Once again another year comes to an end and those of us at the PCR are asked to say a few words. What I find comforting is that for the past decade I've given thanks to the same people, only altering it in 2005 when I added my then girlfriend and now wife Juanita to the list. I can't speak for others but I think it is extremely rare to have one friendship that lasts for decades, let alone many. I have been blessed with the latter and for that I am extremely grateful. So, to quote the boys from Outkast, let's get it started:
Nolan B. Canova: As each year goes by I marvel more and more at the success you have achieved through nothing but hard work. As we edge closer to our fourth decade of friendship I continue to look back at our younger days with awe. This past Thursday night Phillip and his girlfriend stopped by the house for our X-mas eve open house. The night before I came across the video of our last HATS band get together, which took place about a month before Phillip was born. The first thing I noticed was that we were all SO THIN. The second, and most important, was that we were having fun! That we continue to have fun each week is a testament to you, sir. Each week you allow me to write from the heart. Whether it's just standard Hollywood blurbs or the passing of a friend, you have never edited me or my thoughts. That's a very rare treat for a writer and one I value highly. We've just turned 500, my friend. Here's to another 500 more!
Matthew Drinnenberg: My brother. You will never know how much you and your family have effected my life. You are truly my guardian angel and I thank God every day that he put you on my shoulder. I can barely express in words the pride I felt being by your side this past March when you auditioned for "America's Got Talent." When you led 1,000 people in a rousing version of "Sweet Caroline," it almost moved me to tears. The stage is surely your true calling and though you haven't become a household name yet, I know it's going to happen! Until then, keep playing those local gigs. And next time they send you home with lobsters send a couple my way.
Juanita Smith: After three issues of being recognized as "my honey," this is the second where I proudly call you my wife. Most people don't even have one guardian angel but God has seen fit to send me two. Your love is the fuel that keeps me going, lifting me up when I'm down. Whether it's a quiet evening at home or the two of us doing the "Charlie Brown Dance" in the aisle at Walmart, as long as we're together life is perfect. I love you, honey!
Phillip Smith: my son. This year you turned 25...a quarter of a century. You have already mapped out your plans for the future and Juanita and I will do our best to make sure nothing interferes with them. And I'm not just saying that so you'll let me play on your baseball team next summer! I love you, son.
The PCR staff: As the years go by, so do the writers that join me on these pages. Some come and go in a flash while others last and last. I know it's not easy to find time each week...many times I've overextended myself between work and other obligations and been told "why not skip the Rant this week?" The honest truth: I can't. I look forward to the few hours I spend at the keyboard each week. It's like golf...you zone out for a few hours with just your thoughts. This year was a banner one for the PCR, in part mostly by your contributions. It is an honor to share these pages with you.
The readers: Now for me that means Steve Beasley. But whether it's one person or one hundred thousand, we wouldn't be doing this if it weren't for you. Thank you for letting us into your homes (or onto your laptops) each week.
THE YEAR IN REVIEW: PART II
Here is what happened in the second part of 2009 that caught my eye:
"America's Got Talen" begins it's run. As the show progresses I notice that NONE OF THE ACTS THAT AUDITIONED IN BOSTON made the show. As someone that worked so closely in the entertainment business for a long time, I often forget that the best doesn't always win. And if the judges felt that the fat guy doing terrible celebrity impressions would get more viewers then a singer, then more power to them.
After almost 40 years counting down the hits, Casey Kasem retires.
My son and I travel to St. Louis to take in the festivities of major league baseball's All Star Game.
My wife and son (along with his girlfriend) celebrate birthdays.
Elvis, our beloved puppy dog, passes away.
PASSING ON (non family)
Karl Malden: Oscar-winning actor and star of the television show "The Streets of San Francisco."
Walter Cronkite, long time CBS news anchor often referred to as "the most trusted man in America."
Gidget: the Taco Bell spokesdog.
Our hearts still broken from losing Elvis, we adopt a feisty lhasa apso and name him Brody. A week later we take the plunge again with a shih tzu named Baxter.
In a show of "compassion," the Scottish government releases the man convicted of the Lockerbie bombing because he has cancer. He is welcomed back to Libya as a hero.
John Hughes: writer and director who created such classic films as "Sixteen Candles," "Ferris Bueller's Day Off" and "Planes, Trains and Automobiles."
