Wednesday, March 30, 2016

2015-16 Ends as 2016-17 Gets Ready


Nathan Lane will star in a revival of
The Front Page next season.
The 2015-16 Broadway and off-Broadway theater season is heading into the home stretch with a whirlwind of openings, nominations and awards about to be unleashed. Meanwhile, 2016-17 is waiting in the wings and raring to go. Though there was no official press release, an Equity casting notice revealed Nathan Lane and John Slattery will be starring a revival of The Front Page with John Goodman, Rosemary Harris, Sherie Rene Scott, and Jefferson Mays. The Great Comet (shortened from Natasha, Pierre, and The Great Comet of 1812) with Josh Groban has announced an opening date of Nov. 14 at the Imperial. We also have Hello, Dolly with Bette Midler, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, The SpongeBob Musical, and lots more. Here is a breakdown of the end of this season and what we know about the next one and beyond:

Friday, February 26, 2016

2016 Oscar Predictions

The Oscars are this coming Sunday Feb. 28 and it's time to make my annual predictions. This year has not been particularly exciting with no huge blockbuster dominating the proceedings. The new Star Wars has not generated much excitement, but Mad Max: Fury Road has garnered a bunch of nominations and will probably sweep the technical awards. I usually try to see all of the Best Picture and acting nominees. This time I did catch nine and a half of the top film candidates (I only got through the first hour of Mad Max on HBO.Go before I had explosion overload, I'll try to get back to the rest of it.) I've seen most of the acting nominees, three of the five feature documentaries, one each of the foreign and feature animated films, and all of the short films (I wrote them up for GoldDerby.com and here's a link). I always say some year I will see all of the nominees but I never make it. Here are my predix:

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Hitchcock's Marnie: Pure Film and Woman as Object

Tippi Hedren and Sean Connery in Hitchcock's Marnie. 
Hedren's character is more tightly wound than her hair bun.
The recent documentary Hitchcock/Truffaut prompted me to view the master filmmaker's works I had not previously seen. Top of the list was Marnie, the 1964 psychological "sex mystery" starring Hitchcock ice blonde Tippi Hedren, who became a star in his The Birds the year before. The doc also pushed me towards The Girl, the 2012 HBO film detailing the Svengali-ish relationship between director and star which was broadcast about the same time as Hitchcock, the film starring Anthony Hopkins and Helen Mirren, was released. The latter movie focused on Hitch's unique marriage to his collaborator Alma Reville and the production of his masterpiece Psycho. I also want to revisit Vertigo, the 1958 Hitchcock classic which topped previous champ Citizen Kane as favorite all-time film in an annual poll of film critics. In the documentary detailing the famous interviews between Hitch and the French filmmaker/critic, several scholars said that Vertigo was the essence of filmmaking and defined the movies for them. At the end of The Girl, a title reads that Hitchcock died a few years later with only a few more films to his credit and that Marnie was his masterpiece. In a behind-the-scenes featurette on the DVD of Marnie I ordered from Netflix, another scholar says "If you don't love Marnie, you don't really love movies."

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Cutting the Cable Cord, Part 4: Listening to Jack Benny

Jack Benny, Mary Livingstone,
and Eddie "Rochester" Anderson
Since cutting the cable cord, I’ve found numerous other avenues of entertainment. Earlier this week, a visiting friend from Mexico and I spent the entire evening watching GetTV’s variety Monday night including the legendary segment of the The Judy Garland Show with guest star Barbra Streisand and a surprise appearance by Ethel Merman; a Mitzi Gaynor special with fantastic dancing (I recognized several of the dancers from The Carol Burnett Show) and George Hamilton; and a Merv Griffin Show with Carol Channing walking from the St. James Theater where she was starring in Hello, Dolly! to the Little Theater (now the Helen Hayes) where Griffin filmed his talk show. She was leaving Dolly on Broadway to go on tour.

But I find myself most frequently listening to old broadcasts of Jack Benny on YouTube. Benny’s TV show was in daytime reruns when I was a kid. Today hardly anyone under 50 knows who he is and yet along with Bob Hope, he was probably the famous comedian in America. (Arthur Miller mentions him in Death of a Salesman, and Benny said that brief reference in the classic play would be his ticket to immortality. How right he was.) From 1932 to 1955, Benny did a weekly radio show (he started TV in 1950 and did both for five years.) I find it fascinating that an entertainer could have been so big and now only a small cultish figure in the public consciousness. 

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Political Thoughts

God help us!
GOP candidate Chris Christie recently said parents shouldn't have to worry about sending their kids to school and not having them come back alive. The irony is he was speaking in reference to the San Bernadino shootings by a radical Islamic terrorist couple. He's overlooking the fact that parents have been worried about their children's survival ever since the crazy guy shot up that school in Newtown, Conn. GOP candidates are picking and choosing which mass shootings to be concerned about. If they involve Muslims then it's a real cause for panic. If it's white guys then there's basically nothing we as a society can do about it because that would mean taking away someone's precious gun. You'll notice no one is doing anything about the militant ranchers taking over a government wildlife preserve in Oregon because they didn't like a judge's ruling on their court case. Could it be because these guys are white and Christian? Can you imagine what would happen if they were African-American, Native American, or Muslim?


Sunday, January 10, 2016

Cutting the Cable Cord Part 3: Default Mode Viewing

Judy Garland guest-starring on The Andy Williams Show
The cable cord is now totally cut and I don't miss it at all. We now have a digital antenna for broadcast channels with Netflix and Amazon for streaming. Almost every show I would have missed from cable will show on the latter two services sooner or later. The same for most broadcast shows since we no longer have a DVR. I did catch all of the last season of the Amazing Race and I have caught up with Big Bang Theory for free on CBS's website.

Friday, November 27, 2015

Donald Trump: Raging Id

Donald Trump Free of Hairspray
We have reached the point where Donald Trump is no longer a joke, but a threat to civilized discourse and the political process. He has become the raging id of the American public like the invisible monster in Forbidden Planet which is really Walter Pidgeon's subconscious. No matter what outrageous, childish thing he says, his supporters still favor him. Many pundits are saying none of the traditional rules of politics or even civility apply to Trump and the media lets him get away with all kinds of incredible lies, distortions, evasions, and exaggerations. (Where in New Jersey did he personally see thousands of people cheering for the Twin Towers falling? He said he personally saw this, not film of it on TV.)

I've concluded that a certain percentage of US voters wants to be like Trump. They want their racist, sexist, entitled white male identity to go unchecked and unchallenged. Like schoolyard bullies, they want to be able to make fun of disabled people, foreigners, women, gays, anyone with a difference or expressing an opposing viewpoint, without being called on it by the teacher and made to stand in the corner. They want say Merry Christmas instead of Happy Holidays and not feel guilty about it--and they want to force everyone else to say Merry Christmas. (Trump said at a rally-"When I'm president, everyone will say Merry Christmas" How is he going to accomplish that? With a Christmas micro-chip implanted in our brains and we get a shock if we say Happy Holidays?)