February Rambling: niece Rebecca Jade in a movie

My niece, Rebecca Jade, appears as a singer (typecasting, that) in a film called 5 Hour Friends, starring Tom Sizemore,

autocorrectFrom Jeff Sharlet, who I knew long ago: Inside the Iron Closet: What It’s Like to Be Gay in Putin’s Russia. In 2010, Jeff wrote about the American roots of Uganda’s anti-gay persecutions. He notes: “Centrist media sources dismissed my reporting as alarmist; The Economist assured us it would never pass. [This week], Ugandan President Museveni is signing the bill into law.”

There was no Jesse Owens at Sochi.

Arthur’s letter to straight people: why coming out matters; read the linked articles therein, too. (Watch that Dallas sportscaster on Ellen.)

So Dangerous He Needs a Soo-da-nim. Racist homophobes who comment on Sharp Little Pencil’s blog.

With conversations about shipping potentially dangerous liquids through my area, here’s a recollection of a train wreck 40 years ago.

If you knew you were going blind, what would be the last thing you would want to see before everything went dark?

The mess of an answered prayer and talking about mental illness.

A Hero’s Welcome after World War II. On a lighter note, The Margarine Wars.

This school is not a pipe, or pipeline.

An alto’s-eye view of choral music.

Who the heck was Ed Sullivan. Plus, Meet the Beatles and what it replaced, and What the critics wrote about the Beatles in 1964, and Introducing the Beatles to America.

Evanier’s experiences with Sid Caesar. Evanier wrote a brace of followup stories here (which also talks about Howie Morris) and here. Also, Dick Cavett reviewed one of Caesar’s two autobiographies, plus an article about the ever-foldable Al Jaffee of MAD.

Leonard Maltin on meeting Shirley Temple.

There are several Harold Ramis films I haven’t seen yet, but the ones I DID view – Animal House, Ghostbusters, Analyze This – I really enjoyed. Groundhog Day was among the first movies I ever purchased on VHS. And his SCTV stuff was fine, too.

A reminder that this is why we are so touched by Philip Seymour Hoffman’s death, from Anthony Lane. As someone put it, “It’s not his celebrity but his art.”

An audio link to a 46-minute lecture by Charles Schulz.

My niece, Rebecca Jade appears as a singer (typecasting, that) in a film called 5 Hour Friends, starring Tom Sizemore, a 97 minute comedy/drama/romance. “A lifelong womanizer gets a taste of his own medicine.” It was made in 2013, but not widely released, if at all. It will be in theatrical release in San Diego March 28-April 4th. Here’s the trailer, in which Rebecca can briefly be both seen and heard singing.

After only an 18-month hiatus, Tosy and Cosh are back ranking every U2 song.

Why Tom Dooley was hanging his head. Plus hangman John Ellis.

That is NOT the way Dustbury remembers that song, and I don’t either. Plus the history of Unchained Melody.

Mark Evanier’s teacher from hell.

Lefty Brown’s Valentine’s Day post to Kelly. “The Married Gamers – Play Together. Stay Together.”

Maypo Cereal Commercial (1956) Yes, I DO remember it, so there.

The five-second rule, expanded. Very true.

One can count on SamuraiFrog for all things Muppet: Getting to the Big Game and Miss Piggy’s response, plus a meta ad for the upcoming movie and Rowlf getting ice cream and saying good night to Jimmy Fallon’s Late Night; I hear Fallon’s gotten another job. Fallon, BTW, went to school at the College of Saint Rose, about five blocks from my house.

Yet another version of Bohemian Rhapsody.

Frog still torturing himself with 50 Shades of Smartass: Chapter 13 and Chapter 14 and Chapter 15 and Chapter 16. When I typed the title, I accidentally wrote “50 Years…”; read into that what you will.


And now for the AmeriNZ section: Arthur’s linkage, in which he calls my Everly Brothers post “diabolical.” Arthur’s Law restated, tied to my Facebook unfriending. The law is a ass.

YouTube and AIDS deniers.

My Oscar predictions, 2013 films edition

The Act of Killing sounds AMAZING: “A documentary that challenges former Indonesian death squad leaders to reenact their real-life mass-killings in whichever cinematic genres they wish.”

12_years_a_slave_soundtrackFor whatever strange reason, I’ve watched the Academy Awards for decades, more often on DVD or on tape than live in recent years, but still. It’s NOT to find out who won because I can read THAT in the newspaper the next day; it’s what they say, and how they say it. The program will be on Sunday, March 2 this year; they’ve been bouncing around the date in recent years, in late March for a long time, then late February.

