Saturday, January 19, 2019

Docs for Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day

For all the irritations, disruptions and scandals happening today, we need to spend a moment and spiritually refresh by remembering the advances we've made. If, during my college years in the 1970s, anyone had said that there would be a national American holiday in order of a black man's birth and that a black man would be elected to two terms in the White House as President of the United States, that probably would've been dialogue in a sitcom as the set-up for a laugh. But President Barack Obama was elected to two terms in the White House. That achievement owed thanks to the hard-fought battle for Civil Rights peacefully led by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Now, we honor the slain leader's birth as a national holiday in January.
There's a film critic named Owen Gleiberman. He's been in that game for over 20 years. He wrote for Entertainment Weekly, I saw him do reviews on local TV news in New York City and now he writes for Variety. The end of the year list of the year's 10 or 20 best films is an annual compilation from movie critics. Last month, former president Obama put out his list and a good one it was. He picked some of the same movies notable film critics and celebrated filmmakers picked. However, Owen Gleiberman wrote an article in which he expressed his feelings that Mr. Obama's list was "too good for its own good." Some of Mr. Obama's favorite films were ROMA, THE RIDER, BLACK PANTHER, SUPPORT THE GIRLS, IF BEALE STREET COULD TALK, BLACKkKLANSMAN, WON'T YOU BE MY NEIGHBOR? (the Mister Rogers documentary) and LEAVE NO TRACE. Films from black, Asian, Mexican and women directors. But Owen implied that Obama's list was too upscale. Owen never said that about lists from the white critics at The New York Times. His January 1, 2019 Variety article on Barack Obama's Year-End Movie List went on add that Obama's list was not "mainstream" enough and, like his presidency, never delivered a promised "audacity."

We have a former reality game show TV host, a man of no prior political experience, now sitting in the White House and determined to erase President Obama's legacy. Network news reported that Trump called Africa "a shit-hole country." He got on-camera praise from a KKK leader during the Charlottesville racial conflict. Unarmed black men shot multiple times and killed by police who claimed "I feared for my life" sparked a Black Lives Matter movement. White racist Dylann Roof walked into a church, shot and killed in black people in a prayer service and he was taken into police custody unharmed. Oh. And if I was interviewing Owen Gleiberman on a live TV news program and asked him to name five white film critics he's seen frequently on TV, he could. If I asked him to name five black film critics he's seen frequently on TV, he could not. Why? Because it's been difficult for us black broadcasters to get hired as film critics and film hosts on TV. That field on TV has been segregated for decades. So, just how audacious did Caucasian Owen Gleiberman of Variety expect Barack Obama to be as the first black person elected  President of the United States?
With all that in mind, here are some viewing tips from me to watch in honor of the MARTIN LUTHER KING, JR. Day weekend. Check your HBO listings for this first one. It's gripping and gives you insight into Dr. Martin Luther King we didn't get in other specials. This one delves into the extreme emotional and psychological weight he carried in his uphill battle for Civil Rights. America is a nation that's had a history of killing black people for being "audacious" or "uppity" or educated. Tell Owen Gleiberman to watch this documentary. I'm glad he loved GREEN BOOK (not on Mr. Obama's list) but he should see this too.

It's called KING IN THE WILDERNESS. I've seen it on HBO. It's powerful. Here's a trailer.
Another feature I first saw on HBO is SING YOUR SONG. It's an informative, revealing documentary about one of Dr. King's close friends, Harry Belafonte. The singer/actor and activist is also seen in the KING IN THE WILDERNESS documentary. Belafonte can currently be seen in one of the strongest sequences of Spike Lee's BLACKkKLANSMAN.

Harry Belafonte was the first black person to guest host the TONIGHT Show for one week. That was in 1968. He booked Dr. Martin Luther King as a guest. Some footage is in KING IN THE WILDERNESS and also in SING YOUR SONG. Dr. King was assassinated a couple of months after his TONIGHT Show appearance with Mr. Belafonte.

