Oscar Post (Mortem)

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Here’s the absolute truth:

I look forward to watching the Oscars every year. This started even before there was an international avenue on which to snark. And it was certainly waaaay before I ever even dreamt I’d see an openly gay actor serve as the host while accompanied down the red carpet prior to the ceremony by his HUSBAND. Those were the days of Bob Hope and Johnny Carson – a time when John Wayne won the Oscar for True Grit over Dustin Hoffman and Jon Voight for Midnight Cowboy. Meaning: #OscarsSoWhite #OscarsSoStraight.

BRB going to the gym right now

BRB going to the gym right now

So thanks Neil Patrick Harris for providing a new reality to a fantasy I never even had the vision to have. Not to mention Sunday night’s nifty Sound of Music tribute by Lady Gaga that all culminated with the entrance of Julie Andrews in the ultimate torch-passing moment. That alone is the best of what the movies can do – create not only an unimaginable dream for me but have it all take place in gay heaven.

On the other hand —

Oy.

Despite the fact that I have now lived to hear Ms. Andrews utter the indelible phrase Dear Gaga while moving her into an embrace – well, we still all do have A LOT of work to do.

Brb head exploded

Savoring the moment

I’m not saying the three-hour and forty plus minute show was long but….is it still going on? And why pick on the brilliantly talented Octavia Spencer to hold a suitcase with NPH’s supposed Oscar predictions in inevitable and unfunny cutbacks all through the show? Don’t they remember Uma/Oprah? Isn’t it tough enough for non-white actresses in Hollywood? Why position her as the Oscar telecast version of her character from The Help? She is NOT a maid.

Not to mention: Why did Eddie Murphy present best screenplay? Does he immediately bring to mind great writing or was THAT the joke? No, that was, well…there weren’t too many. I guess saying you could eat up Reese With-Her-Spoon took care of that. Very punny. But not as much fun as Prom Pixie Jesus Jared Leto. I am NOT being sarcastic here. I live for those tuxedos!!

His assistant is holding my corsage.

His assistant is holding my corsage.

On the other hand, we have the great moment of supporting actress Oscar winner Patricia Arquette speaking out for equal pay for working women – an appropriate plea as someone who played what is now THE version of America’s working Mom in Boyhood.

Meryl approved.

Meryl approved.

There was also the great John Legend/Common performance of best song winner Glory from the film Selma and their all inclusive acceptance speech afterwards. And let’s not forget the spontaneous verve of Eddie Redmayne winning best actor for Theory of Everything or the similar exuberance of the very talented Polish director, Pawel Pawlikowski, of Ida. (Note: I loved the film but who knew it was pronounced Eeda? Did I block that out or, as one tweeter mentioned, do I simply choose to remember the name of the film as Rhoda’s mother?).

Red Carpet Ready!

Red Carpet Ready!

Still, despite those peaks something about the whole affair felt flat and odd. NPH is a great song and dance man. Anna Kendrick and Jack Black are funny and spunky and, most importantly, can really sing. So then why did their opening number feel like it was something out of a Disney tribute to the movies? Was this because we were watching on ABC/Disney or because the writers of the medley also penned Disney/Frozen’s Let It Go? Or both?

As NPH joked about Oprah being rich and then tried to explain it, or strode through the audience while the Big O attempted to suppress the look of sheer terror on her face that he’d come over (Note: Adjacent to the expression of don’t even think about it, Sonny on the face of fellow audience member Clint Eastwood), one longed for the Tony Awards, Tina and Amy at the Golden Globes or even a clip from #SNL40’s Celebrity Jeopardy. Hell, that would’ve been a lot more fun. Or get all the stars together to do The Californians sketch and then take the 2015 version of the #EllenSelfie.

At least there was this

At least there was this

Oh, I don’t know. Perhaps I’m being unfair. I’m a really big Sean Penn fan but he was so sinister delivering this year’s best picture winner I started to think we were all being lured back into Mystic River, where he would then make us all morph into Tim Robbins’ Oscar-winning character and everyone one of us would wind up…well, look it up if you don’t recall.

Did you find it odd that Michael Keaton, the star of Birdman – the big winner of the night with best picture, director and screenplay – was not mentioned by anyone other than his director most of the evening while jokes abounded about all kinds of well, strange things? Though I will admit it was particularly gratifying that when we finally did get to hear Mr. Keaton speak briefly during the best picture acceptance speech by what seemed like the entire above-the-line cast and crew he had the grace to step to the mic and simply say, it’s great to be here, who are we kiddin.

Well, perhaps this was not as odd as John Travolta , who tried to make up with Idina Menzel after calling her Adele Dazeem last year but instead wound up touching her face far too many times in the space of a minute. Once again – odd AND strange. But not as odd and strange as John’s…

The dog chain.. the hair.... ??

The dog chain.. the hair…. ??

You know what, I’m not going there.

See, the truth is — it’s easy to snark. But it’s not easy to get nominated for an Oscar  and Travolta has done it twice. So at the end of the day I suppose for many of us – especially those of us who work, have worked, ever aspired to work, or even ever fantasized about one day working in the entertainment industry – there is a kind of fantasy wish fulfillment to it all that never quite gets fulfilled.

We wonder what would it be like to be on that stage or, more to the point, we use the Oscars to pretend we ARE one of those people we see on that stage doing either as well or WAAAAY better than them. Even if we don’t understand in our heart of hearts what that really means or how the reality of being there would actually feel and/or be if we really did get there

Perhaps this IS the reason why the Oscars so often disappoint. How CAN you live up to all the fantasy and hype? It’s like going on a date with the hottest person in school and wondering why they don’t match the over-the-top scenario you created in your head for them.

Except him. He really is the coolest.

Except him. He really is the coolest. #marryme

Of course, that’s how I imagine it would have been like to date the hottest person in school. So I could be wrong. At the end of the day this is all about personal fantasy anyway and it’s up to you to decide.

As for me, I’m going to bask in the afterglow of Gaga and Julie once more and see if I can pretend I’m back in gay heaven. Or perhaps I’ll just put on Mary Poppins (Note: I do like The Sound of Music but Mary Poppins always was my fave) and call it a night as Julie/Mary sings me to sleep. Where I promise you I WILL dream. Splendidly.

… and in case you’re keeping score, the Chair correctly predicted 15 out of 24 winners, giving him score of 62.5% (This is even a lower grade than the Chair received in gym class). The Chair offers no excuses – only promises of doing better next year. #ItsnoteasybeinganOracle

Last Chance Oscar Cheat Sheet

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Let us start by invoking the much-too invoked yet always timely and pertinent William Goldman quote about Hollywood:

NOBODY KNOWS ANYTHING

When it comes to predicting the Oscar winners this is the #1 rule.

However, this will not stop us or anyone else who cares even a little about show business and pop culture for indulging in one of our most beloved annual American pastimes. Even those who admit to not knowing anything about who might take home the Academy gold in a given year will likely wind up at a party or pass through a store where the prize for predicting the most Oscar winners or even the winner of a single close race is too good to pass up

So for all of you – and them – and because I’ve been doing this on my own and publicly for at least three decades and have never, not once, managed to sweep the entire board – here are:

I'd like to thank... myself

I’d like to thank… myself

THE CHAIR’S OSCAR PICKS

But wait –

Before we start, I’m going to suggest a few Oscar drinking games to pass the time in what I predict will be AT LEAST a three and a half hour show – more likely three hours and 43 minutes, if I were a predicting man. (Note: If?)

For those who love to drink: Take a belt every time The Interview, Seth Rogen, James Franco and Sony Pictures are mentioned. If you do, it is doubtful you will be awake or even alive by the end of the show. But neither will most of the rest of us so never fear.

For those who very much enjoy/like drinking socially: Throw one back each time anyone even alludes to hacking, hacking into emails, people in the movie business talking behind each other’s backs or Sony Pictures, Amy Pascal or Scott Rudin. (Note: Not knowing who Amy Pascal and Scott Rudin are should cause no embarrassment. Most of the world doesn’t either.  Not really)

Let's hope the jokes tonight are funnier than the movie #aimhigh

Let’s hope the jokes tonight are funnier than the movie #aimhigh

For moderate drinkers who still like a taste: Top off your glass each time Clint Eastwood’s age, Hollywood’s lack of patriotism or playing fast and loose with the facts of a movie subject like American Sniper’s Chris Kyle comes up for discussion. Do NOT drink if it’s a mere mention of American Sniper in passing because this will happen quite a bit during the show given its six nominations. Though it will win 0.0 in all of its major categories. #Predictionsspoiler

For only special event drinkers: Grab a glassful of something whenever a Rudy Giuliani/Pres. Obama joke is made. Actually, let’s throw in any mention of #OscarsSoWhite or how generally White the field of nominees are this year. Since this will clearly get more than a few passing references and you don’t get to drink very often – You’re welcome.

