The 1st Annual Rockers!


Year-end lists are usually divided into THE BEST and THE WORST.  But here at notesfromachair we’re trying to think of it a little differently – if for no other reason than to stand out from the million other news sources, columnists, cable TV talking heads and bloggers vying for your attention.   That is why we’ve created the first annual ROCKERS – dedicated to anything that has significantly rocked our world in 2012.

For those whose worlds have ever been rocked – which means everyone – this can be either a fantastic or horrible occurrence.  As a Jewish kid I didn’t grow up believing in Santa Claus but my entire existence felt not only rocked but severely threatened when I realized there was no way I could admittedly make Rowan and Martin’s Laugh-In stay on TV forever.  At the same time, my very meager and small world was also rocked the first time I saw Rowan and Martin’s Laugh-In on TV and realized there were people in the world that I truly did want to hang out with (Note:  Little did I know that a lifetime of hanging out with these kind of show biz types would rock my world in many and too numerous to specifically choose from good and bad fashions).

But getting back to this century — here is a list of our 2012 Rockers.  Not to be mistaken for a Hall of Fame, because these are only good for a single year – not a lifetime.

BEST (nee ROCKIN’) ACTING PERFORMANCE, EXPECTED (but not disappointing):

Daniel Day-Lewis, Lincoln

Haters gonna hate

Haters gonna hate

Hate all you want but why should Mr. Day-Lewis   Mr. Lewis  …uh Daniel be penalized because we’ve come to expect him to always be (and are tired of him always being) transcendently brilliant?  He literally seemed to pull off a resurrection of a human being who has been dead for more than 150 years from his very first scene as Abraham Lincoln and kept it up for all 3000 hours of the film. Truth of fact, I’m actually a big fan of the movie and didn’t mind the length, especially since almost every other BIG film in the last two months of the year seems to have lasted at least 3000 hours.   Plus there’s the degree of difficulty — try to tell, or more importantly act, the story of an icon and make it seem intelligent, human, funny, real AND come off as a parable for a certain kind of political animal of our times.  You won’t be able to.  DDL can.  When are he and Meryl Streep going to co-star? (staring my 2013 wishlist NOW)


Bradley Cooper, Silver Linings Playbook

Anything but trashy...

Anything but trashy…

Yeah, I’m partial to Coop (uh, that’s what his friends call him and he calls himself – yes, I happen to know someone who knows him – so there).  But given his acting oeuvre, nothing prepares you for the raw, non-movie star type of performance he gives as a bipolar (among other things) guy who is just struggling to live a decent life. Ironically, it’s Coop’s very lack of movie star-ness that has once and for all changed his career and made him into a real movie star – the kind that is famous, good-looking AND can act really, really well.



Oh I wish I could go back to bed...


Listen, I love French films.  And I love depressing films, especially ones about death and dying.  And I love films that have simple or almost no plots.  But Amour depicts an old couple with some financial means in 2012 and what they decide to go through when one becomes terminally ill in a way that NO couple in an industrialized nation in 2012 needs to endure given what is available in 21st century medicine – even when one decides to die at home.  In its attempt to be relentless, writer-director Michael Haneke creates something that is unrelentingly manipulative to suit his needs as a dramatist.  The idea that so many critics have bought into it is baffling and leads me to think that they either do not have enough experience in this area or have a lot of prickly, self-centered old people in their lives who are intent on doing things the most physically, self-flagellatingly painful way possible.  (Fortunately, I do not).  Oh, did I mention the two old people in this movie – even when they were healthy– are the kind of pretentious snobs you don’t really want to spend two and a half minutes with much less two and a half hours?  Yes, it’s very well acted and technically very well made.  But do yourself a favor and spend time with some real live old folks (preferably two in your own family) instead.


Mad Men

... or shameless excuse to post a pic of Jon Hamm

… or shameless excuse to post a pic of Jon Hamm

The water cooler show torch has been passed to Homeland and we can’t argue with that.  But there is not a television program on the air that is as consistently smart, well-written, chance talking and socially/politically relevant as Matthew Weiner’s creation.  It never takes the easy way out, stays grounded in reality and uses the 1960s as the lens through which we can see our lives and our history.  And if you think that’s not difficult to do, try writing something in that time period and see how many clichés you will inevitably come up with in even a single scene.


Downton Abbey

Season 3 CANNOT come fast enough!

Season 3 CANNOT come fast enough!