Here's a trailer for 2011's SING YOUR SONG.

Thanks for your time and have a good, significant Dr. Martin Luther King Day.




Friday, January 18, 2019

Glenn Close is THE WIFE

I've been a Glenn Close fan ever since I saw her in 1982's THE WORLD ACCORDING TO GARP. That was her first film. I had my first TV job then and interviewed her during the press junket for the movie. She recently won a couple of Best Actress awards for her work in a drama called THE WIFE. I saw the film last night. After all these years of enjoying Glenn Close in dramas, comedies and musicals on film, TV and Broadway. here's what I have to say about her new film: Lord, have mercy! What a terrific performance! In THE WIFE, Glenn Close slams across one of the best performances of her entire film career.
When she won the Golden Globes Best Actress honor over Lady Gaga, you may not have been as familiar with THE WIFE as you are with Gaga's box office champ, the newest Warner Bros. remake of A STAR IS BORN. THE WIFE is more of an arthouse film, but don't let that scare you off. It's worth seeing, especially if you're a fellow Glenn Close fan. Also, hers is not the only good performance in the film. There's solid work from Jonathan Pryce as the pompous husband, Christian Slater as smoothly calculating biographer and there's a nice, juicy turn from brunette Elizabeth McGovern (ORDINARY PEOPLE, RAGTIME) as a wise non-best-selling novelist.

Just about everything you need to know about the renowned writer husband's personality is compactly communicated in the first five minutes of the movie. We see a senior couple of obviously comfortable living in their tastefully appointed bedroom. She's in bed. She wakes up when he enters, eating a late night snack. He gets under the covers and wants to get it on. She tells him that she was asleep. She's not really in the mood. He casually dismisses that and tells her that she just needs to "lie there" for his pleasure. Joe Castleman (Pryce) is an intellectual native New Yorker, the kind of person who loves to passive-aggressively impress you with his knowledge and loves praise-filled attention as much as he loves the sound of his own voice. He's a best-selling novelist who hopes to get a call informing him that he's won the Nobel Prize for Literature. With his accommodating wife just lying there, he begins some Caucasian NPR-like sex. Have you ever listened to National Public Radio hosts during the week? The husband starts off with a little dirty talk to get her sexually aroused. One of the words he uses is "tumescent."
He gets the call from the Nobel committee. In congratulatory celebrations at home and in receptions in Stockholm, we see Joe publicly flatter Joanie, his very charming and attractive wife. However, he really treats her like a supporting player instead of his leading lady. The visual design and costuming have a generous use of muted colors. Perfect color choices. The wife seems to have been muted by the marriage. But she needn't have been. Close shows you that, behind the muted appearance, Joanie is a woman who has wit, talent, compassion, fire and she's got the sophisticated, underplayed sexual charisma that her vain husband thinks he has.

Joe has crafted an image of the gracious. good guy intellectual in public. In private, he's an absolute prick to their adult son, himself an aspiring writer. He's also a prick to the biographer who also travels on the same flight to Stockholm. The biographer intends to write a book on the novelist. He's a manipulator who senses that getting to know the wife and the son will reveal more about the husband than the husband would ever reveal about himself. The biographer also wants to write something that will be a best-seller. Joanie is polite to the biographer and has a cocktail with him. She's also hip and, in her elegant way, can outmaneuver him like General Patton in a designer scarf. But there is that one question from the biographer about Joe that stings: "Did he encourage you to keep writing?"
Joe and Joanie met in college in the 1950s. She was a writing student of great promise. He was her married professor. Joanie became his second wife. We see this history presented in flashbacks. That portion feels a bit clich├ęd, like in a Lifetime TV movie, but it doesn't handicap the overall strength of the film. Joe becomes an acclaimed, financially successful American novelist. During his Nobel Prize acceptance speech at the dinner event, he gushes about how great his wife has been. This is the kind of moment that keeps his "good guy" image vibrant. But Joanie starts to unmute. She's had enough of being in his supporting cast. Joanie turns off the mute button. The resulting action is loud. It's ugly. It's strong. It's fascinating to see.  THE WIFE is a reminder to women to find independent fulfillment in their lives and it's an understanding embrace of those loving, loyal wives who didn't.
I'm positive that the producers and film company realized right off that it had Oscar contender work from Glenn Close in this film. I read a rave review of it in The Guardian in September 2017. Critic Peter Bradshaw wrote "Close gives arguably her best ever performance in an adaptation of Meg Wolitzer's novel." But the film company held off on releasing it in the U.S. that season. When the Oscar nominations were announced in January 2018, three of the five nominees for Best Actress were Saoirse Ronan for LADY BIRD, Meryl Streep for THE POST and Frances McDormand for THREE BILLBOARDS OUTSIDE EBBING, MISSOURI. McDormand was the big winner. I think it was a clever move on the film company's part to wait for a 2018 release date.