Oscar picks don’t always go to the BEST film or performance, but some other socio-political and popularity factors. I haven’t even seen all the films, but that never stopped me before from predicting the winners.
* Indicates I saw it

Best Picture:
“American Hustle”
“Captain Phillips”
“Dallas Buyers Club”
“12 Years a Slave”
“The Wolf of Wall Street”

Is this the largest list of movies for which I need to make a parenthetical reference that it’s a movie? Gravity, Her, and Nebraska all make lousy indexing terms. (Here’s a futurist reviewing Her, and missing the point.)

As for the winner, I’d pick 12 Years a Slave. It’s well-reviewed, it’s important, and it allows Hollywood to show how progressive it is. Yet, I’m feeling unsure because the Oscars uses Instant Runoff Voting, where one ranks the pictures, a good way to get a consensus choice.

So fans that like Wolf the best, and those who pick 12 years as their favorite, both tend to pick American Hustle as their second or third pick among nominated films; if Hustle wins, it would not be a shock.

Best Supporting Actor:
Barkhad Abdi, “Captain Phillips”
Bradley Cooper, “American Hustle”
Jonah Hill, “The Wolf of Wall Street”
Michael Fassbender, “12 Years a Slave”
Jared Leto, “Dallas Buyers Club”

Jared Leto at some point was supposed to be the Next Big Thing, and wasn’t. He disappears into this role. (If not him, then Abdi.)

Best Supporting Actress:
Sally Hawkins, “Blue Jasmine”
Jennifer Lawrence, “American Hustle”
Lupita Nyong’o, “12 Years a Slave”
Julia Roberts, “August: Osage County”
June Squibb, “Nebraska”

The Academy loves picking non-familiar people here. Lawrence won an Oscar too recently, and lots of people hated Osage County. Sally Hawkins has worked well in a few films, but it’s going to be between a woman who’s been a working actress for six decades (June Squibb, who was fine) or another virtual unknown. I pick Lupita Nyong’o

Best Director:
David O. Russell, “American Hustle”
Alfonso Cuaron, “Gravity”
*Alexander Payne, “Nebraska”
Steve McQueen, “12 Years a Slave”
Martin Scorsese, “The Wolf of Wall Street”

Gravity might have won Best Picture in another year, but as a consolation prize gets Alfonso Cuaron a trophy. He’s already won the Director’s Guild award.

Best Actor:
Christian Bale, “American Hustle”
Bruce Dern, “Nebraska”
Leonardo DiCaprio, “The Wolf of Wall Street”
Chiwetel Ejiofor, “12 Years a Slave”
*Matthew McConaughey, “Dallas Buyer’s Club”

The Oscar math favors MM: change in career trajectory, from doing romcoms to doing serious stuff + great physical change (lost 47 pounds for the role) + noteworthy role in ANOTHER film (Wolf of Wall Street) + great performance in the nominated film. If not him, then DiCaprio, because Hollywood also likes the hyphenates: actor-producer.

Best Actress:
Amy Adams, “American Hustle”
Cate Blanchett, “Blue Jasmine”
Sandra Bullock, “Gravity”
Judi Dench, “Philomena”
*Meryl Streep, “August: Osage County”

If the Pope were voting, it might be for Judi Dench; the movie was viewed by Francis, and he’s met the real Philomena, along with movie creator Steve Coogan. It won’t be Streep, who won too recently. Of the other three, they really like Sandy, but she won too recently. Most of the early awards went to Cate Blanchett, but I wonder about the Woody Allen backlash. So I’m going with Amy Adams, who has paid her dues in other films, who was in another nominated film, Her, looking quite different, and who was in a cast that won Best Ensemble at the Golden Globes, but there’s no such category in the Oscars.

Best Original Screenplay:
“American Hustle”
“Blue Jasmine”
“Dallas Buyers Club”

Wow, saw all five! American Hustle, I’m thinking, as another way to honor a well-liked film that’s not going to beat 12 Years or Gravity for Best Picture. Though I wouldn’t be shocked if Her won; that sounds like such bad grammar.
Best Adapted Screenplay:
“Before Midnight”
“Captain Phillips”
“12 Years a Slave”
“The Wolf Of Wall Street”

I’ll say again how I loved Philomena. But this goes to 12 Years A Slave.

