Category: Pop Culture

Conversations with Michael Keaton

Published February 20, 2017

As a huge fan of Michael Keaton (and who isn’t?), I’ve loved the fact that he’s had a career resurgence of late. Between Birman (2014), Spotlight (2015), and The Founder (2016), the erstwhile Batman has become as much sought after as he was in the early days of his career.

After recently searching for some Keaton material on YouTube, I stumbled across an interview with the actor from 2015 . In this long conversation, he discusses much of the work from his early career, like his stand-ip days, his stint as a stagehand on Mister Rogers Neighborhood (filmed in his hometown of Pittsburgh), and early films like Night Shift (the first of three collaborations between Keaton and director Ron Howard).

Interested? Check it out below. (Love the part around the 45:00 minute mark where he discuses improv on the set of Mr. Mom, and the infamous chainsaw scene.)

American Masters – Johnny Carson: King of Late Night

Published July 23, 2012

Hard to believe that Johnny Carson left The Tonight Show nearly a quarter century ago, after an amazing 30-year run.  For Americans between 1962 and 1992, Johnny was not unlike a grown-up bedtime story – for we watched him from our beds, and he was the last thing we saw before nodding off.  Whether he was killing in his monologues (or dying, and simply letting silence and a blank stare get a second chance at the laugh), or poking fun at Ed, or doing Carnac the Magnificent, or offering us an endless parade of unforgettable, and often legendary guests, Johnny Carson truly was the King of Late Night.

I expounded on this a few years ago with a post entitled Bette Midler Bids Johnny Carson Adieu, focusing on Johnny’s farewell show.

David Letterman reached that 30-year pinnacle before shuffling off into retirement, and for years I (and many others) considered him to be Carson’s TRUE heir to the late night throne. However, Jimmy Fallon has proven night after night that he is a worthy successor to Carson (certainly more so than Jay Leno), if only for being consistently original, surprising, and (most of all) FUNNY. Actually, Fallon, Stephen Colbert, and Jimmy Kimmel have all stepped up and given each other worthy competition at that post-news, weeknight hour, but each of them owe a  significant debt to Mr. Carson.

PBS.org recently posted a documentary on their American Masters page, entitled American Masters – Johnny Carson: King of Late Night.  I just finished watching the 2-hour program, and it was so good, and nostalgic, and entertaining, I decided to post it here.

The copy from the PBS page reads as follows: Quite possibly the biggest star that television has ever produced, Carson commanded, at his peak, a nightly audience of 15 million viewers – double the current audience of Leno and Letterman – combined. Rarely giving interviews, Carson chose to remain a very private man whose public persona made him an American superstar. He once revealed, “I can get in front of an audience and be in control. I suppose it’s manipulation. Offstage, I’m aloof because I’m not very comfortable.” American Masters Johnny Carson: King of Late Night explores this dichotomy and enigma, unearthing clues about Carson’s childhood, early days in the business, and personal and professional life.

Interested?  Of course, you are.  So, without further ado: Heeeeere’s Johnny!

BILL BIXBY – The A&E Biography

Published August 31, 2011

I recently finished a Celebrity Profile of Bill Bixby over on my Examiner.com column (no longer available).  While searching YouTube for a video (singular: video) to post on that article, the only one worth the watch was a five-part A&E Biography of Bix, hosted by Harry Smith, that gives pictures and voices to what I spent hours writing.  So, what could I do but post it here in its entirety and link it.

As I stated in that profile, Bill Bixby was one of my childhood heroes and, as I recently found The Incredible Hulk: The Complete Series at Amazon.com for only $28.99, I’ve been seriously going down memory lane … with that haunting “Lonely Man Theme” stuck in my head.

Anyway, if you’re here because you followed the Examiner link: welcome.
If you’re a frequent visitor: welcome back.

Here’s Bill’s story.

UPDATE 2/20/17

Part 1 of that 5-part video is no longer available (2 – 5 can be found here). So much for keeping these old blog posts up to date. Sorry to disappoint.

ANTHONY PERKINS’ LAST INTERVIEW

Published August 21, 2011

I have written many words on these interwebs about Alfred Hitchcock’s PSYCHO (check out my article Psycho Babble – The Legacy of Norman Bates).  While surfing YouTube recently for blog fodder, I stumbled on a three part interview with Perkins that was produced by AMC in 1992, not long before the actor’s untimely death at 60.

