Tuesday, January 31, 2017

2 Lane Men in HAIL, CAESAR!

HBO aired the Hollywood satire HAIL, CAESAR! over the weekend.  It's by the Coen Brothers.  That writing/directing team is, on the whole,  loved more by high-tone movie critics than by mainstream moviegoers.  Ever since I saw 1994's THE HUDSUCKER PROXY, I could see the obvious influence classicm1940s comedies by Preston Sturges had on their style of film-making.  They borrowed a lot from him.  Just look at THE HUDSUCKER PROXY.  Tim Robbins was basically a 1940s Preston Sturges character Eddie Bracken would've played.  The only big glitch in THE HUDSUCKER PROXY is that they let Jennifer Jason Leigh do a Katharine Hepburn imitation as the ace newspaper reporter. Hepburn wasn't a Sturges-type actress.  Leigh should've gone in the Jean Arthur or Barbara Stanwyck direction.  Then there's the 2000 film, O BROTHER, WHERE ART THOU?  The title is the name of a fictional novel that plays a major part in 1941's classic Hollywood satire, SULLIVAN'S TRAVELS.  Its original screenplay is by its director, Preston Sturges.  Yep.  The Coen Brothers borrowed a lot from him.  If only they'd borrow his warmth and his love of people evident in SULLIVAN'S TRAVELS, THE MIRACLE OF MORGAN'S CREEK, THE LADY EVE, HAIL THE CONQUERING HERO and CHRISTMAS IN JULY.  Let me toss in another comedy he wrote but didn't direct -- 1937's EASY LIVING starring Jean Arthur and Ray Milland.  HAIL, CAESAR! did make me laugh despite its chilliness.
Actors hit some comedy home-runs in it.  If Ralph Fiennes was around in the 1940s, he'd have been tapped by Preston Sturges for screwball comedy work.                                           

To me, the best scene in the whole movie is Fiennes as a very stylish, very elegant, very exasperated film director trying to teach a cowboy star how to say a line for a his unlikely role in a drawing room drama in which characters dress formally, hold fancy cocktails and speak with a mid-Atlantic accent.  Fiennes, who should have been a Best Actor Oscar nominee for his absolutely fabulous comic performance in THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL, proves his solid comedy chops again in HAIL, CAESAR!  And Alden Ehrenreich is hysterically funny as the clueless, lovable cowboy star who can't lose the twang in his voice.  I reviewed the movie when it opened.  I watched it again on HBO mainly for that scene with Ralph Fiennes.  Did you see SINGIN' IN THE RAIN?  Scarlett Johansson as an Esther Williams-type performer is one of the best annoying movie star blondes who needs diction lessons since Jean Hagen as Lina Lamont in SINGIN' IN THE RAIN.
Josh Brolin is mighty fine as Hollywood fixer Eddie Mannix.  This isn't a biopic but Eddie Mannix was a real-life Hollywood character at the enormously powerful MGM.  Mannix was someone you called first in a crisis -- whether it was being caught in an extra-marital affair...or if your gangster boyfriend was killed in your bedroom by your daughter.  Think of the Lana Turner scandal in the 1950s.  Apparently, back in those days, you called Eddie Mannix before you called the cops if you were a movie star in distress.
Here's an odd piece of trivia in HAIL, CAESAR that I added in my original review.  It really hit me again watching the movie on HBO.  Eddie Mannix (Josh Brolin) has to deliver some hush money to the set of a musical comedy being shot.  Channing Tatum is the star of a gay-suggestive dance number called "No Dames" that features all sailors in a bar.  After the dance number, Mannix has a little private chat with the movie's director.
The director is played by Christopher Lambert, the French actor who was Tarzan, Lord of the Ape back in 1984.  He also starred in the HIGHLANDER movies.  He's in a scene with Josh Brolin.  The two studio co-workers hug.

Both actors are the real life consecutive ex-husbands of actress Diane Lane.

Diane Lane gave one of her several vivid, excellent performances in a biopic/mystery called HOLLYWOODLAND.  This 2006 film is about the scandalous death of George Reeves, the longtime movie actor who didn't become a star until he played Superman on a 1950s TV series.  Was his death a suicide or did an irate lover shoot him?  Ben Affleck played George Reeves, the late Bob Hoskins played the tough Hollywood producer/fixer Eddie Mannix -- and Diane Lane played Mrs. Mannix.
When Josh Brolin and Christopher Lambert were on a break from shooting their scene in HAIL, CAESAR!, do you think either one ever said, "So...heard from Diane lately?"