Best Animated Feature:
“The Croods”
“Despicable Me 2”
“Ernest & Celestine”
“The Wind Rises”

Two of these, E&C and Wind, didn’t even have wide releases. Frozen was great, and certainly was far better than the other two.

Best Foreign Feature:
“The Broken Circle Breakdown,” Belgium
“The Great Beauty,” Italy
“The Hunt,” Denmark
“The Missing Picture,” Cambodia
“Omar,” Palestine

Broken City Breakdown, which I’ve seen the previews for, felt like an American film, with American country singing without accents. But my guess is The Great Beauty, which has reviewed quite well.

Best Visual Effects:
“The Hobbit: The Desolation”
“Iron Man 3”
“The Lone Ranger”
“Star Trek Into Darkness”

I’m guessing Gravity.

Best Cinematography:
“The Grandmaster”
“Inside Llewyn Davis”

The three I saw looked good. I’ll guess Nebraska, just because of that great black and white, though Gravity wouldn’t surprise.

Best Costume Design:
*”American Hustle”
“The Grandmaster”
“The Great Gatsby”
“The Invisible Woman”
“12 Years a Slave”

American Hustle did catch the 1970s well, but I heard great things about Gatsby, so I’ll guess that.

Best Documentary Feature:
“The Act of Killing”
“Cutie and the Boxer”
“Dirty Wars”
“The Square”
*“20 Feet from Stardom”

I really did enjoy the one film I saw. But The Act of Killing sounds AMAZING: “A documentary that challenges former Indonesian death-squad leaders to reenact their real-life mass-killings in whichever cinematic genres they wish, including classic Hollywood crime scenarios and lavish musical numbers.” The movie reviews I’ve watched were slackjawed at how much these people revealed.

Best Documentary Short:
“Facing Fear”
“Karama Has No Walls”
“The Lady in Number 6: Music Saved My Life”
“Prisoner Terminal: The Last Days of Private Jack Hall”

No clue.

Best Film Editing:
“American Hustle”
“Captain Phillips”
“Dallas Buyers Club”
“12 Years a Slave”

I’m guessing 12 Years.

Best Makeup and Hairstyling:
*”Dallas Buyers Club”
“Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa”
“The Lone Ranger”

I just don’t see either of the latter ones winning, regardless of the actual skills involved. DBC.

Best Music (Original Score):
“The Book Thief”
“Saving Mr. Banks”

I’ll pick Her because I liked it best, of the ones I’ve seen.

Best Music (Original Song):
“Alone Yet Not Alone” from “Alone Yet Not Alone”
“Happy” from “Despicable Me”
*”Let It Go” from “Frozen”
“The Moon Song” from “Her”
“Ordinary Love” from “Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom”

My daughter’s been singing the song from Frozen ever since she saw the movie.

Best Production Design:
“American Hustle”
“The Great Gatsby”
“12 Years a Slave”

Not my best category, so I tend to go with the front-runner, 12 Years.

Best Short Film, Animated:
Best Short Film, Live Action:
Won’t see them before the Oscars, but if they are still in town on my birthday, I plan to see them all and second-guess the Academy.

Best Sound Editing:

“All Is Lost”
“Captain Phillips”
“The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug”
“The Lone Survivor”

One of the Lord of the Rings movies won this a few years back, so I’ll go with The Hobbit, though Gravity was great.

Best Sound Mixing:
“Captain Phillips”
“The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug”
“Inside Llewyn Davis”
“Lone Survivor”

Sometimes this where a film that would otherwise win nothing else picks up a win. So I’ll guess Llewyn Davis, though again, Gravity is most deserving.

The Lydster, Part 119: The Lion King

The Lion King: March 2, at 12:15 pm, at First Presbyterian, 362 State Street, Albany, NY.

lionking.picThis is what The Daughter will be doing this weekend, playing the young Nala in The Lion King. So far, the only Christian adaptation I’ve seen is the song He Lives In You will be God Lives In You. There are Equity (professional) actors playing Scar and another role.

It would seem unseemly, I suppose, for me to say that my daughter is the best dancer of the kids performing. There was a sample of the production at church on February 16. Now, if a half dozen people, unsolicited, tell The Wife and/or me that The Daughter was great in that dance number, perhaps the best in the troupe, we shan’t become TOO proud, even though we might agree. Though she’s no longer taking ballet, I think the experience has served her well.

She has worked very hard learning her dialogue and the songs as well. If you’re in Albany on March 2, stop on by.