Perkins entire career is touched on in this half hour interview, and the actor is more humble, honest, and forthright about his image and films than I have ever heard him be.  PSYCHO and its sequels are, of course, covered here, but significant time is also spent on his other films like Tin Star, Fear Strikes Out, Crimes of Passion, etc …

The embedding on these has been disabled, but are so good, I will simply give you the links.

ANTHONY PERKINS LAST INTERVIEW – PART 1
ANTHONY PERKINS LAST INTERVIEW – PART 2
ANTHONY PERKINS LAST INTERVIEW – PART 3

Fans of the actor will love this.

And … as a final (and rather random) note, has anybody else noticed the uncanny resemblance between Andrew Garfield (The Social Network, The Amazing Spider-Man) and Anthony Perkins?  If anyone ever does a biopic of Tony, here’s your guy.

 

CATCHING UP WITH CLINT

Published August 8, 2011

Frequent visitors to this site know of my fondness, admiration, and plain old geeky enthusiasm for Clint Eastwood.  (For more on this, check out my reviews of Clint’s American Icon Collection, The Dirty Harry Ultimate Collector’s Edition, and Gran Torino.)  While I’ve got damn near 30 films in my Eastwood DVD collection, there are still quite a few titles missing from that shelf.  I caught up with three of them this weekend.

I don’t know how I went so long without seeing Clint’s redneck comedies, Every Which Way But Loose (1978) and Any Which Way You Can (1980), but I did.  While it was certainly odd seeing old long, tall, and deadly playing a truck-driving, beer-drinking, punch-throwing, orangutan-owning, good old boy, I was ultimately won over.  Yes, these movies are as lowbrow as they are low-budget, but there is a simple charm here (a rarely seen special effect if you will) that can be summed up in two words: Clint’s smile.  Seriously, how often have we ever seen Squinting Clint flash them choppers, dimples, and crow’s feet?  I don’t swing that way, but even I must admit that Clint’s got a terrific smile, and uses it here to effortless charismatic effect.

Every Which Way But Loose (a film that Clint was direly warned NOT to make, as it would ruin his career) turned out to be his biggest box office success to date, grossing over $100 million.  Say it with me: Go figure.  Yes, some of the gags are moronic (most of them involve the Black Widow biker gang), but Ruth Gordon as foul-tempered, blue-tongued “Ma,” and Clyde, as the beer-swilling, kiss-proffering ape, made me LOL more than once.  As a longtime Colorado resident, I was also pleasantly surprised to see Denver and the gorgeous mountain town of Georgetown prominently featured.  Any Which Way You Can is not quite as funny, but does provide Clint’s Philo Beddoe with a more worthy adversary (William Smith) for the climactic fight.

The third Clint film I took in for the first time this weekend was the biggest surprise of all.  I have never read The Bridges of Madison County.  Yes, I remember when it stayed on the top of the New York Times bestseller list for YEARS (ultimately selling 50 million copies worldwide), but most of the word of mouth I’d heard wrote it off as treacly schmaltz.  I had heard good things about the 1995 film that Clint directed and starred in, but again, my interest had never been so strong for me to actually watch it.  That, and the fact that I had assumed that the film was one which glamorized adultery – so I was even less interested.  Boy, was I wrong.

After watching the film, and being profoundly touched by it, I DON’T think this story romanticizes extramarital affairs.   I might even go so far as to call it pro-marriage.  Meryl Streep (in yet another astounding performance) plays Francesca Johnson, an Italian war bride living in Iowa.  While her midwest existence is far from the dreams she had as a girl in Italy, she is anything but a “Desperate Housewife.”  (Clint wisely does NOT make Francesca’s husband a brute or a villain – he is a good man.)  Yet when Francesca meets National Geographic photographer Robert Kincaid (Clint in his most relaxed performance) while her husband and children are away, the two instantly and easily hit it off.  What takes place over the following four days is as moving a love story as I have ever seen.

Clint’s direction is quiet, subtle, and unsentimental, as we watch two people (two adult people) come to realize that they are perfect for each other, but can never be together.  Their final solution to this star-crossed dilemma is both heartbreaking and inevitable.  In fact, if Robert and Francesca had run off together, the entire story would have been ruined.  One of the final scenes, involving Meryl, a red light, and a truck door handle, is as suspenseful as anything Hitchcock ever directed, and as moving as anything Meryl has ever done. Those who refuse to watch this film on moral grounds are not only missing the point entirely, but are missing out on one of the most powerful love stories I’ve seen in a long time.  Seek it out.

