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08 January 2016

Somebody slipped the Golden Globes another Ricky

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Ricky Gervais (Courtesy: theguardian.com)

There's really just one reason I'll bother to watch the Golden Globes Sunday night:

It's a free snack zone.  That's why.  Why else would humans anywhere near being in their right minds plop down in front of a TV to vegetate, wasting three or four hours of valuable time watching filthy rich celebrities pat each other and, more disgustingly, themselves on the back?

I mean, who knows how much time we have left with looming disasters like terrorism, the possible crash of the stock market and American Idol back on TV?

So, I'm doing it for the snacks.  Fritos and Ranch dip to begin, perhaps a little chardonnay once the Globes begin to drag and, of course, a mini-mountain of Blue Bell Homemade Vanilla nectar of the gods as the evening wears on and on and on.

Oh, there is one more reason I'll be watching.  Ricky Gervais will return as host of the Golden Globes this year (Sunday night at 7 Central on NBC) for the fourth time after a three-year hiatus.  Gervais vowed never to return after hosting in 2012.  In fact, the fearless comedian has been quoted comparing hosting chores of the movie and TV love-fest to a parachute jump.

"You can only really enjoy it in retrospect when you realize you didn’t die and it was quite an amazing thing to do,” he said.

Look for Gervais to have his fangs and one-liners sharpened and ready to pounce.  He packs the caustic, comic kill-shot punch of Don Rickles.  The witty Brit, who co-created the mockumentary TV series The Office across the Atlantic pond, then stares down the audience with the impeccable silence that Jack Benny mastered a generation (or two?  I lose count) before him, almost daring audience members not to laugh at him, which in reality, means laughing at themselves.

So that's what I'll be doing Sunday night.  Please don't call between the hours of 5 p.m. and midnight (allowing for the pre-Gervais monologue tailgate party and headache and unsettled stomach of the odd combination of snacks and the aftermath of the drudgery sure to follow).

There is one exception.  Go ahead and ring us up if you're a Powerball official saying there was a mistake in Saturday's announced winning numbers and you have $700 million and change waiting for us.

If that's the case, we'll host the Golden Globes next year at our house, which will be known by then as the former Beverly Hilton Hotel in Los Angeles.

04 January 2016

Close encounters of the Vilmos kind

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Courtesy: est.hu

The first time a cinematographer truly rocked my cinematic soul was November 1977.

Steven Spielberg's wonder-filled sci-fi adventure Close Encounters of the Third Kind transfixed many of us to the screen with possibilities that we are not alone in the vastness of space.  John Williams' five-tone symphonic magnificence brought much to the party, of course, as did director Spielberg.

It wasn't until that afternoon at the movies in 1977, however, that I fully appreciated the contribution a gifted cinematographer adds to the movie magic.  I can still remember my insides rattling with the ferocity of those vibrating mailboxes that Richard Dreyfuss, portraying a soon-to-be-befuddled lineman for the county, was experiencing with a mixture of wide-eyed fear and curiosity.

Those unforgettable images in Close Encounters came from the creativity of master cinematographer Vilmos Zsigmond, who died January 1 at 85, according to published reports.

The Hungary native hop-scotched in and around San Antonio to shoot Spielberg's breakout film, The Sugarland Express, in 1974.  My Zsigmond favorites, in addition to Close Encounters, include The Deer Hunter (1978), Deliverance (1972) and, especially, The Rose, showcasing Bette Midler channeling Janis Joplin in 1979.

According to Zsigmond's obit posted on the Hollywood Reporter website, the master behind the camera, who took home home his only Academy Award for Close Encounters "was taught in the European style of cinematography with particular appreciation for light gradations and color tone.

"Zsigmond’s work was noted for its use of natural light and often subdued palette, as visible in such films as McCabe and Mrs. Miller (1971). To attain this look, he utilized a photographic technique known as 'flashing,' exposing the negative to a small amount of light before lensing. The procedure would ultimately mute the colors," the Hollywood Reporter post stated.

Let me just add this.  Vilos Zsigmond shot film, baby, when shooting film -- celluloid, not that digital stuff we see today -- was not only cool, but truly magical.

