Monday, February 26, 2007

Final Oscar item

Best Actor recipient Forest Whitaker will probably win the acting Daily Double this year - for his movie role as Ugandan dictator Idi Amin in "The Last King of Scotland" and for his riveting guest starring role in "ER" as tragic patient Curtis Ames, who went from sympathetic victim to terrorizer of the Kovic-Lockhart family (all in a futile search for someone to say they were sorry and to feel his deep innermost pain).
A guest star Emmy will sit nicely next to Oscar.
Not bad for a young lad from Longview, Texas.

More Oscar talk: You know Mr. 'Happy Feet'

His face might not have run any bells last night, but the name - George Miller - should. The creator-director of the Academy Award-winning animated feature, "Happy Feet," is well known.
One of the Australian new wave directors (with the likes of Peter Weir), he honed such excellent works as "The Witches of Eastwick," "Dead Calm" (Nicole Kidman's debut), "Lorenzo's Oil," and "Babe-Pig in the City" (he wrote the screenplay for the original).
BUT ... George Miller will always be known as the man behind the trilogy Mad Max movies - "Mad Max," "The Road Warrior" and "Beyond Thunderdome." If there is a more exciting action movie than "Road Warrior," I haven't seen it.
From Mel Gibson to pigs to penguins and now an Oscar.

Oscar reaction

Sunday’s Academy Awards announcements were seeing a past due bill finally settled with director Martin Scorsese after missing out on some of the most important films in the 20th century (“Raging Bull,” “Taxi Driver,” “Goodfellas”) as well as other films that people forget were his (“Age of Innocence,” “The Last Waltz” which should have been Best Doc in its year, “Kundun” about the Dahli Lama).
The cheers for him were almost as strong as for Al Gore, who was humble but funny in his staged bit. I’d rather see him up there than Jack Black (is there any more annoying person in Holywood?).
It was uber-cool for to seen Francis Ford Coppola, George Lucas and Steven Spielberg, all products of the USC Film School and considered icons in Hollywood (although Coppola bottles wine these days and watches his daughter’s films) present that award. You didn’t think they were going to give to anyone else did ya? Yeah, no one knew, but everyone KNEW.
Other than Alan Arkin’s honor, there were no surprises among the major categories. “Pan’s Labyrinth” not getting Best Foreign Film was a shock to many except certain critics, but it got plenty of accolades during the night. Yes, people, Mexico sends more than immigrants to our shores; it brings talented filmmakers as well.
As a man, I could care less about jewelry and gowns with one exception. When did Reese Witherspoon get to be smoking HOT?!?! She dumped her hubby and looked what emerged! I thought my screen would melt. YIKES!

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

More Oscar talk

I took a little time (more than I should) to watch a couple of classic movies on the cable this morning, and I was struck by something fascinating.
First, I watched the original 1949 version of Robert Penn Warren’s “All The King’s Men,” which won the Best Picture Oscar that year over “The Heiress,” “Battleground,” “Twelve O’Clock High” and “A Letter to Three Wives.” When you see it in today’s context, it appears slightly dated, although the thinly-veiled story of Louisiana’s Huey Long remains powerful.
The picture has many excellent portrayals with Mercedes McCambridge winning a Best Supporting Actress honor and character actors John Ireland, Joanne Dru and John Derek (yep, Bo’s future husband) acquit themselves well.
But the picture belongs to a relatively unknown actor who has been in several “B” movies and always as a bad guy. Philadelphia-born Broderick Crawford would win the Best Actor Oscar over a formidable field – Kirk Douglas (“Champion”), John Wayne (“Sands of Iwo Jima”), Greogry Peck (“Twelve O’Clock High”) and Richard Todd (“The Hasty Heart”).
Although he played the “heavy” in the 1950 comedy “Born Yesterday,” it was Crawford’s only moment in the Hollywood spotlight – his only nomination. He played Lt. Dan Matthews from 1955-59 in the well-known TV drama “Highway Patrol,” but his career hit its zenith in 1949.
This Sunday, another character actor, also facing his only nomination, will win Best Actor. From all accounts, Forest Whitaker’s portrayal of Ugandan dictator Idi Amin is a shoo-in, sure thing for victory. And you have to wonder if this will be HIS moment in the spotlight or if he will emerge to do greater things.
Let’s hope so.
The second movie came this afternoon – the 1987 Stanley Kubrick honed “Full Metal Jacket,” the anti-war Vietnam saga. It is two halves combined into one movie with the second half excellent work but nothing like the haunting, inspired first half about Marine training at Paris Island.
You are riveted by Vicnent D’Onofrio and Mathew Modine are the trainees, but you will never forget newcomer R. Lee Ermey as drill instructor Sgt. Hartman. Few performances dominated every single second of the screen like Ermey and almost no one that year created a character that lived inside you for years to come.
Was he nominated as Best Suppporting Actor? Of course not. That field consisted of Albert Brooks (“Broadcast News”), Morgan Freeman (“Street Smart”), Sean Connery (“The Untouchables”), Vincent Gardenia (“Moonstruck”) and Denzel Washington (“Cry Freedom”). Connery was the winner is what was seen as a way to honor his body of work, rather than that movie (Robert DeNiro was better as Al Capone).
But no one was better than Ermey in “Full Metal Jacket.”
And the best picture of 1987? “The Last Emporer” over “Broadcast News,” “Fatal Attraction,” “Hope and Glory” and “Moonstruck.” Were any of them better than “Full Metal Jacket?” Hardly.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Oscar talk: Is the ‘Best’ Picture really the best?

