Now in our ninth calendar year!|
PCR #420 (Vol. 9, No. 15) This edition is for the week of April 7--13, 2008.
Hello gang! Still working hard -- getting married in 2 weeks. And you're ALL invited! Shall we begin?
WELCOME TO THE NEW GUY
Welcome aboard, Chris. Nice to see that sports will be covered a little more regularly. Just remember, THE YANKEES SUCK! Nice first article. But you forgot the big news of the week....
ROCK CHALK JAYHAWK
It was six long years ago, in PCR #105, that I highlighted the upcoming NCAA Basketball game between my Maryland Terrapins and the Jayhawks of Kansas. The tension in the Smith house was thick as my son, Phillip, then in high school, was rooting for the "home" team against his pop. This year, with the Terps ousted in the second round of the NIT and my son a student at the University of Kansas, it was easy to get behind the Jayhawks. This past Saturday night, Juanita and I journeyed to Lawrence, Kansas (famously destroyed in the ABC Movie "The Day After") to take Phillip and his girlfriend to dinner and watch their game against North Carolina in the Final Four. After KU's butt whipping of the Tar Heels, we journeyed out onto Massachusetts Street and observed 10,000 happy college students dancing in the street. Monday we watched at home as KU won the National Title in overtime. Phillip called us excitedly afterwards and then proceeded to stay up all night with his friends. Luckily the school had the good sense to cancel classes on Tuesday.
DARWIN AWARD NOMINEE
Most of you are familiar with the Darwin Awards, which are given to people who have died, or caused another to die, by the most bizarre and often dumbest means. I think I've discovered this year's winner. Just south of my desk is a town called Sedalia. In this town there lives a man who was trying to install his own dish television cable. Tried as he might, he could not drill a hole in the side of his mobile home (there's a hint for you). So, frustrated at his drill, he took his .22 pistol and fired it into the side of the trailer. Success! The bullet went all the way through. Unfortunately, on the other side of the wall, sitting on the sofa, was the man's wife, who died shortly afterwards with a bullet in the back of her head.
TRIPPING THE LIGHT FANDANGO
Back in issue #354 I noted that Matthew Fisher, keyboardist for Procol Harum, had been awarded 40% of the profits earned from the song "Whiter Shade of Pale," claiming that his organ solo is what gave the song its hook. Well, this week a British appeals court sided with the band's lead singer, Gary Brooker, taking away the awarded profits. The court ruled that Fisher was entitled to be listed as co-author of the song but was not entitled to any money.
70 years ago, Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster sold their creation, "Superman, for $130. This week a federal court ruled that the families of both men are entitled to share in the royalties the copyright has earned, ordering Warner Brothers to pay up for such projects as "Smallville" and the "Superman" film series.
There is no way I can top what Nolan wrote about Charlton Heston. The man was truly one of the last of a dying breed of actors. And while I, too, remember all too well "Planet of the Apes," I'm going to point to a brief cameo he did as one of my favorite scenes. In "Wayne's World 2," Wayne Campbell stops into a filling station to ask directions to the church on Gordon Street. When the man begins to answer, Wayne interrupts him and asks if he can "get a better actor." Magically, the actor is replaced by Heston, who tells a brief story about Gordon Street. When he finishes, Wayne is in tears. A funny scene and one that shows you how much Heston commanded the written word.
I had the extreme pleasure of catching Mr. Heston on stage when he starred in "The Caine Mutiny Court Martial." Backstage, after the show, I observed an obvious fan shaking his hand. "Wow," the fan exclaimed, "I can't believe I just met Moses!" Mr. Heston's face registered that this was possibly the millionth time he'd heard that line but his response was a warm chuckle.
For you trivia buffs, you might want to know that Mr. Heston was Universal Pictures choice to play Chief Brody in "Jaws." Only after Steven Spielberg pointed out to the studio heads that the film wouldn't be as suspenseful with Heston in it, as the audience would EXPECT Heston to triumph over the shark, did they submit to the part going to Roy Scheider.
"Not a day passes I don't think about her and the promise that I made which I will always keep. That one perfect day on Gordon Street."
Nor will a day pass when I don't remember the great Charlton Heston.
AND THE OSCAR FOR 1976 SHOULD HAVE GONE TO...ROCKY vs ALL THE PRESIDENT'S MEN! WHO WILL WIN? FIND OUT BELOW!
1976. The American Bicentennial year. And a year where Hollywood began recognizing some of the newer talents in town. Not just in front of the camera but behind it as well. Films like "Taxi Driver" and "Carrie," often criticized for their violence, found main stream success at the box office as well as with the Academy. Even the Best Picture nominees had relevance this year to what was happening in the country. The nominees were: All The President's Men, Bound for Glory, Network, ROCKY and Taxi Driver. "ATPM" dealt with the recent political scandal that disgraced our president and the nation, "Bound for Glory" addressed the life of observational songwriter Woodie Guthrie, "Network" eerily foretold the future of television, "ROCKY" dealt with a fighter looking for the American Dream, with the Bicentennial as a backdrop while "Taxi Driver" took a look at the seamy underside of our country's biggest city. All of these films were worthy of the big prize in my opinion. If I had a vote, it would have gone to "ROCKY," which is probably my second most favorite film ever. And the Academy agreed with me, naming "ROCKY" the champion of the evening.
The Best Director category saw a little history made this year. The nominees: Alan J. Pakula (All the President's Men), Ingmar Bergman (Face to Face), Sidney Lumet (Network), John G. Avildsen (ROCKY) and Lina Wertmüller (Seven Beauties). With her nomination, Wertmüller became the first woman to be nominated in the directing category. In the 30-plus years since, only two other women, Jane Campion and Sophia Coppola, have joined her. Notably missing: Martin Scorsese, whose work on "Taxi Driver" appeared to be trumped by one of the foreign filmmakers. The winner: Alvidsen, the only real "new kid" among the list of veteran directors.