Rest in peace, Vilmos, thousands, perhaps hundreds of thousands of movie fans around the world will not soon forget your spellbinding contributions to our movie memories.

 

14 December 2015

Say hello to my little friends

BBLarry360It's a good thing I'm not trying to verbalize these thoughts right now.  My tongue appears to be frozen.

The same goes for my left hand, which has alternately been supporting two recently purchased half gallons of Blue Bell Peppermint and Homemade Vanilla ice cream.

Yes, this is the day Blue Bell finally returned to San Antonio.  I know other sections of the state got a month or two head start on the rebirth of the Creamy Nectar of the Gods, also known, sadly, as the brand of ice cream tainted by the much-publicized food-borne illness caused by listeria linked to the deaths of three people.  Blue Bell was yanked from freezer shelves back in March.

For those of us addicted to the tasty frozen treat produced from the milk of cows so contented they thought they were in heaven (so the TV ads said), the re-emergence of Blue Bell (especially Homemade Vanilla) is a banner day.

Now, as I try to peel the spoon, also quite frozen at this point, from my numb tongue, here's something you might not know.  The Great Listeria Scare of 2015 wasn't the first time I risked my life to tantalize my taste buds and freeze my innards with Blue Bell.

Nope, that would be years ago, when the act of a desperately addicted man drove him to the brink of madness so real you could cut it with a knife.  Almost did, in fact.

You can find the sordid tale in my new book titled Did I Write That Out Loud?  The Blue Bell madness episode unfolds in Chapter 16, The Real Cold War, which I am pleased to share here:

Despite what you may have heard on the news, the Cold War isn't over.
It rages on with me, a slightly bloated army of one. I'm deeply entrenched and flailing away on the front lines of a fierce, ongoing, losing battle.

I have this little ice cream issue, you see.

I wouldn't really call it an addiction, as such. To me, it's more like the cold, creamy, slippery slope to self-esteem hell.

It started out innocently enough. I remember sneaking into the kitchen in the middle of the night as a kid of 10 or 11 in Grand Prairie, Texas. While my family slept, I'd stand in the harsh glare of the refrigerator light and my nagging conscience. Degrading myself with one teaspoon of frozen self-esteem poison at a time.

BookCover290It was the cheap stuff back then; three-for-a-dollar iced milk. It tasted like frozen Elmer's Glue-All with a hint of cheap chocolate.

It made no difference to me. I'd scoop away, out of control (and often shivering), until one tiny teaspoon remained. Then I'd carefully replace the carton in the freezer and shamefully hope no one noticed that some thief in the night had gone on a binge.

For many years, my dad (who died in 2001) loved to tell the story about the time he replaced a flimsy carton I had previously ravaged with a brand-new one. Same generic brand. Same dull flavor. For once, my mom, dad and older brother got to enjoy an ice cream-like concoction at their leisure while I waited for my next target.

Good one, Dad.

In adulthood, the situation has gotten worse, not better. Needless to say, if my addiction were to a more lethal drug - say cocaine or “Lara Croft” video games - my life would be over. I'd be sleeping in a cardboard box outside some Baskin-Robbins store.

Don't get me wrong. I fight it. And I lose. Last winter, for instance, I had gone two or three weeks without giving in. But on the coldest, most miserable night of the year, I caved. It was sleeting. Every step outside was a precursor of doom and perhaps a visit to ER (not the TV show).

"If you don't absolutely have to go out, stay home," the weather guy in the loud bow tie was saying.

I absolutely had to go out.

I bundled up and gingerly made my way to the car, which was shrouded in a thick sheet of ice. De-icing would take at least 10 or 15 minutes. So I drove the four blocks to my neighborhood 7-Eleven at about 5 mph with my head sticking out the window like a flop-eared dog -- a flop-eared dog with icicles.

That's nothing, though, compared to the time a few years ago when I inadvertently swallowed a knife during a binge.

I don't exactly have patience when my craving gets the best of me. I have this dangerous -- ludicrous, in fact -- habit of chiseling chunks of rock-hard ice cream from the carton with a dinner knife.