Can you just imagine?   Only in Hollywood.

Monday, January 30, 2017


I enjoyed HIDDEN FIGURES so much that I saw it twice in the same weekend.  When I was a kid in Los Angeles, this is the kind of film that made for great family entertainment when the four of us got in the car and went to the drive-in movies, it's the kind of film that teachers took us high school students to see as a field trip during the week, and it's a movie that would make for a great date night.  At the SAG Awards, HIDDEN FIGURES won for Outstanding Cast in a film.  Octavia Spencer, a Best Supporting Actress Oscar winner for THE HELP, scored her second Best Supporting Actress Oscar nomination thanks for HIDDEN FIGURES.  Singer Janelle Monae delivers fine work as one of the NASA trio.  I wish Taraji P. Henson was in the Best Actress Oscar category for her fabulous, heartfelt performance as Katherine Johnson.  This is one of my favorite films released in 2016.
It is a movie that reminds us of accomplishments we made as a nation during the Obama administration.  In President Obama's farewell address, he said "Yes, we can."  That was a theme of his two terms in office.  That theme is a spirit of HIDDEN FIGURES.
The story works on more than one level.  It's an uplifting American story based on fact and real lives.  It's significant, important Women's History and equally significant, important Black History.  I heard Lara Spencer on GOOD MORNING AMERICA say "Why didn't we know about this story before?" when she was praising the film.  Well..because the three central figures were African American women.  Their story is a reason why Black History Month was born -- because major accomplishments and achievements of African Americans were being overlooked and ignored.
It's also a tale of underdogs who win, the kind of story we all can relate to, and it's told in a highly entertaining, energetic and touching way with three wonderful lead performances.  It's exciting.  These three black women, in a white male-dominated scientific environment, helped send an astronaut into orbit.  That was an extraordinary and potentially dangerous space mission for the United States.  That astronaut was John Glenn, the American hero who died last year at age 95.
We return to the early 1960s for this space & race story.  However, it feels timely and it's oh so relevant.  It nails those white-collar workplace humiliations many of us have experienced when not being promoted, not having our skills acknowledged, or working twice as hard yet making half as much as others.  Taraji P. Henson has a scene where her character is in the office full of men.  She doesn't even have equality at the coffee machine and she has to explain why she's always late returning from the ladies' room.  That scene took me back to some of my New York City TV years when I felt a racial inequality and a frustration.

When Taraji's character calls out that room full of men, I got tears in my eyes.  It hit that close to home.

Here's a clip from HIDDEN FIGURES.

Katherine Johnson, the awesome NASA mathematician and physicist portrayed by Taraji P. Henson, received a Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Obama.  She's now 98.

HIDDEN FIGURES also stars Kevin Costner, Kirsten Dunst and Mahershala Ali.

Taraji P. Henson was a Best Supporting Actress Oscar nominee for 2008's fantasy/drama THE CURIOUS CASE OF BENJAMIN BUTTON.  If you know Henson primarily from her scene-stealing work as Cookie on the hit TV series, EMPIRE, or her previous work as a regular on the CBS series, PERSONS OF INTEREST, you need to see HIDDEN FIGURES. It displays her impressive range as an actress.

Here's a casting note:  Back in 2012, I interviewed Oscar winner Louis Gossett Jr in his Los Angeles home.  He was in the original Broadway cast of the groundbreaking 1959 play, A RAISIN IN THE SUN.   The play was written by the late Lorraine Hansberry.  Gossett and the rest of the lead Broadway cast members, including Sidney Poitier and Ruby Dee, repeated their roles in the film version.  African American playwright Lorraine Hansberry, the first black woman to write a play performed on Broadway, was a Civil Rights activist and a lesbian who was pro-gay rights before it became a national movement.

I asked Lou who should play Lorraine Hansberrry if there was a biopic done on her and, without even taking a breath, Lou Gossett immediately replied, "Taraji P. Henson."

I'd be thrilled to see HIDDEN FIGURES win the Oscar for Best Picture.