For us gays and others who support our gay agenda: Any LGBT innuendo at all in the course of the show counts as a reason to take a sip. This should guarantee EVERYONE will be pretty toasted by the time the Barbara Walters special does not air following the show this year. (Note: Yes, every appearance of Neil Patrick Harris counts. And you’re welcome – again).

Let's do this!

Let’s do this!

Okay – here goes:

THE CHAIR’S 2015 REAL OSCAR PICKS:

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Best Picture

American Sniper

Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)

Boyhood

The Grand Budapest Hotel

The Imitation Game

Selma

The Theory of Everything

Whiplash

Let’s get this one out of the way first because it really is a toss-up this year between Birdman and Boyhood. Odds makers and conventional wisdom are giving Birdman a slight edge in light of its last-minute surge in other awards competitions. But my pick is Boyhood. Here’s why. At the end of the day, Birdman is a movie that does not paint Hollywood or the movie industry in a particularly flattering light. I can’t imagine voters, many of whom make their living off of superhero blockbusters, rewarding a film that ultimately thumbs its nose up at superhero blockbusters. Yes, this town is that small.   I suppose I could be wrong – but I don’t think so. And no, American Sniper will not sneak in at the last minute. Which confirms nothing the flyover states think about us.

Chair’s Pick: Boyhood

Director

The Bird and the Boy

The Bird and the Boy

Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) Alejandro G. Iñárritu

Boyhood Richard Linklater

Foxcatcher Bennett Miller

The Grand Budapest Hotel Wes Anderson

The Imitation Game Morten Tyldum

I’ve given this one a lot of thought. Here’s the thing – I don’t see how the Academy will give up the chance to honor an American director who spent 12 YEARS making a critically-acclaimed film that he shot every summer for over a decade. In the area of mainstream narrative fiction filmmaking, that’s never been done to such widespread acclaim and effect. Not to mention, this is a guy who has toiled amiably and well in the indie and major studio film trenches for decades. I know the DGA awarded Inarritu – who is a brilliant filmmaker. But not here. I don’t think…

Chair’s Pick: Richard Linklater, Boyhood

Actor

The man loves a good costume

The man loves a good costume

Steve Carell in Foxcatcher

Bradley Cooper in American Sniper

Benedict Cumberbatch in The Imitation Game

Michael Keaton in Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)

Eddie Redmayne in The Theory of Everything

This is another close race that seems to come down to a two-way battle between Eddie Redmayne and Michael Keaton.   It seems likely that ER will win for taking on the task of both physically and mentally evoking the struggles and triumphs of Stephen Hawking. I thought so too until this morning when I visualized everyone I know or know of in the Academy looking at their final choices and remembering Michael Keaton in not only Birdman but Mr. Mom - not to mention the first Batman movie – and Night Shift – and Beetlejuice! Yes, Beetlejuice!!!!

They just won’t be able to do it – vote for the other guy. Plus, Michael Keaton was brilliant in Birdman and if you believe Boyhood will take best picture here’s a chance for all those voters to even score.

Chair’s Pick: Michael Keaton, Birdman

Supporting Actor

After tonight, he may not have to sell you insurance anymore

After tonight, he may not have to sell you insurance anymore

Robert Duvall in The Judge

Ethan Hawke in Boyhood

Edward Norton in Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)

Mark Ruffalo in Foxcatcher

J.K. Simmons in Whiplash

Four words – well, two words and two initials – J.K. Simmons, Whiplash. It’s the role of a lifetime that could have gone terribly wrong if it were not played just right. Whiplash was one of my fave films this year. And to the naysayers – yes, it was theatrical and stretched credulity just a bit but NEVER stretched the emotional truth of its characters. That’s why it’s a terrific film. One that would never work without the performance delivered by this year’s Oscar-winning supporting actor.

Chair’s Pick: J.K. Simmons, Whiplash

Actress

Slayin' it on the carpet

Slayin’ it on the carpet

Marion Cotillard in Two Days, One Night

Felicity Jones in The Theory of Everything

Julianne Moore in Still Alice

Rosamund Pike in Gone Girl

Reese Witherspoon in Wild

This one’s easy. It’s Julianne Moore’s year. It’s her fifth nomination and she’s never won. Plus, she was heartbreakingly perfect in Still Alice. Plus, she’s taken every other major award. Two plusses equal —

Chair’s Pick: Julianne Moore, Still Alice.

Supporting Actress

How many actresses would let us all watch them age like this? #killinit

How many actresses would let us all watch them age like this? #brave

Patricia Arquette in Boyhood

Laura Dern in Wild

Keira Knightley in The Imitation Game

Emma Stone in Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)

Meryl Streep in Into the Woods

Once again, this is a gimme. It’s going to be Patricia Arquette. She’s won everything else and, well, she gave 12 years of her life to be contemporary America’s new onscreen Mom. That’s right, it’s still America and at the end of the day we all really do LOVE our Moms. Even in Hollywood. No matter what we might have once said in our therapy sessions.

Chair’s Pick: Patricia Arquette, Boyhood

Animated Feature

OK.. sure!

OK.. sure!

Big Hero 6 Don Hall, Chris Williams and Roy Conli

The Boxtrolls Anthony Stacchi, Graham Annable and Travis Knight

How to Train Your Dragon 2 Dean DeBlois and Bonnie Arnold

Song of the Sea Tomm Moore and Paul Young

The Tale of the Princess Kaguya Isao Takahata and Yoshiaki Nishimura

I’m depending on friends and what I’ve read on this one. And the verdict has been unanimous for:

Chair’s Pick: How to Train Your Dragon 2

(Note: Though I will admit that most of those surveyed say they liked Big Hero 6 better. Which, once again, has nothing at all to do with what will win).

Adapted Screenplay

American Sniper Written by Jason Hall

The Imitation Game Written by Graham Moore

Inherent Vice Written for the screen by Paul Thomas Anderson

The Theory of Everything Screenplay by Anthony McCarten

Whiplash Written by Damien Chazelle

I’d say Whiplash if this was the original screenplay category but due to a silly technicality that film has been thrown into a slot where it can’t compete. Too much controversy over the facts in American Sniper and in the case of The Theory of Everything its strength wasn’t its script. Most people I know couldn’t follow Inherent Vice but I thought that crazy screenplay was sort of crazy fabulous. Not that anyone asked.

In any event, here’s the Academy’s chance to honor one of the few now acknowledged gay heroes in contemporary history – Alan Turing.

Chair’s Pick: Graham Moore, The Imitation Game

Original Screenplay

Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) Written by Alejandro G. Iñárritu, Nicolás Giacobone, Alexander Dinelaris, Jr. & Armando Bo

Boyhood Written by Richard Linklater

Foxcatcher Written by E. Max Frye and Dan Futterman

The Grand Budapest Hotel Screenplay by Wes Anderson; Story by Wes Anderson & Hugo Guinness

Nightcrawler Written by Dan Gilroy

For the love of everything I hold dear, I don’t at all get all the love for the Grand Budapest Hotel and, most especially, its script. Huh? What? Seriously, I’m in the dark – more like a haze where I can’t make out – well, anything. Still, after decades of being a writer the one thing I’ve learned is that there are just some things I will never understand, much less see. Wes Anderson seems like an extremely nice fellow with an undeniable talent for bringing his visions to the screen. I wish him well. Just not in this category. But he will win.

Chair’s Pick: Wes Anderson, The Grand Budapest Hotel

Cinematography

Birdman-Steadicam02

Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) Emmanuel Lubezki

The Grand Budapest Hotel Robert Yeoman

Ida Lukasz Zal and Ryszard Lenczewski

Mr. Turner Dick Pope

Unbroken Roger Deakins

Any one of the nominees are deserving. But it seems inevitable that the sheer audaciousness of Birdman is going to win. The dazzling visual images in The Grand Budapest Hotel could be a spoiler. But probably not.

Chair’s Pick: Emmanuel Lubezki, Birdman

Costume Design

that's a lot of look

that’s a lot of look

The Grand Budapest Hotel Milena Canonero

Inherent Vice Mark Bridges

Into the Woods Colleen Atwood

Maleficent Anna B. Sheppard and Jane Clive

Mr. Turner Jacqueline Durran

Milena Canonero will win for TGBH. She’s won three Oscars previously and her work here was superlative – as always. Plus, I’ve met her and it’ll be fun to see her onstage at the Kodak theatre talking to a billion people worldwide – though this in no way influences my choice since she’s won most of the other awards in this category already.