One night, in my haste, I plunged into a solidly frozen half gallon of Rocky Road with a knife and reckless abandon. I plopped the chunk of instant gratification into my mouth. And I pulled back a rather incomplete table utensil.

A piece of the knife - about the size of a thumbnail - was missing. Since this kind of gluttony knows no shame and obviously makes no sense, I rushed through the rest of the abusive ritual.

The thinking, if we can call it that:

"I'd better hurry. This just might be my last shot at Rocky Road."

I'm happy to report that no dire consequences resulted. Once the empty euphoria of gorging had passed and was replaced by guilt, I thought that, at the very least, I'd have a difficult time getting through the metal detector at the airport.

I think the knife tip is still lodged somewhere in my body. I think it's in my "yet." I don't know which internal organ a "yet" is exactly. But I'll never forget a television news anchor reporting one night about a poor woman who had been shot.

"She survived," the golden-throated anchor said, "but the bullet remains in her yet."

Hopefully, the unwelcome foreign object won't relocate to a more easily damaged organ for either of us.

With a little luck and about $10,000 worth of therapy, I might just get this Chunky Monkey off my back before it's too late. I may not be so fortunate the next time a concealed sharp steel object rides the Blue Bell Express into my Homemade Vanilla-coated internal abyss.

*****

Did I mention that Did I Write That Out Loud? has been called "the perfect Christmas gift" by some (Well, me)?  To order online -- and please limit your order to no more than 200 copies at a time -- go to Amazon.com.

10 December 2015

Globes trotting: Ready for Ricky?

Ricky320 Don't get me wrong.  I love Amy Poehler.  Ditto for Tina Fey.

And when they're together, as they are in the new movie comedy "Sisters" and for the past few years cutting up as co-hosts of the Golden Globes telecasts, well, it's special.

For my money, though, the perfect Golden Globes host is acerbic playful rascal Ricky Gervais.  As the promo photo boasts, "Hold on to your globes," Ricky's back as host of the 2016 Golden Globes, which will air on NBC Jan. 10.

According to a post on the people.com website, Mr. Gervais is not about to tap the brakes on his brilliant (There, I said it) brand of caustic comedy.

"'I think if you make it fun for yourself, I think that filters through without being ridiculously self-indulgent,' says Gervais, who previously hosted the film and television awards show from 2010 through 2012. 'I think if you do things that excite you – that you think is original ... Sometimes when I write a joke I get an adrenaline rush. I'm excited about how good I think it is. But it's that unknown. It could go the wrong way,'" Gervais told People.

By the way, the Golden Globes were announced in Hollywood this morning before the sun came up.  Click here for a complete list of nominees.

Congrats to all the nominees.  I'll be tuning in mostly to see Gervais wield his hilarious verbal scalpel.

01 December 2015

Lawrence the cinematic conqueror

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Jennifer Lawrence on the run in "Winter's Bone." (Courtesy: outnow.ch)

Would you skin a squirrel in your back yard to land a movie role?

Jennifer Lawrence apparently would and, if an article posted on the Variety website is accurate, did to land the role as a tough Ozark Mountains girl searching for her drug-dealing dad in Winter's Bone (2010).

Lawrence has risen to worldwide fame as Katniss Everdeen in the Hunger Games franchise monster as the fearless bow-and-arrow defender of the common people.  The Hunger Games:  Mockingjay -- Part 2, the fourth and final (so they say) installment in the series, is riding high on the box-office charts.

But where did Lawrence come from?

That might just surprise you.  Aspiring young actresses and actors might be shocked to hear that Ms. Lawrence, a three-time Academy Award nominee and winner for Silver Linings Playbook in 2012, never took acting lessons.

"Lawrence had never taken an acting class, but explained how she prepared for the role: 'My brother’s friend came over with a squirrel he’d shot and we skinned it in my backyard.'

"The film earned four Oscar nominations, including best picture and best actress," the Variety article states.

If you ask me, Lawrence has risen to the top of the fame game because she isn't just a celebrity riding the wave of a huge movie franchise.  She's on top because she's the real deal; an actress with a natural gift and, from all appearances, enough smarts to keep ego and fame in check.