So, there it is.  When I catch up on more Eastwood films that have passed me by (there aren’t many), I will let you know.

Bryan Singer’s SUPERMAN: THE MAN OF STEEL – a new story treatment reveals what could have been

Published December 13, 2010

If you’ve been here before, you may have read a previous post entitled A TALE OF II SUPERMANS, where I waxed Kryptonian on my affection for the red-caped, spit-curled dude in blue, and offered a detailed analysis of the Richard Donner cut of Superman II.

In 2006, when Bryan Singer gave us Superman Returns, I was pretty darn happy to see such a touching homage to Donner’s mythology … even if overfamiliarity was also one of that film’s weaknesses (it sure did breed contempt in some).  Why NOT have that crystalline Fortress of Solitude with Marlon Brando chilling inside?  Why NOT use John Williams’ iconic score?  Why NOT use an actor, Brandon Routh, who reminds us so much of Chris Reeve?  I thought all those things worked brilliantly.

Critics of Superman Returns have mostly complained that the film felt like more of a remake than a sequel; that there was only ONE kick ass action scene – the rescue of the plane; that Kate Bosworth’s Lois Lane wasn’t feisty enough; that Lex Luthor (Kevin Spacey) had another real estate scheme (really? seriously?); a climax which has our hero (orchestra swells) … lifting a rock; and that the inclusion of Lois’ and Supe’s little superdude Jason was a very bad idea – where do you go with that?  Warner Bros. must have thought “nowhere,” because despite making damn near $400 million worldwide, that just wasn’t quite enough to let Singer have a go at the sequel.

Cut to 2010.  In order to beat a court ruling that returns much of the rights of Superman back to the Siegel and Schuster families (heirs of Superman’s creators) unless a film is released by 2012, Warner Bros. fast tracked a non-Singer sequel.  With a story by Christopher Nolan, Jonathan Nolan, and David S. Goyer, the creative team behind cinematic juggernauts Batman Begins and The Dark Knight, SUPERMAN: THE MAN OF STEEL will be coming to theaters in December 2012.  Nolans will produce, Goyer will script, and Zack Snyder (300, Watchmen) will direct.  Can’t wait.

But what of THE MAN OF STEEL that Singer had planned?

Routh and Bosworth

IESB recently posted an article which included a rough story treatment of what might have been Singer’s sequel.  One which actually sounds pretty damn cool.  It includes elements that directly remedy some of those aforementioned criticisms.  Also, that previous question: Where do you go with the story of Jason the super kid?  This synopsis answers that.  Boy does it ever.

The original article can be found here.  Though no source is given, this sounds pretty legit  … or maybe I’m just geeking out at the possibilities.

Check it out.

SUPERMAN: THE MAN OF STEEL

[The Man of Steel starts] just a few years after the incidents that we saw in Superman Returns.  Kal-El is doing what Superman does best, Lois Lane is raising her kid Jason, who of course is Superman’s child, and the world is getting use to having Superman back.

Now there are storyline threads that go back to Superman Returns, one is the ongoing plot of Superman’s original reason of going back to Krypton. He has always wondered if he truly is the last Son of Krypton.

Remember New Krypton that Lex created with crystals he stole from the Fortress of Solitude and Kryptonite that Supes launched into space that nearly killed him?  New Krypton continues to grow in space and has become an almost perfect sphere.  It is now the size of a small moon.

Besides giving humans something to admire at night, Earth’s new satellite has also brought some unexpected attention from a galaxy far, far away.

A massive spaceship arrives Earth’s orbit.  Superman flies up to meet the spacecraft and we are introduced to our out of this world visitor.

Superman quickly finds out that our visitor is also a Kryptonian survivor who has been traveling the known galaxies and was able to detect Kryptonian technology thanks to our new green/black satellite that has started to orbit the Earth.

Superman finally has found a Kryptonian buddy and starts showing him around the planet – a planet full of problems, disease, famine, crime, and nations at war with each other.

Our new Kryptonian friend asks Superman why, with all his power, is he not changing the world for the better?  Why is he not getting rid of famine, disease and war?  Of course fans know that Superman has always been instructed not to interfere with Earth’s development.