On Sunday, Feb. 25, the elite of Hollywood will gather before the eyes of billions around the world and distribute those gold statuettes known as Oscars, including the top prize for Best Picture. The 79th Academy Awards will anoint another movie as claiming to be the “best” of last calendar year’s crop (the choices being “The Queen,” “The Departed,” “Babel” “Little Miss Sunshine” and “Letters from Iwo Jima”).
But, ask yourself, are these really the BEST movies from 2006? If had “Dreamgirls” at the top of your personal list, you’re out of luck; and so forth. But don’t feel bad; it has happened many, MANY times throughout the history of the Academy and Hollywood. The names of those legendary movies – the ones you will never forget – that did NOT receive the Best Picture award are high on the most prestigious lists of all-time great films.
A review of the American Film Institute’s list “100 Years…100 Movies” is revealing as to the omissions. Please note that the list stops with films made in 1996 because that was the 100-year watermark. There have been grievous errors after that.
First, a little history lesson is in order. The first Academy Award was given in 1927-28 to Paramount’s “Wings,” starring a young Gary Cooper and produced by Howard Hughes. It was one of three movies nominated. The next year, only the winner was announced, but not the nominees.
By year three, the category had changed to “Outstanding Production,” and increased to nine in 1931-32 and then 10 movies for the sixth annual ceremony, followed by 12 nominees for two years. That number then stabilized at 10, until the 1944 crop when the modern quintet of nominees was established.
The year 1939 is universally considered to be the greatest single year of movie-making in Hollywood and the Best Picture nominees reflects that. Up for the top prize, but NOT winning were “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington,” “Dark Victory,” “Goodbye, Mr. Chips,” “Stagecoach,” “Ninotchka,” “Wuthering Heights” and the AFI’s sixth greatest movie made – “The Wizard of Oz.”
What won? AFI’s number four movie of all time – “Gone With the Wind.”
On that AFI listing, four of the top five movies (“Casablanca,” “The Godfather,” “GWTW” and “Lawrence of Arabia” were Best Picture honorees). But not the movie chosen as the best film made in the first 100 years – 1941’s “Citizen Kane” by Orson Welles. It didn’t win, along with the likes of “The Maltese Falcon,” “Sergeant York,” “Suspicion,” “The Little Foxes” and “Here Comes Mr. Jordan.” The winner was director John Ford’s “How Green was My Valley,” beating another one of his movies (“Stagecoach”).
The 10th movie on the AFI’s all-time greatest list was not even nominated – 1952’s “Singing in the Rain.” The field that year had “High Noon,” “Ivanhoe,” “Moulin Rouge” and Ford’s “The Quiet Man” (with John Wayne in his finest role but not his Oscar-winner) beaten out by “The Greatest Show on Earth.” Of that group, only “High Noon” makes the AFI list at number 33.
In the top 25 all-time movies, four others were never nominated for Best Picture – “Some Like It Hot” in 1959, “The African Queen” in 1951, “Psycho” in 1960 and “2001: A Space Odyssey” in 1968. In fact, the top 100 is littered with non-nominees, including such favorites as “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” (of course, only Disney’s “Beauty and the Beast” stands as the lone animated feature to be nominated as Best Picture), the Marx Brothers’ “Duck Soup,” and most of Alfred Hitchcock’s best efforts (“Psycho,” “North by Northwest,” “Rear Window,” “Vertigo” although he did win in 1940 for “Rebecca”).
Today’s most popular director would probably be Steven Spielberg and he has seen his share of snubs, losing for “Jaws,” “Raiders of the Lost Ark” and “E.T. – The Extra-Terrestrial” (can you name the winner in 1982? It wasn’t nominees “Tootsie” or “The Verdict” either. Answer below).
Spielberg’s most recent acknowledged masterpiece was 1998’s “Saving Private Ryan,” which was not only brilliant beyond mere words, but help start the national tribute to “The Greatest Generation” for its contribution to victory in World War II. While he was voted Best Director, the film lost to, of all nominees, the light and fluffy “Shakespeare in Love,” probably the biggest upset in Oscar history. That is one movie which rarely sees the light of days on cable television, or anywhere else for that matter.
This year, the Hollywood community seems to be rooting for non-winner Martin Scorsese, who has been snubbed for several classic efforts – “Taxi Driver,” “Goodfellas” “Raging Bull” – all of whom were nominated but never got to the winner’s circle. Perhaps “The Departed,” a remake of the Hong Kong classic “Infernal Affairs,” will be the ticket.
But being the best movie doesn’t guarantee anything; especially immortality. Sunset Boulevard is littered with the empty reels of winners who have disappeared from the public’s memory.
The answer to the 1982 question is … “Ghandi,” a big picture by Sir Richard Attenborough which was excellent. But, really, which film is imprinted upon society’s mind and heart?
It wasn’t “Ghandi” for sure. He never phoned home, did he?