Chair’s Pick: Milena Canonero, The Grand Budapest Hotel

Documentary Feature

will he skype in?

will he skype in?

CitizenFour Laura Poitras, Mathilde Bonnefoy and Dirk Wilutzky

Finding Vivian Maier John Maloof and Charlie Siskel

Last Days in Vietnam Rory Kennedy and Keven McAlester

The Salt of the Earth Wim Wenders, Juliano Ribeiro Salgado and David Rosier

Virunga Orlando von Einsiedel and Joanna Natasegara

This one is going to CitizenFour despite the groundswell for the crowd-pleasing Virunga at the last minute. We here in Los Angeles are nothing if not government-doubting, paranoid, bleeding heart liberals. Yes, the rest of you are correct. But they’re our awards. #EdSnowden4Ever

Chair’s Pick: CitizenFour

Documentary Short Subject

Crisis Hotline: Veterans Press 1 Ellen Goosenberg Kent and Dana Perry

Joanna Aneta Kopacz

Our Curse Tomasz Sliwinski and Maciej Slesicki

The Reaper (La Parka) Gabriel Serra Arguello

White Earth J. Christian Jensen

A tough choice. I haven’t seen all of them but those I spoke with and read seemed quite affected by the artistic and heart-breaking Joanna, which traces the real story of a Polish woman dying of cancer who becomes a blogger and witness to her own final days, along with her husband and young children. This takes nothing away from what I believe will be the winner – Crisis Hotline: Veterans Press 1. See, just because Hollywood will not be voting American Sniper best picture it still supports the troops. Really and truly. This is a way to prove it – even though it will also change no one’s mind about us. It is already way, way waaaaay too late for that.

Chair’s Pick: Crisis Hotline: Veterans Press 1

Film Editing

American Sniper  Joel Cox and Gary D. Roach

Boyhood  Sandra Adair

The Grand Budapest Hotel  Barney Pilling

The Imitation Game  William Goldenberg

Whiplash  Tom Cross

I don’t know how this award doesn’t go to Boyhood. Twelve summers of footage in twelve years for one film?? Seriously. Though if I were a voter it would be Whiplash. Still, I’m not who counts here. But only here.

Chair’s Pick: Sandra Adair, Boyhood

Foreign Language Film

Black and White. Check. Nuns. Check. Holocaust. Check. Oscar... check!

Black and White. Check. Nuns. Check. Holocaust. Check. Oscar… check!

Ida Poland

Leviathan Russia

Tangerines Estonia

Timbuktu Mauritania

Wild Tales Argentina

I know many of the Johnny Come Lately prognosticators are going with the hipper than hip Wild Tales. But Ida was about the Holocaust. And it was genius. Yeah, I said it. And under 90 minutes. And about the Holocaust. #CaseClosed.

Chair’s Pick: Ida

Makeup and Hairstyling

winning by a nose ... #couldnthelpmyself

winning by a nose … #couldnthelpmyself

Foxcatcher Bill Corso and Dennis Liddiard

The Grand Budapest Hotel Frances Hannon and Mark Coulier

Guardians of the Galaxy Elizabeth Yianni-Georgiou and David White

Something tells me it’s Foxcatcher. Not since Nicole Kidman’s nose in The Hours has talk about a film ever centered so much on…. Well, you know what I mean. Some folks are saying it’s a tech/design category and as such it’s got to be TGBH. I beg to differ.

Chair’s Pick: Bill Corso and Dennis Liddlard, Foxcatcher

Original Score

The Grand Budapest Hotel Alexandre Desplat

The Imitation Game Alexandre Desplat

Interstellar Hans Zimmer

Mr. Turner Gary Yershon

The Theory of Everything Jóhann Jóhannsson

This one feels unpredictable to me and if you’re betting, don’t gamble away the house. But there was something about the score of Theory that seemed to buoy the film beyond what it read like on paper and many others seem to agree. So –

Chair’s Pick: Johann Johannsson, The Theory of Everything

Original Song

“Everything Is Awesome” from The Lego Movie, Music and Lyric by Shawn Patterson

“Glory” from Selma, Music and Lyric by John Stephens and Lonnie Lynn

“Grateful” from Beyond the Lights, Music and Lyric by Diane Warren

“I’m Not Gonna Miss You” from Glen Campbell…I’ll Be Me, Music and Lyric by Glen Campbell and Julian Raymond

“Lost Stars” from Begin Again, Music and Lyric by Gregg Alexander and Danielle Brisebois

There is NO way the Academy will not take its chance here to give something to Selma. Besides, it’s a terrific song. Awesome, actually. #NoLegos.

Chair’s Pick: John Stephens and Lonnie Lynn, “Glory” from Selma

Production Design

mr oscar... checking in...

mr oscar… checking in…

The Grand Budapest Hotel Production Design: Adam Stockhausen; Set Decoration: Anna Pinnock

The Imitation Game Production Design: Maria Djurkovic; Set Decoration: Tatiana Macdonald

Interstellar Production Design: Nathan Crowley; Set Decoration: Gary Fettis

Into the Woods Production Design: Dennis Gassner; Set Decoration: Anna Pinnock

Mr. Turner Production Design: Suzie Davies; Set Decoration: Charlotte Watts

The Grand Budapest Hotel wins best original screenplay and not production design??? Well, the Oscars are just perverse enough to do that – except they won’t. Whenever you hope they’ll be perverse they inevitably disappoint.

Chair’s Pick: Adam Stockhausen, Anna Pinnock, The Grand Budapest Hotel

Animated Short Film

The Bigger Picture Daisy Jacobs and Christopher Hees

The Dam Keeper Robert Kondo and Dice Tsutsumi

Feast Patrick Osborne and Kristina Reed

Me and My Moulton Torill Kove

A Single Life Joris Oprins

There are several worthy entries here and this category is often a surprise – not to mention an Oscar pool spoiler. So NO ONE ever REALLY knows for sure. However, I did see Feast. There are a lot of dog lovers in the movie industry who credit the support of their furry friends for their best work. To not honor a film that does so would be just plain rude. #WeHeartOurAnimals. #AndOurVetsAnimals.

Chair’s Pick: Feast, Patrick Osborne and Kristina Reed

Live Action Short Film

Aya Oded Binnun and Mihal Brezis

Boogaloo and Graham Michael Lennox and Ronan Blaney

Butter Lamp (La Lampe Au Beurre De Yak)” Hu Wei and Julien Féret

Parvaneh Talkhon Hamzavi and Stefan Eichenberger

The Phone Call Mat Kirkby and James Lucas

Any time you get a basically two character short film about suicide played by actor/movie stars at the caliber of Sally Hawkins and Jim Broadbent – well –

Chair’s Pick: The Phone Call, Mat Kirby and James Lucas

Sound Editing

either a drum or a gun

either a drum or a gun

American Sniper Alan Robert Murray and Bub Asman

Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) Martín Hernández and Aaron Glascock

The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies Brent Burge and Jason Canovas

Interstellar Richard King

Unbroken Becky Sullivan and Andrew DeCristofaro

No one I spoke to or read really understands the true difference between these two sound categories or how they will shake down. But there is a consensus and it falls to firearms and the exploding of bombs – in real life and time.

Chair’s Pick: Alan Robert Murray and Bob Asman, American Sniper

Sound Mixing

American Sniper John Reitz, Gregg Rudloff and Walt Martin

Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) Jon Taylor, Frank A. Montaño and Thomas Varga

Interstellar Gary A. Rizzo, Gregg Landaker and Mark Weingarten

Unbroken Jon Taylor, Frank A. Montaño and David Lee

Whiplash Craig Mann, Ben Wilkins and Thomas Curley

I’d give it to Whiplash because of the intricate mix of music that significantly impacts the effectiveness of that multi-nominated film. But at the end of the day voters will also know it was equally important to always believe we were in the terrorizing middle of Iraq for us to feel the full impact of American Sniper. The gravity of the latter will outweigh the skill of the former.

Chair’s Pick: John Reitz, Gregg Rudloff and Walt Martin, American Sniper

Visual Effects

Throwing it a bone #2001reference

Throwing it a bone #2001reference

Captain America: The Winter Soldier Dan DeLeeuw, Russell Earl, Bryan Grill and Dan Sudick

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes Joe Letteri, Dan Lemmon, Daniel Barrett and Erik Winquist

Guardians of the Galaxy Stephane Ceretti, Nicolas Aithadi, Jonathan Fawkner and Paul Corbould

Interstellar Paul Franklin, Andrew Lockley, Ian Hunter and Scott Fisher

X-Men: Days of Future Past Richard Stammers, Lou Pecora, Tim Crosbie and Cameron Waldbauer

It’s not good politics for voting Academy members to fully ignore a Christopher Nolan film right now. I’m not entirely sure why and neither are they. But all things being equal, it takes some kind of visual effects to make you feel like you were floating in space for almost a full century rather than the actual two hour and 45 minute running length of the entire film. No, I will not go for the obvious joke.