Superman explains that he is not allowed to interfere, but his Krypto buddy tells him that with their powers they are required to “interfere.”  Superman disagrees.

Krypto buddy decides to take charge and starts “interfering” from day one.  One of the first things that he does is get involved in a political mess that is heating up between two third world nations.

War breaks out between these two nations, but before any real battle breaks out, Krypto buddy interferes and lays waste to these two Armies.

He declares to the world that he will not allow anymore wars and/or the destruction of our planet.  He is declaring a “War Free” planet and for those who disagree he will have to deal with them.

The major nations of the planet applaud his actions and all agree to an immediate worldwide peace.  In return he promises to share technology, fight hunger, famine, and disease.

The population of the world rejoices and any small pockets of resistance is quickly squashed by Krypto buddy or even the world governments.

Superman has now become a pariah.  The way the world sees it, he has been here for years and had kept technology that could have solved many of the worlds problems.

Superman starts getting a bit suspicious of Krypto buddy and decides to go talk to him.  He goes to his spaceship and has a revelation.  This massive ship is full of thousands of identical bodies aboard.  Yep, clones of Krypto buddy, in stasis.

So Superman digs a bit more inside the “computer” system [and] finds out that Krypto buddy is actually an artificial intelligence from Krypton that has evolved since the destruction of their world.

He escaped Krypton just like Kal-El did and his real name is Brainiac.  He has been going from planet to planet, taking their technology, helping these worlds reach a relative perfection and then he destroys them and moves on.

Superman also finds out that [Brainiac] was actually responsible for the destruction of Krypton and tries to warn the leaders of the world, but is confronted by Braniac.  A massive battle ensues and Superman is about to defeat his foe, but Brainiac downloads his [consciousness] into one of his clones.

Superman realizes that he must destroy this massive ship along with all the clones aboard.  After another massive battle he is able to disable the ship, destroy the clones, and the new Braniac, but right before the ship is destroyed, the Braniac main frame does a local search for another body that he could download into.  It has to be Kryptonian, and he finds another one on Earth: Superman’s kid, Jason White.

So Brainiac uses Kryptonian technology and beams/downloads itself into Jason’s body and this causes causes him to age and grow into a full adult but with Brainiac in complete control.

Superman realizes what just happened and rushes to confront his very own son who is now possessed by Brainiac.

Is Jason still there or is it all Brainiac?  It’s all Braniac and Superman knows what he has to do: he must defeat Brainiac at all costs or the planet and it’s inhabitants will be doomed.

It’s a battle between two gods, but Superman has already been run ragged and beat down pretty bad in his previous battles of the day.  Brainiac has the upper hand and Superman is trying to not to do any permanent damage to Jason’s body.

Will Jason survive? The answer in no.

There is a Christ like metaphor here.  Superman has to sacrifice his own son to save humanity.

There endeth the “rough story treatment.”

What say you?  Is this for real … or just the viral product of an imaginative fanboy?

Would this have been a good place for Superman Returns to graduate to?

Sound off below.

JACKIE GLEASON: 60 MINUTES INTERVIEW

Published August 11, 2010

Those of us old enough to remember Jackie Gleason remember him fondly. (No, I wasn’t around for his early success – I’m not that old. I discovered him on TV with reruns of his movies and, of course, The Honeymooners which I originally thought was kind of a live action version of The Flintstones. I was a kid, whuddya want from me?) By the time I saw The Hustler, with Jackie portraying Minnesota Fats to Paul Newman’s Fast Eddie Felson, I came to understand why this larger-than-life actor was referred to as The Great One. In addition to his genius comic timing, and his iconic turn as Ralph Kramden, Jackie also had some powerful dramatic chops, and the ability to imbue the coarsest of characters with tremendous pathos his early silent skits as The Poor Soul rival even Charlie Chaplin’s Little Tramp.
Jackie Gleason as Ralph Kramden
In 1984, Jackie sat down with Morley Safer of 60 Minutes to discuss his career, his life, his influence, his humble beginnings, and his legacy. The 20-minute interview (embedded below) is not the most in-depth probe ever done by the news magazine, but is still quite entertaining and eye-opening. Jackie even waxes hopeful on God and The Great Beyond – which The Great One went to only three years after this interview. His epitaph? And away we go!

Cop a gander at this interview and remember how sweet he was.

(Thanks to Alison Nastasi at Cinematical for drawing attention to this.)