SPACE...THE REAL FINAL FRONTIER
It has been announced that the ashes of "Star Trek" creator Gene Roddenberry and his widow, Majel Barrett Roddenberry will be taken into space this year where the two will spend eternity among the stars. The news was released by an un-named company that specializes in "memorial spaceflights."
ANYONE KNOW HOW TO DANCE LIKE A ZOMBIE?
Earlier this week Broadway's Nederlander Organiation announced that is had acquired the rights to produce a musical based on Michael Jackson's "Thriller" album. "Thriller - the musical" will include songs from both Jackson's landmark album but from his freshman effort, "Off the Wall," as well. According to Jackson (speaking, apparently, in the third person), "The Nederlanders and Michael Jackson represent live theatre and musical excellence, so let the music begin." Inspirational, no?
Not to John Landis, director of the original video of the song. According to the director, he agreed to shop the project around but maintains that the idea is not wholly Jackson's too shop.
Several years ago I had the privelege of meeting a young man by the name of Chris Goudreault. His father, Dana, a fellow JAWS fan, had allowed me to stay with his group in the same log cabin that housed Steven Spielberg during the filming of JAWS. Dana is himself a filmmaker and it was apparent then that Chris would follow dad. Now in college, he has produced two short films that, in this humble reviewer's opinion, show a great deal of talent and a bright future. I urge you to give them a look:
WHAT IS FAIR
By now I'm sure many of you have heard about the high school basketball coach in Dallas who was fired after his girls team put a 100-0 whipping on an opponent. He was fired because, even though he was sorry for beating the other team that badly, he felt that an apology would make his girls feel as if they had done something wrong.
I've been playing sports since I can remember and have been coaching all levels of baseball since the 90s. Though I don't agree with it, I do understand the lower levels of competitive sports (5 year olds playing soccer, t-ball, etc) not keeping score and giving everyone a trophy at the end of the year. At those ages, the kids are really learning the games and finding out which ones they enjoy most. I was lucky as a boy that I could play everything. Not great, mind you, but I wasn't the last one picked. As I got older I discovered my best game was baseball and that is what I stuck with and still play today. My son Phillip is the same way.
A lot of sports has to do with encouragement. As a young teen he attended Roy Williams' summer basketball camp at the University of Kansas and came home with a medal as the best player in the camp. I will proudly point out that the camp included a fellow Leavenworth student named Wayne Simien, who went on to be a number one draft pick of the Miami Heat. When Phillip went out for high basketball, he was told by the coach that he was too short (5'9" at the time....he's now a little over six foot). He wasn't even allowed to try out. His first year of high school football he was a receiver. Every snap he'd take off and run his route. Sadly, in 8 games, of the 1000 plays called by the coach, 999 were hand offs to the running back. The one pass thrown was knocked down by a defensive lineman. He had no interest in playing football after that.
I got a little sidetracked there but my point is this. By the time you're in high school you know what you want to do and you should be able to play the game at a decent level. If I was going to fire anyone it would be the coach of the losing team. How does your team not score ONE POINT? When the coach of the winning team saw the game was getting out of hand he back the girls off. No press on defense, no three pointers, passing the ball until the last second on the shot clock. The coach told local media that he would not apologize "for a wide margin victory when my girls played with honor and integrity." And that's the key word here: Integrity. As a coach I've been on both ends of outrageous scores. One year my team was in a tournament that they were clearly out of their league in. We were only there because two of our players were over 18, putting us up against teams with college age players. The rest of my boys were 15-16. Good players, who got better, but still not ready for the competition level. We were down 39-0 after the 4th inning. League rules do not allow for a "slaughter" rule in tournaments and we had to play 9 innings. After the fourth the umpires approached me and asked if I wanted to call the game off. I huddled my players around and they unanimously agreed to play on. When my team has been in the reverse situation, I still insist they play hard. I do instruct them on some common courtesy, i.e. no stealing bases, no bunting, no advancing on passed balls. But still play. Go the plate, get a hit. In the field, catch the balls. Believe me, it would be more hurtful to the other team to just lay down for them. At the high school level, kids and coaches need to know that they ARE keeping score. The people that criticized the coach have no idea who was in the auditorium. Maybe there was a college scout there to watch a couple of the girls. Because they have a huge lead should they start throwing up bricks to make the other team feel better. Hell, in college football teams are often judged by the lack of points they score. You're encouraged to run the score up to show how dominant your program is so at the end of the year when the powers that be are picking the bowl teams, they don't write yours off because you played everyone close. Pull your starters, play your third string guys if necessary. If they score a touchdown or a basket or hit a home run, good for them. That's something positive they'll remember the rest of their lives. But for God's sake, like Bob Watson emplored in "The Bad News Bears in Breaking Training": LET THEM PLAY!