Give Glenn Close the Best Actress Oscar right now. That's how I rate her performance in THE WIFE. Starting with THE WORLD ACCORDING TO GARP, she's been nominated for the Oscar six times. Her other Oscar nominations were received for THE BIG CHILL, THE NATURAL, FATAL ATTRACTION, DANGEROUS LIASONS and ALBERT NOBBS.  It's about time Glenn Close took home some Hollywood gold -- and she really deserves it for THE WIFE.

Thursday, January 17, 2019

She Got a Male Virgin Before Judd Apatow Did

Here's some Women In Film information that I've written before that bears repeating.  Why? Because I'm in full support of women directors and their history, a history that has often been overlooked and ignored.  Some may not even be aware of the history. Like the history of filmmaker Muriel Box.  I think successful director and writer Judd Apatow may be in the category of the "unaware."  Apatow was a happy dude in Hollywood in 2005 when the comedy he directed and co-wrote, THE 40 YEAR OLD VIRGIN, was a hit. The comedy starred Steve Carell in the title role.  Judd Apatow was a guest on ABC's daytime chat show, THE VIEW, on January 16th.
Mr. Apatow was there to tell us about a sitcom production of his that returns soon to HBO.  In addition to THE 40 YEAR OF VIRGIN, he directed KNOCKED UP starring Seth Rogen and TRAINWRECK starring Amy Schumer.  Disney is the parent company now to ABC and ABC has been giving us a rollercoaster ride of sex-related programming lately. Young women pursuing a male virgin bachelor. A look back at the sexually painful John Wayne Bobbitt story. A look back at the Monica Lewinski and Bill Clinton extra-marital sex scandal.  The current Caucasian male cutie pie to be THE BACHELOR has the hook of being a self-proclaimed virgin. At daybreak, on GOOD MORNING AMERICA, and in late night, on JIMMY KIMMEL LIVE!, he's proudly promoted his virginity while plugging the network's love connection reality show.  The undeflowered beefcake bachelor, of course, has been a topic on THE VIEW.  A few minutes before he appeared on the set with the ladies, Judd Apatow looked into the camera and bellowed to us viewers that he presented a male virgin over 21 years of age long before this current season of ABC's THE BACHELOR. He was referring to his 2005 comedy starring Steve Carell.
A woman beat Judd Apatow to a 40 year old male virgin before he showed us one onscreen.  And she did it in 1964.  There's little talk about British film director Muriel Box here in America. That needs to change.  She took a large and significant step into the uninviting, sexist territory of the filmmaking boys' club.  Muriel Box and her then-husband, Sydney Box, won Oscars in the Best Original Screenplay category for the 1945 psychological drama, THE SEVENTH VEIL, starring James Mason. After winning an Oscar for Best Original Screenplay, Muriel Box turned her talents to directing. She directed her first film in 1949.  Muriel Box directed films starring Glynis Johns, Donald Pleasance, Sir Ralph Richardson, Julie Harris, Laurence Harvey, Van Johnson, Peter Finch and Shelley Winters. That's an impressive group of celebrated talent right there for a woman director who gets little attention.  Here's a photo of director/screenwriter Muriel Box (left) directing Shelley Winters (right) in the 1954 comedy, CASH ON DELIVERY.
The last film directed by Muriel Box was RATTLE OF A SIMPLE MAN based on the popular play of the same name that entertained audiences in London and on Broadway.  In 1964's RATTLE OF A SIMPLE MAN, a shy guy of 40 is in London with his buddies to see a big sports match.  The fellows have a festive night out on the town and the shy guy meets a prostitute who takes him to her apartment. Diane Cilento (Best Supporting Actress Oscar nominee for her role opposite Albert Finney in 1963's TOM JONES) played the sweet prostitute who wins his heart.
From what I've read, the late Muriel Box had a rough go of it in her 1950s career as a British director solely because she was a woman. But she persevered.  She died in 1991.
And there you have it. A little history on a Woman In Film who took a grown man's virginity years before Judd Apatow did.

