Monthly Archives: November 2010

Awards Time Again

Tomorrow is December 1st, a date that wakes up even the most lethargic among us to signal that The End Is Near! Of the year, anyway.

And with the end of a calendar year starts the cycle or awards, lists and kudos as entertainment organizations pat themselves on the back and critics try to rewind and review the outstanding efforts of the past twelve months. Every year it seems like the award ceremonies multiply like rabbits. And while I respect and have interest in several of them, you can count the first tier on one hand. At the top is the Academy Awards, with the Golden Globes slightly behind. Slightly behind are the NY and LA Film Critics Association along with the biggest up-and-comer of recent years, the Independent Spirit Awards (which eschews the Titanics of the world and focuses on the smaller efforts).

No disrespect to the many other cities presenting awards, but NY and LA are the face cards in this deck, the honors that bring the biggest recognition and influence the voting for the aforementioned two majors. And someday soon the Online Film Critics Association will be just as important, because let’s face it – the print media is a shell of its former shell.

This year’s Oscars will be hosted by James Franco and Anne Hathaway, proving that even a veteran industry knows it has to market to a new generation. I would much prefer the humor and irreverence of Ricky Gervais or Eddie Izzard – even one final rodeo for Billy Crystal – but I’m sure the pair will do a decent job. But if anyone besides Jon Hamm hosts The Emmys, I will plotz.

For those of you who enjoy these ceremonies like I do, here’s a list of upcoming events starting with tonight’s list of nominees for the Independent Spirit Awards.

  • Nov. 30 Film Independent Spirit Award nominations announced
  • 

  • Dec. 1 Academy Awards official screen credits forms due
  • Dec. 2 National Board of Review announces winners
  • Dec. 3 British Independent Film Awards
  • Dec. 3 International Documentary Association Awards
  • Dec. 11 Boston Film Critics announces winners
  • Dec. 12 AFI honorees announced
  • Dec. 12 Los Angeles Film Critics Association announces winners
  • Dec. 13 New York Film Critics Circle announces winners
  • Dec. 13 Broadcast Film Critics Association nominations announced
  • Dec. 14 Golden Globe nominations announced
  • Dec. 14 San Diego Critics Association announces winners
  • Dec. 15 Toronto Critics Association announces winners
  • Dec. 16 Screen Actors Guild Award nominations announced
  • Dec. 18 Houston Critics Association winners announced
  • Dec. 19 Satellite Awards
  • Dec. 20 Chicago Critics Association winners announced
  • Jan. 3 Online Film Critics Society winners announced
  • Jan. 4 Producers Guild of America nominations
  • Jan. 4 Writers Guild of America nominations
  • Jan. 8 Palm Springs International Film Festival
  • Jan. 10 Directors Guild of America nominations announced
  • Jan. 11 National Board of Review ceremony
  • Jan. 14 BFCA Critics’ Choice Awards winners announced
  • Jan. 14 AFI Awards
  • Jan. 15 L.A. Film Critics Association Awards ceremony
  • Jan. 16 Golden Globe Awards
  • Jan. 18 BAFTA nominations announced
  • Jan. 22 Producers Guild Awards
  • Jan. 25 Oscar nominations announced
  • Jan. 27 Santa Barbara International Film Festival
  • Jan. 28 Visual Effects Society Awards
  • Jan. 29 Directors Guild of America Awards
  • Jan. 30 Screen Actors Guild Awards
  • Feb. 2 Costume Designers Guild Awards
  • Feb. 5 Writers Guild Awards
  • Feb. 5 Art Directors Guild Awards
  • Feb. 5 Annie Awards
  • Feb. 12 Scientific and Technical Awards Presentation
  • Feb. 13 BAFTAs
  • Feb. 26 Independent Spirit Awards
  • Feb. 26 NAACP Image Awards
  • Feb. 27 83rd Academy Awards (2011 Oscars)

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And Don’t Call Me Shirley…

Leslie Nielsen has left this mortal coil.

