Monthly Archives: January 2010

One Last Word on the Subject

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High Roads, Haiti and Grande Ballrooms

Class act, class exit.

Conan O’Brien proved last night that it is possible to walk away from an ugly situation by taking the high road. His last show was filled with fun, pranks, great music and a heartfelt message to his fans.  

Watch here.  

And in case NBC takes down the video, here’s a transcript of his comments, plus clips from his fellow talk-show hosts.  

I could write fifty pages on why people love Conan O’Brien and not touch that four minute speech.  

***  

If you’re the type of person who likes to contribute to worthwhile projects, here are a couple of opportunities on wildly different scales.  

  

I’ll Stand By You  

Hope For Haiti Now conducted a very successful telethon last night where millions of dollars were raised for the cause. I’m as skeptical as the next person about charity scams and how some organizations skim large percentages off the top for administration costs with little of the money actually going to the charity. But this project was set up with public transparency and a guarantee that one hundred percent of the donations will go to a handful of specific organizations who are on the ground in Haiti.  

Please beware of scam sites. This is the official one.  

Of course, you might be donating through work (with an employer match) or directly to an established organization you trust (i.e. The American Red Cross). Nothing wrong with that – charity comes from the heart, and whatever you do is greatly needed and surely appreciated. It could even be non-monetary, like volunteerism or prayer. But know that despite what some religious nutjobs and political wingnuts are saying, this is not reparation but a natural disaster that has flattened a helpless people.  

We take much for granted. There but for geography and fate go I.  

***  

Where rock'n'roll met its match in Detroit

On a whole different level, documentarian Tony D’Annunzio is completing a film project about the legendary Grande Ballroom in Detroit. The Grande was as critical to the development of the Detroit rock music scene as the Fillmore West was to San Francisco and the Fillmore East to New York. This is where every band from Detroit aspired to play, and where every band from out of town had to walk the gauntlet and prove themselves worthy.  

Check out this amazing trailer featuring several legendary musicians who fondly recall the place where magic happened.  

Here’s the official blurb from the project website:  

LOUDER THAN LOVE is the story of the Grande Ballroom in Detroit Michigan. The Grande Ballroom was the birthplace of the Detroit Rock Music Scene. Bands like MC5,Iggy & The Stooges,Ted Nugent & The Amboy Dukes,Alice Cooper and many more got their start here. The Grande not only influenced local Detroit musicians but inspired bands from all over the US & from Europe. Legendary acts like Led Zeppelin, Cream, BB King, Janis Joplin, Pink Floyd and The Who graced the stage at the Grande on a regular basis. While the west coast was groovin’ to the sounds of the “Summer of Love” in 1967, Detroit was pumping out a hard driving,gritty and raw sound that was LOUDER THAN LOVE.  

Sounds like a worthy project and a great tribute to a landmark. Contact Tony D’Annunizio through that webpage if you need more information.  

Just don’t accidentally contact this guy.

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T.G.I.F. – I’d Rather Coco

Before anything else, let’s credit the man who created this artwork in the first place – Mike Mitchell. I’ve seen this replicated everywhere and not only does he not get the props but people are slightly modifying and then selling his image without compensation. I believe we call that (ugh)… sampling.

Now on to the guest of honor.

Tonight is the last Tonight Show with Conan O’Brien. Final guests? Tom Hanks, Will Ferrell and Neil Young, plus an unannounced pop-in or two, I’m sure. An unfunny comic segment that appears to cost NBC a fortune in royalties. A long standing ovation before the show – and afterwards, of course. Ratings to die for. And the last glimpse of what should have been a show we could have all grown old with.

This whole situation has been nothing buy ugly, and while I don’t blame Jay Leno for setting the chain of events in motion, I do think he should have taken the high road and just moved on. His weak explanation – I’m just an employee doing what my boss asks – isn’t fooling anyone. He never wanted to leave the Tonight Show and although he might feel bad for Conan, I’d bet the farm that he’s secretly delighted that he’s back in the chair. But this mess is squarely on the NBC executives shoulders.

Conan is a brilliant writer and knows funny. He’ll survive. He’ll come up with something that will entertain and amaze us, and whether that’s a new show on Fox or an Internet podcast that opens the door to the next generation of broadcasting, it doesn’t matter.

Thanks for a short but great run, Conan. Kudos for fighting to get severance for your entire staff, the majority of whom will hopefully be asked to rejoin Team Conan for the next adventure.

Tonight, in honor of Conan, I defer my usual Friday TGIF routine of posting ten links, clips or facts to someone who will surely do it better. Tune in tonight and see.

Watch the Hope for Haiti telethon this evening and please give what you can; there but for the grace of fate go you. Then let’s all dial in one last time to say “see you soon” to Coco. It will be tough to top Robin Williams (try here or here – I’m sure these clips will come down as quickly as NBC can find them) but let’s give it a shot.

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Make Your Own Kind of Music

Choose one. Choos some. Choose all.

Nope, not the Mamas and Papas song.