G is for the Guthrie family

Arlo Guthrie was not a singles artist, but did have a modest hit with Steve Goodman’s train song, City of New Orleans.

Arlo Guthrie, and his father Woody

Woodrow Wilson Guthrie (July 14, 1912 – October 3, 1967) was an iconic American individual – songwriter, musician, political activist. He had a huge effect on Pete Seeger, whose group the Weavers, recorded So Long, It’s Been Good To Know Yuh [LISTEN to Woody’s version]. He also hosted a young Bob Dylan in his hospital room, after he had been diagnosed with the Huntington’s disease that would kill him. He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1988 as an early influence.

I saw a video of Michael Feinstein, who tended to Ira Gershwin’s papers the last six years of the lyricist’s life. Feinstein was asked who is missing from the discussion of the Great American Songbook, musical standards written by Gershwins, Cole Porter, Irving Berlin, Duke Ellington, and the like in the first half of the 20th Century. Feinstein suggested Woody Guthrie, whose This Land Is Your Land is at least as beloved as Someone To Watch Over Me.

I wrote about Woody previously HERE.

One of his sons, with his second wife Marjorie, was Arlo Davy Guthrie, who became noteworthy from his performance of “Alice’s Restaurant Massacree”, a satirical talking blues song about 18 minutes in length [LISTEN], which was the basis of a movie in which he played himself; it’s now a Thanksgiving tradition. He performed at Woodstock; LISTEN to the studio version of Coming Into Los Angeles. He was not a singles artist but did have a modest hit with Steve Goodman’s train song City of New Orleans, #18 in 1972. Here is his version of his father’s Oklahoma Hills. Arlo has toured with Woody’s old chum Pete Seeger. (Arlo on the late Pete Seeger.)

The Guthrie family is musical. Arlo’s “sister is record producer Nora Guthrie.” Arlo’s children “have also become musicians. Annie Guthrie writes songs and performs, and also takes care of family touring details. Sarah Lee performs and records with her husband Johnny Irion. Cathy plays ukulele in Folk Uke, a group she formed with Amy Nelson, the daughter of Willie Nelson. Abe Guthrie was formerly in a folk-rock band called Xavier and now tours with his father. Abe Guthrie’s son, Krishna, is a drummer and toured with Arlo Guthrie on his European tour…”

So music is a Guthrie family affair.


ABC Wednesday – Round 14

MOVIE REVIEW – August: Osage County

I found something oddly compelling about the folks in August:Osage County.

august-osage-countyI was not sure I even wanted to see it. The reviews were decidedly mixed on August: Osage County. Worse, the campaign promoting the film changed from being a scene-chewing drama to a dark comedy, so I was suspicious. But then SamuraiFrog recommended it AND related to it. Also, it DID have a couple of Oscar-nominated actresses in it. So I went with a friend to the Spectrum in Albany, The Wife being out of town with The Daughter.

A negative reviewer complained that the movie was not as strong as the Tony-winning play – which I did not see – despite both being written by Tracy Letts; I did see some staginess, especially in particular snippets of dialogue occasionally. Others blamed John Wells’ direction.

Critic Richard Roeper called the movie: “A sometimes wickedly funny but ultimately sour, loud, draining tale of one of the most dysfunctional families in modern American drama.” Reviewer Anthony Morris said: “Instead of building to some tragic-comedic level of peak awfulness, [it] lurches from revelation to revelation without coming together as anything more than a sloppy weekend where a lot of nasty crap goes down.” I tend to agree with both of these assessments.

And yet, I found something oddly compelling about these folks. Do you know people who seem to attract drama in their lives? I certainly do. My friend suggested that the former in-laws were much like the matriarch, played by Meryl Streep, and her children. I think Streep came off playing her role so well because, she has noted, she attempted to emulate Margo Martindale, who played her sister.

Was it only coincidence that the three daughters were played by actresses with similar first names, Julia Roberts, Juliette Lewis, and Julianne Nicholson? They were convincing as siblings, the youngest of whom got stuck at home; I can relate.

The other roles, by Ewan McGregor, Chris Cooper, Abigail Breslin, Benedict Cumberbatch, Dermot Mulroney, Sam Shepard, and Misty Upham were all fine.

All this to say that I BELIEVED in these people, that there are, in Oklahoma or elsewhere, these complicated people in their screwed-up lives. It was a good, not great movie, but I’m glad I saw it. You may have to be in the right frame of mind to meet this clan.