Now in our ninth calendar year!|
PCR #432 (Vol. 9, No. 27) This edition is for the week of June 30--July 6, 2008.
Hello gang! It is with a sad heart that I begin this week's issue. Shall we begin?
As long time readers of this column know, I have been a baseball coach going on 13 years. I've had my share of both bad and good times on the field, but the highlight of my career is getting to know the boys. Even after they have gone on to other teams or, like my son, are now in their early 20s, it gives me a sense of pride when I see one of them and they say "Hi, coach." One of those boys was Jake Walkup. Jake had just lost his father when he first came to play for me in the summer of 2005. Quiet kid but a hard worker. This summer Jake was playing for another team in the town I coach in, having moved up in talent to an older team. However, two weeks ago our teams met in an out of town tournament. The game was a thriller, going extra innings, with two sets of boys from the same town and high school vying for bragging rights. The other team won but that is not why I am mentioning this. During the game Jake had struck out with men on base and, angry at himself at threw his helmet, drawing the ire of the umpire. After the game I jumped on his ass about what he did, not to chastise him but to let him know he was better then that. He agreed. The next day I saw him stretching before a game and wandered over to say hello. My scolding of the previous day had been long forgotten and we talked about things having nothing to do with baseball. As I headed back towards my team we hugged and he said, "See ya, Coach." Sadly, except for a few moments at a baseball game I attended that he played in, I never saw him again. This past week Jake was killed in an automobile accident on his way to work. Details are still not clear but it is believed that his car broke down and he attempted to push it off the road. Somehow the car rolled backwards and Jake was pinned between the car and a tree. We have been assured that he did not suffer and for that I am truly thankful. My prayers go out to his family, especially his mother, who has had to bury a husband and a son in less then four years. This past Thursday the team I coach had games and much of the discussion was about Jake. I stressed to them that life is sometimes short and that we need to enjoy every moment we have. Words I hope you readers will also embrace.
As promised, the owner of the baseball Barry Bonds hit for his 756th homerun has been donated to the National Hall of Fame, complete with a large gold asterix branded on its side. So happy to see it's July and still no team will touch this guy. Enjoy your time in prison, Bar-roid!
Robert Rodriquez has announced that he will produce an updated version of "Red Sonja," starring Rose McGowan, for release in 2010.
The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has changed the rules in the Best Song Category. Now no more then (2) songs can be nominated from a single film. In the past two years, both "Dreamgirls" and "Enchanted" received three song nominations each, though it should be noted that neither film won.
I neglected to mention last week the passing of Dody Goodman, best known to most as school secretary Blanche in "Grease" and "Grease 2." She also appeared as the mother on "Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman." The former comic got her start after appearing on Jack Paar's version of "The Tonight Show."
Alan Menken, who co-wrote the three songs nominated from "Enchanted," is one of the inductees this year into the Songwriting Hall of Fame. Menken was recognized for his work on nearly every Walt Disney animated film of the past 20 years, including "The Little Mermaid," "Beauty and the Beast" and "Aladdin." Also inducted:
Desmond Child, a performer who got his first big break by writing the KISS hit "I Was Made For Loving You." He has written songs for a diverse variety of musicians and bands, including Aerosmith, Ricky Martin, Bon Jovi, Joan Jett, Michael Bolton, Hanson, Hilary Duff, LeAnn Rimes, Daryl Hall & John Oates, Cher, Kiss, Alice Cooper, Robbie Williams, Iggy Pop and Ronnie Spector, among many others. His own solo album, Discipline, featured the Top 40 hit, “Love on a Rooftop.” Among other hit songs he has written or co-written: “Livin’ La Vida Loca” and “She Bangs” for Ricky Martin, the Grammy award-winning “Crazy” and “Dude Looks Like A Lady” for Aerosmith, “Livin’ On A Prayer” and “You Give Love A Bad Name” for Bon Jovi, and Hanson’s “Weird.”
Albert Hammond, Englishman who had a hit in the states in the early 1970s but wrote many hits for others. With Mike Hazelwood he wrote “Gimme Dat Ding,” a novelty hit for The Pipkins in 1970, and “It Never Rains In Southern California,” which established Hammond as a recording star two years later. As his recording career slowed he embarked on a songwriting career that included Starship’s “Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now,” and Chicago’s “I Don’t Wanna Live Without Your Love,” in collaboration with Diane Warren, and a monster hit for Willie Nelson and Julio Iglesias in “To All the Girls I’ve Loved Before,” in collaboration with Hal David. Hammond’s songs have been recorded by such artists as Johnny Cash, Joe Cocker, Chris de Burgh, Neil Diamond, Céline Dion, Art Garfunkel, The Hollies, Whitney Houston, Julio Iglesias, Tom Jones, Johnny Mathis, Roy Orbison,Diana Ross, Leo Sayer, Starship and Tina Turner. Their hits with Hammond’s songs include “One Moment In Time,” “Don’t Turn Around,” “When I Need You,” “The Air That I Breathe” and “99 Miles From L.A."
