Friday, January 18, 2013

Bobby Rivers on Films

Last October, I had a great day in New York City.  A great day and a bright opportunity to pull myself up out of the ashes of this Recession.  I co-hosted a pilot for a proposed weekly TV show.  If, Heaven willing, it gets picked up, I could be doing work that I love -- work that puts a spotlight on films, new and classic. It would also put a spotlight on filmmakers, known and trying to be known.  I've blogged previously that I've been passionate about integrating the field of film critics, commentators, historians and hosts that we see on television.  As I wrote in an earlier blog entry this month, "On Film Critics and Color/TV," that field needs some color.  It's been whiter than the Christmas party at Fox News.  Diversity benefits the arts and film is an art.  Diversity can bring needed enlightenment to Hollywood and other areas of the arts.

Entertainment journalist Gene Seymour and I saw the light comedy 2 Days in New York.  It was directed by and stars Julie Delpy.  Her leading man is Chris Rock.
They're a couple.  They live together with their kids from previous relationships.  Mingus works on National Public Radio.  Marion is a photographer from France.  Both their last good nerves are worked by her visiting French relatives.  This movie tickled me.  And it felt fresher than another new film out at that time -- Woody Allen's To Rome With Love.

Here's a clip of Gene and me discussing Julie Delpy's comedy:

How many times have you seen a black man on TV praising the work of a female filmmaker and also discussing the works of Woody Allen?  By the way, To Rome With Love gave me that "I've seen this before" feeling.  Ellen Page was a re-do of Diane Keaton's Manhattan character, Alec Baldwin was like the Bernadette Peters muse in Alice, Jesse Eisenberg was like a male version of Mia Farrow as Alice and Woody Allen was a bit like his Broadway Danny Rose character.  To Rome With Love was like reheated leftovers from a good Italian meal served with a nice discount wine.  Delpy gave me a Manhattan and characters I know but don't often see in a comedy.  I liked that.

There was scant racial diversity in the combined group of movie critics and entertainment contributors seen on Today, CBS This Morning, Good Morning America and PBS' The Charlie Rose Show the day the Oscar nominations were announced.  Making that group more diverse could've opened the way for more information and insight.  For instance:  Men rarely get Oscar nominations for roles in musicals.  Especially in the Best Actor race.  Hugh did it.  He joins Yul Brynner (winner) for 1956's The King and I, Rex Harrison (winner) for My Fair Lady and Ron Moody for Oliver!  Each film was nominated for Best Picture.  My Fair Lady (1964) and Oliver! (1968) won the Oscar.  Hugh Jackman is a Best Actor Oscar nominee for Les Misérables.  The movie musical is up for Best Picture.
For those classic musicals, both Yul Brynner and Rex Harrison won their Oscars over actors nominated for historic biopic dramatic performances, as Daniel Day-Lewis is for Lincoln.

With his Best Actor nomination for Flight, Denzel Washington is now the black actor with the most Oscar nominations to his credit.  He has 6.  Morgan Freeman has 5.  Quevenzhané Wallis makes history as the youngest female ever to be nominated for Best Actress and the youngest black actor to be nominated an  Oscar...period.  The Beasts of the Southern Wild star is 9 years old.

On the day of the Oscar nominations none of the network morning news shows nor Charlie Rose had a black film critic/entertainment journalist present to add to the comments about Best Picture nominee Django Unchained, Quentin Tarantino's racially controversial western about slavery in the Deep South.  One point of controversy about Tarantino's box office champ, which he wrote, is extreme use of the N-word.

Here's some trivia for you:  The youngest male to get an Oscar nomination for Best Actor was Jackie Cooper.  He was 9 and nominated for Skippy (1931).  In 1933's The Bowery, directed by Raoul Walsh, he played a street kid in the New York City of the 1890's.  The film stars Wallace Beery and George Raft.  Young Cooper uses the N-word in the first ten minutes.  His character and Beery's character both use a degrading term for the Chinese.  And they don't have a high regard for women.  That's in the first ten minutes.  In fact, the story opens taking us into a saloon called "N*gger Joe's."  The 1931 romantic drama starring Janet Gaynor, Daddy Long Legs, opens with orphans saying the N-word in a nursery rhyme.   That was Hollywood before the Production Code.