Chair’s Pick: Paul Franklin, Adrew Lockley, Ian Hunter and Scott Fisher, Interstellar

If you’ve made it this far, you have our full permission to appropriate – or ignore – any or all of our picks. Check back on Monday to see how well or poorly I’ve done. And remember, when a test is especially difficult I, for one, always grade on a curve.

Don’t miss a beat with the Chair tonight as he tweets his way through the Oscars (Keep your cheat sheet closeby!)

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Still Crazy After All These Years

Screen Shot 2015-02-16 at 3.35.24 PM

Don’t forget to revisit the Chair’s interview with SNL expert Stephen Tropiano here… and then read on.

Watching the Saturday Night Live 40th Anniversary Special was very much like attending a fun family reunion with home movies from the past that you get to revisit once more along with all the cool aunts, uncles and grandparents you haven’t seen in years. A great television show can be like that – spending time with the fantasy clan you once were and will always be a part of – the one that, when you get together, you always want to hang out with just a bit longer.

When it’s a series that is a rarity like SNL – one that is celebrating a four-decade long run and is still somehow going strong, well, just multiply everyone’s feelings – both good and perhaps bad – and you get a sense of what the reaction will probably be from various quarters. In the end it is not unlike the feelings one’s own family engenders.

So happy together

So happy together

I can only say that for me the show was a wonderful mix of past and present served up with a lot of care and class with most of the people who made the show what it was returning one more time. It also occurred to me that one’s enjoyment of the event could perhaps be somewhat commensurate with one’s age. Like viewing a 16mm film with scenes from your parents’ honeymoon or your great Uncle Sol’s bar-mitzvah – a time when you were not even a thought or a twinkle in their eye – it would be entirely possible that some of the moments those of us over 40 thought were great could likely have fallen flat for you.

Though I may find that hard to believe

Though I may find that hard to believe

On the other hand, that might be selling the younger generation short – something Saturday Night Live has never done. Part of the magic of the series is that it reinvents itself with a younger and younger cast that turns almost totally over every five to ten years. In that way, the show and the special did and do have something for everyone. And you can’t say that for many things these days.

Sure, I loved Justin Timberlake and Jimmy Fallon doing the opening musical bit with SNL catchphrases. Pretty funny. But not as funny for me as seeing Steve Martin “hosting” once more and making fun of himself and the general “whiteness” of the show for so many years. Then when Paul Simon and Paul McCartney came out and sang 30 seconds of I’ve just Seen A Face, well…they had me at Paul and Paul.

Except then there were moments like Dan Aykroyd, one of the original Not Ready For Prime Time Players (Note: As if!) reprising his famous Bass-O-Matic sketch, complete with blender, dead fish and the flick of a switch. Which was followed by a killer Celebrity Jeopardy! where I got to see Darrell Hammond’s version of a sexist Sean Connery pick the category of Le Tits Now instead of Let It Snow. See, you had to be there…oh, never mind.

If you’ve ever been to Los Angeles or have even resisted coming to the west coast because you hate all of us pinko commies who live here then you probably LOVED The Californians sketch, complete with guest appearances by Bradley Cooper, Taylor Swift and Betty White.   And I won’t even talk about the power trio of Jane Curtin, Tina Fey and Amy Poehler doing the news. Well, I will because Jane Curtin had one of the funniest bits of the night.

Jane: Times have changed since I first sat behind this desk.  For example, I used to be the only pretty Blonde woman reading the fake news. Now there is a whole network devoted to that.

Cue Logo of Fox News with the image of one of its many interchangeable bottle Blondes.

Touche Jane

Touche Jane

This SNL also got me to belly laugh at Adam Sandler for the first time in years when he reprised his Opera Man, and had me giggling like…uh…use your imagination…when Maya Rudolph showed up as Beyonce with a continuous wind machine blowing back her fake flowy tresses. Yes, there was this strange, odd stand alone tribute to Eddie Murphy – as if he were the only huge star to emerge from the show – and a moment when I noticed a few people on social media were down on Paul McCartney’s voice when he soloed on Maybe I’m Amazed. To the latter I say: He’s Paul McCartney. Just deal with it, fool. He’s freakin’ Paul McCartney!!

Remember when you were in the Beatles?

Remember when you were in the Beatles?

I loved Paul Simon closing out the show with Still Crazy After All These Years but who would have ever thought that by far my favorite musical moment of the night would be Miley Cyrus doing a slowed down, twangy version of Simon’s own 50 Ways to Leave Your Lover? Not only was she not born when SNL started she wasn’t even alive when that song first became a hit. And I don’t care much for country music. (Note: Except for Dolly Parton but hey, c’mon). Still, this is also some of what the show has always done best. Introduce or reintroduce young talent to people who either don’t know them or choose to dismiss what they do out-of-hand. Bravo Miley and cheers to SNL for once again getting it right.

He's been fooling us this whole time!

He’s been fooling us this whole time!

It doesn’t matter if you didn’t understand why including Jon Lovitz in the tribute to the dead SNL cast members was funny, wondered why Bill Murray ended the touching tribute to the deceased with a joke about Spain’s General Franco having just died or scratched your head over Mike Meyers and Dana Carvey doing Wayne’s World, still pretending to be goofy Midwest teenagers Garth and Wayne. Scratch the latter. I’ll bet there were very few people who didn’t get the value of Wayne’s World – one of the few SNL sketches and characters to become a successful feature film aside from The Blues Brothers. Yup, some characters do reach across generations and just don’t age.

On that note, I hope to be watching Stefon 40 years from now, cheering for more Cowbell once again, and getting on the bandwagon for some as of yet unwritten comedy gem that will make me laugh even more than Roseanne Rosannadanna did the first time I saw her. That might seem as unlikely to you as the fact that 40 years from now I will be watching, much less understanding anything, especially SNL.

But you underestimate both of us at your own peril.

All About SNL: Live from LA

Screen Shot 2015-02-15 at 8.06.31 AM

The pop culture event of the moment is NBC’s Saturday Night Live 40th Anniversary Special. It’s hard to believe more than three generations have grown up watching what is essentially a sketch comedy/variety show that has not deviated much in its format since it began in 1975. But that is part of what makes SNL unique. It is the longest running comedy show on television and the three and a half hour live tribute live celebration (Note: Though, as usual, it is tape delayed for the west coast – poor us) will be (Ed. note – And was!)  a marathon featuring many of its rotating cast of regulars through the years as well as many of its most famous – and infamous – sketches, hosts and musical acts.

I have actually managed to wrangle an interview with Dr. Stephen Tropiano, author of Saturday Night Live FAQ: Everything Left to Know About America’s Longest Running Comedy. Don’t ask me how. But it seemed there was no better way to write about pop culture this week than to speak with a person who would be so willing to correct and comment on my every comment, mistake and opinion when writing about this show. The following are some of the uncensored excerpts of our conversation:

The Good Doctor

The Good Doctor

Chair: The first time we met, on a Saturday night 27 years ago, we wound up watching SNL hosted by Sean Penn. This was when he was still married to Madonna and they were making jokes about him punching out paparazzi. Do you think a lot of people tie the show to specific personal memories or is it just a handful of crazies like us?

Stephen Tropiano: I think people think about the show in two ways. First in terms of where they were in their life – in college, out of college, their first job in their twenties and so on, and secondly in terms of the cast. For me, I was in eighth grade at the very beginning and…

C: Eigth grade? Okay, stop right there. And your parents let you watch it?

ST: My parents let us watch anything we wanted. And at that time, I’m not sure they knew much about it anyway. I watched it with my two older brothers and I remember laughing at John Belushi and Gilda Radner – and I remember Chevy Chase falling down. That was funny. And imitating Gerald Ford even though he didn’t look like him.

Not Ready for Primetime Superstars

Not Ready for Primetime Superstars

C: I was in college when it first started and I remember at that time we all thought of it as a younger person’s show – our show. Even though the people in it were a little older than me it felt like a place where you could see your contemporaries. It’s changed a little over the years but do you think there’s something to that, especially for young people, and maybe that’s why they get hooked on it and stay with it because they relate to a lot of the cast members?