Loretta Lynn, the first lady of country music, who grew from a childhood in Butcher's Hollow, Kentucky to the top of the charts. Among her many hit songs was the autobiographical “Coal Miner’s Daughter,” a No. 1 country hit in 1970 that became the title of her 1978 autobiography and was later made into an Oscar-winning film. The song is also in the Grammy Hall of Fame, along with other hits like “You Ain’t Woman Enough (to Take My Man)” and “Don’t Come Home A-Drinkin’ (With Lovin’ on Your Mind).”
John Sebastian, leader of The Lovin' Spoonful and composer of such hits as “Do You Believe in Magic,” “You Didn’t Have to Be So Nice,” “Daydream” and “Summer In The City.” As a solo artist, Sebastian started writing for film, including Francis Ford Coppola’s "You’re A Big Boy Now" and Woody Allen’s "What’s Up Tiger Lily." In 1976 both he and Jose Feliciano were asked to write a song for an upcoming television show called "Welcome Back Kotter." Sebastian’s “Welcome Back” was chosen and soon became a number one solo hit. In 2000, John Sebastian was inducted into the Rock ‘n Roll Hall of Fame.
I don't know why, but I really don't like clowns. Maybe it's because I used to have a girlfriend who loved them and I'm still bitter. Or it could be because as a theatre manager I was threatened by a group of professional clowns that promised there would be trouble if I played the movie "Shakes the Clown." I told them that I wouldn't tolerate any drive by pie-ings, but they didn't laugh, leaving me to wonder how good a clown they were. However, growing up as a kid I loved BOZO. Sadly, the best known BOZO of them all, Larry Harmon, has gone off to that great circus in the sky due to congestive heart failure. He was 83. Though he was regarded as THE BOZO, Harmon actually bought the rights to the character. In 1946, Capitol Records came out with a series of Bozo the Clown children's records, voiced by Pinto Colvig, who also provided the voice of Goofy for Walt Disney. Harmon responded to an open casting call to make personal appearances as Bozo to promote the records and got the job. Knowing a good thing when he saw it, Harmon later bought the rights to the Bozo name and over the years trained more then 200 "Bozos" to represent him. If you had WGN television your day wasn't complete without watching Bozo in the afternoons, first in Chicago and then nationwide.
AND THE OSCAR FOR 1991 SHOULD HAVE GONE TO...Val Robbed! Babs Snubbed! "Silence" Rules!
March 30, 1992. Host Billy Crystal is wheeled on stage wearing a muzzle, similar to the look of the evil Hannibal Lecter from the multi nominated "Silence of the Lambs." Due to the success of the studio's (Orion) "Dances With Wolves" the film company decided to hold over the release of the film until early 1992 instead of releasing it for the holidays the year before. I had actually seen the film in October of 1990 and kept telling people that it was outstanding on all levels. Of course most of them had to wait for Valentine's Day to finally see it. Obviously Orion played their cars right since "Lambs" drew a total of seven Academy Awards nominations, including Best Picture.
The nominees for the big prize that year were: "Beauty and the Beast," "Bugsy," "JFK," "The Prince of Tides" and "Silence of the Lambs." One of the best groups of films ever assembled in the top five, with all of them sure to appear in my top 100 films list if I ever assembled one. "Beauty and the Beast" broke new ground, becoming the first animated film to receive a nod for Best Picture. It was shortly after that the Academy finally gave this genre' it's due and created a Best Picture award just for animation. "Bugsy" was a Warren Beatty tour-de-force, possibly one of his greatest performances, and matched beat for beat by Annette Benning, who shortly after filming would become Mrs. Beatty. "JFK" was director Oliver Stone's take on one of the darkest moments in American history. It has also provided, along with "A Few Good Men," a star packed entry into the soon to become popular game of "Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon." "The Prince of Tides" was a brilliant adaptation of Pat Conroy's novel beautifully created by director Barbra Streisand while "Silence of the Lambs" was one of the creepiest mysteries to come along at some time. So what film got left out here? Of all the films I enjoyed that year, the only one I really would have fought for in the terms of Best Picture was Ron Howard's "Backdraft." Great cast, great story and one hell of a thrill ride once you got in the middle of the battles the firemen dealt with. As for my choice of the stated nominees, I believe I would have held a series of coin tosses to finally find the winner, each film is so well made. Luckily the academy didn't have it so tough, awarding Best Picture to "Silence of the Lambs."