Mainstream American elite culture likes things mostly elitely American.  So how is it that creator/writer Julian Fellowes manages to make the privileged and serving class of post turn of the 20th century England like “television crack,” according to one of my dearest friends?  If I knew, I’d do it myself.  It is in part Maggie Smith playing a bon mot-throwing old rich lady called the Dowager Countess, who is not unlike what we imagine the real Maggie Smith to be were she born approximately 150 years ago to a family of starchy patricians.  But it’s a lot more than that.  Fellowes is now rumored to be writing the new film version of Gypsy for Barbra Streisand.  Well, both are period pieces, after all.


The Voice

TV's BEST chairs

TV’s BEST chairs

It’s not because a few former students work on this or due to the fact that I wish to God (or whoever you conceive Her to be) that I could be a professional singer.  It’s because this reality competition for vocalists doesn’t discriminate on the basis of age, looks, ethnicity, sexual preference or even past deviant behavior.  It’s all about what you sound like – a sort of faux even playing field that never exists in real life but that you get to experience for a few hours a week as long as the season lasts.  Yes, the grand prizewinner is finally voted on by the viewers, which invariably does create a final commercial-type popularity contest in the last few weeks, but those are the least interesting part of the show.  The real story is what comes before and how the judges – from very diverse parts of the music world – both perform and share their own hard knocks with people who have already had or soon will have more than their own share of the same.


NOW with Alex Wagner



It’s on MSNBC at 9am west coast time and noon east coast time.  Those interested in this type of stuff inevitably already watch Rachel Maddow, Chris Hayes, Chris Matthews, et al.  But who you probably don’t tune in to is this smart, extremely funny woman who categorized the many faces of Mitt Romney as “the paradox of the mittens” and used to be editor-in-chief of a hip music and culture magazine called The Fader.  Over the course of an hour, she presides over a panel of cleverly perceptive political experts, covers breaking news, and throws in more witty pop culture references than a Saturday Night Live sketch.  It doesn’t matter that she’s 34, female and of Burmese-German-Irish descent but it’s just one more thing that makes her and her show different than most everyone else on cable TV.


American Horror Story: Asylum

My Bad Habit

My Bad Habit

I think the reason I’m so in love with this show is just how sick, derivative and yet unique it almost always seems to be.  Its second season in a mental hospital is a pastiche of every cliché you’ve seen in every crazed, looney tune horror film imaginable.  Its cast, led by the ghoulishly still sexy Jessica Lange, is shameless and the writing doesn’t always bother to follow what we consider to be the tenets of logic.  Still – any show that cross-cuts between a mad Nazi doctor, aliens and a crazy killer named Bloody Face who likes to skin people for sport – and does it all under the watchful eye of nutty nun who use to be a cabaret torch singer, is okay in my book.  Plus, the recreation room at the asylum consistently plays that 1960s hit record, “Dominique” performed by Soeur Sourire, better known as The Singing Nun.


Barbra Streisand and Bette Midler in The Guilt Trip and Parental Guidance.

Cmon Jerry, help these ladies out.

Jewish hall of fame gala?

Okay, I’ve only seen The Guilt Trip and the trailer for Parental Guidance.  But as a gay guy I can tell you – these ladies deserve better!!!  And it’s not primarily their fault.  They want to do films.  But – what are the films being made that they should be doing?  There aren’t any.  And yes, Barbra’s still fun onscreen and Bette, well, I’ll take your word for it that she is too.  But….really??


The Girl You Wish You Wouldn’t Have Started A Conversation With At A Party, Saturday Night Live

Cecily "Very" Strong

Cecily “Very” Strong

SNL new cast member Cecily Strong is irresistibly annoying as that gal….you know the one, trust me.  We mentioned her last week so we won’t drive it into the ground.  But consider how long it’s been since you remembered any new SNL character since Stefon?  Why does it work?  Because like all good comedy creations, she is barely exaggerated.


No, it wasn’t the cat trick, or the pop singer from another country, or the Olympic athletes doing Call Me Maybe for the millionth time.  It was, quite simply:


Mitt Romney’s comments in a closed door fundraiser to major donors in Florida about how 47% of the electorate feel they are entitled to government handouts such as health care, food and housing and are people he can never convince to take personal responsibility and care for their lives got him — in true Shakespearean fashion — only 47% of the electorate to Barack Obama’s 51%.  It also caused him to lose the election by 4 million votes.  However, the award really should go not to the tape itself but to the Florida bartender who secretly recorded it – and, in another irony, to James Carter IV, grandson of perennial Republican punching bag Jimmy Carter.  Carter IV unearthed the tape on the web and brought it to the attention of David Corn at Mother Jones magazine.

