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Now in our seventh calendar year!

PCR #302. (Vol. 7, No. 1) This edition is for the week of January 1--8, 2006.
Mike's RantMike's Bust
Hello, gang! Happy New Year to everyone. A few notes so let's not dawdle. Shall we begin?

Book Review: Sunshine Skies: Historic Commuter Airlines of Florida and Georgia....PhyMed Partners, Inc.: From the Criminal to the Civil áby William Moriaty
"The Producers" áby Mike Smith
Is Tampa's Film Community Obsessed with B-Movies? áby Mark Terry
A Shot In The Dark áby Mike "Deadguy" Scott
2005 ľ A Year to Forget?...Looking Ahead....Can't Believe What We Read? áBrandon Jones
Bush Is Great!!!...King Kong DVD....The Return of Dick Clark....Masters of Horror Update áby Matt Drinnenberg
Happy New Year....Passing On....Miscommunication....Kansas City Film Critics Circle Awards....My Favorite Films--Chapter 1: The Buddy Holly Story áby Mike Smith
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So glad that you followed us into the new year. I hope you all are impressed with the new home page as I am. The man in charge is a definite genius! And welcome back as well to Dick Clark, who I thought did quite an admirable job in his return to television. Sad how so many critics wrote negatively about his appearance and speech, yet were quick to praise Kirk Douglas when he returned to making films. And no knock on Mr. Douglas, believe me. I hope that, as his recovery continues, Mr. Clark becomes a more of a fixture again on my television.

Last week I briefly mentioned the deaths of two people I wanted to highlight. Sadly, this week they were joined by three more:
Vincent Schiavelli, whose droopy eyes and manic appearance got him listed as Variety Magazine's greatest character actors, died at his home in Polizzi Generosa, Sicily, Italy at the age of 57. Cause of death was given as lung cancer. After a few bit parts in small films, he made his first appearance in a BIG film in 1974's "The Great Gatsby." He followed that role with bigger parts in such films as "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest," "Night Shift," (he was the sandwich delivery man - "Where the FUCK is 4-G?") "The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai," "Fast Times at Ridgemont High," "Amadeus," "Ghost," (he was the angry spirit who teaches Patrick Swayze how to harness his new ghostly powers) "Batman Returns" and "Tomorrow Never Dies." He also appeared in several films in Italy, where he wrote three cookbooks and many articles on cooking. In 2001 he was awarded the James Beard Journalism Award.
Michael Vale, fondly remembered as the Dunkin' Donuts guy ("time to make the donuts") died this past week at the age of 83. No cause of death was given. Though he is best remembered for his TV commercials, Vale also appeared in five films during his career, most notably as a jewelry store manager in "Marathon Man."
Patrick Crenshaw, who achieved his fame late in his career as the oldest fraternity pledge in "Old School," died Monday of natural causes. He was 86. After appearing in little more then extra roles, including a bank clerk in "Bonnie and Clyde," Crenshaw became a staple of television series with many guest appearances. He also had a recurring role in "Alice" and "After M*A*S*H." His other film roles include "Pee Wee's Big Adventure," "Ed Wood" and several of the sports/animal films in the "MVP" (most valuable primate) and "Air Bud" series. He also appeared in the "Air Bud" television series and will be seen in his recurring role of the Sheriff in this year's "Air Buddies." You're my boy, Blue!
Lewis Hanson, the pilot of Air Force One for four presidents, died last week at the age of 81. Hanson was the pilot who flew President Kennedy's body back from Dallas after his assassination.
Neil Strawser, the CBS Radio newsman who was covering JFK's trip to Dallas, and anchored the events of that weekend for four straight days, died Saturday at the age of 78. Strawser was on the air almost continuously from the moment JFK landed in Dallas on Friday, November 22, 1963, until after the funeral the following Monday.

My deepest condolences to the families of the 12 men that lost their lives this week in the West Virginia mine explosion. I can't imagine the emotional roller coaster they rode this week, first learning of the accident, then hearing the bad forecast of their survival, being errantly told that the miners had been found alive and then crashing to a halt when they learned the truth. Both USA Today and the Kansas City Star had banner headlines proclaiming the men alive. The Star did "stop the presses" at around 4 a.m. and revised their headline. I'm no journalist. Yes, I do write for a daily newspaper as well as the PCR, but I would consider what I do "writing," not "reporting." However, with the information I had learned earlier in the day, including the announcement that the level of carbon monoxide found near where the miners were located was three times the level necessary to kill, I really didn't believe the news when I went to bed Tuesday night. Right now the families are in shock, and rightly so. I'm still not sure who "spread the news" that the men were alive, or how it spread so quickly. Sadly, in this new era of instant news, many stories hit the airwaves before they are confirmed. It's sad that people have to suffer for other people's need to succeed.

The 40th annual vote of the Kansas City Film Critics Circle honored work ranging from an examination of the 1972 terrorist attack at the Munich Olympics to acting portrayals of a country singer, boxing coach and literary giant.