Best Actor was another tough race. The nominees: Warren Beatty (Bugsy), Robert DeNiro (Cape Fear),Robin Williams (The Fisher King), Nick Nolte (The Prince of Tides) and Anthony Hopkins (The Silence of the Lambs). Great performances. Great actors. But someone is sorely missing. Actually, there were several performances I would have prefered. First up, Val Kilmer, who literally BECAME Jim Morrison in "The Doors." Not only did he look like Morrison, he sang like him, completely evoking a look at the Lizard King that must have been unbelieveable to his surviving band mates. Robin Williams got the nod for "The Fisher King," but I would have taken his co-star, Jeff Bridges, who has become over the years one of the best actors of his generation. Another favortie performance of mine from that year was James Caan in "For the Boys." Who knew the man could dance and sing? And, in a show of my love for "Backdraft," I thought Kurt Russell's performance was award worthy. The surprise here is the inclusion of Hopkins, who totals only 17 minutes of screen time, really a small supporting role. However, the studio submitted him in the Best Actor category and that is where he ended up. Again, for me, a coin toss would have been needed, though I think I would have first eliminated Williams and DeNiro, just because they were doing what they usually do, be it the schizo-lunatic (Williams) or the over the top bad guy (DeNiro). Nolte, who also had a great part in "Cape Fear," would have made a great choice, as would Beatty, whose portrayal of mobster Ben "don't call me Bugsy" Segal could have so easily crept into "over the top" land. However, the academy went with the creepiest performance, awarding the Best Actor prize to Hopkins.
Best Actress was a mix of old and new: Bette Midler (For the Boys), Laura Dern (Rambling Rose), Jodie Foster (Silence of the Lambs) and both Geena Davis and Susan Sarandon (Thelma and Louise). This was Midler's second nomination, following her 1980 nomination for her film debut, "The Rose." Dern, daughter to Bruce Dern and Diane Ladd, earned her first nomination for her role of a precocious young girl taken in as a family housekeeper. That both Davis and Sarandon were nominated for the same film is a true testament to their talent, as many insiders assumed they would split the vote between them. The final nominee, Foster, had enjoyed a return to Hollywood 2 years earlier when she won the Best Actress award for her work as a rape victim in "The Accused. My choice here would have been Midler, who aged almost 50 years on screen in this underappreciated musical look at two famous performers. However, the voters continued the "Silence" sweep by choosing Foster.
Best Supporting Actor comprised a list of great character actors coming into their own: Michael Lerner (Barton Fink), both Harvey Keitel and Ben Kingsley (Bugsy), Jack Palance (City Slickers) and Tommy Lee Jones (JFK). Another impressive list. Of the nominees, Kingsley had already earned an Oscar for his portrayal of Mahattma Ghandi in the 1982 film "Ghandi." Palance had been around Hollywood for 50 years while Keitel and Lerner were well respected character men. Jones' career had gone back and forth from leading role to supporting. Somehow the academy singled Jones out from a film full of worthy supporting nominees, including Joe Pesci and Kevin Bacon. However, when award time came, it went to Jack Palance, who took the stage and thinked his "City Slickers" co star Billy Crystal by remarking, "I crap bigger than him.
For Best Supporting Actress, the nominees again were varied, ranging in age from 18 to 80 (and then some). The nominees: Juliette Lewis (Cape Fear), Mercedes Ruehl (The Fisher King), Jessica Tandy (Fried Green Tomatoes), Kate Nelligan (The Prince of Tides) and Diane Ladd (Rambling Rose). Some nice history here as Ladd and Dern become the first mother and daughter nominated for the same film in the same year! Not a strong year for supporting roles in the ladies' categories so this group of nominees I had no arguments with. My choice would have been Ruehl, which would have made me a winner since that is the way the academy voted.
The race for Best Director featured four veterans and a newcomer. The nominees were: John Singleton (Boyz n the Hood), Barry Levinson (Bugsy), Oliver Stone (JFK), Jonathan Demme (Silence of the Lambs) and Ridley Scott (Thelma and Louise). Of the nominees, two already had directing Oscars (Levinson and Stone - actually Stone has 2). Scott had been already overlooked many times in the past and Demme was an acclaimed art house name. Of course, the major ommission here was Barbra Streisand, who had been nominated by the Director's Guild of America but was still fighting the backlash against female directors in the academy. The fifth nomination instead went to Singleton, who at the age of 24 became the youngest directing nominee in Oscar history. My choice would have been Stone but the academy went with Demme. Later that evening "Silence of the Lambs" would also win the Best Adapted Screenplay award, making it the third film in history to win the coveted BIG 5 of Oscars (Actor, Actress, Picture, Director and Screenplay), joining "It Happened One Night" and "One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest."
Well, that's all for now. Have a great week. See ya!
"Mike's Rant" is ©2008 by Michael A. Smith. Webpage design and all graphics herein are creations of Nolan B. Canova. All contents of Nolan's Pop Culture Review are ©2008 by Nolan B. Canova.