Consider Yourself ... Well-Reviewed!
Jordan Muschler (front) as the Artful Dodger, with Justin Dekker as Fagain, in the Prior Lake Players' production of “Oliver!”
My nephew Jordan Muschler, a one-time reviewer on this site, has burst onto the stage yet again. Last October he played Gavrouche in the Bloomington Civic Theater's production of “Les Misérables.” Now he's the Artful Dodger in the Prior Lake Players' production of “Oliver!” It's actually a family affair. My nephew Ryan and brother Eric are in the production as well.
A review recently went up at The Prior Lake Monitor site, including this:
Jordan Muschler did a superb job playing the part of the Artful Dodger and had the cockney accent down perfectly.
Thank god. The rest of us in the family are a bit Seinfeldy in that regard.
Secrets to Their Success: Tactical Self-Delusion
I'm reading Garson Kanin's memoir, “Hollywood,” which is fast becoming one of my favorite insider memoirs of the movie business, and the first chapter is all about how Kanin came west in the late 1930s at the behest of producer Samuel Goldwyn, and how Kanin kept pushing to become a director even though Goldwyn didn't want him to become one. It became a big battle between the two. It raged. Everything about Goldwyn raged. He was a major asshole but with personality.
Eventually Kanin freed himself from Goldwyn's contract and his clutches to direct “A Man to Remember,” a B picture for RKO that did well at the box office. Shortly thereafter, Kanin ran into Goldwyn at a party, and the great man was enthusiastic. He called him a double-crossing little SOB, but then asked, quietly and sincerely, “Why didn't you ever tell me you wanted to be a director?” It's a laugh-out-loud moment.
Later, Kanin has a conversation with director William Wyler about it. “How do you explain it?” Kanin asked. Wyler replied:
Well, I’ll tell you. He believes with all his heart that you spent a year at his studio and never mentioned the subject of directing. He believes it because he has to. He’s convinced himself that’s the truth, because—don’t you see?—if he admits to anybody or to himself that there you were, under contract to him, begging him every minute for a chance to direct, with him turning you down, then you go out and become a successful director for another studio, he’s made a blunder. He’s used bad judgment, so rather than admit this, he convinces himself you never mentioned it. That's his mentality. I think it may be one of the main reasons for his success. To himself, he's never wrong.
See also: Donald Rumsfeld; Dick Cheney.
I did a few of these “How to Get Ahead” posts in the past, but let them lapse. No more. They're a good antidote to the All-American, FOX-News notion that if you just work hard enough you'll be a millionaire; and that if you're not a millionaire you just didn't work hard enough.
Other paths to success?
Goldwyn: never wrong.
The Dumbest Thing Said at CPAC?
Breitbart headline: FRED THOMPSON: CONSERVATIVE FILMS NOT MADE BECAUSE OF HOLLYWOOD 'COCKTAIL CURRENCY'
Repsonse: Right. If only Hollywood made movies starring good guys who use guns to save the world from usually nonwhite bad guys. But that'll never happen.
On second thought: That's not nearly the dumbest thing said at CPAC. Dinesh D'Souza spoke, after all.
Maybe someday we'll be able to see scenes like this on our movie screens. But liberal Hollywood keeps getting in the way.
Breitbart's 2014 Box Office Predictions Obvious, Lack Context
Bretibart says Katniss will rise highest two years in a row. Has that ever happened?
The Breitbart site has given us its 2014 box-office predictions two months into 2014, but what the hell. The first two months are always throat clearing for Hollywood anyway.
Among its predictions?
- “Mark Wahlberg will become the industry's next big action star.”
- “With films 300: Rise of an Empire, Maleficent, Divergent, X-Men: Days of Future Past, and Dolphin Tale 2 set to open well, a lot of new talent will be joining current new talent heavyweight Jennifer Lawrence.”
- “Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part One Will Be Year's Biggest Grosser.”
Wow, going out on a limb, BB. My responses:
- Wasn't he 10 years ago?