She's also savvy enough to step out of the movie studio tent-pole (mass market appeal) projects to flex her acting skills in less-gadget-driven movies with character depth.  I'm really looking forward to Joy, a based-on-truth drama with comedy starring Lawrence along with Bradley Cooper and Robert De Niro.

Joy director David O. Russell has worked with Lawrence before with tremendous success.  He called the shots on Silver Linings Playbook and American Hustle (2013).

As Joy Mangano, inventor of the Miracle Mop, Lawrence takes on something perhaps scarier than the cutthroat competition in the Hunger Games fantasy series.  This time she's fighting against the all-powerful forces of Corporate America.

Joy opens Christmas Day.

  

24 November 2015

'Lost (in Space)' and found

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Courtesy: CBS

From the Hey, We Haven't Brought This One Back And Called It Good Looking Yet Department:

It looks like your favorite video streaming service, Netflix, is about to roll the dice on a Lost In Space reboot.

According to stories posted on the Entertainment Weekly website (and other sources), Netflix is remaking the cult 1960s series that was set in "futuristic" 1997.

Call it Back to the Past Future or Wow, How High Can Gasoline Prices Go?

"Executive producer Kevin Burns confirmed to EW.  (The) legendary TV’s remake, which has yet to garner a straight-to-series order, is being written by Matt Sazama and Burk Sharpless (Dracula Untold) and produced by Game of Thrones vet Neil Marshall, who’s in line to direct," the EW article states.

Burns, who has another project to dive into, is thrilled, of course.

“'We’ve obviously been developing Lost in Space for a long time, and we’ve had a couple of false starts. Just speaking for myself, we really felt that we had learned a lot from not only what we did, but what other people did and did wrong.

"'The original series, which lasted three seasons and 83 episodes, is set in a futuristic 1997 and follows the Robinson family’s space exploration. After the villainous Dr. Smith (Jonathan Harris) sabotages the navigation system, they become helpless and, yes, lost,'" Burns told Entertainment Weekly.

Danger, Will Robinson.  I don't see a Star Wars like frenzy building for this Lost cause, which got a ho-hum big-screen do-over in 1998.

 

16 November 2015

'Author! Author!' What? What?

BookCover290Authors make all kinds of absurd claims about their books.  Frankly, that makes me sad.

Take my new book (Please!) Did I Write That Out Loud?, for instance.

I could claim that my new book bursting with entertaining essays about the raucous, roller coaster life of a veteran humorist, public speaker, film critic and stand-up comedian (that would be me) will lift your spirits.

It will, but I won't claim that.

Or, I could promise that you'll go behind the scenes and be amazed at what happened the day I sat down to interview Shirley MacLaine and she wasn't pleased with the lighting.

You will be amazed, but I'm not about to claim that, either.

All I'm going to promise is that if you buy Did I Write That Out Loud? you'll lose a few pounds.*

My new -- and first, I might add -- book covers topics such as why my family doctor broke up with me, what happens when pants begin to have minds of their own and news that the Cold War, a different Cold War, still rages.

I try to write from my heart and my funny bone, so even subjects such as a late-night encounter with paramedics, job loss and my father's late-life crisis are skewed with truth softened with humor.

Or as I like to put it, "We might as well laugh. It's only life."

About this time you're probably saying to yourself, "This is incredible!  Where can I get my hands on a book like this?"

Not to worry.  Just click this link to go to the Did I Write That Out Loud? page at the Amazon.com website.  You can be the proud owner of this hot, hot, hot collection of hilarious and heartfelt essays in paperback for the ridiculous price of only $8.95.

And that's for an exciting new book that's already on the best seller list.  Excuse me.  So sorry, I meant to say the "best cellar" list.

But wait, there's more.  Do you prefer to read books on a Kindle?  We've got you covered for under five bucks.  $4.99 to be exact.

So order away. Just in time for the holidays, Did I Write That Out Loud? is the perfect feel-good solution to the age-old question "What can I get for the person who has everything?"  Well, they don't have this surefire cure for the blues, the blahs and boredom.