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Why We Miss Mr. Rogers

He was a white, Republican, ordained minister. And I loved him. So did millions of others. He led us to bring out the best in ourselves and he did this in a simple, low-budgeted, educational TV show for children.  I never knew until I watched a documentary last night that Fred Rogers was Republican and an ordained minister. Even though he was Republican, others Republicans turned on him. President Richard Nixon, no friend of the media, wanted to drastically -- if not totally -- cut the funding to the educational show.  Fox News anchors blamed him for a generation of children feeling that it was special. But he did feel that all children are special. He whole-heartedly believed in the Christian principle to "Love thy neighbor."  Trust me on this, if you want to refresh your faith in people and see the strength that it takes to keep kindness in action, if you're not afraid to let a tear or two roll down your face, take 90 minutes to watch the 2018 documentary WON'T YOU BE MY NEIGHBOR?  Directed by Morgan Neville, it guides us into the legacy, lessons and life of the beloved television host.
I was a latchkey kid. Mom and Dad had fulltime jobs and had to leave for work early in the morning. I was the last to leave the house and my parents had thoroughly drilled me on how to make sure all the lights were turned off, the stove was turned off and the doors were locked before I left for my walk to St elementary school. I would leave the house at half past CAPTAIN KANGAROO.  That was 7:30 in the morning. Hosts of kids' shows were like grown-up friends who loved cartoons and puppets as much as you did.  Captain Kangaroo, Shari Lewis on NBC and -- locally on Los Angeles television -- Sheriff John, Engineer Bill, Skipper Frank and Hobo Kelly.
MISTER ROGERS' NEIGHBORHOOD, a simple and substantial children's show, premiered in that most turbulent and horrible year, 1968. I was in high school. 1968 made me afraid of my future in America. The Vietnam War, which drafted millions of black and Latino working class young men, waged on and seemed to be the lead story every weeknight on the network evening news. Dr. Martin Luther King was assassinated. Two months later, presidential candidate Sen. Robert F. Kennedy was assassinated. I had seen him in person just two days before when he came to campaign near our high school in Watts. The entire student body was so keyed up about his appearance that the principal dismissed classes early so we could dash to see him. I was one of many students running gleefully behind his convertible as he arrived, fueled by the hope he gave us. That hope disappeared when he was killed. From that time to right after the Sept. 11th attacks, Fred Rogers provided spiritual comfort and a soothing voice in frightening times for kids. He could also be loopy and silly and make us laugh. Behind the scenes, he could be formidable without being mean. He had regard for people and diversity. He embraced tolerance. He gently motivated you to pay attention, to be silent for a moment and go within. That is a lost art nowadays. A simple yet powerful exercise.
In the documentary, we hear from co-workers and relatives. We hear about the bawdy prank a stagehand pulled on Mr. Rogers. We hear about the heartbreak in Fred Rogers' youth that surely influenced the vulnerability of his TV persona. We see his simple lesson about racial equality and fairness in the 1960s when black people were not allowed in some public swimming pools. We learn about his friendship with a cast member who was black and gay. That's a significant section.  Their work and friendship was at a time in our American history when, if news had leaked out that the gifted and popular cast member was gay, MISTER ROGERS' NEIGHBORHOOD could have lost two major sponsors (which are named). It was groundbreaking just for him to be black on the show.  American TV execs were not ready for someone to be black AND gay. That attitude towards gay performers still existed in the early 80s when I started my TV career. 