ST: I think it depends on the era because sometimes there were younger cast members on the show like Adam Sandler or Eddie Murphy, who was one of the youngest cast members, even a little younger than Pete Davidson is now. But then there were also casts where people were in their thirties and forties, and more established like Billy Crystal and Martin Short and Michael McKean in the 80s.   But in most ways it always was and is a contemporary show. I mean that certainly has always been the challenge – how do you appeal to both audiences.   Both a younger audience and to as many other people as possible.

C: One way is to hook a younger audience and keep them as they get older. I guess I fit in that paradigm given that I went to a dress rehearsal of the show at the end of the first season when Lily Tomlin hosted and Chevy Chase pretended to be the Jaws shark delivering a Candy-gram.

Before Katy Perry's Left Shark there was.... LANDSHARK

Before Katy Perry’s Left Shark there was…. LANDSHARK

ST: Wow, you are old.

C: No comment.

ST: But I’m also old now and I still watch the show too.   I think another way they attract younger viewers is with the musical guest. Now because I’m old there are musical guests that I’ve never heard of but what they’re hoping is that people will be tuning in for them, young people particularly.

C: I couldn’t imagine my parents or people in their fifties or sixties watching the musical acts or comedy we were watching back then.

ST: Well, at the beginning it WAS a show for baby boomers. The idea was definitely appealing to that specific demographic of people and I think with the musical guests, this was before MTV and there were a lot of musical acts they had on that you just didn’t see on television very much.   There were more mainstream people like Paul Simon but also performers like Gil Scot-Heron, Loudon Wainwright III and Esther Phillips. Even Janis Ian, though she had a hit record, you didn’t necessarily see someone like her on TV.

Iggy is that you?

Iggy is that you?

C: That’s true. She was the Iggy Azalea of her day if you took away Janis’ songwriting ability and sensitivity and added, well, I’m not sure. Care to chime in?

ST: You’re on your own there.

C: There ARE so many outlets to see everyone now so it’s not quite the same. Even with comedy and political satire. Stuff like The Daily Show and The Colbert Report in some ways did supplant SNL among younger audiences. Though not entirely.

ST: A part of it has to do with viewing habits. Those are daily shows broadcast every day (Note: That’s why they’re daily shows) and they peaked when DVRs came into popularity. Also, they’re attached to a network like Comedy Central – it was branded to that generation. SNL is considered to be an older generation in terms of branding because it’s on NBC. But still, it has younger audience appeal. Comedy Central is more something they tune into automatically when they come home. They also tend to think of Jon Stewart as a voice of their generation.

C: Even though he’s in his early fifties.

ST: It’s more about the idea that he is on Comedy Central. Which is their channel. Plus, he’s been doing the show for a lot of years. He was in his thirties when he started.

Just a wee lad then

Just a wee lad then

C: Why do you think SNL has been able to stay on the air for 40 years? I can’t think of anything else other than maybe Meet the Press…

ST: And some soap operas. Well, it’s the longest running comedy on television but when you say that you can’t think of it as being like a sitcom. In this way, what the show was always able to do was kind of reinvent itself – become an updated version of itself – and it usually did that because of the talent and because of the writers. Also, just the format of the sketch-variety show kind of lends itself to it. It would not have worked if all the people who were the original Not Ready For Prime Time Players stayed on the show. It just couldn’t.

C: Which is not to say the ratings were always high or that every season worked.

ST: Yeah, they had trouble throughout most of the 1980s. It wasn’t until Lorne Michaels came back that it started to become more popular again. But when he first came back they were struggling and they put in very young cast members like Robert Downey, Jr. and Anthony Michael Hall and it didn’t really work. They tried Billy Crystal and the others earlier and went with experience and it improved but he was only really on for a year. Probably because it was far too much work for him.

Mr. Marvelous

Mr. Marvelous

C: And for very little money. Why continue on the show when it opens up so many other opportunities for you? That is certainly the case now when so many cast members leave and become movie stars.

ST: Though not everyone does. It really depends.

C: Yes, it’s tricky and unpredictable. You had people like Chevy Chase, John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd and Bill Murray and then Eddie Murphy and Adam Sandler. Followed by Will Ferrell and now, in some sense, Kristen Wiig.

ST: And Jane Curtin became a big television star as well as Amy Poehler and Tina Fey. Also recently, they have also starred in movies. But then there were a whole tier of people who might not have become major movie stars – like David Spade and Chris Farley, or Joe Piscopo and Dana Carvey – who did star in some films. Billy Crystal was a movie star. Christopher Guest went on to direct all of his movies. And let’s not leave out Senator Al Franken.

From one desk to another

From one desk to another

C: A political star. I still can’t get over that. Though I’m not unhappy about it.

ST: He will be relieved.

C: I hope so. I can be dangerously scathing. Which brings me to how people enjoy loving or hating SNL. It really seems to be all over the place depending on who you speak to, though mostly I think the reaction is pretty positive, not to mention nostalgic since most of us tend to remember the sketches and characters and performers we did like so fondly.

ST: Well, everybody loves to say, ‘oh, the show was so much better back in the day,’ but back in the early years people were a little bit more forgiving because it was a newer show. Also, there were always a lot of things that didn’t work, often on every show, I saw that doing research for the book. You tend to block those out, though. But the sketches that do work – those are the ones that live on and that’s kind of what we remember the most. And there are a lot of those.

C: Are some eras just funnier than others?

ST: I think the show tends to ramp up around election years and depending on who is president. Sarah Palin was like the Golden Goose in terms of comedy when she was running for election and Tina Fey’s impersonation…

Tina-Fey-as-Sarah-Palin-are-we-not-doing-the-talent-portion-GIF-from-Saturday-Night-Live-SNL

C: You never felt she had to change much of the real Pailn dialogue.

ST: She didn’t! The sketch where Amy Poehler played Katie Couric interviewing her is almost verbatim! But I mean, the Bill and Hillary Clinton years – Bill Clinton was a great person to impersonate. And Will Ferrell doing Bush lends itself to comedy. It also depends on what’s going on in the world. Barack Obama can be parodied but he’s not like Bill Clinton who is bigger than life.

C: What is one of your favorite political sketches?

ST: Well, I like the one where you have Nancy Reagan and Barbara Bush having tea at the White House when the Reagans are leaving…

Click here for the full video

Click here for the full video

C: And Nancy Reagan’s is grasping on to the furniture for dear life in an attempt not to leave and you see security dragging her out. It felt so real! But I have to admit I found it hard to laugh at some of the Dubya sketches with Will Ferrell saying strategery. Even though it was really funny it was hard to laugh because of how true and sad the whole thing was.

ST: You’re really bringing down the room.

C: You’re right. Clearly, if I were a sketch I’d be cut. One of my absolute favorite sketches, I have to admit was the first Debbie Downer where Rachel Dratch starts breaking up in close-up. I still makes me scream.

ST: Part of the reason that one was so memorable is that there really isn’t a sketch where everyone is breaking up. In that one, everybody is losing it. I think six or seven people.

C: What are some of the memorable ones for you?

Word Associate with Chevy and Richard

Word Associate with Chevy and Richard

ST: Well, probably the best and most famous was the Chevy Chase-Richard Pryor sketch that was about racism. It was written by Richard Pryor’s writer Paul Mooney because they felt that Pryor’s humor was not going to represented on the show.

C: That is one of mine too. It’s less funny than wonderfully true and real satire. I also LOVE Dan Aykroyd playing Julia Child cutting her finger while preparing a chicken and bleeding to death onscreen.

ST: If we’re going to go there I have to mention The Claudine Longet Invitational Ski Tournament where people competing get shot by her while skiing down the slope.

C: I remember they had to apologize for that one. And for those who don’t know about it, they can look it up.

ST: I also loved The Sweeney Sisters.

C: Oh My God, Clang, clang, clang went the Trolley. Now you have me thinking of Delicious Dish and Shweaty Balls. Not to mention Maya Rudolph doing Donatella Versace – GET OUT!!!!!!!! Your favorite all time performer – the most unfair question?

ST: Hmmm, I guess it would be Gilda Radner.

The Queen

The Queen

C: No fair, she was mine!

ST: The characters she did – Roseanne Rosannadanna and Emily Litella, as well as the Judy Miller Show. They were just very real. And we should also say she had people like Alan Zweibel and Marilyn Suzanne Miller writing specifically for her – that’s why she got so many characters on.

C: I loved Lisa Loopner – the nerdy girl – and her best friend Todd, who Bill Murray played. Especially when he gave her “noogies” and she couldn’t stop giggling. I think I probably related.

Toddddddddddd

Toddddddddddd

ST: Probably?

C: You were supposed to say – ‘oh no, I can’t imagine how you would relate!’

ST: That was not one of the lines I was given.

C: Best host? I know this one is also unfair.