Saturday, February 10, 2007

A MAJOR news announcement

Ladies and gentlemen,

I take this opportunity to make a major announcement to you and to the world:

I, Chuck Bloom, am NOT the father of the baby girl birthed by the late Anna Nicole Smith.

Now I realize that I might be the only male person in the U.S. who hasn't had sex with her and could be the only man unwilling to claim the child's parentage in lieu of the multi-million dollar inheritance involved (which I am sure has NOTHING to do with anything - it's ALL about love).

I know I never ... had ... physical ... relations ... with that woman (I AM pointing my finger, too). Something I heard long ago about strapping a board to my ass to keep from falling in.

I, like you, look forward to see who will win this Wheel of Fortune game.

If it weren't so tragic (a child's loss of a mother), I'd be laughing.

But it ain't me babe (cue The Turtles and Bob Dylan).

Friday, February 09, 2007

Reunited - part II

A blogger friend of mine reminded me. I forgot Cream - Jack Bruce, Eric Clapton, Ginger Baker - who did a PBS special on their Albert Hall concert and have a CD out from that.
Can't see Derek and the Dominoes though. No more Duane Allman.
And happy birthday to the greatness that is Joe Ely, who turns 60 today.

Reunited and it feels so good!

When the annual Grammy Awards are broadcast this Sunday on CBS, the show is expected to open with a spectacular event, the first public performance of The Police (Sting, Stewart Copeland, Andy Summers) in 17 years or so. I will have the DVR roaring and will be watching. Only a nuclear bomb down the street will prevent me from that task.
I saw The Police twice in my life – both times in Austin. The first was in the Super Drum (Frank Erwin Center) for the Ghosts in the Machine tour (unknown to me was that my future wife was also there) and later in 1984, for the Synchronicity Tour with 45,000 others in the Austin Meadows, a large open field with a stage.
In both cases, Joe “King” Carrasco and the Crowns played nuevo wavo for the group and UB40 played at the Meadows event.
Since I got married in 2001, I have seen a handful of memorable concerts, including Sting, Bruce Springsteen and the reunited E Street Band for “The Rising” and U2 twice (Vertigo and Elevation tours).
But this Sunday’s event got me thinking – who would I want to see reunite for a major tour. I’ve informed the wife that if The Police come to Dallas, we are THERE! But who else?
Before I reveal my list, here’s who cannot be on it – any group with significant members who are deceased. That eliminates The Beatles, The Who (sorry but Roger Daltrey and Peter Townsend need Keith Moon and John Entwistle), The Band, the Beach Boys, the Cars (the late Ben Orr sang most of the leads), the Grateful Dead and the Doors. Many of these groups still “exist,” but they are just not the same.
I would like to see Chicago with Peter Cetera, Journey with Steve Perry and Foreigner with Lou Gramm and Mick Jones. If Van Halen is planning a reunion tour, they need to bury ALL hatchets and go with the original lineup of Eddie and Alex Van Halen, David Lee Roth and Michael Anthony.
Springsteen could tour again with his E Street folks (which means Miami Steve Van Zandt will be free once “The Sopranos” is finished and Clarence Clemons’ health is better).
Here are the tours I’d like to see:
The Police
Dire Straits – Mark Knopfler is simply one of the greatest guitarists and to hear a concert hall filled with “Telegraph Road” or “Heavy Fuel” would be sensational.
Pink Floyd – They reunited for last year’s “Live Aid” so there IS hope to have David Palmer and Roger Waters perform together.
Sly and the Family Stone – The originators of funk did a number at last year’s Grammys. If someone can get Sly off whatever medication he’s on and into a decent barbershop, it is also possible.
Simon and Garfunkel – They were the surprise a couple of years ago and have done a few mini-tours. One last fling would be greatness.
Finally, I’d love to see the Arc Angels reunite. Don’t know them? After Stevie Ray Vaughn’s untimely death, his backup group, Double Trouble, joined Austin legend guitarist Charlie Sexton and Doyle Brahmall III for one of the greatest, purest Texas rock albums EVER! And then, POOF! they were gone.
Oh, the horror! Comeback, Arc Angels! A nation lifts its lonely eyes to you.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Not-so-SOUPer Bowl, commercials

