One month until THE END OF THE WORLD BLOGATHON!

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It’s only 30 days until THE END OF THE WORLDBLOGATHON, that is! Along with my blogging pal Quiggy from The Midnite Drive-In, we will be serving up blog entries related to movies with apocalyptic or post-apocalyptic themes. For further enlightenment on this blogathon (and to sign up, if you haven’t already), click here!

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The smoking gun

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Like everyone else, I have some definite opinions regarding the ever-raging debate on U.S. gun control. But I’m not about to share them here, because this is not a political blog and I don’t want to get into a Phil Donahue-like discussion where nobody ever wins.

Instead, I only want to reflect on how this gun debate has made me long for a time when America was just plain less mean. Yes, I know I’m venturing into Old Fogey-Land, but please hear me out.

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Two days ago, Feb. 23, was the 53rd anniversary of the death of a wonderful comedian, Stan Laurel. Did you know that he kept his name in the public phone book?

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Laurel lived out his last few years in Santa Monica, CA, and his name, address, and phone number were printed in Santa Monica’s White Pages. He felt that any fan who wanted to talk to him or meet him had a right to do so. Many famous people, including Dick Van Dyke and Peter Sellers, met Laurel for the first time in this way. But Laurel was quite willing to meet non-celebrities as well.

People would phone Laurel to speak to him, and he would often invite these people to his apartment to regale them with stories related to his life and career. At these times, Laurel’s wife Ida (pronounced “EE-da”) would retire to another room, as she realized that this was Laurel’s way of entertaining people since he no longer made movies.

My point is this: What celebrity would dare to have their public phone number known these days? (I don’t even think there were any other in Laurel’s era who did it.) And these days, it’s not at all a stretch to imagine some crazed fan holding a gun on Laurel and taking him and his wife hostage.

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Or take “The Carol Burnett Show.” Burnett began nearly every episode of her TV variety show by “bumping up the lights” and taking questions from the audience. Sometimes, she even did more than simply answer questions. One elderly audience member asked Burnett where the restroom was, and (probably for a laugh) Burnett ushered the lady up to the stage and pointed out exactly which direction she should go to find it. On another occasion, an audience member asked for an opportunity to sing. The man was invited on stage and, accompanied by Burnett’s in-house orchestra, the man proceeded to belt out “What I Did for Love,” from the musical A Chorus Line.

(Of course, the most famous recipient of Burnett’s generosity to fans is Vicki Lawrence, who first met Burnett after writing her a letter stating how the two of them looked alike. As it happened, Burnett was looking for an actress to play her younger sister on a recurring sketch of her then-new variety show. The rest is TV history.)

Of course, TV variety shows are now dead, but if they weren’t, again imagine a celebrity inviting an unknown audience member up on stage. And imagine if said fan had a loaded pistol and an agenda. (The opening scene of the 2004 black-comedy remake of The Stepford Wives tried to play just such a scenario for dark humor.)

I’m hardly the first person to note that, when President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in 1963, a bit of America’s innocence died as well. And like a glacier suffering from climate change, shards of that innocence have been dropping off piece by piece ever since.

Fergie kills the National Anthem. (No, I mean it. She really murdered it.)

There’s no bigger test of your singing prowess than “The Star-Spangled Banner.” You either get it or you don’t. At last night’s NBA All-Star Game, pop singer Fergie proved she didn’t get it.

She didn’t sound like she was singing the National Anthem. She sounded like she wanted to have intercourse with it.

MY NEXT GUEST NEEDS NO INTRODUCTION WITH DAVID LETTERMAN – A little more conversation

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I’ve said it here before. But I don’t understand why so many critics think that every TV show that premieres on an outlier outlet such as Amazon or Netflix has to reinvent the wheel. What’s wrong with plain old quality television? Based on its debut episode, I think that is just what is offered by David Letterman’s Netflix series, “My Next Guest Needs No Introduction.”

The introductory hour — filmed in front of a live audience at New York City College — opens with Letterman making a few light jokes and then introducing his (apparently) surprise guest: POTUS # 44, Barack Obama. From there, the duo go into a far-ranging, yet seemingly intimate conversation. That conversation is frequently intercut with a filmed segment wherein Letterman walks across the Edmund Pettus Bridge with civil-rights hero and Congressman John Lewis, talking to Lewis about Lewis’ 1965 walk across that bridge, when he and other protestors were beaten by police officers.

After all of his decades of on-air neurosis and irony, it’s nice to see Letterman loosened up and actually enjoying some conversation. Back in Letterman’s salad days on CBS, more than one critic noted that Letterman not only had an edge, he was the edge. Probably those same critics are now complaining about Letterman’s newly-found laidback-ness.

Too bad. I enjoyed this breezy conversation between two members of an obvious mutual admiration society. The worst you could say about Letterman here is that he is perhaps a tad fawning (as opposed to “The Tonight Show’s” Jimmy Fallon?) — but if you’re going to genuflect to someone, you could do a lot worse than Barack Obama.

As for Letterman’s civil-rights lesson, I’m sorry to say that its message remains all too relevant, particularly in light of the current White House Administration. So it certainly doesn’t hurt to be reminded yet again how blacks continue to live more poorly than whites in the U.S., not because of race but because of long-inherent policies.

With an upcoming guest list that includes George Clooney and Tina Fey, it’s likely that future episodes of “My Next Guest” will have a much lighter social agenda than its premiere episode. Hopefully, the series will remain just as captivating.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Jennifer Aniston question

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After two decades in the spotlight, Jennifer Aniston and her troubled relationships continue to make news. This week, it is reported that she and Justin Theroux, her husband of two years and probably her thousandth relationship with a man, have separated.

This tidbit is enough to send Aniston fans and sob-sister reporters crying in their coffee once again. For me, it only inspires the eternal question:

When did America become Jennifer Aniston’s babysitter?

By one website’s count, Aniston, one way or another, has been involved with 14 men of note (most notably Brad Pitt, to whom she was famously married for five years). And those are just the guys we know about.

And every time Aniston suffers a break-up, everyone from gossip columnists to supposedly legit journalists jump on the bandwagon, cluck their clucks, and try to determine what it would take for poor, beleaguered Jen to have a steady relationship.

Why do we devote so much energy to the romantic entanglements of this woman? There are probably millions of women who have gone through as much heartache as — maybe more than — Aniston has. And most of them probably do not have the millions of dollars she has to cushion the pain.

This pop-psycho examination might have been fashionable when Aniston was a perky young TV star, but she celebrated her 49th birthday this week. Perhaps it’s time we let Aniston spread her wings, leave the nest of our inquisitive minds, and figure out her relationships on her own.