"I blew a few smoke rings, remembering those years. Pot had helped and booze; maybe a little blow when you could afford it."
The above sentences come from the book "Dreams of My Father," an autobiography written by our 44th President, Barack Obama. I mention this in response to all of the negative publicity that has been heaped on Michael Phelps for having his picture taken holding a bong. Kudos to Subway for having the balls to keep him as a spokesperson. If I'm Michael Phelps I'm telling Kelloggs to blow me...can they really hold someone to a much higher moral code to end up on a box of Frosted Flakes then it does to be president?
CHRISTIAN BLEEPING BALE
Not sure how many readers have ever treaded the boards of a theater or appeared in a film. If you have, you know that acting requires concentration and that some yahoo walking around and getting in your sight line can be pretty aggravating. A scene already amped for tension is even tougher when someone whose credits include such "classics" as "Teen Witch" and "Spaced Invaders" makes you break character. Good for you, Christian. Fellow KC Film Critic Eric Melin has come up with a series of Holiday Cards courtesy of the Dark Knight himself. Enjoy!
Courtesy of the studios, the following films were announced this week:
Director Christopher Nolans' next project will be the science fiction action film "Inception," a film that Nolan also wrote.
Fresh off the success of "Paul Blart: Mall Cop," Kevin James has aqreed to star in the comedy "Zookeeper," to be directed by Frank Coraci ("The Wedding Singer," "Click").
Wolverine fans beware! This week 20th Century Fox will air an exclusive, three-part reveal of "X-MEN ORIGINS: WOLVERINE." The studio has created three special sixty-second spots, one leading into the next, which together form a narrative. The first spot airs this Sunday (February 15) on “Family Guy,” the second on Monday (Feb. 16) on “House,” and the third on Tuesday (Feb. 17) on “American Idol.” After the broadcasts, the three spots will be released online.
The Writers Guild of America announced their annual awards this week. Best original screenplay went to Dustin Lance Black for "Milk." Simon Beaufoy won the award for adapted screenplay for "Slumdog Millionaire."
The British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA)Awards were handed out this week in London. The winners:
BEST FILM: "Slumdog Millionaire"
ACTOR: Mickey Rourke, "The Wrestler"
ACTRESS: Kate Winslet, "The Reader"
SUPPORTING ACTOR: Heath Ledger, "The Dark Knight"
SUPPORTING ACTRESS: Penelope Cruz, "Vicki Cristina Barcelona"
DIRECTOR: Danny Boyle, "Slumdog Millionaire"
ANIMATED FILM: "WALL-E"
WHERE'S YOUR MESSIAH NOW?
Like many baseball fans, I was stunned this week to learn that Alex Rodriguez had admitted to using performance enhancing drugs earlier in his career. Stunned is actually to light a word. Horrified would be a better choice. The game I love is slowly running out of heroes, thanks in part to a lazy commissioner who sat by and let the game he was supposed to protect become a testing ground for chemically dependent cheaters. As I've mentioned in other columns, my son and I attended the then historic game in 1998 when Mark McGwire hit his then record setting 62nd home run of the season. A great moment in history later blemished by McGwire's refusal to discuss his past. As the years progressed the signs that something was terribly wrong with the game kept growing larger. As did Barry Bonds' hat size. Common sense should tell you that NOBODY puts on 25 pounds of muscle over the winter, no matter how much of a work out freak he is. Commissioner Bud Selig, a former used car salesman, would pontificate to the press that he was keeping his eye on the game, even releasing a press release stating that any player using illegal substances would be punished. But he didn't have any way to prove if the players were dirty, thanks to the strongest employee union in the country, the Major League Baseball Players Association. For years the union refused to allow its players to be tested for ANYTHING. The only way a player could be punished is when they showed up on the news, being arrested for buying cocaine or driving drunk. But as talk among the fans got louder, the league and MLBPA worked out a comprimise. Players would be tested prior to the 2004 season and if more than 5% were found to be doping the MLBPA would agree