ST: Hmmm. I would say Steve Martin. His type of comedy seems to best fit the show because it tends to be in smaller bits.

... and the King

… and the King

C: Or when he did stuff like the King Tut song, which actually became a hit on the radio. It was sort of like the precursor to viral videos like Lazy Sunday. For me the best host in recent years is probably Justin Timberlake.

ST: He’s sort of the perfect person because aside from being musical we had no idea that he was truly funny. It was unexpected and he was game for anything. Lorne Michaels has said some of his favorite hosts were sports guys because they’re fearless. They’re used to giving their all and don’t care how they look. I mean, who thought Peyton Manning would be funny?

C: Or Charles Barkley. Favorite character? Mine is Stefon. I can’t help it.

ST: Part of the reason Stefon was so good– aside from how great Bill Hader was doing him – was that it was extremely well-written. The amount of items and dialogue John Mulaney, who wrote the sketches, would come up with allowed Bill Hader to not only be great but break up because they’d add one or two things to the list when he’d be doing the show live that he didn’t know about.

Stefon-Final

C: There’s something about people breaking character in the right way that never fails. So who are some of your faves, other than Stefon?

ST: I’d have to say – The Sweeney Sisters and Roseanne Rosannadanna. I also thought in terms of characters, Mike Meyers did some of the most incredible work.

C: Rather than discuss them perhaps we should end with them. Since apparently his Dr. Evil is partly based on Lorne Michaels – who started SNL to begin with.

"Allegedly"

“Allegedly”

ST: Mike Meyers has said that isn’t true. That just vocally it only sounds like him because they are both Canadian. But it is his favorite character.

C: Well, I’ve learned something new. You are a fountain of information.

ST: Are you being snide?

C: Me? Certainly not. I am not an SNL character. Yet.

Grampy’s Grammys

Screen Shot 2015-02-09 at 11.47.16 AM

Music is a touchstone. But many young screenwriters I teach have confessed to me they have previously been instructed NEVER to put a song reference in a script because they will limit or confuse a reader who may or may not know the song or the group they’re talking about or will be taken out of the moment by a tune that will probably never wind up in the movie anyway.

The above advice is, of course, ridiculous. Music has always been a great connecter and the perfect evocation of a mood or moment in time that all the talk or visual images in the world can’t muster. It is true that if someone doesn’t know a song a reference to it will not put them in the mood or mindset you intend. But if you go with your gut and choose wisely that song most certainly will do the job when they get to HEAR it – which is the point of writing musical references to begin with. And besides, any artistic moment in time needs all the help it can get.

Which brings us to #GrammyAwards2015.

Hosted by LL Cool J - for the 2,000th time

Hosted by LL Cool J – for the 89th time

As a resident of the west coast who is not in the music industry and therefore not present at the actual live ceremonies, I was three hours late to the party thanks to the greed and hubris of CBS. As the official broadcaster of said ceremony, the network has decided that unlike the Oscars, Emmys and Golden Globes they have no public obligation to share the music simultaneously across the world – or at the very least, the country.

Knowing full well that the primary reason people watch a music awards show is for the performances and not the actual awards, CBS instead chose to delay their west coast broadcast in order to sell more prime time ads and create a greater revenue stream for itself. This is, of course, the network’s prerogative – but only for the time being.

tina-fey-gif

There is a power shift going on in how and where and when we get our entertainment. And that shift is going back to the consumer, which means that before long every event of any importance will be available simultaneously in most time zones. It might be five, ten or 20 years away but the corporate world – which these days includes entertainment and even politics – knows deep down that the party is essentially over and that changeover is causing major and minor freak outs as well as corporate and personal misbehaviors everywhere. These manifest themselves in little bouts of broadcast hubris as well as false and outrageous public statements from people, politicians (Note: No, they’re not the same thing) and various organizations about everything from vaccines to international terrorism, before segueing into mass media hysteria over the possible gender change of an Olympic gold medalist or the newsiness of just what the historical accuracy is of any number of Oscar nominated feature films this year whose only real sin is failing to announce loudly enough its claim that it is merely “based” on a true story.

On the flip side, which of us hasn’t found it a little bit more than fun to live in an age when political gaffes and cultural injustices aren’t events so easily handled?   Truth be told, there is some infinite joy in knowing that eventually Twitter, YouTube and Instagram will provide the real images, observations and videos of said events or thoughts rather than the pre-packaged or approved ones we’ve mostly been previously granted by the gatekeepers.

Enter: Olivia Pope. #ItsHandled

Enter: Olivia Pope. #ItsHandled

I guess I’m gloating but it can be quite entertaining to watch more than a few members of the status quo squirm as their grip on power unwittingly gets pried out from behind our necks. Still, the new scandal du jour of something like NBC anchor Brian Williams exaggerating being shot down in Iraq during the previous decade or fictionalizing a case of dysentery in order to make his Hurricane Katrina reporting more dramatic during the Bush, Jr. presidency is almost quaint at this point. I mean, the one thing we all know these days is that EVERYONE exaggerates a bit – it’s just a lot easier to get caught.   Yes, it’s true – the public already does know that even if the bosses in power don’t.   This is not to excuse the lie or the liar or even to condone that mode of behavior.   Only to acknowledge that we mostly understand that we – most of us – are, in at least some occasional cases, a bit hypocritical, indelicate with our opinions and guilty of bending reality ever so slightly and more – whether national, international or not – whenever the mood hits us.

The new normal today is the degree of the lie. Which is why awards shows are so terribly fun to watch – even when a power broker like CBS doesn’t allow you to view them live along with everyone else.

The craftsmanship of a successful artist’s image is often painstakingly and precisely planned, executed, buffed and shined before you and I get to experience it. But how the famed act in public when they have to be themselves onstage at a live event cannot be any of the above by its very nature. Oh, a person can sort of present a terribly rehearsed version of themselves but on a live show the rehearsal is often fodder for the real show on social media. Sure, he or she or even they can do a bit better fooling us when entertaining live – if indeed that is their profession and they’re good at it. But on the other hand, those who have been auto tuned, or have had their public images sculpted up a bit too brightly become as transparent as an overexposed X-ray held up to the light. Which is more than apt since the people we’re talking about have often been far too overexposed anyway.

Or a little underexposed if you're Sia.

Or a little underexposed if you’re Sia.

Watching this year’s Grammy awards I couldn’t help but feel like I’d be a bit like the star of Gramps Goes to the Movies – catching up with what the young-ins are doin’ and listenin’ to or watchin’ it three hours after the fact or perhaps even a year after my own figurative children’s children had first gotten wise to it.

But then I look up at my TV and the 1970s hard rock band AC/DC – a group I managed to avoid during most of my natural adolescence – are doing a five minute opening number.

What year is this? Am I a teenager again? And what time is it? Don’t I still have math homework to get through? Or perhaps it’s CBS again – playing a cruel trick on the left coast and switching programming back 40 years in order to appeal to its key heartland demographic where presumably they all still do listen to that group.

Performing at next year's Grammys

Performing at next year’s Grammys

As it turned out it was none of those. Only that the actual Grammy broadcast was clearly not hip or even unhip. It actually simultaneously managed to be a hybrid of both and neither. There was something for those of us in or moving into AARP range, others who are indeed still teenagers and the rest of you who fall somewhere in between. In its own odd way, its musical acts, award choices and onscreen behaviors amounted to nothing consistent or at times even decipherable.

This is not say to it wasn’t infinitely entertaining at points or that it failed to reach some quite high moments in others. It is only to note that try as they might to manage it all into something slick and pre-packaged it was actually all kind of a big, engaging mush of truth, fiction, fabulousness and confusion. Sort of like sifting through Twitter or Facebook for too long – but then realizing you’ve both enjoyed and wasted three and a half hours of your life in what seemed like 33 and a third minutes. Not to date myself.

That Zuckerberg

That Zuckerberg

Those of you who didn’t watch along with Grampy Chair or Great Uncles AC/DC can certainly revisit the highlights on the social media platform of your choice. Though I can save you the time with a few thoughts and links to some bottom line highlights.

  • You’ll want to marvel at who thought about having Tom Jones and Jessie J duet You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feeling as a tribute to famed Brill Building songwriters Cynthia Weill & Barry Mann. No, I didn’t say it wasn’t good. I’m just sayin’…
  • You’ll want to slap your head when you realize CBS is actually choosing to bleep out some song lyrics and words from country superstar Miranda Lambert’s live performance. SHE’S too racy for your core audience? Really? Or do you just think the left coast can’t take a bit of sexual innuendo?
Seasonal allergies be damned!

Seasonal allergies be damned!