Fred Rogers understood that childhood is often the blueprint for the rest of your life. Some of those early wounds in your heart have not healed when you are well into your adult years.
I fell in love with classic films when I was in grade school. When summer vacation rolled around, I could watch old movies -- especially Fred Astaire musicals -- on TV in the daytime. For me that was Heaven. I'd even asked my parents if I could take dance classes because I was so fascinated with Fred Astaire. But I think my parents were of the generation that felt dance classes were for girls, the outdoors were for boys. They asked me if I wanted to go to summer camp. 8 days in the San Bernardino mountains thanks to the local Boys' Club chapter.  I said "No."  Mom kept gently pushing. I kept saying "No." Then Dad took me aside one afternoon and said in a friendly fashion, "Your mom really wants you to go to summer camp."

The next thing I knew, I was on a bus from 120th and Central Avenue to the woods in the San Bernardino mountains.  There was not one whole day that I enjoyed because I did not want to be there. Not only that, I had a near-death experience. I almost drowned in a lake. Blessedly, I was rescued. The best day was the day we boarded the busses for the 2-hour ride back home.

I'd been gone 8 days.8 days. When the busses pulled into the Boys' Club parking lot, parents were waving and cheering and waiting by the family cars to take boys home.

Guess whose parents forget to pick him up? Over 30 minutes later, I was sitting with my little suitcase and my outdoor jacket waiting for my parents. It was heavy jacket for the camping trip. One of the club counselors asked me if I had anyone coming for me. He gave me change to use the pay phone. I called home. My aunt was babysitting my little sister. Aunt Ruby said, "Your parents went to go look at some furniture."

Mom and Dad had gone to the Wilshire district to look at new furniture. It was a Friday afternoon. It must've been like a scene in HOME ALONE when Mom gasped "Bobby!" and they remembered I was returning that day. They hit serious Friday rush hour traffic and, by the time they got to the Boys Club, I had put on the heavy jacket, picked up my little suitcase and took the half mile walk home in the summer heat. The club was right next door to my school.

My wonderful sister remembers this incident and recalls that neither Mom or Dad apologized to me when they zoomed home from the Boys' Club. They blamed the lateness on each other and said, "Why didn't you wait?"  I had waited. Nearly one hour. I was under the age of 10 and felt like I took second place to home furnishings.

I know there's a sitcom vibe to that true story. But it did hurt for a long, long time. And, to be honest, a bit of that went into my desire to work on TV. I wanted to do something that would make my parents see me and regard me as special.

Fred Rogers understood this about people. He understood that so many of us -- kids and grown-ups -- just want a hug and don't know how to ask for it. He felt that way himself. That's why, to him, all kids were special.  See WON'T YOU BE MY NEIGHBOR? It's beautiful and poignant.




