64 posts categorized "Current Affairs"

03 December 2014

Miracle on Southeast 11th Street

RCAvictor280I was 10 in 1957, and all I wanted for Christmas that year was a record player.  Not just any record player, but a state-of-the-art red with white top portable fold-up unit that could play 45s as well as albums and, yes, 78s.

You know that kid Ralphie in the movie A Christmas Story (1983) who really, really wanted a Red Ryder B.B. gun in the 1940s?  Well, that was me in the '50s, except I thought life would not be worth living unless Santa, or Old Santa Claus as my Dad called him, delivered the record player.

I knew we didn't have much money back then, but I never considered us poor.  Poor people didn't have much of anything to eat.  I'm not saying we had meat every night, though.  Supper in our modest little neighborhood on the southeast side of Grand Prairie (between Dallas and Fort Worth) often included a creative combination of leftovers Mother called hash.  Or we dined on cornbread and red beans.

Dad, who always dreamed of busting out to bigger things (not unlike this scribe), walked rain or shine the three or four blocks to and from The Plant five days a week, carrying a jet black lunch box.  Chance Vought Aircraft was the official name of the aircraft factory at the time.  I never heard Dad call it anything other than The Plant.  And for the short periods of time my brother Lannie and I worked there later, it was The Plant for us as well.

I wasn't worried about disrupting the family budget for something as extravagant as a $19.95 state-of-the-art red with white top portable fold-up record player that could play 45s as well as albums and, yes, 78s.  After all, that one would be on Santa, not the meager Ratliff family budget.

At first I hinted.  After all, I was clearly headed for some kind of career in show business.  All I had at the time was the desire, and that desire for some kind of spotlight in the performing arts was definitely my destiny.  (I proved that a few years later when I was awarded the privilege of announcing fried chicken specials over the loudspeaker while working as a checker at Safeway.)

As Christmas drew near, I panicked and spelled out succinctly and with gusto how necessary the red record player with the cool white top was to my future.  

It was three days before Christmas in 1957 when my Mother and Dad pulled up in front of the A&P on Main Street with me in the backseat and issued specific instructions:

"We'll be back in a few minutes," Dad said.  "You wait right here."

I saw my parents walk past A&P and duck into Skillern's drugstore next door.  Like the good son I thought I was, I did wait in the car.

For a minute.  Then I made a fatal mistake that still haunts me to this day, let's see, 57 years later.

I slithered out of our Chevy and hugged the A&P wall until I reached the plate glass at Skillern's.  Sticking just enough of my face in front of the window to get a peek with one eye, I saw my Dad talking to a clerk.  The $19.95 state-of-the-art red with white top portable fold-up record player that could play 45s as well as albums and, yes, 78s was on the counter between them and Dad was reaching for his wallet in his left pocket.

Elated, I was just about to turn and sneak back to the car when a chill shot up my spine that took decades to fade and still lingers deep down inside today.  My Dad spotted me in the window and our eyes locked; a hurtful look of a trust broken in his, terror in mine.

Before my feet got the signal from my startled brain to get the heck out of there, time froze.  I remember seeing my Dad shake his head "No thanks, I changed my mind" to the clerk as his hand eased his wallet back into its resting place.

When my parents got back in the car, nothing was said.  I knew what that meant.  And my folks knew that I knew.  The rest of the usually festive days leading up to Christmas Day were a stunned blur.  Mother made her wonderful fudge as usual; loaded with pecans for everyone except me with a little plate just for me with no nuts.

The fudge didn't seem quite as sweet that year.  My life was over.  How would I ever find my place in the spotlight without the red-and-white record player to foster my love for music, to hear Bill Haley & His Comets sing Rock Around the Clock?   The only song running through my head on Christmas Eve that year was Buddy Holly and the Crickets singing That'll Be the Day (when I die)

My brother beat me to the Christmas tree that year.  I wasn't exactly feeling it, if you know what I mean.  From behind him, though, I got a glimpse of something red and white.  Then, all of a sudden, there it was, my very own $19.95 state-of-the-art red with white top portable fold-up record player that could play 45s as well as albums and, yes, 78s!

That's why I believe in Old Santa Claus.  And forgiveness.  And second chances.  And that's why I always will. 

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.

 

 

01 October 2014

The five-week rule?

Fritos330
(Courtesy: cedarposts.blogspot.com)

You've heard of the five-second rule, right? It's the unwritten rule that if you drop a morsel of food and it's only on the floor five seconds or less (and, hopefully, no one is looking), it's quite all right to pick up said morsel and continue snacking.