Friday, January 27, 2017

Hear Me on NPR This Weekend

So...LA LA LAND matched the classic ALL ABOUT EVE and got 14 Oscar nominations?  Oh, my dear, we've got to talk about that. 
Every since I was a kid, there are two days I eagerly await every year -- Christmas Eve and the day the Oscar® nominations are announced.  Scott Simon, the totally cool host of Saturday's WEEKEND EDITION on NPR, asked me to record a short segment in which we talk about this year's Oscar nomination sand how the list of nominated actors is way more racially diverse than it was the last two years.  I hope you enjoy our conversation as much as I enjoy talking to Scott -- and I enjoy talking to Scott a lot.  I'll admit it.  I wished I was sitting next to Robin Roberts on GOOD MORNING AMERICA when the Oscar nominations were announced on ABC.  I would have gleefully shouted, "Viola Davis made history!  Viola Davis made Oscar history!"
For her moving, remarkable performance in FENCES co-starring Denzel Washington, Viola Davis is an Oscar nominee for Best Supporting Actress.  The nomination made her the most Oscar-nominated black actress in Oscar history.
And that's something I wanted to talk about.  Her history-making nomination is a comment on the minimal opportunities Hollywood has had for women of color compared to white actresses.

Meryl Streep also made history this week.  She got her 20th Oscar nomination.  Her 20th.
Her friend Viola Davis also made history.  She received her 3rd Oscar nomination.  And with just 3 nominations, she became the most nominated African American actress in Oscar history.  Viola's in her early 50s.  Jennifer Lawrence kept getting scripts so steadily that she's got 4 Oscar nominations and she's only in her mid 20s.

Viola Davis got her first Oscar nomination for DOUBT starring Meryl Streep and her second was in the Best Actress category for THE HELP.  And then she turned to TV for employment because Hollywood had no good script offers for her.  This is something other black and Latina actresses have done after one Oscar nomination or even one win -- like Rita Moreno for WEST SIDE STORY and Jennifer Hudson for DREAMGIRLS.

Denzel Washington,  nominated for Best Actor for FENCES, also made history.  His Oscar nomination is his 7th.  He's the black actor with the most Oscar nominations to his credit.  He also directed FENCES.  He previously directed Viola Davis in the 2002 drama, ANTWONE FISHER.  Washington joins a category with Robert Redford, Paul Newman and Barbra Streisand.  He's an actor who became a film director and directed a fellow actor to an Oscar nomination.  Redford directed Mary Tyler Moore to a Best Actress nomination for ORDINARY PEOPLE, Newman directed his wife, Joanne Woodward, to a Best Actress nomination for RACHEL, RACHEL and Barbra Streisand has directed more actors to Oscar nominations than any other female director.  She's directed four actors to Oscar nominations (Amy Irving for YENTL, Nick Nolte and Kate Nelligan for THE PRICE OF TIDES and Lauren Bacall for THE MIRROR HAS TWO FACES).

So, if you can, hear me with Scott Simon on Saturday's WEEKEND EDITION as we talk about the actors in the current race for the Hollywood gold.  I have a feeling my segment with air in the last half hour of Scott's show.  If you miss it, check the website later this weekend.  I'm sure it will be posted.  Remember to look for WEEKEND EDITION SATURDAY:  NPR.org.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Thank You, Mary Tyler Moore