Sunday, January 13, 2019

I Love FRESH OFF THE BOAT

OK, I'm just going to blunt right up front. If Jennifer Aniston has several Emmy nominations for her sitcom acting on FRIENDS, then Constance Wu of ABC's FRESH OFF THE BOAT should have at least one. Constance Wu is fabulous and one of the funniest sitcom moms I've seen on a network in ages. If only ABC would give that show as much promotion during GOOD MORNING AMERICA as GMA gave trumpeting the reboot arrival of ROSEANNE until...well, you heard what happened. I was overjoyed that Ms. Wu got a Golden Globe nomination for surprise box office champ, CRAZY RICH ASIANS. The success of that film put a spotlight on her that ABC should have back in 2015 when FRESH OFF THE BOAT made its debut. The sitcom is loosely based on the memoir of young hipster chef/restauranteur and COOKING CHANNEL host, Eddie Huang. Constance Wu plays the over-achiever mom of young Eddie on the sitcom. Her deadpan comic delivery is an artform.
Here's where ABC publicity has dropped the ball on FRESH OFF THE BOAT. Randall Park plays the dad on the sitcom.  I've been a fan of his for years. I always noticed him in TV commercials and in episodes of other shows like VEEP on HBO. When I read that FRESH OFF THE BOAT was in production for ABC and I read he was the lead male actor, I was thrilled. For one thing, it had been 20 years since we'd seen a sitcom about an Asian-American family. Margaret Cho broke ground with her ALL-AMERICAN GIRL on ABC in 1994. Unfortunately, execs tried to make her characters more Caucasian-like than Asian-American. It lasted a year. ABC announced FRESH OFF THE BOAT for the 2015 season.
Remember back during the Christmas season of 2014 when a Seth Rogan and James Franco comedy movie called THE INTERVIEW was making network news? In the movie, the host and producer of a TV tabloid show fly to North Korea to interview Kim Jong-un. They hear he's a fan of the show. That caused some real-life friction and our network news anchors reported that North Korea threatened to attack movie theaters showing THE INTERVIEW. ABC World News Tonight reported on this several times and, each time, it was always mentioned that Seth Rogan and James Franco were the stars of the film. I saw the film. The movie really snaps to life thanks to the wildly funny and somewhat touching performance of Randall Park as Kim Jong-un. Randall Park steals the movie. But no ABC news anchor ever mentioned that Randall Park also starred in the film as Kim Jong-un and, in a few months, would be seen on ABC's new sitcom, FRESH OFF THE BOAT. He's terrific on the sitcom and he's never been nominated for an Emmy either.
FRESH OFF THE BOAT premiered on Tuesdays. Now it's on Friday nights. Constance Wu and Randall Park break me up every single episode.  The parents, the kids, the grandmother -- I love that family. Here's a clip.
I wish ABC would realize how special and groundbreaking FRESH OFF THE BOAT is. And Constance Wu is comedy gold.
If you want to see Randall Park as Kim Jong-un, THE INTERVIEW is currently on Netflix.

Saturday, January 12, 2019

I Sat with THE SOPRANOS

The table-read. This is when all the performers in a given project, the lead actors down to the bit players who may have one to five lines, get together seated at a table and read-through the script aloud before going on to shoot it later. I was extremely lucky. I sat through two table-reads for episodes of THE SOPRANOS because I had bit parts in two episodes.  This week marked the 20th anniversary of the show's premiere on HBO. What an original, provocative, memorable, brutal and brilliant show.  It was a landmark television series. And what a cast.
I auditioned only once for THE SOPRANOS.  On my way to the audition, I had no idea what the show's real nature truly was.  An agent's trainee/assistant called me with the audition. She called me in the morning and told me the audition was happening that afternoon.  She said that the casting call was for an interviewer/narrator on a show called THE SOPRANOS for HBO.  On the phone, she said, "I bet it's something like THE THREE TENORS with the classical singers on PBS. You can handle this because you like the arts."  She added that the scripts would be at the audition.  So I made sure I'd get there extra, extra early.

I arrived. There was a card marked "Interviewer" and I picked up a copy of the script. I sat down to read it. When I turned to the second page, the page where dialogue for the Interviewer started, I saw the words "Big Pussy Speaks" written across the top of the page in bold black Magic Marker ink.  Of course, I immediately thought, "Oh, this cannot be for me at all." I was positive that agent's trainee had unwittingly booked me to audition for a porno project on cable TV.  That was...until I read the script. My character was to do a news program interview of an author who wrote about mob activity in the Tri-State area.
I didn't get the part for that episode but the casting people liked me and cast me to play a local news co-anchor for an Season 1 episode called "Nobody Knows Anything."  A real anchor from local TV's New York One cable news, very popular in Manhattan, was cast as my co-anchor. We both attended the table-read.