Free speech, when it works, rocks.


Happy Holidays!

IN 3-D (no doubt)

IN 3-D (no doubt)

And it will be happy because — yes, there will be an Angry Birds: The Movie!.  Okay, you will have to wait three and a half years for those chicks to hatch (yuk, yuk – can you tell I used to write press releases?) but in the summer of 2016 one of the most downloaded games in the history of that stuff will be released at a multiplex near you.

Here’s part of the just circulated announcement of that already anticipated film:

December 11th, 2012 — Santa Monica, California — On the third anniversary of the release of Angry Birds, Rovio Entertainment announced that Despicable Me producer John Cohen has signed on as producer of the upcoming Angry Birds movie. David Maisel, former Chairman of Marvel Studios and executive producer of Iron Man, will be executive producer of the feature film, coming to theaters in summer 2016. The film will be produced and financed by Rovio Entertainment. John Cohen most recently produced Illumination Entertainment/Universal Pictures’ Despicable Me in 2010 and executive produced Illumination/Universal’s Hop in 2011. Prior to Illumination, Cohen was VP of Production at Twentieth Century Fox Animation. He worked closely with Blue Sky Studios on films including Ice Age, Robots, Ice Age: The Meltdown and Dr. Seuss’ Horton Hears a Who. Cohen had the idea to reimagine Alvin and the Chipmunks and developed the 2007 film.

Now — here is what I created a year and a half ago for my students.  This wholly fictional creation was in order for them to do an outlandishly fake movie marketing exercise:

March 28, 2011 – Los Angeles, California

As you all know, Pendleton Productions has purchased the rights to Angry Birds and has set up “Angry Birds: The Movie” as our first animated/live action tent pole film with Pixar Studios.   It will, of course, be directed by Brad Bird (The Incredibles).  We have cast Angelina Jolie, Paul Rudd, Andrew Garfield, Willow Smith and Kim Kardashian as our birds.  Our pigs will be played by Zack Galifinakis, Hugh Jackman and Jack Black. In the time remaining, we’d like you to develop a detailed marketing plan to launch our film.  Actually, it’s more than a film.  It’s an event.  Or will be if we decide to hire you because that will be your responsibility. The marketing plan should reach across all media and be as creative and out-of-the-box as possible while still staying within the realm of reality.  Whose reality?  That’s up to you.  But it should include publicity and promotion plans for the launch, advertising ideas, tie-ins, merchandising, product placement and any other means of creating public attention (but not backlash).  It should also take into account platforms in film, television, music, new media and all social media.  Because we want to reach, well – EVERYONE!! 

What can I say?  That this is when you know you’ve been in the entertainment industry too long?  Or not long enough because you’re still surprised by it?

Bottom line — There is NOitem, idea or concept that cannot become a movie –  especially if it’s one that has proved uber-successful in another medium.  In fact, it’s preferable that the item, idea or concept has already done well somewhere else.  Because that means there is something called “brand recognition,” which ups the elusive financial “X” factor that will ensure your movie blockbuster status.  I mean, look at the box-office receipts of  Aeon Flux, The Dukes of Hazzard, Tekken, Battlefield Earth, The Mod Squad, The Honeymooners, Super Mario Bros. and Bewitched alone and you can see I’m correct, right?  Okay, perhaps those are bad examples.  Well, they’re at least bad somethings.

Ouija Board: The Movie? Spirit says no.

Ouija Board: The Movie? Spirit says no.

Note:  Please do not write in with either the box-office grosses or reviews of Lara Croft: Tomb Raider (especially since two friends of mine wrote that one), Mortal Kombat, The Brady Bunch Movie or The Prince of Persia because I’m not interested in anything that disproves the cynical yet obvious point I’m trying to make.

It was not always thus so.  I mean, can you imagine The Seventh Seal in this kind of climate?  But conversely, there could perhaps be The Seventh Seal video game or phone app if that Bergman film were a post millennium release and one were trying to tweak the bounds of taste just a tad.

Well... I guess there's a board game tie in.

Well… I guess there’s a board game tie in.

What to do?  In keeping with the holiday spirit, we’d like to make a modest proposal of some titles that Hollywood could perhaps consider for future Christmas time seasonal announcements of films in the future.

1. Swiffer:  The Film – It’s the animated adventure of a lonely mop who finds itself jettisoned back in time to a Mad Men-like 1950s reality where being disposable is seen as a negative and lack of proper refills ensure its extinction.  How will Swiffer cope and stay alive?  Can it adjust to going from top dog prince to Eisenhower-era pauper?  Stay tuned.

