Size Matters

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It’s one of those small, personal films…..

The audience is VERY limited…..

People in major metropolitan areas will be go for it, but…I mean…

Why would anyone want to see this?…

BO-RING!!!…………

BRILLIANT!!!

There seems to be two types of movies nowadays – the BIG and the SMALL.

The BIG ones are entertaining and appeal to many people. Even when they’re dramatic they have lots of ACTION and are not full of MANY LEVELS of meaning. They’re LOUD and they’re fun. They can also be funny, with recognizable characters that you’d like to hang out with or hate. When they work they’re like great fast food or stylish mass-market clothing lines. You indulge in them because they deliver on what they promise.

Of course, this description is a little ridiculous. But that’s fine because we’re not talking about the BIG here. They get enough attention as it is.

That leaves – The SMALL. And the PERSONAL.

This variety is just that: intimate, multi-layered and often not very obvious. They are not fun in a ha-ha sort of way and many times they are just plain upsetting or confusing. Their pace is A LOT SLOWER (more, ahem, leisurely) and in too many moments you care to admit they can make you wonder why you would choose to spend what precious little spare time you have watching another person’s therapy session. Still, they give you something that you can’t get most anywhere else – an intimate, almost forbidden look into the psyche of someone else. At their best they can be moving, thought-provoking and, as a side benefit, can make you feel personally less crazy about your own mind and life.

Join the club!

Join the club!

Certainly, this description is biased and overly general. But no less false or true than the one used to describe BIG.   If it also seems a bit snobby, like I’m preferring this to the former, then so be it. Remember, we’re talking about what the general public considers SMALL. It needs all the help that it can get.

This being a lazy weekend where I’ve been under the weather after finishing up months of work on two different jobs, I was up for the small in the last few days.

You’d think it would be the opposite, right? Well, you wouldn’t be alone. My parents never understood why I preferred to write heart-breaking poetry at the age of 12 instead of playing baseball outside. Or why I worried so much about the destruction of the world, my own death and other existential questions of life.

What can I say, some of us were just born this way.

So to satisfy all of these urges– and yes, to RELAX ME – I popped in three different DVDs from my holiday pile courtesy of the usually ungenerous film studios. They are all what are considered SMALL movies. And they ALL had their moments – which you can take any way you want.

Other than being tossed by the general SHOW BIZ public into the dreaded SMALL and PERSONAL category, they have absolutely nothing else in common. Which is why they’re worth examining individually before they entirely disappear from the motion picture zeitgeist – and perhaps seeing if what I (or THEY) say about small is true.

BY THE SEA 

Directed, written and starring Angelina Jolie-Pitt

brad-and-angie-by-the-sea

It’s difficult to imagine ANYTHING starring Mr. and Mrs. Brad Pitt as small or personal, right? After all, is anything they do either of those things for very long? Certainly, it’s never SMALL. Except this film.

No – it’s nowhere near as BAD as you might have read it is. Nor is not a two-hour plus perfume commercial, the ultimate vanity project or the thinly veiled semi-autobiographical tale of Ms. Jolie-Pitt’s deceased mother.

By The Sea is actually a strangely watchable and often infuriatingly flawed tale of a an early 1970s it couple in marital crisis done in the style of a late 1960s French film where shots linger, meanings are implied and the scenery, clothes and sunsets are all breathtakingly beautiful. All done to the tune of what seems like a mash-up of the ambient theme music of every film ever directed by Jean Renoir, Roger Vadim and Claude Chabrol, not to mention a few others.

and then pipe in some Burton-Taylor 1970s glamour

and then pipe in some Burton-Taylor 1970s glamour

If you’re looking for faults you’ll find them. It’s thoroughly dumb-founding why Ms. Jolie-Pitt spends the majority of her screen time miserably unhappy and girding towards a breakdown. And when the truth is finally revealed (Note: yes, hang in there, she finally will let you know) it has nowhere near the impact it might have had it been doled out to us in even semi-coherent bits and pieces all along. True, this is screenwriting 101 but, I mean, are you going to be the one to give the Pitts notes when they’ve signed on to star in a new movie they want you to make?

This being the case, let’s focus on the positives. This is a filmmaker-movie star that understands exactly who she is and what the public thinks of her. So what she chooses to do here is indulge us with it – meaning her – until we can’t see straight and then subvert our expectations of who we think she is. Or, well, who her character is. Not that there’s a difference. Or, is there?

Oh Angie... you clever girl.

Oh Angie… you clever girl.

See, that’s the point. Ms. Jolie-Pitt plays an impossibly beautiful, glamorous former-dancer from New York married to Mr. Pitt, an impossibly handsome famous novelist of the time. They live in New York but are vacationing in a gem of a small hotel on the water in the south of France where they drive a spiffy sports car and seem to have unlimited clothes, style and funds to stay as long as they choose. They are so breathtakingly watchable and enviable that you hate them – then hate them for being as miserable as they both are. Until you also can’t help but be intrigued by one question: how can this possibly be??????

And that’s the crux of the film and what makes it more often than not watchable. Which is not to say I give it a hearty recommendation. But by the end, you marvel at how skillfully Ms. Jolie Pitt was able to undermine our expectations of just who she and her husband are vs. what they seem to be. And if you want to know if I’m talking about the real couple or the characters they play I have no idea. Which is, again, the entire point, and what makes the movie an unusual experience you don’t get much of anymore on the BIG (or even small) screen.

ROOM

Directed by Lenny Abrahamson; Written by Emma Donoghue (based on her novel)

Every year it seems there’s room for ONE small, personal, INDIE film on the Hollywood must-see A list. Last year it was Whiplash, and deservedly so. This year it’s Room, a movie that is equally deserving.

It’s difficult to predict why one very intimate, low-budget SMALL story will work so well while others falter. The strength of Room is its unrelenting oppressive intimacy and suppressed emotions. Which is not say it’s without its fair share of hysteria. But there’s an astonishing lack of bells and whistles here – whether due to budget, design, style or all three – and it all works pretty seamlessly.

There will be no spoilers except to say Brie Larson and Jacob Tremblay, who play a mother and her five-year old son stuck in a small room – a premise novelist/ screenwriter Donoghue was inspired to create after she read about an even more harrowing real-life story. People often think writers can only tell personal stories they’ve experienced or seen happen to their family and friends. This is shortsighted and denies the very craft of writing itself. If you do your homework and are open to your own emotions you can become part of each character’s story and wind up telling a tale about your own life – at least by extension.