- New talent? You mean Shailene Woodley from “The Descendants”? Or maybe Sir Ian McKellan from “X-Men”? It would be nice if they named names, as their political ancestors did.
- The sequel to the biggest movie of 2013 will be the biggest movie of 2014? Shocker!
Actually, wait. Maybe that last one is a shocker. Has the same franchise movie ever been the year's biggest movie in back-to-back years?
Here's a list of sequels that were the biggest domestic box-office hits of the year, followed by time removed from predecessors:
- 1980: “The Empire Strikes Back” (Three years after “Star Wars” was 1977's biggest movie)
- 1983: “Return of the Jedi” (Three years after “Empire” was 1980's biggest movie)
- 1991: “Terminator 2” (Seven years after the first movie was the 21st-biggest-hit of 1984)
- 1999: “The Phantom Menace” (16 years after “Jedi” was 1983's biggest movie)
- 2003: “Lord of the Rings: Return of the King” (One year after “Two Towers” was the second-biggest movie of 2002)
- 2004: “Shrek 2” (Three years after “Shrek” was the third-biggest grosser of 2001)
- 2005: “Revenge of the Sith” (Three years after “Clones” was the third-biggest movie of 2002)
- 2006: “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest” (Three years after the first “Pirates” was the third-biggest movie of 2003)
- 2007: “Spider-Man 3” (Three years after “Spider-Man 2” was the second-biggest grosser of 2004)
- 2008: “The Dark Knight” (Three years after “Batman Begins” was the eighth-biggest hit of 2005)
- 2010: “Toy Story 3” (Eleven years after “Toy Story 2” was the third-biggest hit of 1999)
- 2011: “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2” (One year after “HPATDH Part 1” was the fifth-biggest grosser of 2010)
- 2013: “The Hunger Games: Catching Fire” (One year after “The Hunger Games” was the third-biggest hit of 2012)
Two things you notice about the above: 1) Sequels used to be spaced three years apart and now come more quickly, thanks to CGI; and 2) we're loving our sequels more and more. Or maybe Hollywood's just better at making them. For two decades, in the 1980s and '90s, only four sequels were the year's biggest hit: three “Star Wars” movies and “T2.” But in the last decade? A sequel has been the year's biggest hit every year since 2003 with the exception of 2009 (“Avatar”) and 2012 (“The Avengers”); and you can make an argument for the latter as a sequel.
Anyway, the larger point stands: The Breitbart site seems to be predicting the obvious but is actually predicting something that's never happened. They should have mentioned that in their post.
The above stats are taken from Box Office Mojo, which tracks back only to 1980. Numbers before then are an iffy territory (if they're not now). But if you do go back further, as I did with “The Hollywood Reporter of Box Office Hits,” you'll find one sequel that was the No. 1 box office hit of the year one year removed from its original. “The Bells of St. Mary's,” with Bing Crosby as Father O'Malley, was the No. 1 movie of 1945 the year after “Going My Way,” with Bing Crosby as Father Chuck O'Malley, was the No. 1 movie of 1944.
So it has been done. Once. Seventy years ago.
Breitbart site? It's called research.
Katniss is trying to do what only this man has ever done. But can she sing?
Trailer of the Day: The Last of the Unjust
I could do without the American trailer narration. It's just wrong for this documentary.
Anyone know when it might play Seattle?
Help Me Copy Curmudgeon, You Are My Only Hope
I'm reading “Hollywood” by Garson Kanin on my Kindle and came across this spelling error from amazon.com. It's on the Kindle, too, but not in the book. ATTN: Copy Curmudgeon. Not to mention Mr. B:
“Hollywood” is a lot of fun, by the way. Great stories so far on Samuel Goldwyn. He's a major asshole but he's got personality, and, as we've learned, personality goes a long way.
When Modern Celebrity Began
“It seems so strange that so many people would gather at the train to welcome one they had never seen, only in pictures.”