  • I want to applaud Katy Perry’s Cover Girl commercial where she frolics amid pink flowers while managing to sell me makeup. Though you might want to boo. But as Taylor Swift, all sleek and tall in Grammy blue once both wrote AND sang: Haters gonna hate.
  • Critics might love groaning when Madonna does her new single about the power of love but I thought it was fun and, more importantly, SHE was once again having fun. You can choose to not think so but you’d be wrong. And no matter what you say anyway, here’s my answer to you in the form of a tweet from GregvsMatt: Roses are red, violets are blue #Madonna is 56 and looks better than you.
Werk it, Material Gurl

Werk it, Material Gurl

  • CBS proves it is once again infinitely unclever by having Fox/American Idol’s Ryan Seacrest introduce NBC/The Voice’s Adam Levine and Gwen Stefani performing their single, but all the network proves is it doesn’t have a tentpole TV reality singing show nor can it even make a lame joke about the others.
  • Matthew McConaughey’s confounding Buick commercials, particularly the one with the bull, will short circuit your brain before you even realize that the revenue it produces is what this three-hour delay is really about. (Editor’s note: It’s Lincoln, not Buick, Chairy. #powerofadvertising)
Annie kills it.

Annie kills it.

  • Sixty-year old Annie Lennox stops the show cold with the best performance of the night both by igniting Hozier’s tired performance of his own Take Me to Church and then electrifying us all with her own rendition of an almost 60 year old song – I Put A Spell On You. If nothing else, the reaction confuses those who live and die by the age demographics of corporate market research. #HelloCBS.
  • I manage to consider that Kanye West’s two onstage collaborations with Paul McCartney and Tony Bennett’s jazz turn with Lady Gaga center stage might disprove every bitchy phrase myself and every other baby boomer has ever uttered about what people, or even corporate networks, will promote those days.
Prince digs into Maude's closet

Prince digs into Maude’s closet

  • I then reconsider the above stance when Kanye steps onstage to try and Taylor Swift Beck’s unexpected win for best album (Note: Presented by Prince in the orange chiffon number your Aunt Esther was gonna wear to your bar-mitzvah but didn’t) and instead pulls back at the last minute even though Beck asks him not to. Then I have to admit to myself that just because one loves a Beatle doesn’t mean one necessarily has or evokes any taste at all.   Though at the same time, I have to also admit Prince looks far better in that getup than my Aunt Esther ever could have, not to mention she’d never be smart enough to publicly state: Like books and Black lives, albums matter.
  • You, if you were indeed watching, probably listened in awe as Sam Smith dueted with Mary J. Blige on Stay With Me – a simple love song/video about a gay guy who isn’t good at one night stands. And you would be right to marvel at both that and the fact that he went on to win four Grammy Awards. #WhoWouldHaveThoughtWayBackWhen. Though it would have really been something if he had dueted with say, Rufus Wainwright. #JustDreamin2025.
Hot damn we love those soulful Brits!

Hot damn we love those soulful Brits!

  • No, it was all of us who kept rewinding Sia’s performance of Chandelier facing away from us while funny woman Kristen Wiig mimed and dance with Sia’s diminutive ballerina all through the song and didn’t so much get a laugh but prove that she is actually also a real live performance artist.
  • You will thank me for advising you to consciously uncouple from Chris Martin and Beck in the fourth hour, almost finale when they duet on one of the songs from what was just voted album of the year. What year, I’m not sure.
I mean.... we get it.

I mean…. we get it.

  • And, though I am in the minority and hesitate to say this – I continue to wonder how Beyonce – clearly an extremely talented and driven woman – can somehow manage to make the finale of the evening – the spiritual Take My Hand, Precious Lord, from the soundtrack of the movie Selma, so beyond grand and indulgent while Common and John Legend sung the hell out of their original song for Selma – Glory – and closed out the show with sincerity. I’ll take a guess. It probably had to do with the fact that they didn’t have a wind machine, flowing white chiffon or enough lighting effects to buff their imagines into a perfect shine.

But hey – that’s just me. And this year’s Grammys. Three hours late. On the west coast feed.

Who Ya Gonna Call?

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Women are often accused of being more emotional than men but certainly we guys can get just as hysterical – even more so – if given the right issue.   When forced to provide examples the more macho among us might cite topics as varied as the rampant terrorist attacks in the Middle East, the way the movie American Sniper portrays them or how to enforce the minimum weight requirement of a professional football without interfering with what MSNBC commentator Steve Kornacki explains away as the edge EVERY team tries to get in a game. (Note: Yes, he’s the only openly gay, New England Patriots fan that I ‘ve ever heard of).

Talk nerdy to me

Talk nerdy to me

As for me, I don’t know much about football but I do know a lot about men – having been one for all my life and, well, for a lot of other reasons. And I can testify that this week there was one more undeniable item added to the hysterical, emotional and just too damn bad list for many of them us. What is it? Well, the planned reboot of the 1984 classic film Ghostbusters with AN ALL FEMALE CAST – what else could it be?!!!

I mean – How dare they???

Oh, don’t get me wrong – I LOVE the idea. Not only because I find Melissa McCarthy, Kristin Wiig, Kate McKinnon and Leslie Jones all HILARIOUS but because I like anything that upsets the power of the patriarchy that I never felt a part of. Not to mention the other reason. I didn’t really love the original and um, well, never actually found it particularly all that funny.

Seriously Chairy??

Seriously Chairy??

Wait, wait. It isn’t that it’s NOT funny. It’s just that it wasn’t my cup of green tea. The same way I never liked mashed potatoes and find both whipped cream and Jell-O sort of revolting whether served separately or together. Don’t even get me started on ambrosia.

Call me a freak, and many have, but this is my truth. However, it is not the truth for several generations of guys who have somehow grabbed onto the Ghostbusters franchise as some sort of weird touchstone of their youth that is not to be tampered with under any circumstances. Sort of like women would feel about similar enduring female buddy film franchises such as — ummm — is there one?

Well you ain't getting a sequel from us

Well you ain’t getting a sequel from us

I suppose this is the overall point if one is to suppose anything about something so ludicrous as the Twitter and social media outcry against a male director like Paul Feig (Bridesmaids) daring to reimagine a 30 year-old movie.

And no, I don’t think the Alien movies count. Besides – what guy would dare to play Ripley anyway aside from James Franco? As for mainstream rom-com series franchises, they always have males in the co-starring roles. So don’t even think about that.

Here's Francooooo

Here’s Francooooo

(Note: And yes, I realize someone out there will be writing in with a male Sex in the City remake and I for one would be in full support. But only if Steve Kornacki could play Samantha instead of James Franco – who undoubtedly will be granted that part, too. Unless they go with another Hemsworth brother – are there any more or can we make do with the two we already have?

Why yes of course! Meet Luke Hemsworth... the short one.

Why yes of course! Meet Luke Hemsworth… the short one.

You know you’re in trouble on the stage of public debate when the only prominent person on your side of the argument is Donald Trump. Just this week he took to video and ranted out loud:

…Now they’re remaking Ghostbusters with only women – what’s going on???

This was right after he screamed at us that:

They’re remaking Indiana Jones without Harrison Ford!! You can’t do that!!!

And thanks to the power of photoshop we know exactly what that would look like.

And thanks to the power of photoshop we know exactly what that would look like.

Well, it could have been Charlize Theron if I were either George Lucas or Steven Spielberg, Donald, so perhaps you should be grateful. (Note: Don’t tell me there is even a one of you wouldn’t like to see her with a whip). Not to mention, how long does poor Harrison have to keep wearing that leather jacket in the 120-degree desert heat? Till he’s the same age as the temperature? That couldn’t be any worse than Charlize OR Chris Pratt, the actor who is rumored to be the new studio choice to step into his boots.   Which begs the question of whether Michael Keaton should still be playing Batman, Tobey Maguire could still get away with Spiderman or if you really want to see today’s Hayley Joel Osment in even a walk-on in any proposed Sixth Sense reboot. I mean, next to those images James Franco starts to look fresh.  Sort of.

Of course, we haven’t even addressed the real jumbo jet of the elephant in the room – how we’ll all feel when we actually do see Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher and Mr. Ford all grown up and then some in the newest and latest chapter of Star WarsThe Force Awakens – when it actually does arrive in theatres this December. No, there is no James Franco joke to insert here – unless any of you have one. Though I’d wager he’d have one.

I can literally be in anything!

I can literally be in anything!