John Updike, prolific author whose "Rabbit" books centered around the life of former high school basketball star Harry Rabbit Angstrom and his unhappy life died this week from cancer at the age of 76. The four "Rabbit" novels - “Rabbit, Run,” “Rabbit Redux,” “Rabbit Is Rich” and “Rabbit at Rest” - were critically lauded, with the last two earning Updike the Pulitzer Prize. He also wrote the highly successful "Witches of Eastwick" and, one of my favorite pieces, “Hub Fans Bid Kid Adieu," which detailed from a fan's perspective the last ballgame played by Ted Williams.
Billy Powell, one time roadie and long time keyboardist for Lynyrd Skynyrd, died at his Florida home at the age of 56. He had a history of heart problems. Powell worked as the bands roadie when they started out and joined them shortly before the release of their first album, "(pronounced 'lĕh-'nérd 'skin-'nérd)", which included the songs "Gimme Three Steps," "Simple Man" and the immortal classic, "Freebird." Powell suffered severe facial lacerations, almost losing his nose, in the October 10, 1977 plane crashed that killed six people. Powell later upset many of the band members and their families when he gave a rather grisly description of the final moments of Cassie Gaines and Ronnie Van Zant. After the crash, the band disbanded. Powell joined Leon Wilkeson, Allen Collins and Gary Rossington in The Rossington/Collins band, who would always close their shows with an instrumental version of "Freebird." In 1987 the band (with Johnny Van Zant fronting) reunited and still perform today. Sadly, Powell joins Wilkeson and Collins on the list of crash survivors who have now passed.
50 YEARS AFTER THE MUSIC DIED
This coming Tuesday, February 3, will mark the 50th anniversary of the day Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and J.P. Richardson (the Big Bopper) died in a plane crash after a Winter Dance Party Show in Clear Lake, Iowa. The event is being marked with a huge celebration of the men and their music at the same venue they last played, the Surf Ball Room. Monday night a gala concert will be held at the Surf, with the following scheduled to appear:
Tommy Allsup (Holly's road guitarist and the man who gave his seat on the fatal flight to Valens), Big Bopper JR, The Crickets,
Pat DiNizio of the Smithereens,Joe Ely, Wanda Jackson, Los Lobos,
Los Lonely Boys, Delbert McClinton, Chris Montez, Cousin Brucie Morrow, Graham Nash, Peter & Gordon, Sir Tim Rice and Bobby Vee.
Music fans will remember that Graham Nash named his band The Hollies. Bobby Vee was a young high school student in Moorhead, Minnesota, where the tour was to continue. Following the news of the plane crash the promoters refused to cancel that nights show. Instead, they put a call out on local radio looking for musical acts to fill the bill that night. One of them was Vees' group.
My son and I attended the 40th Anniversary Tribute and had a great time. Big Bopper Jr looks exactly like his father, too the point that it was eerie. I was hoping to go this year but circumstances keep me home. I'm sure I'm going to kick myself later because I have the strangest feeling that Paul McCartney, who not only is a huge Holly fan but owns the rights to all of Hollys music, is going to show up in Iowa Monday night. He's already in the country for the Grammy Awards so why not help celebrate the life of your idol? It's sure to be a memorable evening and I only hope someone has the good sense to tape the festivities.
Congratulations to the family of the late Derrick Thomas. The Kansas City Chief great was today elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame. A well deserved honor a long time in coming.
SUPER BOWL PREDICTION
Cardinals 34 Steelers 27
MY FAVORITE FILMS, PART II. THE YEAR WAS 1974...
Starring: Jack Nicholson, Faye Dunnaway and John Huston
Directed by: Roman Polanski
FIRST SEEN: On home video.
FAVORITE LINE: "You're a very nosy fellow, kitty cat. Huh? You know what happens to nosy fellows? Huh? No? Wanna guess? Huh? No? Okay. They lose their noses." Man with Knife (played by director Polanski) right before he slices J.J. Gittes'(Nicholson) nostril.
FAVORITE SCENE: She's my sister. She's my daughter. Repeat!
1975 Academy Award to Robert Towne for Best Original Screenplay
1975 Academy Award nominations for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor (Nicholson), Best Actress (Dunaway), Best Original Score, Best Art Direction, Best Costume Design, Best Cinematography, Best Film Editing and Best Sound.
1975 BAFTA Awards for Best Director, Best Actor (Nicholson) and Best Screenplay.
1975 BAFTA Award nominations for Best Actress (Dunaway), Best Supporting Actor (Huston), Best Original Score, Best Film, Best Art Direction, Best Costume Design, Best Cinematography and Best Film Editing.