-- Florence Lawrence, “The Biograph Girl,” and the first designated movie star, after she was mobbed by fans at the St. Louis railroad station in March 1910, as reported in Ty Burr's “Gods Like Us: On Movie Stardom and Modern Fame,” pg. 17. Burr adds: “No one understood what had just happened, least of all the woman at the center of the rapture.” You could say our modern world, with its heavy focus on fame and celebrity, began here.
In Talking Oscars, Breitbart's Big Hollywood Makes Fox News Seem Fair and Balanced
Big Hollywood attributes the Oscar ratings boost to the lack of politics at the event during the Obama years. (Above: First Lady Michelle Obama announces the best picture winner, for “Argo,” in 2013.)
How bad is Breitbart's Big Hollywood site? It makes Fox News look fair and balanced in comparison.
Big Hollywood recently posted an article on the bounce-back ratings for the Academy Awards Sunday night (43 million vs. 32 million in 2008) and attributes it solely to the lack of “boorish, smug, divisive political behavior” from the Hollywood elites during the Obama years. No Michael Moore speeches, no anti-Iraq war speeches, etc. So viewers are tuning in again. “Who would have ever guessed?” John Nolte asks smugly, if not to say divisively, at the end.
The problem? 2008 was also the last year there were five best picture nominees—nominees, by the way, that had long stopped being among the top box-office hits of the year. (See this chart.) That was the whole point of expanding the nominee pool: to get bigger box-office hits among the mix, and thus, hopefully, goose the TV ratings. Do politics, or apolitics, have something to do with the recent ratings boost? Who knows? But for Nolte not to mention the expansion of best picture nominees verges on duplicitous.
The Fox News site, on the other hand, while it gives us a boorish, divisive headline about another Oscar matter (“Academy, Hollywood's failure to recognize 'Lone Survivor' a travesty”), attempts some fair and balanced reporting from James Jay Carafano.
His piece is about how “Lone Survivor,” the Mark Wahlberg/Afghanistan/anti-My Lai picture, garnered no nominations despite some critical and box-office acclaim. Certain right-wing pundits (Sean Hannity) have used this as an example, according to Carafano, of “how liberal Hollywood really hates the military.” Carafano isn't convinced. He brings up “Saving Private Ryan” and “The Hurt Locker,” and echoes the shrug of The National Review's Jonah Goldberg over the controversy.
True, Carafano writes, in over-the-top fashion:
In the annals of American war films, the technical accuracy and realism of this film is unprecedented. In this regard, it is truly a historic cinematic achievement. For Hollywood, not to salute that is a travesty.
But he adds:
That said, it’s simply unfair to label Tinsel Town as a bunch of pathetic pacifists.
(Of course, that's almost like push-journalisim, isn't it? The way that push-polling is about disseminating false facts rather than extracting true information, this could be the same from the journalism side: pretending to be vaguely objective while pushing propaganda points.)
Carafano also gets his numbers wrong.
In the first graf, he compares “Survivor” to “Waterworld,” the 1995 Kevin Costner flick that actually garnered an Oscar nomination (sound editing) even though “Lone Survivor” has none, and even though the Wahlberg flick “also crushed it in ticket sales.”
First, you can create the world's greatest film festival from the movies that never received an Oscar nomination—from 1957 alone: “A Face in the Crowd,” “Paths of Glory” and “Sweet Smell of Success”—so I'd leave that one alone. Second, the numbers are fudged. Yes, “Survivor”'s domestic box office is bigger than “Waterworld” ($123.5 million to $88 million), but when you adjust for inflation “Survivor” is the same while “Waterworld” is on top with $169 million. And that doesn't even take into account international box office, where “Waterworld” grossed $175 million in 1995 (unadjusted) and “Survivor” grossed exactly zero dollars this past year, because it hasn't been released overseas. Will it ever? Who knows? Maybe Universal feels it won't play in Europe. Or Asia. Or anywhere but here. There's a story there.