Move over J. Law, Brie's Hollywood's newest It Girl

Move over J. Law, Brie’s Hollywood’s newest It Girl

For whatever reason, that seems to have happened here with Ms. Donoghue, the director and the actors. Ms. Larson is astonishing, as she was in the similar-in scope Short Term 12 several years ago. Her co-star, the now 8-year-old Jacob Tremblay gives one of those child performances that will go down next to Hayley Joel Osment in The Sixth Sense and Abigail Breslin in Little Miss Sunshine. You just find yourself wondering – how can this be? How does a kid DO this? And…could I even put two thoughts together when I was his age???

There’s a lot more to Room than any of this but since I managed to see it with little or no information beforehand I’ll do you the same favor here. But you should see it. It shows that you can still aspire to tell any sort of subject matter onscreen and, with enough time and effort, do it every bit as well or better than any one of the BIG guys (or gals, for that matter).

INFINITELY POLAR BEAR

Directed and written by Maya Forbes

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This movie is an admittedly semi-fictionalized account of the writer-director’s own childhood as the young daughter of her bipolar, blue-blood father who tries to be a full-time parent to her and her sister when their African American mother decides to go to grad school in order to be able to earn enough money to support the family.

Its strength is that it embraces mental illness as both a serious medical condition AND entertainingly over-the-top oddity. Too often this type of character becomes merely charmingly strange or sadly pathetic – either whitewashed into a sideshow freak or held up as a sadly melodramatic life-wrecking nut job. Mark Ruffalo’s performance manages to convey equal parts of both and it imbues the film with just the right kind of narrative drive to sustain a fairly episodic story. Just as you think it’s all getting a bit ridiculous, he anchors you back to a believable reality. But when the film veers into Lifetime TV melodrama (Note: That is if Lifetime TV did more films with male leads – but that would then make it a TNT or Nat Geo movie where he’d have to be a crazy cowboy in the Wild West), he comes up with an odd bit or reaction that makes you smile but won’t send your face into snide eye-roll mode.

Just want to remind everyone that this was a real Lifetime movie in 2015.

Just want to remind everyone that this was a real Lifetime movie in 2015.

One wishes the story offered something a little bit…newer on the subject. Or perhaps that by looking at his predicament through the 2015 lens of what we know about mental illness makes everything about what’s presented seem a bit dated. One can’t help but feel like we’ve seen it before, or read about it or watched too many cable and now even network series on the subject with more than our fair share of QUIRK.

There are also moments in the movie where we can’t help but feel as if we’re watching Ms. Forbes’ comic recreations of a childhood that she has recreated for many others through the years. Of course, there is nothing wrong with that on its own. Almost every artist does it with their stories and experiences in some form or another before offering it up for general digestion (NOTE: Guilty as charged). The trick is for it not to seem as if this is material that has had previous out-of-town runs. You don’t want the sense that the daughters’ embarrassments are too planned or the wife’s exasperations too rehearsed – which is how it too often seemed. But like he does in so many roles, it’s Mr. Ruffalo who seems to know just how to calibrate it all. It’s why he’s the go-to character guy of his age group – a guy who knows how to make the small seem something better than big – REAL.

All That Jazz

Screen Shot 2015-01-04 at 1.10.11 PMNormal people use the time between New Year’s Eve and going back to work on that dreaded Monday to -– well, come to think of it what do they do? I have absolutely no idea. And what is normal anyway? Again, I got nothing.

What I spend my time doing – and have done for most of my life at this time of year – is to go to the movies. For as long as I can remember (Note: And that’s long before anyone, even Louis B. Mayer, got screeners in the mail) I’ve spent the primary part of the post Christmas holiday season catching up with all of the “prestige films” the studios have mostly kept from us.

This is not simply because I’m Jewish. I probably haven’t been to temple in at least five years and even then I think it was only for a bar mitzvah. Though I did walk through several synagogues on a trip to Italy this summer, which really doesn’t count since they were FAR outweighed by the at least 437 churches I also managed to stroll through

Where were we? Oh yes, the cinema.

Go on...

Go on…

These days the cinema means lots of things. It could be going out to the mall or your local specialty theatre and paying a bit too much to see a movie that doesn’t quite live up to your expectations. It could also be watching something old you may or may not have seen before on television that you or the majority rule will be fun holiday viewing. If you’re a bit more privileged or connected or facile, it can even be watching a DVD of a current motion picture now playing in theatres at home or at a friend’s house via a screener, day and date VOD, pay cable or, um…some other means (Note: Please do NOT write in and ask what some other means means).

I admit to doing all of these in the past five days (Note: Not the some other means, I don’t want to be expelled from show business any more than I already am). Which brings me to about six and a half films just seen in a relatively short period of time. Interestingly enough, there wasn’t a clunker in the bunch. Which doesn’t mean I LOVED them. I liked them all and each did what all good films do – made me think while also entertaining me at the same time. Yet in every case there was something sort of, well, missing. Until today… when I caught up with a small movie that was actually released in October called Whiplash.

hitting the right beats

hitting the right beats

It’s excellent, disturbing, thought provoking, a little over the top and emotional – though not entirely emotionally satisfying. Frankly, at the end you’re of two minds and are not sure exactly what to think or who to sympathize with. Which is precisely what was missing from the other five and a half films that I merely LIKED though really did enjoy.

What were the other films? Oh, perhaps a few you might know or have heard of:

  • Unbroken
  • American Sniper
  • Wild
  • The Imitation Game
  • Inherent Vice
  • A Most Violent Year

These are some of the best and brightest the awards season has to offer and will no doubt be crowding around the Oscars along with a few others. Yet none of them has the unpredictably and sheer verve 29 year-old writer-director Damien Chazelle brought to a story we’ve essentially seen many times before – that of teacher who for good or bad pushes that potentially special student beyond the limits of where we (or perhaps they) ever thought they could go. In this case it is in the unlikely scenario of an aspiring drummer and his jazz musician professor, which works because it’s visual. Yet it really could be any one of us up there – if we allowed ourselves – who ever went to school and met that key catalyctic person. Go figure.