In the Golden Globes ceremony, Jodie Foster received a special honor.  She's another actress who walked through a door kicked open by the late film/TV star Ida Lupino.

Jodie Foster, Penny Marshall, Barbra Streisand, Julie Delpy and Joan Darling are directors.  Lupino, a top Hollywood actress who started giving solid performances in the 1930s and '40s, became a groundbreaking 1950s and '60s film director while continuing her acting career.  She'd get all gorgeous for a movie role, she'd go behind the camera and call the shots.  She was greatly respected.  She strode into the boys' club of TV and directed episodes of westerns (Have Gun - Will Travel, The Rifleman, The Virginian), dramas (Twilight Zone, The Untouchables, The Fugitive, Honey West, Dr. Kildare, Alfred Hitchcock Presents) and sitcoms (Gilligan's Island, Bewitched, The Ghost & Mrs. Muir).  I wished Jodie Foster would've thanked pioneer Lupino in her acceptance speech on Sunday.  I wished Kathryn Bigelow would've thanked her when she won her historic Oscar for Best Director (The Hurt Locker).  I'd like to ask TV viewers to help me get a Women In Film award and scholarship started in Ida Lupino's name.  Hollywood should honor her memory and major achievements in Hollywood women's history.  For many years, this movie and television star was also the only working female director in town.
Said Lupino, "I'd love to see more women working as directors and producers."  Imagine how proud and thrilled she would've been to see Kathryn Bigelow win that Best Director Academy Award.  Ida Lupino died in 1995.  One of her best movie performances airs Saturday night, January 19th on TCM (Turner Classic Movies).  She rocks The Big Knife, a tough 1955 Hollywood drama co-starring Jack Palance, Rod Steiger and Shelley Winters.  Those co-stars won Oscars in their film careers.  Ida was never even nominated.

If you didn't recognize the name Joan Darling, I'm sure you've seen her classic and memorable sitcom work on network television.  Or you've heard of it, at least.
Joan Darling was a director for The Mary Tyler Moore Show.
Joan Darling made dealing with a co-worker's funeral service hysterically funny in the 1975 episode, "Chuckles Bites the Dust."  One of the best episodes ever.
That was her directorial debut.  Darling went on to direct episodes of Rhoda, M*A*S*H, Taxi, Magnum, P.I. with Tom Selleck and Doogie Howser, M.D. 

I'm extremely proud of our film review/interview show pilot.  I loved doing it.  I was honored and proud to work with Gene.  Wish us luck finding sponsors.  I believe our show could bring some much-needed diversity to an area of the broadcast arts.  It could inspire young people to appreciate the art of classic films too.  I'd really dig that.


  1. Wow...what a great post. I am hoping this will all come through for you. It would be great to see you on TV again. I really like the history/film/classics idea very much.

  2. I do hope the pilot gets picked up. Right now there is a shortage of good shows analysing film. And as you pointed out, there is very little diversity with regards to film critics on television.

    With regards to Ida Lupino, I'd love to see a Women In Film award and scholarship started in her name. For that matter, I would love to see Miss Lupino receive a posthumous Emmy for her career as a television director. She was not only a very prolific director in television, but also a very good one. I remember many of the episodes she directed of Thriller and Have Gun--Will Travel. They stood out from episodes directed by others!

    1. I read some Richard Boone quotes in which he praised her to the skies. You are so right. In fact, you inspired my following blog -- Overlooked by Emmys.

  3. I love Julie Delpy. She is very underrated as a filmmaker - both as a director and a screenwriter. She was nominated for an Oscar as a co-writer for Best Adapted Screenplay for 2004's BEFORE SUNSET. I saw her on stage at the Tribeca Film Festival back in 2007 for a discussion on women's roles in film. You can tell she is very articulate, and she took time to talk to fans and sign autographs and take pictures. Yes, good luck with the TV show and let us know how it goes!

  4. Thomas, did you know that Julie Delpy got rave reviews last week from critics at Sundance who screened BEFORE MIDNIGHT, her new film with Ethan Hawke?


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