Didn't you feel like you'd lost a dear relative or a beloved friend when you heard news that Mary Tyler Moore had died?  That is the impact of TV, an intimate medium, when it gives us a most charismatic, skilled and relevant talent.  We go to the movies.  But TV....that's different.  We can have a TV in the living room, the kitchen or the bedroom.  Someone's voice and image is in our private space like a family member.  That TV talent, dropping by every week, can become a loved one.  Mary Tyler Moore was a loved one.  THE MARY TYLER MOORE SHOW was comforting must-see Saturday night entertainment that made you want to stay home and share watching it with family or friends.  Yes.  She made you want to stay home on a Saturday night and laugh with loved ones.
Watching TV is a different experience in these modern times.  But I loved those days of hanging with family and laughing.  As did millions of others, I had a crush on Mary as Laura Petrie on THE DICK VAN DYKE SHOW.  I was a kid in South Central Los Angeles.                  
We fans really wanted to see Mary Tyler Moore's new sitcom.  Wow.  I remember the first episodes.  I remember when THE MARY TYLER MOORE SHOW really hit its groove in that first season.  I remember the original opening credits lyrics -- "How will you make it on your own?" and when it was changed to "Who can turn the world on with her smile?"
In an early episode, our family broke up laughing at a sophisticated running comment on racial images in TV.  We really appreciated that the THE MARY TYLER MOORE SHOW saw us.  In the early 70s, local TV newscasts were attempting to make their in-studio teams more racially diverse.  Keep in mind, America was coming out of the turbulent 1960s.  I went to high school in Watts, the Watts after the days of racial unrest that put our community in national headlines during the 1960s.  When a local TV newscast added a black reporter to the in-studio team, it was usually a black man -- who did sports.  A well-dressed black man with an Afro the size of a radar dish was added to our local NBC affiliate.  He did sports.  His name...Bryant Gumble.  John Amos played Gordy, a brawny athletic black man who's added to the WJM TV newsroom with Mary Richards.  A few employees assumed he was doing sports.  Wrong.  He was the weather guy.  And this was way before network and local TV newscasts started adding black broadcasters to do weather segments. THE MARY TYLER MOORE SHOW gave us a cool new image of black people in TV.  We loved the diversity of that TV sitcom newsroom.  White, black, young, middle-aged, slim, burly.  It looked real.  Mary Richards was a news show producer.  Mary Tyler Moore anchored the show with her sophisticated comic acting talent and excellent timing.  She didn't need punch lines.  Mary truly listened to her fellow actors and her reactions were hysterically funny.  The classic "Chuckles Bites the Dust" episode is a perfect example.  There's the untimely death of a co-worker.  Some folks made snarky wisecracks because he was a clown and he was killed by a circus elephant.  Mary calls them out on their wisecracks.  She is serious for most of the episode.  Until....the funeral.  We belly-laughed so hard that our sides hurt.  And Mary Tyler Moore has just a word or two in the famous funeral service scene.  We are watching her react.  We understand the build-up of tension and the release when the absolute absurdity of the tragedy hits her.

The show never tried to be edgy, snarky and hip.  The sitcom dealt with women's equality, marriage, divorce, birth, death, workplace integrity, accurate journalism, dating, gay siblings and job loss.  It dealt with all those topics with humor and humanity.  We loved Mary Richards' work crew, her neighbors and her best friend, Rhoda.  I have two very dear married friends.  Our friendship started at a party in the 1990s when we met and started talking about "Veal Prince Orloff," a dish in a classic episode of THE MARY TYLER MOORE SHOW.  That food dish, Mary's hair bump, the time she was in jail with two hookers, the first time she ever saw Sue Ann Nivens' bedroom, the time she and Lou Grant kissed....wow.  What a great sitcom character and what a great actress.  Her sitcom had superb ensemble acting with writing to match.

In my first professional TV job, I had the opportunity to interview Mary Tyler Moore.  She was promoting a new 1982 film she'd done with Dudley Moore.  It was one of my first interviews that aired nationally.  She was gracious, charming and forthcoming.  Everything you hoped she would be.

That national interview was some of the work that helped me get a job offer from New York City.  In the late 80s, during my VH1 years, I'd become buddies with Mary Tyler Moore's production partner.  One of the coolest things about returning his phone calls at the office was that Mary would often answer the phone.

I loved working at VH1.  Loved it.  Unfortunately, new management came in and decided to make changes.  It decided not to renew contracts of on-air talents and it started to lay-off some of the production talent.  A few months before my contract ended in 1990, I returned a call to Mary's production partner.  I'd told him what had happened.  Mary answered the phone and said that she'd heard the news.
"Do you know you can apply for unemployment?" she asked.

I didn't know.  It hadn't occurred to me.  I'd never been on unemployment.  Mary asked a couple of specific things about my contract and replied, "Oh, you can definitely get unemployment."  Then she told me what to do.

All I could think was "Oh my gosh...I am getting advice on my TV career....from Mary Richards!"

I took her advice and it helped me take care of myself.  Just a couple of weeks ago, I watched episodes of THE MARY TYLER MOORE SHOW.  They hold up.  I laughed as much as I did the first time I saw them many years ago with family and, later, with friends.