He already has that "Oscar glow"

He already has that “Oscar glow”

There is no point telling you any more than that or building up a film beyond the point where it could possibly live up to expectations. The only thing to be said for sure is that J.K. Simmons, the veteran character actor who plays the teacher, will indeed be the one person in the movie who will be winning the Oscar this year. That you can take to the bank because he shares the common denominator of all great performances that rivet you in films – you are never quite sure what he is going to do. He pulls you in, scares you, seduces you and then…well, you’ll see. It’s terrifying, sad, difficult to watch and yet impossible to turn away from in fear that you will miss something you might not want to have seen in the first place. This is to take nothing away from Mr. Chazelle, who manages to capture it all in the most original ways.

Taking a cliché genre, any genre, and turning it on its ear without selling out what we love about it to begin with is no easy feat. Yet it can be done. Look at the best films of Martin Scorsese, Ingmar Bergman, Pedro Almodovar and Paul Thomas Anderson – not to mention Alfred Hitchcock and Roman Polanski – and you begin to understand. It takes not only hard work but NERVE, VERVE and the DESIRE to do this in the first place.

Don't believe me? Try some tanis root...

Don’t believe me? Try some tanis root…

One fears that writers, directors and studios have begun to lose their taste for such things. Scratch that. Most people working in the movies know that to a certain extent this is true. Yet that doesn’t mean that one still can’t come up with something quite wonderful.

For instance, The Imitation Game is a very engaging, sad and illuminating look at Alan Turing – the brilliant, secretly gay British logician who broke the secret Nazi Enigma code and became the single biggest contributor to the Allies victory in World War II only to commit suicide less than a decade later after his arrest and sentencing for homosexual behavior. As superbly acted, clever and well-made as the film is there is little surprising in it if one knows anything about the story. Even for those totally unfamiliar, it pretty much follows the traditional dramatic route because you know from the beginning that victory is afoot and who will be primarily responsible for it – and even how.

The war.. from two fronts

The war.. from two fronts

Unbroken follows a similar path though not quite as adeptly. Still, it is not without its merits. The unbelievably true story – as its billed – of former U.S. Olympian Louis Zamperini surviving a devastating plane crash and subsequent imprisonment in a Japanese prisoner of war camp during World War II – delivers everything it says it will deliver. Those are summed up in the adjectives you no doubt have seen in large font on most of its ads: SURVIVAL. RESILIENCE. REDEMPTION. It has all of those many times over. In fact, there is not a moment in the entire motion picture where it doesn’t – which is the problem. As reassuring as that can be to any of us as audience members, it is seldom what makes a really GREAT film.

Take Wild and American Sniper and substitute any or all of the descriptions above. As we roam through the 1100 mile solo hike Cheryl Strayed took through the Pacific Northwest in order to recover from personal trauma or tag along with Chris Kyle on four tours in Iraq where he becomes the most accurate and lethal sniper in US military history, there is excitement and wonderment yet a dulling reassurance of how it will all wind up. Reese Witherspoon and Bradley Cooper expertly pour themselves into each of their roles and give us everything and more than you’d want as their onscreen counterparts. Yet one can’t help but feel deep down that five minutes of any one of their real life adventures were much grittier, exciting and certainly much more morally questionable than any one chunk of time during their entire films.

The great outdoors... in full hair and makeup

The great outdoors… in full hair and makeup

As for Inherent Vice and A Most Violent Year it goes like this. The former is essentially a stoner detective comedy-drama set in 1970s L.A. and is a charming mess that will drive you crazy if you try to follow it as a whole but can certainly be enjoyed in parts and with the help of the chemical aid of one’s choice. The latter deals with working class business moguls making it beyond anyone’s dreams and, well, I only saw one-half because I felt I had already seen it many times before (Note: See earlier Scorsese reference). But again, one could and most assuredly will do worse this year. Annie or Transformers 3, anyone?

Which brings us back to Whiplash.

There will be blood

There will be blood

Part of the reason we loved the late Heath Ledger in The Dark Knight is we never quite knew what he was going to do or where he was coming from. The best I could figure was total nihilism in order to counter the absolutely useless, insensitive, meaningless materialistic world of today. I’d never seen anyone evil-ing their way through a film for no reason other than every reason – tapping into every bad, justified personal insult each of us has ever dished out or had to endure. No one had ever done that in a movie before in just that way to such great effect up to that point and the mere discussion of it makes me want to pop in a DVD for that scene where Joker Heath saunters through Gotham City wearing a nurse’s uniform.

Oh how we miss you

Oh how we miss you

Movies can simply be great entertainment and that is what’s wonderful. They can also be just polemic enough as they tell the story of a social issue in a satisfying way and that certainly is enough to be memorable.

But what we don’t have much of anymore are the films that make you angry, make you think or seem familiar yet will sneakily unearth something awfully important (or importantly awful) at stake in such a way where we do not know at all until the bitter end absolutely what will happen. The end of Whiplash confounds certain audiences and critics because it is precisely the correct ending of a film that gets it absolutely right even though you are convinced from time to time that it is absolutely missing the boat.

Walking the plank

Walking the plank

As a screenwriting teacher I talk to my students a lot about heroes and villains. That no one is all good (and if they were you’d hate them) and that every supposed monster believes somewhere deep down they are 100% justified to be doing the things they do. I mean, why do anything bad or good if you can’t on some level enjoy your actions? That includes reveling in your evilness. After all if you’re going to dare to be that bad and do a high wire act of contrariness to the rest of society and its mamby pamby meandering rules you better or might as well enjoy it and feel like its for a reason.

The teacher captures exactly that in Whiplash in a way I’ve never experienced before. Just as the heroic student – played with superb finesse and skill by Miles Teller – shows us that being a great guy all around is a lot more complicated than the teachings in Joseph Campbell’s “The Hero’s Journey” gives one credit for.

Especially if you are a drum...

And don’t get in his way.

I am going to try to remember all of that and more as I continue on the script I’m currently writing as well as the next time I stand before a new group of students (Note: That would be next week) talking about what makes a good movie story. I will also recall and note that the writer-director of Whiplash, Mr. Chazelle, was himself once a young drummer who studied under a mentor of questionable methods and that this movie was inspired by, but not actually based on, real life events.   Yeah, you write or make what you know about because when you give it your all and forget about who’s going to watch and why – you have the chance to show it to us in a true and very real way we all have never experienced or even thought of before even if it would seem like we have. At one point in time, that was what movies were all about. And I’m sort of missing it at the start of this new year.

Hackety Hack

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Yakety, yack. Hackety, hack.

All of Hollywood and then the world were abuzz this week over the massive computer hacking of Sony Pictures Entertainment’s email system.