Many people use technology for vapid purposes. Lord knows there’s enough time wasted by people uploading everything from pictures of their cat to vidoes of themselves proving why Andy Warhol underestimated them.

There are certainly enough time-waster sites where you can whack moles (not a euphamism), hit famous people with pies and box celebrites into bloodied submission. I will not suggest that you leave here to go to sites like that.

But you have to try this.

From the site: In Bb 2.0 is a collaborative music and spoken word project conceived by Darren Solomon from Science For Girls, and developed with contributions from users. The videos can be played simultaneously — the soundtracks will work together, and the mix can be adjusted with the individual volume sliders.

There’s enough pablum on the Internet. Kudos to people like Darren who create! And thanks to Eli (as usual) for tipping me off in the first place.

Bb 2.0 FAQ

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The Kids Are Alright

They're Crushing My Head!

The Kids in the Hall are back!

I mentioned a while back that The Kids in the Hall were going to have an eight-part miniseries on CBC television, and sure enough Death Comes To Town is up and running. So far two episodes have been aired and you can watch them online here. For some reason CBC has the show coded as a family comedy, despite this promotional blurb:

Fifteen years after “The Kids in the Hall” aired on CBC Television, the five original members of the Canadian sketch comedy team have reassembled in North Bay, Ont., to shoot an eight-part TV series. “Death Comes to Town” will premiere on CBC in January.

The series is about a killing spree in a small town and the trial that follows. It opens with the character of Death, played by Mark McKinney, getting off a Greyhound bus.

“It’s our version of comedy… with a whodunit as the engine,” Kids co-founder Bruce McCulloch told CBC Radio’s cultural affairs program Q from North Bay on Friday. The troupe’s five members — Dave Foley, Kevin McDonald, McCulloch, McKinney and Scott Thompson — reunited at Montreal’s Just for Laughs festival in 2007 and toured across North America last year. “We never broke up,” McCulloch said. “We just didn’t do anything.”

Initial feedback seems to be that they are still getting their footing; the first episodes have some good parts but are not yet on par with their classic sketch comedy. Thank God they’re not on NBC or they would be already cancelled and replaced by Jay Leno.

WaitaminuteNBC does need something to run at 10:00. Hmmmm….

Grown Ass Men

Kids in the Hall wiki

Kids in the Hall official website

Kids in the Hall episode/sketch list

Kids in the Hall audio clips!

Never leave your car alone with a mechanic.

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Holmes knows Holmes

Great actor, bad idea

FICTION: Every time they remake Sherlock Holmes it gets better! 

The virtual ink was barely dry on the my recap of historical Sherlock Holmes movies when the new bombastic film hit theatres over the holidays. I don’t know about you, but when I think of the world’s greatest detective I don’t think of meticulous analysis of clues, a flawless observation of the human mind and an ability to anticipate the moves of even the most industrious adversaries. No…I think shirtless guys beating each other in cage matches, Rube Goldberg contraptions that even an over-the-top show like The Wild Wild West tossed aside as too absurd and shit blowing up real good

(Yes, that was satire.) 

I love Robert Downey Jr.’s acting skill; I’m still haunted by his stunning inhabitation of Charlie Chaplin and am happy that he’s seemingly pulled his ass out of the gutter at the final moment to resume what hopefully will be a long and storied career. But I hope he did this one for a pile of cash, because he just shat on a legacy, Golden Globe or not. (The fact that the movie was entered as a comedy should tell you all you need to know about its adherence to the Holmes legend). So on to the essay… 

Anytime a major fictional character is played by more than one person, endless discussions will ensue regarding which actor was the standard by which all others should be measured. Sean Connery’s charm and poise seems to have cemented his status as the ultimate James Bond, but when discussions turn to Scrooge, Alastair Sim’s dynamic performance is often undervalued because of the antiquity of A Christmas Carol both in age and condition. 

Later generations, more drawn to color film and special effects, tend to favor George C. Scott or Albert Finney. Likewise, when discussions turn to Sherlock Holmes, the quality and production of the more recent films featuring Jeremy Brett tend to tip the scales his way for many viewers. For as good as the films featuring Basil Rathbone as Sherlock Holmes might have been, the WWII era prints degenerated so much over the years that they became almost unwatchable. 

 

FACT: Basil Rathbone is the definitive Sherlock Holmes. 

Rathbone, who resembles the illustrations of Holmes from the original stories, plays up the character’s eccentricities and intelligence without flamboyance, although he will engage in physical activity in pursuit of justice. In fact, he’s occasionally reckless and often is within a whisker of a tragic move. Yet when at his best – face to face with an adversary, one mind battling another – it’s fascinating to watch him convey his superior intellect and chess-like manipulation without using physical gestures

Read the rest of my full review in PopMatters.

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Golden Globes: Four Words

Well, compared to last year, I was a little more on target. Still there were some surprises along with the close races that just tipped the other way. After John Lithgow and Michael C. Hall won, I figured Dexter was a shoo-in for Best Drama, but you can’t stop Mad Men with a bullet. And as the nominees were read, I was reminded again how many serious omissions there were.