Many female TV anchors mentioned what a significant feminist role model Mary Tyler Moore was with her Mary Richards character.  Here's a bit of wonderful trivia for you.  The classic "Chuckles Bites the Dust" episode -- was directed by a woman.  Following in the pioneer footsteps of actress/director Ida Lupino was Joan Darling, an actress who, like Lupino, became a director of episodic television.  Joan Darling directed the "Chuckle Bites the Dust" episode, one of the funniest episodes in TV sitcom history.
 Isn't that cool?  To leave the world with quality work, work that "turns the world on with her smile"....man, what remarkable legacy. Thank you, Mary Tyler Moore.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Michael Shannon and Me

I am still grateful to Whoopi Goldberg for giving me a job.  Shortly before she launched into daytime TV stardom as a regular on ABC's THE VIEW, Whoopi had an early morning weekday national radio show.  She did it in New York City and her program debuted in 2006.  For the two years of its run, I was the weekly film reviewer and entertainment correspondent.  Whoopi wanted someone who could review new movies and also talk about classic films.  She contacted me and I got the job.  In the late 1980s, Whoopi had been a guest on my VH1 celebrity talk show.  One of the movies I reviewed on Whoopi's radio show was Oliver Stone's 2006 film called WORLD TRADE CENTER. Based on the September 11th attacks in New York City, the disaster drama starred Nicolas Cage.  At the end, I stayed through the credits to catch the names of two actors who knocked me out with their performances in bit parts.  The actress didn't even have a character name.  She was "Mother In Hospital" in the credits.  The actor in a bit part as a Marine was...Michael Shannon.
The "Mother In Hospital" actress was...Viola Davis.  That was 2006.  Come 2008, he and Viola were both in films that year that would put them on the Oscars red carpet.  He was a Best Supporting Actor Oscar nominee for REVOLUTIONARY ROAD.  Viola Davis was a Best Supporting Actress Oscar nominee for DOUBT.  Shannon needs to start checking out tuxedos.
He and Viola Davis are Oscar nominees again.  She's up for FENCES. Viola Davis is now the most Oscar-nominated African American actress in Hollywood history.  Shannon is in the Best Supporting Actor Oscar category for the psychological thriller, NOCTURNAL ANIMALS.
One of Shannon's other film releases last year was the sci-fi thriller, MIDNIGHT SPECIAL.  Check it out on HBO.

MIDNIGHT SPECIAL was written and directed by Jeff Nichols.  He also wrote and directed LOVING.  Shannon had a role in LOVING last year too.

What MIDNIGHT SPECIAL lacked in production budget for sci-fi special effects, it made up for in emotional depth and feeling.  A tight and loving family unit, which had an unusual element of goodness in its circle, is on of the run from outside forces because of that unusual element of goodness.  LOVING, based on a true story, is about the white man and black woman who fall in love, get married and were imprisoned in the 1950s because interracial marriage was against the law in several American states.  Their love is a threat to some folks in society.  They took their case to the Supreme Court  In MIDNIGHT SPECIAL, Shannon plays the devoted father of a sweet little boy with a supernatural gift.  They're on the run from government forces and a religious cult.

I talked to always interesting and most cool Michael Shannon about MIDNIGHT SPECIAL, being on the Oscars red carpet and about his boyhood.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Let Black Folks Talk About the Oscars!

Viola Davis made Oscar history today! But GOOD MORNING AMERICA didn't notice.  The Oscar nominations came out this morning and I was thrilled.  Movies that moved my soul are in the running.  Movies about people of color.   Movies like the poetically powerful MOONLIGHT and the historically significant, inspirational HIDDEN FIGURES. After two consecutive years of "Oscars So White," Black History was made in today's nominations.  However, you didn't hear about it on GOOD MORNING AMERICA, the network morning news show that carried the nominations.  Nothing against Christopher Connelly and Jess Cagle, two mighty fine guys who are veteran entertainment journalists, but can't a network morning news show hook a brotha up on Oscar nominations day?  Connelly mentioned that three of this year's Best Picture Oscar nominees -- FENCES, HIDDEN FIGURES and MOONLIGHT -- plus the racial diversity of Oscar nominated actors overcome the "Oscars So White" problem.  But he didn't mention specific history. Scroll down to my previous blog post ("Oscar Nominations Day") and I explain in a short video how Viola Davis is now the most Oscar-nominated black actress in Academy Awards history.  Her Best Supporting Actress nomination for FENCES is her 3rd Oscar nomination.
And this was not mentioned on GMA, which airs on the same network that carries the hit series, HOW TO GET AWAY WITH MURDER -- starring Viola Davis.
Viola Davis and Octavia Spencer were Oscar nominees for THE HELP.  Today, they are Oscar nominees again -- and Octavia makes history.  Octavia won Best Supporting Actress for THE HELP.  Her Best Supporting Actress nomination today for HIDDEN FIGURES ties her with Whoopi Goldberg as the only black actresses with 2 Oscar nominations.  Viola leads with 3.  Brava, Octavia!