My favorite male objection to this looming remake la femme worldwide web debacle came courtesy of a rant that was picked up by the fabulously la femme website Jezebel.com, which I often click to for information on this sort of thing or even when I need a laugh (evidence here). And the rant comes from the Twitter handle: halfcastpodcast, who if one is to believe his accompanying picture, is just some guy living in Brooklyn. It goes like this:

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Half, do you ever plan to date a woman again? Or are you merely content with the 79 views the last video you posted on your YouTube channel received?  That’s even less than the number of people reading this hipster, feminist and, to make it a trifecta, very gay post. Though who am I kidding? Even if it weren’t, I have the sense that we’d still beat you in the key demographic of 18-54 year-old men AND women with disposable incomes, the ones who really count in the real world these days anyway – and they most certainly include more than a few hipsters, not to mention feminists. #GhostbustersLaFemme4EverSucka$$$$.

I don’t mean to be too harsh. After all, I was quite upset several weeks ago when I found out that one of my favorite Hitchcock movies, Strangers On A Train, is being reimagined at Warner Bros. by Gone Girl writer Gillian Flynn as a starring vehicle for Ben Affleck. To me this would be like the American people hiring Sarah Palin to reinterpret the Declaration of Independence for Indiana Congressman Aaron Schock (Note: Look him up. Or better yet —).

Is this crossing the (party) line? #CongressmanBeefcake

Is this crossing the (party) line? #CongressmanBeefcake

Still, it does feel like all of us men could loosen our grip on humanity just a little. It’s admirable to be a fighter for the issues you believe in but as you get older you begin to realize what’s even wiser is to pick and choose the right battles. Hopefully Mr. Trump, Mr. Half and all the rest of the aggrieved masters and misters of the universe out there will begin to realize this soon so #Hillary2016 doesn’t have to spend such a large chunk of her time educating them. There’ll be a lot more pressing matters she’ll have to attend to as the decade rolls on.

Balls

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Who would have thought the word could conjure so many meanings. Certainly not a non-football fan like myself. But the point here isn’t the shock, outrage and banner headlines caused over the fact that 11 of the 12 footballs thrown by New England Patriots star/pinup/QB Tom Brady at his recent AFC championship game win were a full 2 lbs. under minimum ball weight requirements (10.5 lbs. per square inch vs. the minimum 12.5-13.5) – thus making them easier to grip, throw and catch– but why ANYONE AT ALL is surprised.

Amen, Chairy, amen.

Amen, Chairy, amen.

Is there really someone out there who thinks business is fair? Or even, at the very least, consistently above board? And yes, football is foremost a business. The NFL is the most profitable of all American sports, generating in excess of $9 billion (that’s with a “B”) of revenue each year. And just because none of that money comes from me don’t think for one second I am going to back away from a story this good – or timely – especially when it involves or even owes to balls in any context.

But neither should you.

The meaning of this “scandal” has nothing to do with the size of Mr. Brady’s balls or whether he or his team is punished for playing with ones that are too small. After all, under NFL by-laws the recommended fine for altering ball size is just $25,000. Even if one were to multiply that by the 11 balls in question it would still only come to a mere $275,000. Percentage wise that would have about as much effect on the New England Patriots as the ticket you or I receive for parking our cars at an expired meter. Probably less.

Tom & Gisele's LA mansion has a moat. #nuffsaid

Tom & Gisele’s LA mansion has a moat. #nuffsaid

Rather – the importance of this story is hero worship and how much we Americans can talk ourselves into believing in anything about the iconic people or institutions we truly admire. In order to topple said person or institution in that strata the proof has to be beyond rock solid – it needs to be both superhuman and have undeniable consequences for the world or aggrieved parties far beyond the specific incident – and in counterbalance to just how much we value the iconography of the culprit.

And even then there is no guarantee a certain percentage of minds will ever be changed in reference to said icon or those like-minded icons in the future who follow in said icon’s footsteps.

exhibit A

exhibit A

I haven’t mentioned Bill Cosby, Woody Allen, Roman Polanski, O.J. Simpson, Richard Nixon, Pete Rose, Wall Street, stock brokers, hedge funders, your local police, the legal system, your local realtor, or the entertainment industry in general or specific here, but feel free to fill in with a name, institution or particular system of your choice when appropriate. These are merely the ones who come to mind for me off the top of my head.

All this said, there is no reason for one to automatically condemn any or all of the above. We all – each and every one of us – benefit from time-to-time by having the “inside advantage” when we can. Okay, I suppose there are some exceptions but I find myself at a loss right now to think of one. Even Mother Theresa realized the value of good publicity for her cause. Not to mention the necessity of fundraising off of it.

The material just writes itself

The material just writes itself

Part of this reality has merely to do with human behavior. I don’t consider myself a cynic – just more of a realist. In other words, I don’t romanticize the acquisition of a lot of fame, money and public success because at a certain age, if you’re paying attention, you see all the pros and cons, ups and downs, moral and yes, immoral choices or passive participation – which is sort of the same thing – that goes into it.

I have no idea if Tom Brady is lying about his “balls” (Note: why couldn’t he just say footballs – was it a deflection of attention, aside from his 8000 mega-watt smile and perfect color gray sweatshirt on his perfectly filled out…oh, forget it). Or if Coach Bill Belichick is. Any more than if I really know for sure 100% just how much Richard Nixon knew of every single detail of the Watergate break-in, Bernie Madoff’s wife and sons got the full extent of what he was involved in, or if Bill Cosby, Woody Allen or Roman Polanski knew the entire breadth of the violations they were committing when they did. (Note: Though I do have my VERY STRONG opinions). Still, instinct tells me none of them were completely innocent and many of them are completely guilty. The question is how much, to what degree, and how severe their punishment should be. The one reaction no one under 35 is really entitled to in the lens of 2015 is sheer, unadulterated surprise.

Can we trust anyone that looks that good in a gray sweatshirt?

Can we trust anyone that looks that good in a gray sweatshirt?

This IS how the world works. Change it, write about it, prosecute it but don’t get up on a soapbox to express SHOCK (Note: Or even feign mild taken aback).

There is a song lyric in Stephen Schwartz’s critically underrated yet mega successful musical Wicked where the phony Wizard of Oz sings to green witch Elphaba – the latter of whom serves as the moral compass in this real story of Oz and who dares to challenge the false political rhetoric the Wizard is feeding his people in order to keep them in line. As the song Wonderful goes and the Wizard sings:

There Are Precious Few At Ease

With Moral Ambiguities

So We Act As Though They Don’t Exist….

This was right after a conversation where, when Elphaba accuses him of lying to citizens of Oz in order to keep them happy, he retorts:

Elphaba, Where I Come From We Believe All Sorts Of Things That Aren’t True. We Call It History. **

(** Note: Though it is impossible to know, one might credit the musical’s book writer Winnie Holzman with that line, or perhaps even the writer of the original novel of Wicked – Gregory Maguire).

This musical, still running strong on Broadway after 12 years and in line to be the longest running Broadway show of all time at some point, is based on Maguire’s 1995 novel of the same name. On so many levels the show is about the Reagan era of the eighties (and beyond) – a time when Americans were mostly thumbing their nose at the homeless, embraced the idea that greed was good and ballyhooed trickle down economics. This mushroomed into a no-holds barred economic prosperity where everyone could buy a house, borrowing against anything they did or didn’t have because the ingenuity of Americans and the belief that their markets could sustain anything. At least, that was the narrative we lived to then that continued for several decades until the economy massively crashed.   Never mind that the Reagan era eighties were also a time when the pandemic of AIDS had taken hold in America, most specifically in the gay community which saw mostly homosexual men dropping dead left and right with little help from the counterintuitive Morning in America speeches the American public bought lock, stock and 8000 mega-watt smile from Pres. Reagan. The lack of actions of that administration to aid the others in American culture was at full force and the gays, the homeless and soon – though they wouldn’t realize it until later – the middle class – were expendable. Forget same-sex marriage, we’re simply talking about survival – and in relation to what we were being sold it just wasn’t important back then – especially when it came to others.

Another Patriot in question

Another Patriot in question

So as a gay guy in my late twenties at that time who managed to survive, my view of reality behind the rosy curtain has clearly been colored. Perhaps too much, though, I’m not so sure. I’d rather err on the side of skepticism and then be surprised when everything turns out better than I had hoped than buy into a fiction that doesn’t exist and will pollute the reality and ideals I – and all of you – live by both right now and in the future.

Perhaps you can see, then, why I am never shocked, surprised or even mildly roused when the elite in sports, politics, entertainment, business or any other of our top dogs are found to be taking liberties in order to attain or maintain their #1 status. The day we decide to take these transgressions a bit more seriously – both for those who commit them and with our own behavior – will be the time when perhaps my own mood will lighten towards Tom Brady and his balls. Though even then, probably only just a little. As I stated upfront, I’m not and never have been much of a football fan.