In the end, the handwringing over “Lone Survivor”'s zero noms is overdone. It's an OK movie but hardly great. For all of these reasons.
“Wait, we didn't make as much as 'Waterworld'?”
Yankees Suck Reason #38: Keeping Vic Power in the Minors
Vic Power had his best years with the Athletics in 1955, when he hit .319 and slugged .505, with 34 doubles, 10 triples and 19 homers.
John Rosengren, who has written two previous books on baseball, has now published a third: “The Fight of Their Lives: How Juan Marichal and John Roseboro Turned Baseball's Ugliest Brawl into a Story of Forgiveness and Redemption.” It's worth checking out. (Disclosure: Rosengren's a friend.)
Most baseball fans know about the incident. In the midst of a tight pennant race in August 1965, Juan Marichal, a future Hall of Fame pitcher, who was at the plate, took a baseball bat to the head of catcher John Roseboro. Rosengren's book is the story behind those 10 seconds of infamy.
The most interesting aspect of the book, though, may be the sections on the history of dark-skinned Latinos integrating the Majors after Jackie. It includes yet another stellar moment in Yankees history:
Vic Power (né Victor Pellot Pove), a dark-skinned infielder from Puerto Rico, had married a light-skinned Hispanic woman, but when he drove her around Kansas City—where he played for the Athletics in 1955—police regularly stopped him to question him about the white woman in the passenger seat. Another time, after Power bought a Coke at a gas station in Florida, the attendant boarded the team bus and demanded that Power return the bottle. Power complied with some choice words. A patrol car soon pulled over the bus, and the officer arrested Power for profanity. Power’s teammates posted bail of $500 but warned him not to go back for the trial. “What kind of country is this?” Power asked.
America’s team gave him his answer. Power batted .330 and drove in 109 runs for the New York Yankees’ AAA team in 1952, but the parent club did not promote him. The next year, Power won the American Association batting title with his .349 average but still didn’t get called up. Knowing that Power’s stylish play and his relationship with a white woman (whom he would soon marry) might ruffle the team’s staid fan base, Yankees general manager George Weiss said Power wasn’t the “right kind” of black man to integrate the Yankees. The team’s traveling secretary Bill McCorry was more blunt: “No nigger will have a berth on any train I’m running.” Yankee president Dan Topping tried to justify the team’s decision by labeling Power a “poor fielder.”
Once Power finally did get a crack at the big leagues after the Yankees traded him to the Philadelphia Athletics in 1954, the infielder went on to win seven Gold Gloves ...
For the record, the Yankees were the unlucky 13th of the original 16 teams to integrate (in 1955 with Elston Howard), behind only the Phillies ('57), Tigers ('58) and Red Sox ('59), and despite the other New York teams being the first (Dodgers in '47) and fourth (Giants in '49) to move the country, the culture, and the world forward.
Nikki Finke on What We'll Be Watching in Five Years
“It will all blur, now that you’ve got Netflix and Amazon and everything. I think a lot of it is going to blur. It used to be you only wanted to be in a movie. If you couldn’t be in a movie you wanted to be in a network series. If you couldn’t be in a network series, then maybe HBO. Because remember, you’re not getting paid as much for all these things. And then cable. In five years, you’re not even going to be aware of where the hell you’re watching, if it’s broadcast, if it’s cable, if it’s Netflix. TV is getting so smart right now and the platforms on your phone and your iPad and everything, you’re just watching. You’re not even going to be aware what it is, you’re just watching.”
-- Nikki Finke, in “Nikki Finke: The Kindle Singles Interview” by David Blum. I read it in about an hour. Pretty interesting. She's particularly good on the studios and studio chiefs, and who greenlit what, and who was a bastard to whom, all of which I know almost nothing about. I particularly like the last line of the quote above. Reminds me of Chance the Gardener.
“Democracy is so overrated.”
Twitter: @ErikLundegaardTweets by @ErikLundegaard