Nielsen, best known to many for his comedic performances in the Airplane and Naked Gun movies, found his comic voice in later life. In his early career he worked heavily in television and was primarily a dramatic actor, featured in films like Beau Geste, The Posiedon Adventure and Forbidden Planet  (the latter was only his second film and became a sci-fi classic. It made his outrageously offbeat character in the Airplane movies seem even more absurd than it was.

The Zucker Brothers, who mined comedy gold via Nielsen’s deadpan delivery in Airplane, also created the underappreciated series Police Squad. Lieutenant Frank Durbin got his start there, and after the series was cancelled, the character hit the big screen in the Naked Gun films. Soon he became the go-to guy for parody movies, and the congenial Canadian actor was happy to keep working. Although most of these later films paled in comparison to the earlier classic, he was usually good for a great scene or two.

Video: Leslie Nielsen highlights

Surely his place in film history is secure.

And don’t

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Happy Birthday, Jon Stewart

The quality of a man is determined by the company he keeps.

A successful man makes those around him better.

Jon Stewart must be a successful, quality guy. The Daily Show has won fourteen Emmy Awards in the category of Comedy, Music or Variety Series- six for Outstanding Writing and eight consecutive awards for Outstanding Program. He and his staff of writers have obviously been doing things right since 1999. I mean, I like Craig Kilbourn, but the only time I associate hm with the program is when consciously recounting the history of the program, even though it was his attitude behind the host’s desk that set the stage for Stewart’s success. So thanks, Craig!

Speaking of springboards to success, thanks again John. Thanks for John Oliver and Samantha Bee and Larry Wilmot and Stephen Colbert. Thanks for Steve Carell, Ron Corddry, Wyatt Cenac, Rob Riggle, John Hodgman, Rachael Harris and Ed Helms.

And – I must bow when I say this – thank you for Lewis Black.

Thanks for your blatant admission of being a comedian and not a newsman, yet presenting a more interesting, informative and well-balanced news show than all of the other networks combined. Thanks for not backing away or backing down, and especially not cracking from the sheer volumes of lunacy that surround us every day. Thanks for using humor and satire like a sword and a beacon, to cut through the fog and a to illuminate our social frailties and political illnesses.

 Thanks for constantly poking holes in the airbags that are Fox News and MSNBC and somehow making Comedy Central a far more credible source for news and information than two of the most highly funded global organizations in the news business.

Thanks for making me laugh…and think.

Happy Birthday, Mr. Stewart. Here’s your moment of Zen.

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Never Mind The Buzzcocks

Thanks to another recently converted-to-region free DVD player, I’ve been catching up on some great comedy from across the Big Pond. Although most of my also-converted money has been going for stand-up comedy shows, I’ve also been loading up on some bargains on comic panel shows like Mock The Week, 8 out of 10 Cats and an old favorite, Never Mind The Buzzcocks. In 2009, an excellent DVD was released featuring clips from the show’s lengthy run under recent host Simon Amstell with great featurettes and gag reels.

Amstell is a cocky, cheek host who (depending on which year’s hairstyle) looks like a cross between Michael Cera and a pre-weightlifting Carrot Top. The irreverent panel show features a host and two teams of comics and pop culture stars, many of whom are complete unknowns stateside but household words there, like longtime team captain Bill Bailey, Jack Dee, Frank Skinner, Catherine Tate, Frankie Boyle and Martin Freeman. Of course many pop culture celebrities would appear as guests to take the piss out of themselves and others, most of whom got into the spirit of the event, although when they didn’t (I’m talking to you, Lemmy!) that could be fun as well. Many appear on this DVD; two of the funniest are Russell Brand and Amy Winehouse, albeit for opposite reasons.

I first heard of the show years ago and tuned in because I thought it was actually about The Buzzcocks, one of the finest bands of the late 70s punk pop movement. (The show did get its title by mixing  the band name and the Sex Pistols album Never Mind The Bollocks). Although initially disappointed, I was soon swept up into the pulse of the show, which ranges from good sarcastic fun to sheer lunacy. Pop culture cows are gutted and nothing – and no one – is sacred. My younger daughter is a fan of the show, and this holiday we skipped the usual Sci-Fi marathons to watch every minute of this great collection.