And I’ve really had my fill of talk about the “greatest crew” and the “best job” and “loving to come to work every day” to “a true collaborative effort”. At least do what Chloe Sevigny did and name some names (she thanked one of her PAs for running lines with her every day). But there’s something about seeing Mike Tyson on stage in a tuxedo being celebrated for his role in the highest-grossing comedy film of all time that puts things into perspective.

So I think a lot of my post-Golden Globes impressions can be summed up in four words

Not enough Ricky Gervais. He had some great moments, whether tossing zingers at upcoming presenters or pimping his own DVDs, but it seemed like there were often ten or fifteen minute gaps between appearances. Maybe it just seemed that long because (as usual) actors reading scripted gags from cue cards are painful to watch, especially when they’ve been downing champagne at a furious pace. But it probably didn’t matter that he didn’t get more podium time because…

They didn’t get him. “Looking at all the faces here reminds me of some of the great work that’s been done this year – by cosmetic surgeons.”…”I’ve had a penis reduction. Just got the one now. And it is very tiny. But so are my hands. So when I’m holding it, it looks pretty big. I wish I was doing that now instead of this, to be honest.”…(After visibly drinking beer from a pint glass hidden in the podium) “I like a drink as much as the next man. Unless the next man is Mel Gibson.”…comedy gold! But when the cameras panned to the crowd they were either enveloped in conversation or staring blankly. Too hip for the room, but thankfully not for those watching the broadcast.

The Dude finally abides. Jeff Bridges finally won on his fourth nomination, and between his appearance and attitude and his reminiscing about his father (Lloyd Bridges) and family, I would not have been surprised if he asked where his carpet was.

Jane Lynch got screwed. No disrespect to Chloe Sevigny, but this award should have had Jane Lynch‘s name on it. Her bitch-in-a-track-suit character from Glee is far from a one-note performance, as we got to see in episodes that exposed her family life and dating woes. Glee did upset 30 Rock for Best Comedy, however. (“This is for anybody and everybody who got a wedgie in high school” quipped director Ryan Murphy).

Meryl Streep is funny. “I want to change my name to T-Bone. T-Bone Streep!” Priceless.

Drew Barrymore was acting. So one minute she’s sitting at her table, giggling with friends, looking as comfy as can be. Then the red light comes on and she’s blubbering about growing up in Hollywood and dancing really close to the cliff of Sally Field’syou really like me” implosion. Yawn. Take a cue from Robert Downey Jr. next time and do something unique.

Mo’Nique nailed it. Great, emotional speech and a sincere call-out to victims of abuse to have the courage to come forward and heal. I don’t know why I thought the HFPA wouldn’t get such a dark performance, because every award ceremony seems to be honoring it. But if the night had a lump-in-throat moment, it was hers.

Martin Scorcese is awesome. What a fascinating man, and a true champion of film preservation. His batting average as a director is astounding, and he’s been blessed to have actors like Robert DeNiro, Harvey Keitel and Leonardo DiCaprio as collaborators and lead actors. Even DeNiro‘s odd comic riff about Scorcese having sex with film canisters couldn’t tarnish the accomplishments of a true giant in the industry.

Sir Paul is cool. “I’m Paul McCartney, or as I’m known, that guy from Rock Band“. Great line about animation being for “adults who take drugs“, but oddly not a peep out of the crowd when he dropped that blatant hint about a resurrected Yellow Submarine project.

NBC ducked a bullet. Outside of a couple of barbs from Julianne Margulies (“thanks to Les Moonves for believing in a 10:00 drama”) and Gervais (joking that NBC would replace him with Jay Leno during the show), the Tonight Show fustercluck was hardly mentioned. I heard there were comments on the red carpet part of the program, but I don’t do red carpets.

And most importantly I should never wager. Sure, I picked three of the four NFL playoff games (and would have won all four had San Diego’s kicker not gone Norwood on them) but betting on film awards is a good place to clean out your wallet. Six out of ten isn’t bad, but nothing to brag about. (Wrong picks in red.)

Best Picture (Drama): Avatar (The Hurt Locker)
Best Picture (Musical or Comedy): The Hangover (It’s Complicated)
Best Director: James Cameron, Avatar
Best Actor (Drama): Jeff Bridges, Crazy Heart (George Clooney)
Best Actress (Drama): Sandra Bullock, The Blind Side
Best Actor (Musical or Comedy): Robert Downey, Jr., Sherlock Holmes
Best Actress (Musical or Comedy): Meryl Streep, Julie & Julia
Best Supporting Actor: Christoph Waltz, Inglourious Basterds
Best Supporting Actress: Mo’Nique, Precious (Vera Farmiga) 
Best Screenplay: Jason Reitman and Sheldon Turner, Up in the Air

But I’ll be doing this again at Oscar time, of course. It’s only Internet money, right?

Golden Globe nominees and winners.

Critic’s Choice Movie Awards also announced this weekend.

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