Best Actor was a mixture of old and new talent. The nominees were: Peter Finch and William Holden, both for "Network," Sylvester Stallone (ROCKY), Giancarlo Giannini (Seven Beauties) and Robert DeNiro (Taxi Driver). Please don't rub your eyes in disbelief. YES, Sylvester Stallone. In fact, Sly was nominated twice this year, also getting a nod in the Original Screenplay category. While you're still rubbing your eyes, Stallone joined a couple of other minor players as only the third person to be nominated for acting and writing in the same year. The other two: Charlie Chaplin and Orson Welles! The story has often been told about how Stallone, after seeing Muhammad Ali almost lose to a club fighter named Chuck Wepner, wrote his script in three days, long hand. When he shopped it, he received a lot of notice, with studios battling to buy it and turn it into a project for everyone from Ryan O'Neal to Burt Reynolds. But Stallone was adamant. Only HE could play Rocky. Even when the bid went to $250,000, Stallone said no. Finally, United Artist greenlit the project, with the stipulation that the film be made for no more then $1 million. The studio hoped to have a cheap film to use as a second feature at drive-ins. Stallone's total salary for acting and writing: $20,000. In "Network," you had two screen legends battling for the big prize. Holden, who had already won an Oscar for "Stalag 17," was seeing a comeback on the big screen. Peter Finch had the showier role, that of a "mad prophet of the airwaves," whose normal television news show is transformed into a gaudy nighttime extravaganza complete with soothsayers and true-life crime stories. Sadly, Finch passed away shortly after the film was released. Giannini continued the long academy tradition of nominating a foreign actor in a major category. Not to take anything away from his performance (Giannini is one of the most acclaimed actors ever to come out of Europe), but sometimes the foreign nod took a spot away from a deserving American actor. In this case, and in my opinion, that actor this year was David Carradine, who WAS Woodie Guthrie in "Bound For Glory." The fifth nominee, DeNiro, was already two films into his long time association with director Martin Scorsese. His tortured cab driver, Travis Bickle, has become a pop culture hero, showing up on everything from mugs to t-shirts. While my fondness for "ROCKY" would have swayed me to vote for Stallone, I would have had to vote for the volcanic Finch, as did the Academy, making Peter Finch the first (and so far only) actor to win an Oscar posthumously.
For the ladies, Best Actress was a combination of local and foreign talent: Sissy Spacek (Carrie), Marie-Christine Barrault (Cousin, Cousine), Liv Ullmann (Face to Face), Faye Dunnaway (Network) and Talia Shire (ROCKY). Of the nominees, no one was more surprised than Spacek, the quiet girl from Texas who made going to the prom a nightmare in "Carrie." Dunnaway, previously nominated for "Bonnie and Clyde" and "Chinatown," had the role of her career as the television network executive who airs the unconventional to great ratings in "Network." Shire, nominated previously for her work in "Godfather II," used this role to crawl out from the famous shadow of her brother, Francis Ford Coppola. Ullman was a staple in Bergman films, often referred to as the director's muse while Barrault was already a decade into a career that continues today. There was no doubt who the winner would be, especially since most of the "Network" film clips featured not a bellowing Finch but a triumphant Dunnaway. And she would triumph again, taking home the trophy for Best Actress.
Best Supporting Actor came down to a group of craft veterans: Jason Robards (All the President's Men), Laurence Olivier (Marathon Man), Ned Beatty (Network) and Burgess Meredith and Burt Young (ROCKY). Hard to decide here. Robards was the glue that held "ATPM" together as Washington Post editor Ben Bradlee. Olivier was brilliant in "Marathon Man," but it was more like a lead performance to me. Beatty took less then 10 minutes of screen time and nailed a nomination. And both Meredith and Young showed toughness and vulnerability in "ROCKY." My vote: Beatty. The academy went with Robards, who would also win this award next year.
Best Supporting Actress ran the gamut of ages: Jane Alexander (All the President's Men), Piper Laurie (Carrie), Beatrice Straight (Network), Jodie Foster (Taxi Driver) and Lee Grant (Voyage of the Damned). Of the group, three of the ladies (Alexander, Laurie and Grant) had already been nominated in the past, with Grant winning the year before for "Shampoo." Alexander and Laurie would also be nominated again. Foster, whose performance as a 14-year-old prostitute shocked some voters, would go on to win (2) Best Actress Oscars. Which leaves Straight, whose three scenes in "Network" as Bill Holden's wife totaled less then 6 minutes of screen time. However, to quote Spencer Tracy, those scenes were "cherce," as Straight took home the award, making her the Oscar-winner with the least amount of screen time in history.
1976 was year full of surprises in the nominations. Or in the lack of them. No Scorsese, which is now looked on as blasphemy. Another was that Bill Conti, the composer for the score to "ROCKY," did not get nominated. He did share a song nomination for "Gonna Fly Now," but his score was completely passed over. I find this utterly difficult to understand, especially when John Alvidsen told me a story several years ago. I had asked him why the poster for "ROCKY" featured Stallone and Shire walking away after the fight, while the film ended in the ring. He told me that as originally shot, the arena is cleared after the fight and Rocky and Adrian walk out hand in hand, sharing the triumph of having gone the distance. However, after Conti turned in his score, the music brought the fight to such a rousing end that Stallone and he agreed that to show anything afterwards would have taken away from the emotion built by the music. Good idea.
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.