Is there a Doctor in the house?

I used to watch the show on occasion as various cable packages over the years were sketchy on what UK programming might be included in the package. Perhaps like Monty Python and Benny Hill, it was the PBS station to the rescue once again. (Yet another reason to support their annual fund-raising drive when the envelopes arrive in December!) As with many successful UK shows, eventually the US tries to copy it. Hard to believe that I not only forgot that this happened with Buzzcocks, but also that the host of the US version was one of my favorites, Marc Maron. (The show lasted one season on vH-1.)

Some households gorge on college football during the Thanksgiving holidays.

I’ll take comedy every time.

The show’sWiki page and list of episodes.

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T.G.I.F. – Ten Travel Themes

Security? TSA will handle everything.

Well, actually only one theme… Let’s be careful out there.

This week, in the spirit of Thanksgiving, I’m thankful I don’t have a TSA agent fondling me, a scanner forcing me to star in my first porn film or any more pats than I’m going to get from relatives who have had too much wine.

So as we continue to enjoy the holiday, here are Ten Travel Themes courtesy of your police state government travel regulations!

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Happy Thanksgiving!

I hope you have friends and family you can spend time with today. If not, perhaps this is the day to pick up the phone and reach out to someone you haven’t talked to in a long time. Yeah, maybe it’s not an easy call to make, but sometimes it leads to a rich and rewarding relationship you would have otherwise thought would never happen.

Much love and warm thoughts go out to those who can’t be with their loved ones, especially those in uniform. Consider this a raincheck to be cashed in at a more appropriate time.

Perhaps you, like me, are lucky enough to wake up each day not wanting for food or shelter or the simple basic needs of daily life. Be humbled by and appreciative of your good fortune; why not do something for those in need? Perhaps your kindness will inspire someone else’s. Maybe someday it won’t take the focus of a national holiday to help most people feel that spirit of generosity.

And thank you for continuing to stop by, whether it’s daily or occasionally.

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New Album! Jet Black Berries

When I moved from Syracuse to Rochester in the early 80s, I still made several trips back down the Thruway to catch some of the great bands toiling away in that urban wasteland. In retrospect, I’m sure a lot of towns had their own burgeoning scene that was being ignored while A&R people tripped all over each other to mine places like Athens and Seattle.

And like many cities, there were shitty cover bands pulling big crowds while the true artists creating their own path struggled to fill the other clubs. At least some of those underappreciated artists broke out and made careers; the cover bands either faded away or are still playing Journey and Van Halen covers for gas money on weekends.

In Rochester, it wasn’t much different, and the coolest band haunting the boards was New Math. Their dark, swirling mix of psychedelia and punk sprang from influences like the Velvet Underground (whose didn’t?) and they issued a couple of singles and shared bills and tours with some of the hippest bands of the era. But after struggling through a few years, they changed their sound, renamed themselves the Jet Black Berries and in 1984 wound up getting signed by Enigma Records and releasing three albums. Breaking up in 1988, the core of the band continued on through regional projects; original lead singer Kevin Patrick ironically became an A&R man.

The current lineup features drummer Roy Stein, bassist Gary Trainer, guitarist Chris Yockel, singer Johnny Cummings and keyboardist Mark Schwartz. Pulled together for a reunion in 2008, they floored the audience – and themselves – and decided to give it another whirl. Now a new album, their first in twenty-two years, is available: Postmodern Ghosts.

Yeah, there’s some reanimation – “They Walk Among You”, “Ominous”, “American Survival”, “Pipes of Pan”…so what? Neither New Math nor the Jet Black Berries were household names; those of us familiar with the earlier versions will enjoy the songs as much as new listeners. Apparently the first single, “God With a Gun”, is already making waves despite the lack of a cohesive corporate promotion.

More proof that sometimes good stuff just resonates.

Jet Black Berries on MySpace

Listen to samples of Postmodern Ghosts.

New Math’s Wake The Dead.

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