The 28 voting members of the organization -- comprised of print, television, radio and online critics from the Greater Kansas City area (myself included) -- cast ballots in 11 categories on Jan. 3, 2006. Films were eligible if they held advance screenings or opened in the Kansas City area during 2005.

The critics voted the following as the best of 2005:

  • Best Film:   "Munich"
  • Best Director:   Steven Spielberg, "Munich"
  • Best Actor:   Philip Seymour Hoffman, "Capote"
  • Best Actress:   Reese Witherspoon, "Walk the Line"
  • Best Supporting Actor:   Paul Giamatti, "Cinderella Man"
  • Best Supporting Actress:   Maria Bello, "A History of Violence"
  • Best Original Screenplay:   George Clooney and Grant Heslov, "Good Night, and Good Luck"
  • Best Adapted Screenplay:   Tony Kushner and Eric Roth, "Munich"
  • Best Animated Film:   "Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit"
  • Best Foreign Language Film:   "Downfall" (Germany)
  • Best Documentary: (tie)   "Grizzly Man" and "Murderball"

    The first movie to win the Kansas City Film Critics Circle award for Best Picture was "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?" in 1966. The group is the second oldest organization of film critics in the United States.

    For more information, contact KCFCC President Jon Niccum at (785) 832-7178 or go to www.kcfilmcritics.com.

    As promised, my yearly series for 2006 will concentrate on some of my favorite films. They were chosen randomly, though some of them will be featured at a date that corresponds in some way with the film. These will not be reviews, but my thoughts, including favorite scenes, lines and, more importantly, why this film is on my list. I encourage readers to contribute their thoughts if I happen to touch on a film they enjoy. This week:

    Starring: Gary Busey, Don Stroud and Charles Martin Smith
    Directed by: Steve Rash

    FIRST SEEN: Twin Bays Cinema, Tampa, Florida
    FAVORITE LINE: "Thank you Clear Lake....we'll see you next year!"
    FAVORITE SCENE: Holly and the Crickets play the Apollo Theatre.

  • Academy Award for Best Song/Score Adaptation
  • Academy Award nominations for Best Actor (Gary Busey) and Best Sound
  • Busey was also nominated for a Golden Globe for Best Actor and won the award from the National Society of Film Critics. He was won the BAFTA (the British Oscar) as Most Promising Newcomer in a Leading Film Role.

    I have to admit that I didn't know much about Buddy Holly before I saw this film. Sure, I knew a couple of songs and that he had died in a plane crash, but that was the extent. In the early 1970s, Jerry Allison, who was the drummer for Holly's group, the Crickets, tried to get funding for a film he had written about Holly, entitled "Not Fade Away." In helping cast the film, Allison chose Gary Busey to play the character based on him. Busey, who had only appeared in a few films, also spent his time drumming in various bands under the name Teddy Jack Eddy. After Allison's project fell through because he could not get the necessary signatures needed from some of the people portrayed, director Steve Rash visited Holly's widow, Maria Elena, and convinced her to allow him to tell Buddy's story. Busey, who also played guitar (he was part of a band in his native Oklahoma called "CARP." Honest. I've got their album!) was now hired to portray Holly and gave one of the greatest biographical performances ever captured on film. His co-stars, Stroud and Smith, also played their own instruments and sang in the film. Ironically, when the film was released, a single of "True Love Ways" was sent to radio stations, credited to "The Buddy Holly Story." Later, after the film began to gain popularity, they re-issued the record, this time giving credit to star Busey. As to my favorite scene, though Holly is acknowledged to be the first white performer to play the Apollo Theatre in New York, the notion that the theatre owner did not know the band was white, or that the band had never played before a predominantly black audience, has never been proven. Prior to the New York gig, the band played at the Howard Theatre in Baltimore, also a large black venue. The band's reception at the Apollo wasn't as great as portrayed either, though the audience was polite. My favorite line is the last line in the film, delivered by Holly as he concludes his part of the Winter Dance Party at the Surf Ballroom in Clear Lake, Iowa. This is a defining moment in rock and roll, of course, as hours later Holly, Richie Valens and J.P. Richardson, known as the Big Bopper, would be killed in a plane crash on what would forever be remembered as "the day the music died." In 1999, my son, Phillip, and I journied to Clear Lake, Iowa for the 40th Anniversary of Holly's death. There we met the Crickets (drummer Allison, bass player Joe B. Maudlin and guitarist Sonny Curtis, who many may remember as the composer/singer of the theme song for "The Mary Tyler Moore Show.") The event was held in the Surf Ballroom and it was a feeling I will never forget to see the same stage that Holly had once stood on spotlit and ready for a concert that night. After the film's release, many people close to Holly, including his parents and band mates, pointed out what they considered "inconsistencies" in the story. Paul McCartney, who owns the publishing rights to all of Holly's songs, later hosted a great documentary called "The REAL Buddy Holly Story."

    Next week I'll be commenting on Kevin Smith's first feature, "Clerks."

    Well, that's all for now. Have a great week. See ya!

    "Mike's Rant" is ©2006 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 ©2006 by Nolan B. Canova.