1975 Director's Guild of America nomination for Best Director
1975 Golden Globe Awards for Best Picture (Drama), Best Director, Best Actor (Nicholson) and Best Screenplay.
1975 Golden Globe Award nominations for Best Actress (Dunaway), Best Supporting Actor (Huston) and Best Original Score.
1975 Kansas City Film Critics Circle Awards for Best Actor (Nicholson) and Best Supporting Actor (Huston)
1975 Writer's Guild of America Award to Robert Towne for Best Drama Written Directly For the Screen.
Chinatown. Just the word evokes a place of mystery. A place where things are not what they seem. Just like the film that takes it's name.
Every so often in Hollywood the stars converge to bring together individual talents that build off of each other to create a masterpiece. Here you have a brilliant script from a writer who had gotten his start in television (including "The Man From U.N.C.L.E.") and was better known for his uncredited touch ups for other writers then his own work. Add to the mix a brilliant director who was more well known for having lost his wife to the Manson family then for his work, a movie star on the rise and a producer with the biggest ego in the business and either two things was going to happen. Incredible failure. Or brilliance. Let's here it for the latter.
The story: Los Angeles private eye J. J. Gittes is hired by a mysterious woman to spy on her husband, who she suspects of infidelity. Once Gittes does the work he is shocked to learn that the REAL wife is upset at his actions. Intrigued, and curious to know who originally hired him, Gittes stumbles into a plot dealing with the water supply of the city.
Producer Robert Evans was a smart man. As the self proclaimed "savior" of Paramount Pictures, he was given a deal that not only made him head of the studio but also allowed him to act as producer on certain films of his choice. His first choice was "Chinatown," written by his friend Robert Towne. He had his party buddy Nicholson in mind for the male lead and for the female lead he chose Ali McGraw, who also happened to be Mrs. Evans. However, before filming could start McGraw filed for divorce so she could marry Steve McQueen. Evans did what any understanding producer would do. He fired McGraw and, after some negotiating, hired Faye Dunaway, who was best known then for her work in "Bonnie and Clyde." Nicholson was also instrumental in the hiring of legendary film maker John Huston for the role of patriarch Noah Cross. Nicholson was dating Huston's daughter, Anjelica, and pretty much idolized her dad. The chance to work with Huston senior every day was everything to Nicholson and he relished working with the old man.
As filming began, the many distinct personalities on the set often made things uncomfortable. Polanski, still grieving the loss of his wife after 5 years, went out of his way to make things darker. He would have on set arguments with Towne, especially over the ending. Polanski wanted a much darker ending, which was in the original script. Towne wanted to rewrite the script, reflecting a happier future for Jake and Evelyn. But Polanski insisted they stick with the original ending and he won the battle. Polanski used his fondness for 'noir films and did his best to recreate what he loved from them. In fact, were the film not in color, you might mistake it for something from the late 30s or early 40s.
"Chinatown" was released to great critical acclaim, going on to earn an amazing 11 Academy Award nominations. Surprisingly, among those nominees the name John Huston was absent. The supporting category was taken up by three men from "The Godfather Part II," Fred Astaire and Jeff Bridges. Looking at the nominees now it's obvious that Astaire's nomination was a gesture of good will from Hollywood, as it was amazingly the only Oscar nomination Astaire would ever receive.
Towne had conceived the story of J.J. Gittes as a trilogy. However, it wasn't until 1990 that the second film, "The Two Jakes," was released. Originally set to star Nicholson and Robert Evans (who had been an actor earlier in his career) the film suffered many setbacks and delays. Eventually, Nicholson ended up directing, as well as starring, alongside Harvey Keitel. The third film was to center around the building of the Los Angeles Highway system. The plot became part of another detective story on which Towne did an uncredited re-write: "Who Framed Roger Rabbit?"
Success followed most of the people involved in "Chinatown." The next year saw Nicholson win the first of three acting Oscars for "One Flew Over The Cuckoos Nest." Dunaway followed him a year later, winning Best Actress for "Network." Polanski fled the country in 1978 after being charged with statutory rape. He has never returned. "Chinatown" remains the last film he directed in the U.S. In 1979 he was nominated again as Best Director for "Tess." He finally received the Best Director Oscar in 2003 for "The Pianist."
Next week I'll let you know what JAFO stands for as we take to the skies with Roy Scheider in "Blue Thunder."
Well, that's all for now. Have a great week. Go Cards! See ya.
"Mike's Rant" is ©2009 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 ©2009 by Nolan B. Canova.