OK, I was close ... Colts, 29-17. In miserable conditions, this wasa not thebest of contests - too many fumbles because the league insisted on using brand new balls on EACH play .... in the pouring rain. Slick as goose shit as the natives would say in Texas.
And the commercials sucked big time - too much violence to sell things. I laughed rarely. Better job next time, huh?

Super Bowl prediction

Other than the fact that I don't care who wins (I have no dog in this fight and I don't like pro football), I will predict the following:
Colts 30-21, Adam Vinitieri kicks 4 field goals and is MVP.
Now let's bring on baseball!!!!!!!!!

Big boys DO cry

Writer's Note: The following column appeared in the Sunday, Feb. 4, 2007, edition of the Dallas Morning News' Collin County Opinion Pages.

I was cable surfing the other weekend, looking for something other than football, infomercials and game shows to occupy my time when I stumbled upon one of my 10 favorite movies of all-time, "Field of Dreams." It holds a special place in my heart as one of those seminal American films that will withstand the test of future generations as to its greatness.

I joined it in the final half of the movie, which I own on DVD and have seen (conservatively) 50 times, and I reacted the exact same way that I did the other 49 occasions.

I cried. Like a little baby (not unlike my infant granddaughter). You know, whenever I see it, I always cry; I simply cannot help it. And here’s a little secret: I will never (ever) apologize for it. Despite my age (54), my size (6-6, and far too heavy for my doctors’ tastes), I cry at many movies. I am not afraid to let my emotions streak down my cheeks.

I remember being immobilized for 15 minutes after my first experience seeing "E.T." when I hit theaters 24 years ago. I even cried when "The English Patient" was finished, but that was because I actually had to pay to watch that garbage.

Deep down inside, I’m really a sensitive soul. In fact, many things in this world trigger the waterworks. And unlike the macho facade that too many men try to create ("It must be raindrops/’cause a man ain’t supposed to cry"), I admit that they are, in fact, tears and that they are an important part of a man’s character. It represents the ability to be moved, to feel, to accept another person’s pain, passion and triumph.

Hey, what can I say? I’m a sensitive guy, and I’m not alone.

Real men are much more emotional than any of us admit. Women think they have a corner on this market, but it’s not true. It’s just that men mistakenly believe that other males shouldn’t see them cry. Hogwash!

Whenever I hear the late Harry Chapin’s classic song, "Cats in the Cradle," I always feel tears well inside. I heard it the other day and thought of my 26-year-old son, Robert, when we used to ride around in my car. The words, "he’s grown up just like me," strike very hard for any father.

"Field of Dreams," perhaps the best baseball movie ever made (with the defining soliloquy delivered by James Earl Jones on the sport’s meaning to America), is more than a film about a sport; it is about relationships between fathers and sons.

But it’s not always about those relationships. When I saw Texas Ranger pitcher Nolan Ryan leave the mound for the final time years ago, knowing that he had irreparably injured himself, I cried. I cry whenever I see Muhammed Ali in his current deteriorated physical state; I remember the beauty of the motion of a man who was the greatest in his field … of all time. His presence at the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta was almost too much to bear.

Yes, I cried at all those Disney classics — Dumbo and Pinocchio — and during "The Lion King" when it opened more than a decade ago. I was with my two daughters, Lisa and Kelsey, and they had to reassure me that Simba would be just fine, thank you, at the end of the movie. He was going to grow up and become a wonderful lion despite all that had happened to him.

Of course, I cry when I see my monthly bank statement, but that’s another story.

There’s nothing wrong with being a sensitive guy. Don’t mistake it for weakness; it’s not. In some of life’s most important moments, it’s a sign of strength.