to drug testing during the season. Part of this agreement stated that the tests would be annonymous. The concept wasn't to catch cheaters but to see who was. Even though the players knew for months they were going to be tested, an incredible 104 players out of a possible 650 came up dirty. Armed with this information, Major League Baseball announced it's findings and then amazingly did NOT destroy the test materials as promised. Less than a week later, the US Government got involved and subpoened the tests of 10 players they had on a list. Incredibly, the government seized ALL OF THE TESTS AND RESULTS, even though they did not have the authorization. Wait, let me clarify that. Not only did they seize all of the baseball tests, they also confiscated the confidential tests of several NFL, NBA and NHL players as well as the test records of three major companies who give their employees drug tests. Hell, for all I know they have MY information since I have to pee in a cup for my job. Five years later, someone leaked the news that Rodriguez tested positive for steroids, giving the game and arguably its greatest player a black eye one week before the start of spring training. Most fans, myself included, consider A-Rod (or A-Roid as Matt Drinnenberg referred to him last week) the logical choice to one day eclipse Barry Bonds' tainted home run record. Now it won't matter, because we know that, by his admission, Rodriguez was dirty for at least three seasons and 156 home runs. Many people are praising Rodriguez for "coming forward and admitting his misdeed." Coming forward? He got caught. That's like watching a video of someone robbing a bank in court and the robber in the video saying, "Yep, I did it." And even though he's admitted to cheating, Rodriguez is being vague on certain things. He "doesn't even know" what he took and, when asked who gave him the drugs, he plays stupid, using words like "loosey-goosey" to describe his troubles. At first I thought Selig had finally grown a pair of balls when he told a reporter for USA Today that he was looking into punishing Rodriguez. Now comes word from the commish that since steroids weren't banned when Rodriguez used them that he could do nothing to him. WHAT? Unless he had them prescribed, he obtained them illegally. Using illegal drugs is against the rules. Ask Steve Howe, who was suspended an incredible SEVEN TIMES for his drug use. Ask Keith Hernandez, Willie Aikens and the whole host of players that paid the price in the early 80s for their abuse of cocaine. But God forbid you suspend your most popular player. It's conceivably funny, and sad, that neither the all time hit leader (Pete Rose), home run king (Bonds) and one of the greatest pitchers of all time (Roger Clemens) may never be elected to their sports' Hall of Fame. Now A-Rod joins the list of the tainted. Selig did state this week that, as commisioner, he has the authority to take actions "for the greater good of the game." This includes the possibility of returning Hank Aaron and Roger Maris to the record books as the reigning all time and one season home run champs. A great idea and a good start. But hopefully not the end.
This week it was announced that the collection of Forest J. Ackerman would be put up for auction the last week of April. Among the items up for bid: the ring Bela Lugosi wore in "Dracula," a first-edition copy of Mary Shelley's novel Frankenstein" and complete sets of over 200 different science fiction magazines. Other "Dracula" and Lugosi related items include the cape Lugosi wore, his costume from his last film, "Plan 9 From Outer Space" and another first-edition novel, Bram Stoker's "Dracula" which is not only signed by the author but by Lugosi, Boris Karloff and many other horror film stars. If you're interested in picking up a little something for the den, go to www.profilesinhistory.com
Next week I'll have my choices for the 81st Annual Academy Awards. Hopefully Nolan and Matt will have theirs ready as well.
MY FAVORITE FILMS, PART II. THE YEAR WAS 1978...
Heaven Can Wait|
Starring: Warren Beatty, Julie Christie and James Mason
Directed by: Warren Beatty and Buck Henry
FIRST SEEN: Austin Cinema, Tampa, Florida
FAVORITE SCENE: Dyan Cannon reacts to seeing her husband, whom she thought was dead, very much alive.
FAVORITE LINE: "They don't have a football team in Heaven, Max, so God couldn't make me first string."