I remember that evening vividly. We were scheduled to start at 6:00pm on a sunny evening in Manhattan on the corner of Prince and Broadway, directly across the street from Dean & Deluca. I got to the building about 5:45 and saw a group of actors chatting outside. I assumed (correctly) that I'd be a part of their read-through group. A few of them were actors I'd seen frequently in my Chelsea neighborhood because there were casting offices in that area. I didn't know James Gandolfini's name but I recognized him from the movies ANGIE and GET SHORTY. I'd seen him in the neighborhood a lot. Edie Falco I recognized from the New York theater scene. Michael Imperioli had a side business one block down from my apartment. I'd see him opening shop just about every week in the mornings. And big Steven Schirripa was a well-known face from TV and films.  When we got downstairs, actress Nancy Marchand was at the table. She looked a bit frail and she had a portable compact oxygen device to help her breathe.

I think of that evening often because it was weeks before THE SOPRANOS premiered on HBO. Just six months later, those actors would not have been able to just mill around on the corner of Prince and Broadway in late afternoon daylight because they would have been surrounded by TV fans.

As for the table-read, as soon as we started, Nancy Marchand took the breathing device off her face and. seemingly by sheer force of will, transformed herself into the strong and formidable mother of Tony Soprano.   I was sitting right next to Annika Pergament, the news anchor playing my co-anchor. About five or six pages into the table-read, Annika and I looked at each with awe. We instantly knew what each other was thinking: "This writing is phenomenal."

Listening to that dialogue, experiencing that writing, was like hearing Jimi Hendrix play for the first time. It was amazing new music to the ears that absolutely rocked.

One thing you could tell from the actors in the group who we later saw as regulars on THE SOPRANOS. They were in it for the love of the art. They loved acting. They loved acting with each other. And they loved good writing.  It's funny about life and careers. I often think of those few minutes watching them casually chat outside on the corner before going in for the table-read. Folks just passed right by them. Within six months, that would all change. Within six months, they'd all be some of the most popular new stars on national television in one of the best shows of the last twenty years.

One last thing: When I read my first line at the read-through, it got a laugh. It was not a comedy line and I was not trying to be funny, but the news anchor's comment on the bordello story had a typical New Yorker droll vibe.  James Gandolfini turned around in his chair to see who delivered the line. He looked at me, smiled and gave me a "good work" nod."

That will always be one of the best reviews I've ever received in my career.

Friday, January 11, 2019

BLACKkKLANSMAN, a Spike Lee Classic

You know  this is true: Spike Lee is one of the most recognizable, most respected and most influential filmmakers here in the U.S. and overseas.  I have proudly spent money to see his films since the 1980s.
"With the right white man, we can do anything." That is a line from his current film, a line of dialogue that broke me up laughing in the movie theater because...well, it's true. The line was delivered by actor John David Washington who also delivers one hell of a good performance as real-life character Ron Stallworth.  My buddy Scott Simon interviewed Ron Stallworth last year on NPR's Weekend Edition. Stallworth talked about his memoir that served as the basis for BLACKkKLANSMAN from director/writer Spike Lee.
Yes. This is based on a true American story.  A black detective went undercover and joined the KKK.  To me, this film is brilliant and blistering in its timeliness.
I have an Academy Award hope for Spike Lee. And I have a few words about another filmmaker who posted a rave review on Twitter about BLACKkKLANSMAN after a preview screening. That fellow filmmaker is Barbra Streisand.

Docs for Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day

For all the irritations, disruptions and scandals happening today, we need to spend a moment and spiritually refresh by remembering the adva...