Budd Schulberg: Oscar winning screenwriter of "On the Waterfront."
Les Paul: musician and the father of the electric guitar, over dubbing and many other contributing factors to rock and roll.
Ellie Greenwich: songwriter extraordinaire.
Edward Kennedy: senator, statesman, personal hero.
The Walt Disney Company pays $4 BILLION to obtain Marvel Entertainment. Look for one of the Jonas brothers to play Spider-man in the next film.
September 11 is remembered as the day the Beatles albums are re-issued. Oh, and the day those buildings fell.
I celebrate my last birthday beginning with a "4"
The Smith's travel to Minnesota to attend the wedding of my niece, Cassie.
Tweet: the "Toy's R Us" giraffe.
Henry Gibson: comedian who scored big on "Laugh In" and should have scored an Oscar nomination for "Nashville."
Patrick Swayze: one of the most gracious "stars" I ever had the pleasure to meet. He fought his cancer the way he lived his life: with quiet strength and dignity.
Larry Gelbart: comic writer of the first level. Developed the film "M.A.S.H." for television.
Roman Polanski is arrested in Switzerland on 30 year old charges. At this writing he is living in his chalet on "house arrest" fighting extradition to the U.S.
Michael Jackson's estate "accidentally" forgets to credit Paul Anka with co-writing song "This Is It." MJ's father, Joseph, attempts to legally change name to "Paul Anka" so he can make some money off of his dead son.
The PCR turns 500! And they said it wouldn't last.
After only two months in our home, Brody passes away. Sadly, and unbeknownst to us, he was very sick when we adopted him. Our hearts still broken from Elvis' passing, this is like a kick in the stomach. Months later we still miss him dearly.
Like Rick Nelson I become a "travelling man" as I journey to New York City to see the premiere of "The Shark Is Still Working," where my giant head is only magnified on a screen 40 foot high. Later in the month I channel my inner Johnny Kovacs and represent my electrical union brothers in Washington D.C.
Susan Atkins: one of the convicted murderers of the Manson Family.
Joseph Wiseman: Dr. No!
Vic Mizzy: composer of such television themes as "The Addams Family" and "Green Acres." da da da dum (snap snap)
Soupy Sales: popular television host and comedian
and the JAWS world lost a trifecta:
Collin Wilcox: probably best remembered as the young girl who falsely accusses a black man of rape in "To Kill A Mockingbird." She later went on to appear in "Jaws 2" as a marine biolgist.
Dick Young and Harry Carreiro: two guys who had some of the funniest improvised lines in JAWS pass away a few weeks from each other.
After 33 years of trying, and two years running his fan club, I FINALLY get Richard Dreyfuss' autograph and a special photo I'd held for decades.
Sesame Street celebrates it's 40th birthday.
In an effort to keep the show moving, the Motion Picture Academy awards Honoray Oscars to filmmaker Roger Corman, actress Lauren Bacall, cinematographer Gordon Willis and producer John Calley.
David Lloyd, who won an Emmy for writing "Chuckles Bites The Dust" for "The Mary Tyler Moore Show."
Almost two years after his death, the producers of Roy Scheider's last film, "Iron Cross," mount a $400,000 Academy Award campaign for the late actor. Check with me in January to see how it went.
Dan O'Bannon: fantasy/sci fi writer of such films as "Alien," "Dark Star" and "Blue Thunder."
Jennifer Jones: Academy award winning actress.
Roy Disney: Walt's nephew, former editor, member of the board of directors and head of the resurgence of the animation department in the mid 1980s.
Brittany Murphy: actress, passed away last week from cardiac arrest.
Arnold Strang: comedic actor who appeared in the film "It's A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World." Strang was also the voice of the popular television character Top Cat.
As I took a look at the many vinyl filled shelves in my basement, I was struck with the idea for next years' yearlong series. So be on the lookout for "Mike's Record Shelve" next year, where I choose two random albums ("regular" music and a soundtrack) and tell the story behind them. Sounds interesting, doesn't it? DOESN'T IT?!
BUT MIKE, WHAT ABOUT...
My list of favorite movie lines? No need to fret, they will be here next week.
MY FAVORITE FILMS, PART II. THE YEAR WAS 1976...