1979 Academy Award for Best Set Decoration/Art Direction
1979 Academy Award nominations for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor (Beatty), Best Supporting Actor (Jack Warden), Best Supporting Actress (Dyan Cannon), Best Adapted Screenplay (Warren Beatty and Elaine May), Best Original Score and Best Cinematography.
1979 Director's Guild of America Nomination for Best Director
1979 Golden Globe Awards for Best Picture (Musical or Comedy), Best Actor (Musical or Comedy) Warren Beatty and Best Supporting Actress (Cannon)
1979 Writer's Guild of America Award for Best Adapted Screenplay
June 1978 was a busy time at the movies. On the 16th, two highly anticipated films hit screens all over America: "Jaws II" and "Grease." And while both of those films were doing great business, two weeks later another film dropped into the multiplexes. That film was "Heaven Can Wait."
A remake of the 1941 classic "Here Comes Mr. Jordan," "Heaven Can Wait" updated the story to fit the late 1970s. In the original, Robert Montgomery played Joe Pendleton, a boxer whose death is premature after an emmisary from Heaven takes him too early. In the remake Pendleton (Beatty) is a quarterback for the Super Bowl bound Los Angeles Rams. One day while riding his bike he enters a tunnel, not knowing that a truck is coming at him from the other direction. He next finds himself at a way station where his escort (Buck Henry, who also co-directed the film) has taken him. However, both soon learn from Mr. Jordan (the incredible James Mason) that, because of his athletic reflexes, Joe would have avoided the truck. By the time the mistake is discovered, Joe's body has been buried, making it impossible for him to return as himself. He is given the opportunity to return to earth in another body, one whose owner has died but his death has not yet been discovered. He settles on the lifeless form of Leo Farnsworth, a rich businessman who has been murdered by his wife (Dyan Cannon) and her lover (Charles Grodin), who is his business secretary. Intent on fulfilling his destiny to play in the Super Bowl, Joe uses Farnsworth's wealth to buy the Rams and then arranges a tryout for the team. Along the way he also meets the beautiful Betty Logan (Julie Christie), who he soon falls in love with. However, time is short for Farnsworth as those who want him dead continue to try to kill him.
To coin an old phrase, they don't movies like this anymore. Sharply written, smartly acted and brilliantly crafted, "Heaven Can Wait" is a film that would stand out in any decade. Originally set to be Beatty's directorial debut, the film was intended as a starring vehicle for Muhammad Ali. However, Ali could not find enough down time in his training schedule so Beatty stepped in. Since he had no idea how to box, Beatty changed Joe Pendleton's sport to football. He also brought in good friend Buck Henry to assist him in the directing process. Additional casting changes were made as the film went into production. Beatty very much wanted Cary Grant to play the part of Mr. Jordan and hoped by casting Grant's wife (Cannon) that he would agree. However Grant, who retired from acting in 1966, refused the part.
Beatty ended up wearing four hats on the film: producer, star, co-writer and co-director. But they turned out to be fulfilling hats indeed, as he became the second person ever to receive four different Academy Award nominations for the same film, repeating in the same categories Orson Welles competed in for "Citizen Kane." Though he didn't win anything for "Heaven Can Wait," Beatty was obviously unphased as, on his next film, "Reds," he was again nominated four times in the same categories. This time he took home the prize for Best Director. As of today, only Welles and Beatty stand as the only two people to receive nominations in four different categories. Composer Alan Menken received four nominations in 1992 for "Beauty and the Beast." One was for his score; the other three were in the Best Song category.
A final bit of coincidence followed the film two years later. The fictional Super Bowl in the film, shot in September 1977, featured the Los Angeles Rams vs the Pittsburgh Steelers. The Super Bowl played the year after the film was released also featured the Rams and the Steelers.
As it seems to be the fate of all good movies, "Heaven Can Wait" was later remade in 2001 as "Down to Earth," with Chris Rock in the lead. Though it relied heavily on Beatty and May's script, it didn't leave the same lasting impression as the two films that proceeded it.
Next week we'll rock back in forth in our chairs and mutter "Turn it off!" over and over again with George C. Scott in "Hardcore."
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.