Consumer note: Don't do this! Yesterday I dropped a piece of a Frito on the floor under my desk. I picked it up well under the allotted five seconds and ate it. So good so far, right? Wrong. When I picked it off the floor in a hurry I noticed another Frito tidbit in the general vicinity. Hurrying like crazy to beat the clock, I tossed that piece of Frito in my mouth, chewed it about half-of-once and swallowed.

Y-u-u-c-c-c-c-k-k-k! It was definitely old -- near-petrified, actually -- and obviously not from yesterday's spillage. Then I remembered. The last time we had a bag of Fritos in the house was about five weeks ago.

I don't feel so good. I'm going back to bed.

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.

16 September 2014

Will Matt Damon be 'Bourne' again?

Bourne340r
(Courtesy: Universal Pictures)

Don't rule it out.

According to an article posted on the Hollywood Reporter website, "Damon and Paul Greengrass just may have another Bourne movie up their sleeve" to bring the "amnesia assassin" back to the big screen.

You may recall that Sean Connery tossed James Bond's 007 tuxedo, supposedly for good, in 1967 after You Only Live Twice.  He returned the first time for Diamonds Are Forever in 1971 and again for Never Say Never in 1980.

If it's true that Damon may once again wag a pistol as Jason Bourne, and denials are reportedly flying from Universal, excellent actor Jeremy Renner, who took over the lead as man-of-action Aaron Cross in The Bourne Legacy two years ago, might just become the spy left out in the cold, at least until he's worked back into the mix for a proposed sequel to The Bourne Legacy.

"Greengrass would not only direct, but also write the script. (The Bourne trilogy was written by Tony Gilroy, among a handful of others scribes, and this would be the first time Greengrass, who wrote United 93 and directed the second and third Bourne installments, will have a hand in penning the adventures.)

"If a deal is made — and talks are only in the early stages — it sets the stage for a return of the 21st century’s first screen hero who threatened to upstage Bond. With their kinetic and visceral style, the movies made Damon into an A-lister who was able to command tens of millions for the sequels as the franchise raked in almost a billion dollars worldwide," the Hollywood Reporter article states.

Personally, as much as I respect Renner as an actor, I prefer Damon as Bourne.  From this aisle seat, it's his franchise.  And with Greengrass penning the script and returning to the director's chair, the re-Bourne franchise could regain its action-packed glory.

08 September 2014

She couldn't Medicare less

Doc180l
(Courtesy: freedesignfile.com)

My doctor broke up with me today.

She wants to see other people.  Younger people.  And she wants me to see other people as well.

She doesn't care who I see, just as long as it isn't her.

"Did you see the sign out front?  As of January 1, I'm not treating Medicare patients anymore," she said, shortly before getting physical with me for the last time.

"The doctor won't see you now."  How did I misread those signs?

On my last few visits, my doctor, whom I'm convinced is a caring soul but is also someone who's had it way past "up to here" with government red tape associated with Medicare patients, has complained about having to lug around her laptop computer to deal with patients like me.  You know, those who have committed the mortal sin of letting the clock tick too many times to suit those younger.

I've been grandfathered in before, but this is the first time I've ever been grandfathered out.

In as gentle voice and nicest tone I could muster during my physical -- after all, she was reaching for the rubber gloves -- I said, "I can certainly understand your frustration, but it sort of leaves guys (and women) like me out in the cold.  We have a doctor we really like and trust, and now we can't go to them anymore."

I don't remember exactly what my doctor said to that.  I was too concerned about her opening up the examination room door and calling for the nurse.  Any guy who's ever had his prostate checked knows what that means.  (That reminds me, the car needs an oil change.)

I do remember that she didn't say, "Oh, excuse me.  I forgot for a second that you are one of my original patients.  You came with me to start this practice when I was struggling and you've been a loyal patient for years.  And you have referred several people to me, who, by the way, are not on Medicare and pay retail.  So, of course, I'll treat you and be here for you as long as you need me, even if I do have to use this laptop computer and deal with a little red tape and, yes, reduced revenue.  Have you seen what I'm driving.  I think I can stand the slight financial inconvenience to care for loyal, longtime patients like you."

Nope, she didn't say anything like that.  I still can't believe I misread those earlier signs of approaching detachment.  Since that rather abrupt, "See 'ya" visit, I have noticed some other signs, though.  Like the physicians' Hippocratic oath:

"I will remember that I do not treat a fever chart, a cancerous growth, but a sick human being, whose illness may affect the person's family and economic stability. My responsibility includes these related problems, if I am to care adequately for the sick."