For years, the only two black actresses in Hollywood history who had more than one Oscar nomination to their credits were Viola Davis and Whoopi Goldberg.  Both women are on ABC shows. Please tell that to GMA, Chris Connelly and Jess Cagle.

The fabulous Mahershala Ali got a Best Supporting Actor Oscar nomination for MOONLIGHT.

He's also in HIDDEN FIGURES.  A black actor with a significant role in two of the films nominated for Best Picture.  Has that happened since Sidney Poitier starred in GUESS WHO'S COMING TO DINNER and IN THE HEAT OF THE NIGHT, two of the five Best Picture of 1967 Oscar nominees?
African American actress Beah Richards had scenes opposite Sidney in both those Best Picture Oscar nominees.  She was a Best Supporting Actress Oscar nominee for GUESS WHO'S COMING TO DINNER.  Grammy nominated singer Janelle Monae has scenes with Mahershala Ali in both MOONLIGHT and HIDDEN FIGURES, Best Picture Oscar nominees.

Sidney Poitier was the first black man to win the Best Actor Oscar.  That was for LILIES OF THE FIELD (1963).  His win was a huge, memorable moment on the Oscars telecast.  In 2002, the same night Denzel Washington won his Best Actor Oscar for TRAINING DAY, the Academy graced the graceful Mr. Poitier with a special lifetime achievement Oscar.  The groundbreaking Sidney Poitier was nominated for the Oscar twice.

Today, with his Best Actor Oscar nomination for FENCES, Denzel Washington became the African American actor with the most nominations in Oscar history.  He's won a Best Supporting Actor Oscar and a Best Actor Oscar.  Today's nomination is his 7th.  Denzel Washington also directed FENCES.  There's some Black History for you.

African American playwright August Wilson won the Pulitzer Prize twice.  Twice.  Today, he got a posthumous Oscar nomination for his screenplay adaptation of his Pulitzer Prize-winning FENCES.

The elegant African American filmmaker Barry Jenkins pulled off a triple play.  His MOONLIGHT brought him Oscar nominations for Best Director, Best Screenplay and Best Picture.

Ava DuVernay, the African American woman who should have been a Best Director Oscar nominee for 2014's SELMA, is an Oscar nominee in the Best Documentary category today for her critically acclaimed probe into the rampant virus of racism in America's prison system entitled 13th.
This morning I watched Caucasian Chris Connelly says that it's "Oscars So White" no more -- yet he seemed to be unaware that Viola Davis' third Oscar nomination is as historic as Meryl Streep's 20th Oscar nomination.  Jess Cagle mentioned Meryl's record-breaking nomination. But the segments felt like another year of "Oscars Reporting So White."  And I write that as someone who has years of network entertainment reporting, network celebrity talk show hosting, a year as a weekly film critic for an ABC News live magazine show production and a year as a print contributor to ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY magazine credits on his resumé.  I've never been tapped to be on a TV news show to discuss Oscar nominations the day they came out.  A lot of my fellow Black and Latino entertainment contributors haven't either.  However, a show could benefit from our knowledge instead of treating us like...Hidden Figures.

Academy president Cheryl Boone Isaacs broke with the longtime tradition of announcing the nominations live very early in the morning from the Goldwyn Theater in Los Angeles.  The nominations were announced on GOOD MORNING AMERICA and streamed online with past Oscar nominees telling how they felt when they learned of their nominations or what the arts of filmmaking mean to them.  This may have frustrated publicists and other networks (NBC and CBS) but the presentation was sleek, sincere and smart.  The male and female faces you saw represented white, African American, Latino, Asian and gay artists and audience members.  I loved it.  The presentation of the Oscar nominations was inclusive and diverse.