First it was about the idea that anyone could pull off such a massive theft of so protected a system.

Then it morphed into the high-minded conversation of whether it was done by North Korea in retaliation for the upcoming Sony movie, The Interview – a film where two schnooks played by Seth Rogen and James Franco are pressured by the US government to assassinate North Korea president Kim Jong-Un.

Yep... these two geniuses

Yep… these two geniuses

From there it went to just about the only thing that can trump international intrigue in importance – and that would be the bitchy, salacious, gossipy and racially insensitive (Note: The latter are Rev. Al Sharpton’s words, not mine) hacked emails themselves.

Someone actually had the audacity to call unofficial Queen of the World Angelina Jolie nothing more than “a camp event,” “a celebrity” (Note: To be said with a sneer) and “a minimally talented spoiled brat,” only to then refer to her plan to star in a new film version of Cleopatra as “a $180 million ego bath.” You can thank Scott Rudin, currently the most prolific producer in contemporary Hollywood history whose credits include No Country For Old Men, The Social Network and Moneyball, as well as dozens of some of your other favorite major studio films and Broadway megahits, for steering the world toward that which is really important.

I have an EGOT, bitches

I have an EGOT, bitches

Except the spotlight was then quickly taken away by other email musings on the unofficial Most Powerful Man in the World, U.S. Pres. Barack Obama, by Sony Pictures Chair (Note: No relation) Amy Pascal. This was when she complained/wrote to Mr. Rudin at the end of one presumably very long day about having to attend a stupid breakfast (Note: Her words, not mine) honoring/fundraising for the prez, and wondered in printed correspondence to said producer, what to ask him. When Mr. Rudin sarcastically wrote, if he’d like “to finance some movies,” Ms. Pascal quipped back, “Should I ask him if he liked Django (Unchained)? To which Mr. Rudin countered “12 Years (A Slave).” To which Ms. Pascal bested or “The Butler” or “Think Like A Man.” To which Mr. Rudin topped “Ride-Along,” confessing he’d bet that the first Black president (who is, incidentally, equally as much White as he is Black) most assuredly likes Kevin Hart.

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Don’t they know the president has very publicly admitted to being hooked on both House of Cards AND Homeland and that each have very few to no Blacks as regular cast members? Oh right, that’s TV. And not even HBO.

Unfortunately, the public conversation has now moved on to the inevitable public apologies by both the producer and the studio executive, ironically dispersed to press outlets mostly via email, where both producer and studio executive are desperately trying to steer the conversation back to where we started. In case you don’t remember where that is it’s the massive computer hacking of Sony Pictures email system and the crooks that perpetrated the crime. But both being extremely savvy and armed with a bevy of some of the most ingenious publicity consultants money can buy, the producer and studio head, in separate statements, each managed to smuggle in one other culprit — the complicit media who ran with the stolen goods (those pesky emails) and are thus continuing the crime of making these private, written conservations very public.

I mean, just who are the real villains here, anyway, they or we may ask?

It sure as hell ain't me!

It sure as hell ain’t me!

Are you tired yet? Well, perhaps. I know I am. But that’s only because we are once again dealing with complex issues there are no immediate answers for. However, these two grown adults (said prod & exec) acting like petty elementary school kids with the centralized power of high school bullies as they privately take down the more accomplished colleagues that they hate, are annoyed by or are just plain bored with, is something much more understandable. We can all relate to that conversation because we have all either been bullied or have been the bully. Perhaps even both.

I was never good at determining villains because I tend to see the world in insurmountable shades of gray that can never quite be fully deciphered. I mean, even when I rant against people like the Duggars, Sarah Palin and Michael Bay I question for weeks afterwards whether I’m being completely fair or going to hell, though not necessarily in that order and not necessarily both every time.

MjAxMi00NzJjMDAzMmUwZDIzMjdh

So I am going to refrain from judgment and talk about two byproducts of this debacle – the victims and the broader reality.

The victims are not Pres. Obama, Angelina Jolie, said producer, studio head or the myriads of other very well paid, successful people whose privacy and/or dignity has been momentarily taken. They are all smart, resourceful, wealthy and have developed somewhat thickened skins from years in the battle. They can take care of themselves. No, it’s not fair but they’ll be fine. Believe it because it’s true. Really.

The victims are the hundreds of other Sony employees who will no doubt have their identities stolen, will lose their jobs because a corporation has to do something when this happens, have their health records compromised and spend the next number of years living in paranoia every time they correspond with anyone – whether electronically, in person or via any other tablet or instrument of choice. I know this as a victim of identity theft myself for two years running because some hateful cow or sow, buck or f–k (Note: Apologies animals) filed a federal tax return in my name and actually got two different four-figure refunds in my place each year. Trust me, it’s not fun.

1596.strip

Still, there are enough systems in place where these people should all be able to get beyond what’s happened to them and resume some semblance of a new normal life. It sucks the big one and it’s really awful that we live in a world where any one of us at any time can now be virtually violated with little consequence to the perpetrator. But one supposes that is the price we pay for eschewing snail mail for messengers, messengers for email, email for Twitter, Twitter for texts and texts for….microchip implants? I’m surmising, not suggesting. And by the way, I did finally get my tax return after more than a year – each time. I can only hope it takes less than that time for the average lower-mid level laid-off Sony employee to get their next job. But let’s err on the side of optimism. For now

What seems to bother me even more is not the crime – heinous as it is – or the victims of the theft – awful as it is to be a victim. Or even the unfunny racially tinged comments of the producer and studio executive – dumb and small-minded as they were in those moments and even now.

Ugh.. there's more??

Ugh.. there’s more??

Rather, it is the accepted way business is done in the world. The cutthroat, diminishing, low brow fashion so many people exhibit in their industries when they do not get what they want when they want it and the manipulative, back-stabbing, underhanded tactics they will use in the most casual way to sabotage their perceived enemies as all the while they are smiling to their faces, sending them polite, charming and even complimentary communications or merely hiding behind their own work as a way to benignly avoid contact until they pull the big rug out from under those that they choose to engage in the first place.  Perhaps this is human nature. But I don’t think so. And even if it is, we have evolved, if just a little, from the caveman days of hunt or be hunted and fight or flight. Haven’t we? Last I heard there were no Paleolithic nanos or iPods or even iPads. Which reminds me, it was Mr. Rudin’s perception Sony was acing out his upcoming movie about Steve Jobs with intended Cleopatra director and self-professed close friend David Fincher that began the brouhaha here in the first place… but let’s not get off topic.

"Leave me out of this!" says the deity that invented "the cloud"

“Leave me out of this!” says the deity that invented “the cloud”

I’ve spent the majority of my professional life in and around the entertainment industry and I know these hacked emails (Note: See links below for some samplings) typify the best and worst parts of show business. The best being the possibility that people love the piece of entertainment/art you’ve created or hope to create and respect you and your talents so much that they financially and enthusiastically support its coming to life in a way that can be seen by millions of people around the world it will not only please but perhaps influence or change for the better. The worst, however, are the endless and needless betrayals, insults, condescension and out and out lies behind your back or in front of your face by the very people you work with, have dinner with, party with or even do more than that with, who you could have sworn to anyone who will listen are your friends.

There’s an old expression I sometimes evoke to the college juniors and seniors that I try to prepare for the industry each semester and that is that show business is nothing more and nothing less than high school with money. I say sometimes because I’ve sort of put it to bed in the last year or two since after all this time it began to feel, well… tired.  I agree – it’s very tired.   But sadly, that doesn’t make it any less true.

20 Reasons to Floss

* Part of our mission statement here at Notes from a Chair is to give readers a heads up on potential good and bad things to look forward to in contemporary life.  On the list of the bad is dental work.  Of any kind.

The Chair endured some dreaded gum surgery on Friday and was forced to spend the weekend recuperating and reflecting.   The following is a cautionary list that might help avoid doing (too much of) either in the future.

20 REASONS TO FLOSS:

Floss (verb): to clean (the teeth) with dental floss.

Dental floss:

  1. a soft, strong, waxed or unwaxed thread, usually made of nylon, for drawing between the teeth to remove food particles and prevent the buildup of plaque.
  2. the answer to many of life’s problems.

1. You love disposable income.  When you get to middle age you do not want to give your tooth doctor the cash equivalent of what could be the cost of your beloved new Kia.  And even though we wouldn’t recommend a Kia (a car mechanic told us some years ago it was the one car never to buy – new or used), the same amount could be used to purchase a glamorous Italian vacation; several Tom Ford or Stella McCartney designer somethings (depending on your gender and/or gender choice); or a lifetime worth of movies tickets several times over till the end of time anywhere in the world.

2. Dental surgery does not make you “hip.”  We went to one of the finest and most expensive periodontal specialists health insurance could buy.  Still, we were treated to a Beverly Hills waiting area that featured:

  1. Large purple and lilac tubular cylinders on a dark gray wall that were masquerading as either objects de’op art or potential surgical instruments.
  2. A middle aged woman incessantly muttering and humming to herself in an indecipherable native tongue.
  3. A Beverly Hills matron either giving us the evil eye or flirting to the tune of said native music.
  4. The Entertainment Weekly cover image of Jessica Lange as an ax-wielding nun presiding over her own medical establishment in the new season of “American Horror Story.”

3. “White privilege” is alive and well . Although we live (allegedly) in a post-racial society, whiteness is still given the upper hand in all things dentistry. This was confirmed all the more in a post operative weekend of trash TV that included a human something called Carter Oosterhouse hosting a 1:00 ayem HGTV program called “Million Dollar Rooms.” (yes, that’s a single room, meaning one).  Hell, it was either that or watching the “Insanity” workout infomercial.  Which one would YOU choose????

Oh, and he’s married to actress Amy Smart. #teethwhitening2.0

4. Cindy Crawford has perfect teeth. There is a late night infomercial that will sell you the rare juice/oil of a European cantaloupe to ensure you will age as well as the 45 year old Cindy Crawford. Her perfect teeth seem to confirm the ad’s claim that Cindy uses the juice ALONG with a strict health regimen to all parts of her body, including her teeth.  Not that anyone is looking at her mouth.  Or – are they? (Note: One wouldn’t know any of this unless he/she had unwanted surgery on a part of the body they neglected that wound up keeping them awake in the middle of the night).

5. Waiting sucks.  Having an oral medical “procedure” is not unlike queuing up for gasoline in the 1980s – there’s always a wait.  In our case, it was done to 45 minutes of MUZAK that included a mix tape of Jackson Browne’s greatest hits.  Not to get too “nasty” about a “Jackson” but — do you ever need to hear “Running On Empty” again??  Not if you’re really nasty. #MissJacksonifyouare

6. You will never be on the political stage… but will forever be forced to listen to them.  This came particularly into focus when out of sheer desperation I happened to hear vice-presidential nominee Paul Ryan speaking before what must be a made-up entity called the Family Values Association.  Honestly, if Ryan was a private in the military and I had to save him, I wouldn’t.  Spielberg or not.

7. The drugs aren’t worth it. You don’t get the drugs of your choice when you get surgery, just the drugs they give you.  I don’t like things like Percoset.  They make me feel groggy and weird.  But when I try to explain that medical marijuana dispensaries are legal in California I get a blank look from my doctor. #Truckin’

8. Your dreams come to haunt you.  While under the influence, you will invent and watch more imagined tacky television shows than you can imagine just for your own perverse amusement and then be embarrassed for thinking them up.  This includes programs like “The American Bible Challenge” on the Game Show Network where comedian host Jeff Foxworthy tests your knowledge of scripture and then awards cash prizes you are then forced to donate to charity, and Showtime’s “Gigolos,” which centers on a group of overly muscled, tanned and tattooed “males of the evening” in Las Vegas who compete against each other for lady clients.  This is not so bad in itself until you wake up the next day and realize that both of these programs exist and that real life has become your nightmare. #SetyourDVRifudontbelieveme

Actually, THIS is your brain on drugs.

9. Faulty tech equipment. The music guaranteed to drown out the loud sound of drills and strong gloved hands digging other pointy instruments into roof of your mouth, can easily get derailed when you realize the right ear of your headset is devoid of music but not what else is happening in the room. This is especially disconcerting because your right ear is your one good ear in addition to the side of your face that contains the gum in question and is being treated to the sounds of all the excavating action. #SeeMeFeelMe

10. Mouthus Interruptus. –You might think your dentist is brilliant, rich, painless and powerful but you didn’t take into account his desirability will likely cause you to feel like one of those large pieces of real estate that was halted mid-construction by the global economic crisis.  This happens when he walks away to take a phone call from a more important client with either a bigger emergency or a bigger name (since he is the best and very much in demand) and leaves you with a lot of dangling metal instruments and cottony stuffing in your mouth (the kind of cottony you see on the insulating walls of unfinished buildings).  To carry the metaphor even further, you have no earthly idea when work will resume, despite the written contract you both entered into prior to when said work began.

10. Bradley Cooper is still single. #Nuffsaid

11. Angelina Jolie is technically still single .  And she could help you with your career. #Itaintovertillitsover4eitherofu

The new Brad and Angie

12. Trash TV has its limits.  You don’t want to get to the point where you’re so bitter that the only reason you know you’re feeling better is that a) you’re angry you weren’t able to guess the #1 scandal in the Logo special “Scandalicious: 20 JUCIEST CELEBRITY SCANDALS OF PASSION” and b) you are even more angry that your choice was #2.

(FYI – Arnold Schwarzenegger having a child with the maid who helped Maria Shriver raise their children was my #1 choice at #2.  Logo’s #1 choice was the far less scandalicious Demi Moore and Ashton Kutcher).  #Theyresolame or #AndyCohenrotinhell

13. Really good doctors are really good actors. Each one can make you feel like you’re the most important person in the room if they want to and at some point they will want to and you will want to believe them.  (Note:  This is why it’s perilous to have too many actor friends – you never quite know how much is true friendship or just a dramatic evocation of one).

So inevitably, this year’s winner of best doctor in a starring role will give you all the care and attention of the best Meryl Streep character when they’re with you but once you blink back to reality and the performance is over they’re suddenly gone and the only reminder you’ll have is the pain in your missing or mended body part when you receive their bill.

On a more immediate basis, this leaves solely their assistant to explain to you the do’s and don’ts of what you’re told is imperative post surgical care while one side of your face feels like a side of beef and the other side, the one with the good ear, is now on the fritz because Amy Winehouse finally kicked in too loudly on the doctor-supplied fritzy headset at the tail end of your surgery.

He wears a mask afterall!

14. You’re a dork. Your eagerness to leave a medical office in disgust and neglect is interrupted by your actor/doctor actually returning in true sensitive Streep-ian fashion to give you a well-prepared, type-written check list of post surgical instructions and to spend time with you kindly answering any questions.   He even puts a reassuring hand on your shoulder.  Now you feel like the little jerk played that year by Katherine Heigl because you leapt to such a snap judgment. Still, since he was billed to you as “the best” and in our case this is Beverly Hills, one still has to wonder– DOES he really care or IS he just acting??

15. It’s never over. Once you see a specialty dentist they are in your life forever– sort of like when that one night stand produces a child. (Speaking of Ms. Heigl).  So it should not surprise you when you are told to book two follow up appointments in the next six weeks and, now that your surgery has been completed, you are not given your doctor’s optimum morning appointments but relegated to mid-afternoon AND told you’re being squeezed in.  This is like both marriage AND divorce. #Ihavecustodyoftheteeth

16. No one will talk to you about it (except on this blog). The percentage of people who want to know anything about gum or dental surgery is equal to the percentage of those who would watch a rebroadcast loop of both the 2012 Republican and Democratic presidential conventions rather than a new season of either “Arrested Development” or “I Love Lucy” with its original cast.  #nochanceinhell

17. Imposed censorship. After you have any kind of dental surgery you are told it is imperative to keep your mouth clean.  How do you do this when you take pride in a lifetime of having done anything but this up until now?  #phuku

Speak no evil.

18. You don’t love baby formula.  Dental or full body, your post-surgery food will be as exciting as baby formula – soft, bland and gooey.  To compensate you will decide to eat excessive amounts of chocolate or other delectably mushy desserts of your choice.  Thus, you will either gain weight or shorten your life (or perhaps both) while you think you are really convalescing.

19.  Goodbye Tooth Fairy, Hello Hitler.  You will never again have to fear a new dental specialist who will remind you of the Nazi doctor who tortured Dustin Hoffman in the dentist’s chair sans anesthesia in “Marathon Man.”  Or, for that matter, be afraid the love child of Jack Nicholson and Steve Martin’s demented dentists will come back to haunt you in that ill-advised 3-D studio remake of “Little Shop of Horrors.”

20. One less thing to worry about. You have to cut down somewhere in that category.  What’s worse – carrying some waxy thread or experiencing any of the above ever again? #tellemJohnny

This is the Pitts!

Mommie Dearest.

When Brad Pitt’s mother came out as virulently anti-Obama (that’s Barack HUSSEIN Obama, to use her exact words), anti-choice (“the killing of unborn babies,” as she puts it) and anti-gay marriage, (she cites “Christian conviction concerning homosexuality”) in a letter to Missouri’s Star-Ledger this week, all I could think about was:

  1. What is it like when Brad comes home for the holidays?
  2. What was it like when he came home with Angie for the first time (assuming he has)?
  3. And how can he be so liberal while his mother is so intransigent, nasty and, well, small-town ignorant???

Despite my better instincts, I’m still wondering about the first two. (OH, COME ON, I’M NOT ALONE!).  As for the third, well – I should know better than to categorize people I’ve not met as ignorant and am profusely embarrassed (well, at least slightly) for thinking it, much less writing it publicly.

I mean, for all I know, Jane Pitt has many wonderful qualities (well, at least one we can speak of) and might just be the kindest woman in town if we were to get off the subject of politics.  As for Brad, I know him as well as Jane, so despite the fact that I like a lot of his movies and the things he’s done to build houses in New Orleans as well as his fight for gay marriage ($100,000 to defeat CA’s Prop 8) he could be even more jerky than Mom if we get him on the right subject.

As could all of us.  Which is the point.

How did we get here?

These differences are what the United States is and always has been composed of and, up until recently, was one of the selling points of the country.  That like a big dysfunctional family — mine, yours or the Pitts — you could disagree and still be related.  You could also do or say or be as rude or politically incorrect or culturally diverse or short sighted, or communistic/tree hugging/eco-friendly and radically vegan-istic as you like and, at the end of the day, you had just as much a right to be here and act that way as anyone else.  Perhaps this is even still the case for those of us not overdosing on the red state/blue state thing after two or three decades of growing alienation from each other.

That’s why there are 64 colors in every box.

Was it the rise of the Christian right after the social revolution of the sixties that started it?  Or the wave of the let ‘em eat cake Reagan conservatism followed by a tidal wave of Clintonistic separation of politics and morality?  Or the post 9/11 Bush years of attack, invasion and collapse?   There are theories but we’ll never know for sure.  What we do know is that our chief attraction, and export across the world, depends on this not being quite so.  Because what we’re really best known for is the international production of “a dream.”   An American dream.  But if not fading, it does feel that this particular dream has gone a bit – well, awry.

A dream as American as apple pie.

The entertainment industry particularly depends on this export, this idea of who we are, whether it’s true or not.  Films, television, music, art – America’s chief image is of a country where anything is possible for anyone.  And just when the world begins to think it isn’t, we as a country seem to always do something to save the dream from the jaws of destruction.  Most recently it was electing our first African American president despite the odds against it, especially when you consider the man’s middle name is the same as the Middle East dictator whose country we had just invaded in order to….well, to do something – but that’s not the point.

Anyway, politics aside, if there were ever an American dream scenario played out publicly in the last two decades to counter the cynicism, President Obama’s biography would be it.  Lower middle class, son of divorced parents, raised in Hawaii and Kansas, a community organizer who until recently smoked cigarettes and admits that he even used to smoke marijuana.  Not to mention his like of arugula salads and other designer foods as well his upbringing in…Hawaii?  (yes, it’s a state even though it’s not on the mainland).  I mean, who would’ve thunk it?

Young Obama or Brooklyn Hipster?

As he likes to say — on paper, it doesn’t make sense that he’d become president anywhere else in the world.  And even highly unlikely he’d rise up here.  But there are lots of unlikely things that happen in the USA, and in life, everyday.

This same unlikeliness rings true with some of our biggest celebrities.  Certainly a motherless girl dancer from Michigan with a passable voice and the given name of Madonna was not a shoo-in for a three decade musical megastar who helped reinvent the recording industry with what used to be cutting edge videos and sex books.

Nor was a poor, unabashedly gay kid from the Depression era south with the ordinary name of Thomas Williams likely to be one of the great playwrights of the 20th century, writing under the new, and even more unlikely, first name of Tennessee.  Nor would it seem probable that two very young men who chose to make fun of religion in a short film called “Jesus vs Frosty” would go on to change animation and television AND now the Broadway musical with “South Park” and “The Book for Mormon” but that is exactly what Trey Parker and Matt Stone have done.  Not coincidentally, all three (four?) have done so by challenging, some might say attacking, what we consider to be our “traditional American values.”

True, some might cite these performers and their work as symptoms of our obvious moral decay.  I, however, look at it as necessary generational progress.  In fact, essential.

Not to get all post-Fourth of July, but what seems to allow the idea of the American dream to endure is the fact that we have always permitted ourselves to make fun of our sacred cows, ensuring that no one of us is particularly more precious than another on any given day or decade.  In fact, we’ve even reveled in it.  We can be in bad taste, politically incorrect, intolerably small-minded and even on occasion morally offensive to one group.  If we go too far, society will correct itself and eventually pass a law outlawing our action or create another one loosening up standards to accommodate a group shift in behavior.  There are real human costs for this – loss of lives, loss of livelihood, and worse – loss of ones sense of self and one’s humor in battle and in support of our own particular “cause.”

That seems to be what’s happening now in our current age of polarization. But I can only say “seems” because this is the argument everyone in history falls back on at different points in time when society is so “at odds.”  However, and speaking only for me, there does seem to be something about right now that feels different.  Something is off.  Something that’s not quite…well, for lack of a better word — right.

Sad, but true.

When I read Jane Pitt’s letter I initially dismissed it as a statement of someone who believes very differently than I do.  Someone who is at least a generation older who grew up in a different time and can’t or chooses not to understand societal shifts and changes that have occurred since she was young and was, perhaps, more malleable and open-minded.

After thinking about, though, I feel differently.  There is something ugly in it.  Disagreeing with a president is one thing but purposely using his middle name of “Hussein” to somehow paint him as some kind of “other” is viciously unacceptable.  As is calling people who believe in the right to choose “baby killers.”  As is suggesting that one group’s personal religious views against another particular group should be used to deny rights in a country who several centuries ago freed itself from its oppressor partly so all of its people would have the choice to worship, or NOT to worship, exactly as they all would so choose so long as it didn’t interfere with anyone else.

Fierce.

We live in a celebrity culture where, as Andy Warhol prophesized many decades ago, everyone will be (or at least can be) famous for about 15 minutes.  This means that although you don’t have to be related to one of the select few celebrity elite to be heard, it certainly adds to your marquee value – whether you like it or not.  Surely, Jane Pitt knew this quite well when she wrote her letter.  She and her views now have their 15 minutes of fame.  Or perhaps more.  She’s now in the uber argument.   Inevitably, there will be others, countless others.  But right here and now it is up to her and us what we choose to do with it.  We can ignore it and proceed as we have been.  We can also use it as yet another moment to pull us further apart.  Or we can engage in some way and employ it to draw us closer together and begin to reshape, just a tiny bit, something we used to call the American dream.

History – as well as “Extra,” “Entertainment Tonight,” “TMZ” and “The Huffington Post” – is watching.   For at least 15 minutes or so.

Oscar Redux

Behind the scenes with the Chair

Nothing I’ve done in my life since my bar-mitzvah has ever evoked in people such excitement, admiration and curiosity as my recent trip to the Oscars last week.  I’m not sure if that says more about me or more about the ceremony itself (or perhaps more about who I hang out with).  But I’m not lying when I tell you that since that evening I’ve been inundated with pleas to tell almost everyone I know or people I barely know who know I went “what it was like.”  When I ask them exactly what they want to know the usual response is a blank stare and then the same question: Well, what were they like???? (Hint:  I added the “well”).

It took me a while but I get it.  The Oscars are iconic, symbolic and larger than you and I (me?).    They’re celebrity times googol (as oppose to the Google, which is a celebrity within itself and one day might arrive at iconic Oscar status). They’re really not about movies, or what is best, or what is being left out, or what falls short, or even about whether Billy Crystal was too old to host (Hint #2:  It’s not about age.  How much would you love to see Jack Nicholson as emcee – and he’s a lot older than Billy).

The truth is – the Oscars are about —  Well, they’re about magic.  They’re about an idea.  They’re about some weird sort of childhood fantasy come to life.  Forget that on some level they’re really about money, marketing, popularity, taste (or lack of it), fashion, movies and an extreme version of your high school prom whether or not you attended or whether or not you claim you cared about attending.  Like those who say they have no interest in ever attending an Oscar ceremony, you prom naysayers are lying.