A couple of my friends have mentioned something like, "It's nothing personal.  It's just business."

Really?  Does "care for a patient" merely mean reading medical charts and graphs, taking X-rays and prescribing pills?  Just business refers to my banker, or the cashier at the grocery store who barely even looks up at customers these days.

I think not.  Our personal care physician takes our blood, asks us what's going on and treats us, dammit, physically and sometimes a little mentally as well.  "You've gained a little weight since your last visit.  Is something bothering you?  Is everything all right?"

And, excuse me, doctor, but I'd like to point out one more paragraph from the Hippocratic oath, which, by the way, is not the Hypocritic oath:

"I will remember that there is art to medicine as well as science, and that warmth, sympathy, and understanding may outweigh the surgeon's knife or the chemist's drug."

It has never ceased to amaze me that even those a decade or so younger than people of Medicare age seem to have no notion that they, too, will soon be considered too old to be taken seriously in many areas or even given equal medical consideration.  

It's coming, doctor, quicker than you realize.  May you be treated more respectfully and with more caring consideration when your time comes.

Yes, my doctor broke up with me today.  Sadly, she left me for a younger patient.

I'm not litigious, generally.  But I am thinking about demanding illimony.

03 September 2014

At the movies: 2025

Theater350r
(Courtesy: aprillynnescott.com)

Let's begin our not-too-distant future visit to the neighborhood movie gigaplex in the parking lot.

What's a gigaplex?

Oh you silly people still stuck in the early 21st century.  Movie gigaplexes have 100 screens, of course.

Now, back to the parking lot.  No need to worry about how far away from the building you park.  That's so old learning dome.  The theater will send a personal pod for you and your guests.  Just find a parking space, glance at the button on the dash marked PI (Plug in), and your car will be all charged up when the pod returns you.

I like the pods.  Just take two or three steps from your car into the pod and those are the last steps you need to take before you return to your car.

That's right, no stopping at the ticket booth, concession stand or even, ahem, the restroom.  All of that is taken care of right there in the pod, which, when landed and locked-in-place, becomes your couch-away-from-couch.  I don't want to say too much about how the restroom-stop problem has been solved.  Just know this, catheters will soon be greatly improved.

And did I mention that movies are pet friendly now?  Sure, bring Astro along.  Each pod comes with invisible sound mufflers so your dog -- or dogs for those so-minded -- can enjoy popular movies like Guardians of the Galaxy:  Yet Another Sequel or Richard Linklater's eclectic favorite Grandpahood right along with the family.  It's all included with any $109.99 adult ticket.  That's only $107.99 for seniors, children under 3 and military (Our side only, please).

Once your pod is locked and loaded, concessions like Blast Off, the instant energy caffeine drink equal to three full pots of coffee, or Milk Duds arrive in your armrest automatically.  Yes, Milk Duds are still around but they now come in three varieties:  Melt in Your Mouth, Extra-Soft or Regular, still the favorite movie candy of dentists everywhere.

Theater300l
(Courtesy: tribecafilm.com)

Oh, here's a couple of things a little different than they used to be at the movies.  Talking is encouraged.  In fact, the louder the better.  Most people shout out how many likes they have on Bobybook (It's about so much more than just the Face these days).

And wristcomms -- once called cellphones -- are left on at all times in movie houses now.  That announcement comes right after President Bieber's safe driving plea to drivers 11 and younger and Vice President Jenna Bush Hager's Previews of Coming Tweets.

Goody, that includes Social Media.  That's what we've come to see.  

The 200-by-90-foot screen is filled with Tweets from us, you, the neighbors, celebrities (including any, let's just say, risque photos they tried to protect, but couldn't), world leaders and drone pilots safely ensconced on leather sofas in Washington bunkers bombing the heck out of undesirables (definition to come when President Bieber and his cabinet figure it out).

This is so much more fun now that privacy rules have been voted out by the TMZ-controlled Congress.  People can now post whatever they like and it's out there for the world to see.  Of course the fact that due to worldwide giga-use Twitter now limits each tweet to six digits, there is a bit of sameness to the futuristic movie-going experience.

As a theater full of people scream out their Bobybook like totals and wristcomms light up the auditorium enough for me to see the corpse-like pallor on hundreds of chubby faces slurping down caffeine and inhaling Milk Duds, here's what I'm looking at on a giant movie screen:

Wh up?  N much ... Wh up?  N much ... Wh up?  N much ... Wh up?  N much ... Wh up?  N much ... Wh up?  N much ... Wh up?  N much ... Wh up?  N much ... Wh up?  N much ...

Sweet.

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)