Does this outfit make me look fat?

Does this outfit make me look fat?

2 The Adventures of Abed and The Girl You Wish You Hadn’t Started A Conversation With at a Party – Popular post-modern man-child Abed from the soon to be defunct NBC cult hit Community goes on the road with Cecily Strong’s soon-to-be breakout character from the new 2012 season of Saturday Night Live.  Together they travel the terminally unhip worlds of America they inadvertently make hip because of their own unintentionally po-mo hipness factor.

Click for some stimulating party conversation...

Click for some stimulating party conversation…

3. The Church of Stefon – SNL’s Stefon (because SNL always suffers from film spinoff overkill) flies solo and crash lands into red state America where he helps a group of down-on-their luck fundamentalist pastors rebuild a Church that was destroyed by the first super Tsunami-tornado ever recorded on U.S. soil.  While the preachers blame the emergence of the LGBT community for the aberrant weather, Stefon teaches them through determination and humor that God’s creatures all only have one religion — Clubbing.

Wholesome family entertainment

Wholesome family entertainment

4.  Game of De-Thrones – What happens when Mitt Romney, Hilliary Clinton, Michael Dukakis and Sarah Palin look-a-likes team up to topple their more famous counterparts? Do they take their place in the hierarchy of American political leaders who almost were and institute their plan to once again run in national elections, backed by a shadow rogue group of disgraced Wall Street bankers, in order to recreate the once greatest world power of the U.S. in their own unique vision? Stay tuned.

5. The Pet Rock Musical – Desperate for a Broadway hit, a group of both young and has-been producers team up to create an original musical embracing the beauty of played out sociological trends with hopes that it will be just bad enough to capture the public fancy. Featuring tributes to not only the pet rock but to Cabbage Patch Dolls, Game Boys, Beanie Babies, Nehru Suits, Furby (wait, is that back?), Zhu Zhu Pets, Razor Scooters and the 8-Ball.

6.  Super Nerds and Real Housewives – A new romantic comedy featuring three couples from the various cities of Bravo’s Real Housewives fame who find themselves in Silicon Valley married to everything from well-meaning bores to abusively damaging computer nerds.  In the end one couple divorces, one stays together and a third takes in a third partner.  Not yet determined if addition to third couple will be male or female or some combination of both.

Probable movie poster

Probable movie poster

7. Pandora’s Box – A store clerk’s Pandora account will only play songs loved by his ex-girlfriend, prompting the young man to go on a journey to find the woman (whose name is also, coincidentally, Pandora) and stop her from marrying a phony entrepreneur (who is only using her for her name) before it’s too late. Starring Michael Cera (obviously).

8. Twit Her – The super-villainess Twit Her must hack into the accounts of the 10 people with the most Twitter followers, who were discovered to have been abusing the system and illegally creating an unauthorized list of unwilling fans.   Her mission: reduce their followers to zero and have the real taste makers finally assume their rightful place in the  echelon of who and what is important.

9. Instagram and Other Unworldly Events – Pictures from a man’s past, present and future lives begin coming alive in the room at the worst possible moments, threatening to ruin his life.  He must hunt down the reclusive real creator of Instagram to dismantle the service before he himself is eventually reduced to merely a series of endless, three-dimensional photos in time.

America's Sweetheart

America’s Sweetheart

10. A Honey Boo-Boo Christmas – Low-budget, independent film where the rural family travels to California looking for The Beverly Hillbillies and instead run into Lindsay Lohan and take her under their wings to teach her the true meaning of holiday spirit without money.  Lindsay Lohan has, in fact, just been signed to play herself. (I’d watch this).

I’m not sure what the marketing campaigns will be on any one of these films.  However, I do know that 18 months ago my students came up with this kind of fun stuff for the then fictional Angry Birds movie.

a. A real life Angry Birds game with some of the stars of the film (Jack Black was specifically cited in this one).

b. A real life board game (which might actually already exist) in American landmarks like Times Square and St. Louis’ Gateway Arch.

c. ABC partners to do an Angry Birds version of Wipeout.

4. A master guerilla marketing guru who out text messages to a bunches of people in a given room saying things like “Knocking out pigs and pass it on”

5. A cirque du soleil type show at premiere.

Stay tuned to see if any of our predictions or strategies come true.

In the meantime, Have fun, be safe and go see a movie.  In a movie theatre, that is.