You want it gift wrapped?  Amazon.com can handle that as well.

Oh, and one more thing.  About that claim that you can lose a few pounds reading Did I Write That Out Loud?:

* You will only lose pounds if you buy this book in Great Britain, British Overseas Territories, the South Sandwich Islands and the British Antarctic Territory, as well as Tristan de Cunha, where the British Pound is used as currency.

13 November 2015

Movie magic: A keystone cop-out

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Jack Nicholson and "friend" in "As Good As It Gets"

Thanks to everyone over at Bonaventure Dallas for a memorable Movie Memories evening last night. 

Even though my projector opted to sit down on us a little and offer up only a slightly lopsided image (a keystone issue, according to the unhelpful "help" button), we soldiered on through memories of Hollywood's finest romantic films.

I love performing at the Bonaventure because the audience fills the room with enthusiasm and a willingness to ignore small distractions and get on with the show.

"Hollywood's Great Romantic Scenes" leans heavily on well-known classics like Gone With the Wind, On Golden Pond and West Side Story, of course.  One of the favorite moments for me, however, is the showcase of As Good As It Gets (1997), which resulted in Academy Awards for co-stars Jack Nicholson and Helen Hunt.

Thanks again, Bonaventure folks, It was a memorable Movie Memories evening.

  

03 November 2015

Keep (Jane) Austen weird?

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(Courtesy: www.stylenoir.com)

Is there a movement afoot to, ahem, keep Jane Austen weird?

There must be because come February, the undead will meet the coyishly cool in late 18th century England in what promises to be a grisly little action-horror-romance ditty titled Pride and Prejudice and Zombies.

I suppose it was bound to come (way, way) down to this in a time and marketplace where no entertainment icon, cinematic or literary, is sacred anymore.

I mean, come on.  We've already witnessed the out-of-sync wackiness of Harrison Ford and Daniel "Beg-Me-To-Stay-On-As-James Bond" Craig lassoing space aliens in Cowboys & Aliens in 2011, Sherlock Holmes sniffing out leads in modern-day New York City on TV in Elementary and the Republican debates.

So maybe we shouldn't be surprised when Jane Austen-ish ladies go for the jugular with bared fangs and not just verbal jabs.  

I suppose if they still sip their afternoon tea with pinkies properly extended, we shouldn't raise too much of a fuss when they go all zombie and start ripping each other to shreds.

Although I guess we won't hear much dialogue about saving face.

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies is scheduled to open (or slither out from under the door) Feb. 5 at one of the fine cinematic emporiums near you.

Consider this a jot-it-down-moment or a warning, depending on where you stand on the issue of co-mingling the prim and proper work of one of the most esteemed authors of the late 18th and early 19th century with bloodthirsty zombies with what I'm guessing will be deplorable table manners.

"Mary, mind your manners!  I told you to keep your elbows off the dining table.  And that goes for the elbows on those arms you're gnawing on as well.  And must you moan so?"


30 October 2015

Happy Hallo-, Merry next Christmas!

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Billy Bob Thornton would like to wish everyone a Merry Christmas next year. (Courtesy: www.denofgeek.us)

Well boys and girls, it's the day before Halloween.

You know what that means in every store around these great United States and, of course, in Hollywood:  Merry Christmas!

With that comes great news today.  Billy Bob Thornton is coming back as the title character in Bad Santa 2 not this holiday season, but in 2016, according to a story posted on the Variety website.

"Miramax and Broad Green Pictures announced that Billy Bob Thornton will reprise his role as Willie Soke in Bad Santa 2.

"Geyer Kosinski will produce. Miramax will partner with Broad Green Pictures to co-finance and co-produce. Broad Green will distribute in the U.S. during the 2016 holiday season.

"Sierra/Affinity will handle foreign sales with sales starting at the upcoming American Film Market.

“'We’ve been waiting far too long to see Billy Bob’s Willie Soke mess with the holiday season in his own unique way,' said Zanne Devine of Miramax."

Some say you have to be a little twisted or even sick to like this kind of extremely dark, sarcastic humor.

Well 'scuse me and call the doc, I can't wait to see more like this: