had to lift up their feet to dodge a soft drink bottle careening down slope to eventually crash at the front of the theater?

I could go on and on, but there's breaking big screen news that must be shared.

The Hollywood Reporter is reporting that movie houses in China are testing a system that allows movie-goers not only to text during the movie but -- are you ready? -- the text messages actually show up on the movie screen right along with the feature.

"The inspiration behind the idea appears to be that it mimics that of watching a movie on mobile media, which is how most Chinese people watch films, with people sending messages about what they like or dislike about the movie.

"In a censored environment like China, precautions are taken to remove sensitive or forbidden words," the Hollywood Reporter article states.

The ultimate selfie?  Maybe.  I just know it's one more reason you'll probably never see me taking in a movie in China.

Farewell to the great Robin Williams

Robin285l
(Courtesy: chicagoreader.com)

"No words."

That's all Billy Crystal, Robin Williams' good friend and fellow acclaimed comic performer, could Tweet Monday, Aug. 11 as word of Williams death, an "apparent suicide" according to news reports, spread with the same raging fire that propelled a comic genius -- yes, a genius -- to world stardom and, apparently, unbearable depths of depression.

I have words, a few at least, to say or, more correctly, to expel from my deeply saddened state.  Perhaps they might, if only a little, ease some of the kick-in-the-gut sting felt by Williams' survivors, which includes family and friends, of course, but also anyone, including this scribe, who smiles when he or she hears the bellowed phrase "Good m-o-r-n-i-n-g Vietnam!" or conjures up the image of Mrs. Doubtfire (Williams in drag) setting her breasts on fire in the kitchen.

I knew Robin Williams about as well as any road warrior film critic who, over three decades or so, sat down with the almost always manic comic tsunami for short spurts at a time to discuss his latest movie.

Often, the interviews would be what's known in the industry as "round-table" interviews.   Five, six or seven film critics or entertainment reporters sit around a round table in a hotel suite usually in Los Angeles or New York.  The "talent" enters the room and takes the empty chair at the table and chats up the movie for 30 to 40 minutes; responding to mostly softball questions.

On one occasion, which looking back might have been one of Williams' tough days in his continuing battle against substance abuse and/or depression, the master rapid-fire comedian was, let's just say, melancholy.

In a situation where press members around a table often have to verbally joust to get their question in, moments of silence were creeping in between questions to Williams.  I found myself sitting right next to Williams that day.  He was fighting the good fight to keep the banter coming, which obviously most of my fellow journalists expected.  But Robin Williams just wasn't feeling it that day.

"Carpe Diem.  Seize the day, boys," Williams said as college professor John Keating in his Oscar-nominated performance in Dead Poets Society in 1989. 

So I did.  I asked Williams where his rapid-fire comic one-liners come from and how they ignite.

"I don't really know," he said quietly.  "It's almost like my head opens up and my brain is an antenna.  Signals from outer-space fill my brain.  I just let them out."

And let them out, he did.  Brilliantly, in fact, for a lot of years.

Laughing on the outside/crying on the inside.  That classic description of a clown is too trite and too simple to explain the high highs, the low lows and the inner turmoil that Williams must have been channeling, along with his ongoing battle with horned demons of alcohol and substance abuse.

Some words:  You left us, Robin, for reasons we may never know but you, obviously, knew all too well.  Many of us, including your peers like Billy Crystal and Steve Martin, are stunned and speechless.  All I can say is that you left a very deep imprint on this place you have recently departed. 

R.I.P.:  Rockin' Robin.  Perhaps the marquee at the Hollywood Laugh Factory summed it up best for all of us Monday night.

Marquee400
(Courtesy: foxnews.com)