For more on the Oscars, go to Oscar.com.  There's a lot of wonderful groundbreaking history for people of color in today's list of Oscar nominees.  Oh, man, if I had been asked to participate with Robin Roberts today on GOOD MORNING AMERICA, I could have rocked with some Oscars history knowledge and insight.

Monday, January 23, 2017

Oscar Nominations Day

The countdown to Hollywood Prom Night starts Tuesday morning, January 24th.  That's when the Oscar nominations are announced.  Some entertainment reporters in print feel that LA LA LAND could match a record set by the classic ALL ABOUT EVE.  That Bette Davis classic earned a total of 14 Oscar nominations.  LA LA LAND has wonderful performances by Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling who, to me, elevated a sort of pleasantly average made-for-TV movie script.
Decades later, TITANIC tied for the same number of Oscar nominations as ALL ABOUT EVE.  A few film critics feel LA LA LAND could rack up the same number of nominations...or more.  If LA LA LAND gets 14 Oscar nominations, my jaw will drop down to the floor with a clunk like I'm a character in a 1940s Tex Avery cartoon.  But that's just me.  Not that a young white dude can't be the lead character in a movie that gives you a history of jazz in America.  However, hearing that young white musician educate a young white aspiring actress on the history of jazz and not mention black people is like giving us a movie about the history of aviation without mentioning the Wright Brothers.
There's a change in the Oscar nominations announcements this year.  They won't be in the Goldwyn Theater wherein you can hear publicists gasp and cheer when some names and movies are announced.  Also, not all senior three networks may be going live to the announcements.  I don't think CBS and NBC are doing the nominations live as in the past.  ABC's GOOD MORNING AMERICA will carry the Oscar nominations being announced at 8:18 am ET -- which is 7:18am Central and 5:18 Pacific Time.  ABC will carry the Oscars telecast to be hosted by ABC late night host, Jimmy Kimmel.

You will be able to get the Oscar nominations as they come out online, according to The Academy.  Go to Oscar.com or log onto Oscars.org.

I pray, as I've written before in my posts, that Viola Davis gets an Oscar nomination for FENCES.  She has been nominated twice, for performances in DOUBT and THE HELP, and a third will put Viola in the Hollywood Oscar history books.  The same could be said of Taraji P. Henson and Octavia Spencer for HIDDEN FIGURES.  I absolutely loved that movie.  I hope it's nominated for BEST PICTURE along with MOONLIGHT.  And I wish HELL OR HIGH WATER would be in that category too.  Octavia Spencer won a Best Supporting Actress Oscar for THE HELP.  Taraji P. Henson was a Best Supporting Actress Oscar nominee for THE CURIOUS CASE OF BENJAMIN BUTTON.

If Octavia Spencer and Taraji P. Henson get well-deserved Oscar nominations for HIDDEN FIGURES, they too will make history for American actresses of color like Viola Davis will if she's nominated.  So far...Octavia, Taraji, other black women and Latina actresses such as Rita Moreno, Rosie Perez and Salma Hayek are in the 1 nomination category.  Let me explain again:

LA LA LAND getting 14 nominations like ALL ABOUT EVE?  Oy.  But that musical might put a song in Oscar's heart.  Let's watch GMA to see who'll be in the race for the Hollywood gold.

Saturday, January 21, 2017


This is an intelligent, provocative, action-packed new series that deserves attention.  I had the fine opportunity to interview the producers and cast members before the premiere of the first season.  OUTSIDERS on cable's WGN America got renewed for a second season.  The new season starts next week on Tuesday.  The first season plus previews of the upcoming new one air today, Saturday, on WGN America.  So, I feel that today is a good time to repost interviews I did for premiere of Season One.
The Farrells may just seem like a bunch of bad-ass hillbillies who live on a Kentucky mountaintop and want to be left alone.  But the show is more than that.  There's class struggle, drug addiction, interracial lovemaking, racial prejudice, corporate greed, murder and intense fighting within the Farrell clan itself.  The Farrell clan is an American family with its own way of doing things.  It can survive without TV, the internet, cell phones and updates on the Kardashians.
There may be major conflict within this independent, mysterious mountain family --but, fashion-wise, the Farrells always seem to be coordinated.