Logan's Run / Hoffa (1992)|
Starring: Michael York, Jenny Agutter / Jack Nicholson, Danny DeVito
Directed by: Michael Anderson / Danny DeVito
THOUGH TECHNICALLY THERE IS ONE MORE ISSUE THIS YEAR, I WILL COMBINE THE FINAL TWO FILMS SCHEDULED TO BE PROFILED THIS YEAR THIS WEEK. THAT WAY 2010s NEW SERIES CAN KICK OFF WITHOUT A HITCH.
FIRST SEEN: Twin Bays 4 Theatre, Tampa, Florida
FAVORITE SCENE: Meeting Box
FAVORITE LINE: "You're beautiful. Let's have sex.
1977 Academy Award: Special Achievement Award for Visual Effects
1977 Academy Award nominations for Best Art Direction/Set Direction and Best Cinematography
It sounds like the perfect place. A world full of beautiful people, where all of your needs and desires are take care of. Until you turn 30. Then it's adios. And if you don't agree with that rule, if you try to run, you get to meet the Sandmen, whose job it is to put you to sleep. Permanently.
A film that is actually more fun then it should be, "Logan's Run" was a perfect film for director Anderson, who had gone from his Oscar-nominated work on "Around the World in Eighty Days" two decades earlier to such fanboy material as "Doc Savage: Man of Bronze." He continued his schlock cinema excursion with his next film following "LR," the classic Richard Harris film "Orca: The Killer Whale." Expensive for its time (approximate budget, $9 million), the film was actually a pretty cheesy look at what the future might bring. I remember Roger Ebert commenting that the interior shots all looked like new fancy office buildings in Dallas. Which is doubly funny because the majority of the film was shot in fancy office buildings in Dallas. The cast is full of well-scrubbed young people, including a relatively unknown Farrah Fawcett Majors, who had yet to be discovered by Charlie and the poster buying American public. Michael York was coming off a popular run in "Cabaret" and Richard Lester's "Musketeer" films. But the best performance in the film is delivered by the great Peter Ustinov, whose presence as the Old Man is the proof Logan needs to prove the world's following of "Carousel" is unjust. Don't go looking for any message here. Like I said earlier...have fun.
FIRST SEEN: Uptown Theatre, Washington D.C.
FAVORITE SCENE: Hoffa embarrases Robert Kennedy during a Senate hearing.
FAVORITE LINE: "I dont need a hundred million dollars and my brother elected president to whomp your fucking ass!"
1993 Academy Award nominations for Best Cinematography and Best Make Up
1993 Golden Globe Award nomination for Best Actor/Drama (Nicholson)
1993 Golden Raspberry Award nominations for Worst Actor (Nicholson, who was also recognized for his work in "Man Trouble") and Worst Director.
How rare is it that an acting performance is chosen as one of the year's best...and worst? In the list of underrated dramas, "Hoffa" is right near the top. The story of former Teamsters president Jimmy Hoffa, the film begins with his rise to power and ends with what is purported to be what happened to Hoffa. It's funny that I've also profiled the film "F.I.S.T." this year, as the story lines are very similar. Man rises up in the union. Man becomes too powerful. Man winds up dead in the back of a semi.
To me the success of the film is due to one person: Danny DeVito. Not as an actor, though he turns in a fine performance, but as a director. Starting with work behind the camera on his television series "Taxi," DeVito worked his way up to his first feature, the underrated "Throw Momma From the Train." He followed that up with the dark comedy "The War of the Roses." Then came "Hoffa." DeVito's use of light (or lack of it) bring every scene to life. I'm sure the fact that I saw "Hoffa" as a true wide screen 70mm presentation added much to the presentation. Like most of his roles, Nicholson gets under the skin of James R. Hoffa, giving a true and realistic performance. The supporting cast, including DeVito, Armand Assante and John C. Reilly, is just as strong. The period setting is perfectly achieved by Art Director Gary Wissner and Set Decorator Brian Savegar, while the Oscar-nominated camera work of Stephen Burum sets the mood perfectly.
I hope you have enjoyed this year's series of my favorite films (part II). Special thanks to Greg Van Cott for the superb essays he contributed, going far behind the scenes and the subjects spotlighted.
Well, that's all for now. Have a great week. 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.