OUTSIDERS is one of those solid, sharp TV shows that I hope gets Emmy and Golden Globe attention this year.  It's a fine production with excellent writing, good acting, complicated characters, and socially relevant scripts that tell the story of an American family that lives off the grid.  I loved meeting two of its producers.  They are novelist Peter Mattei, creator of OUTSIDERS, and writer/director/producer Peter Tolan.  Tolan's history has a lot of comedy credits such as the MURPHY BROWN, HOME IMPROVEMENT and RESCUE ME sitcoms in addition to the hit comedy film ANALYZE THIS.  Here's my first meeting with those OUTSIDERS producers.

Burly David Morse, one of my favorite actors since way back in his NBC years on ST. ELSEWHERE, gets to exercise some new acting muscles as Big Foster, head of the Farrell clan. Australian actor Thomas M. Wright is remarkable as the grief-stricken and drug-addicted Sheriff Wade Houghton, a widowed single father.  Wade has a heart full of pain. The sheriff warns the corporate types who want to take over the Farrell mountain property that they don't know they're dealing with.  The corporate types want the coal rights to the mountain.

Catch up with the first season today, January 21st, on WGN America.  Enjoy the previews for the upcoming Season Two.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

OUTSIDERS Return on WGN America

A fierce and mysterious tribe in the Kentucky mountains.  The Farrell clan survives without modern technology.  It's survived that way for about 200 years.  Corporate types in the town want to take over their mountain turf for profit.  Those sophisticated men in suits think the Farrells are just hillbillies who make a moonshine that local teens seek for a quick buzz.  But, that moonshine can cause demonic behavior.  The town sheriff warns corporate folks that they don't know what they're dealing with.  The Farrell clan wants to keep its way of life and its traditions.  They're strong, they're strange, they're undaunted and they can be deadly.
OUTSIDERS returns for a second season on January 24th.  At first glance, you may think the show is a bunch of hillbillies fighting change and modern times.  But it's more than that.  It comments on our technological age, our social class system and our political climate.  The executive producer is silver-haired and sharp Peter Tolan.  Peter has producer, writer and director credits.  He was a writer for MURPHY BROWN and a writer/director on the RESCUE ME sitcom.  His screenwriting credits include  ANALYZE THIS this starring Robert De Niro and Billy Crystal and the comedy MY FELLOW AMERICANS starring Jack Lemmon and James Garner as two former U.S. presidents.  He also writes for OUTSIDERS.
Tolan makes quite a team with OUTSIDERS creator and fellow writer/producer Peter Mattei.
Mattei, a filmmaker and novelist, is the show runner who came up with the idea for the challenging drama.

There's a power struggle within the family.  The clan leader, Big Foster, is at odds with Lil Foster.  Big Foster has also experienced some high drama with mama.  The versatile David Morse returns to weekly TV for OUTSIDERS.  Remember back in the day when he was a cast member on the NBC hospital drama ST. ELSEWHERE co-starring Denzel Washington?
His big screen credits include CONTACT with Jodie Foster, THE GREEN MILE, THE HURT LOCKER and the REAR WINDOW-inspired murder mystery, DISTURBIA.
Morse has a much different look for his Big Foster role.  Here he is on the right with actor Ryan Hurst who plays Lil Foster.  Take a look at this short TV promo.
I talked to the two producers and the two actors about Season 2.  These interviews took place in August.  None of us interviewers had seen the new season.  We just saw some of the new season's premiere episode.  Also, in August, none of us expected that by the time the new season premiered, Americans would be saying "President Donald Trump."  Otherwise, I would have asked questions about our current political climate and how it could affect story lines.
For Season 2 of OUTSIDERS premiering January 24th on WGN America, here's my talk with Peter Tolan, Peter Mattei, David Morse and Ryan Hurst.  I interviewed them again for WeGotThisCovered.com.  The producers talk about the excitement of hearing they got renewed for another season.  The actors talk about the quality of the scripts and tell me if they've ever lived "off the grid" like the Farrells during any point in their careers.

Oscar Buzz for TILL

 I'm on Twitter and, in the last three weeks, there's been Oscar buzz from a few established movie critics. The buzz was that Cate B...