We all want to be asked to the party and see what all the fuss is about.  Or perhaps being asked makes us feel special, which is a dangerous way to think about your value if you’re a person who works in the industry or a teenager looking for a date.  As the Dali Lama or your local self-help book or your inner voice will tell you, you are already special – and yes, I did say that and most days (because I’m only human) I actually do believe it.   And not because I’ve been trained to do so from years of therapy (maybe partially) but because it’s the only way to survive in the entertainment industry and in life.

Anyway, in my case I didn’t get officially asked by the Academy, so don’t fret, I’m still sort of on the outside like most everyone else.  I was invited by friends.  It’s not quite the same as being courted by Oscar himself to attend the ball (and who knows if that would be better, he asks hundreds of people but only chooses a select few to go home with him, when it comes down to it), but it’ll do for now.  Yes, it’s fun.  And yes, it is odd.  And when the subject comes up, it’s guaranteed to be a conversation starter in some circles or perhaps get you a bit more attention or perhaps even a date in others.

For that, and for many other reasons, I thought I’d pull back the curtain a beat more than last week’s tweets would allow and give you an inside look.   In no particular order, here they are:

OSCAR REDUX

1. ACTORS ARE HUMAN — Anyone who doesn’t think Angelina Jolie wasn’t in on the joke when she stuck her leg out of her Versace gown at the Oscars and struck a pose either doesn’t know anything about actors, movies or Hollywood in general.  I mean, you don’t really believe that someone who has achieved superstardom and stayed there for any length of time has done it by accident, do you?  Or solely on talent   Or by being totally clueless?   There is now a twitter feed, website and countless photo shopped images of Angie’s leg on fictional and non-fictional characters.  My favorite is the one of the Dowager Countess from “Downton Abbey” – or as she is affectionately known to those of us over 40 – Dame Maggie (also an Oscar winner, by the way).

There are no words...

Now, I’m not saying Angie knew her wide stance would evoke such reaction, but it’s not as if she didn’t know it would evoke some reaction.  And here’s something you might not know.  When adapted screenplay winner Jim Rash (“The Descendents”) imitated the Angieleg pose upon accepting his award, the real Angie and her leg were laughing quite visibly.  Unfortunately, it was off-camera and no one saw.  But now you know.   She was in on the joke.

2. EVERYONE LOOKS GOOD IN A TUXEDO, BUT… – How else to account for a record 300 plus likes of a picture of me and my significant other in tuxedos on Facebook.   Perhaps it was the OSCAR in the background???  (Though I do think we cleaned up quite nicely.  Still, I’m not fooling myself).

The Chair and the Good Doctor

3. THINK BEFORE YOU DISH – The first celebrity I saw when I got there was Michelle Williams.  Yes, she got good reviews for her gown but as good as she looked on the TV carpet, she was 1000% more stunning in person.  As was every actress there, even the misses.  They’re wearing expensive stuff and are styled and coiffed beyond belief.  And – if you were a movie star and had all those people working on you – you would look THAT good.  Okay, maybe not with bare leg, but no one is twisting your arm (or leg) on that.

4. THE DRAPES MATCH THE CARPET – The Hollywood Highland Complex, which houses Oscar’s home in the Kodak Theatre, is an expensive shopping mall with hundreds of storefronts, in case you don’t know.  But after you walk on hundreds of yards of red velvet carpet, you glide up stairs and escalators only to be surrounded by more walls of beautiful red carpet all around you.  I didn’t realize until half an hour later, “oh, there used to be stores there.”  Actually, there still are.  They’re behind all the red velvet wall hangings that cover Banana Republic, et al.   This is how movies can convince you you’re vacationing in Maui with the perfect golden tan (or golden person) in the best shape of your life when you’re really sweltering in Spanx or a man girdle on a Valley back lot.  Next to an extra.

5.  NO AUTOGRAPHS, PLEASE – Tons of waiters give you free champagne in the various lobbies before the ceremony.  You see famous people but you don’t ask for pictures or autographs because you pretend you’re one of them tonight.  And you ignore the loudspeaker voice that tells you to take your seat because you know it’s a TV taping and these things never start early.  Besides, everyone knows when the Oscars really start, please.  Note:  Most of the nominees enter from an orchestra stage entrance moments before the show so you are more likely to run into celebs like Virginia Madsen and Nate Berkus where you are.  But I did spot writer-director Alexander Payne, who was happily talking with lots of friends and co-workers and being very welcoming and relaxed.  That’s how you want to do it.  Of course, it probably helped that he already won once. (And he has now officially won a second time, which will exponentially help at all future Oscar ceremonies at which he is in attendance).

6.  EAT BEFOREHAND!!!  It’s a long show.  At least three hours.  And you arrive an hour or two before.  One power bar in your tuxedo pants pocket or special purse won’t cut it.  And don’t count on the hors d’oeuvre beforehand.  They are literally the size of a mini-pea.  (For the record: the free popcorn didn’t arrive in my mezzanine seat until the last half hour of the show and was the best popcorn I EVER had.   The people in the two balconies were either fed after me or fainted.  Needless to say, the orchestra-seated nominees were all well fed.  Well, I guess this is their night).

all that remains...

7. OSCAR NEEDS TO COMBINE THE OLD AND NEW.  Calling:  Jack Nicholson; Robert DeNiro; Al Pacino; Diane Keaton; Warren Beatty; Shirley MacLaine; Annette Bening; Barbra Stresiand (well, she was there for a moment in a filmed interview); Pedro Almodovar; someone who has worked with Woody Allen because he’s not coming a second time; Goldie Hawn; Denzel Washington; Samuel L. Jackson.

Then how about dangling a few more carrots at some not young but not old stars like Will Smith; Julia Roberts (okay, they’re middle-aged); Johnny Depp; and Jennifer Aniston.  Do I care what Edward Norton thinks about the moviegoing experience in a taped TV interview?  If you want to include Ed, then how about a great film clip of him in  “American History X” or his Oscar turn in “Primal Fear?”

8. OSCARS NEED TO INCLUDE MOVIES – Not people talking about movies; not comedians doing bits that are non sequiturs; not lines about how rich and out of touch those who live in Beverly Hills are with the way most people live (I can attest they still do go to the bathroom because I saw more than a few in there) or futuristically strange acrobats swinging over you without a net.  Movie moments???  Not unless you get Meryl on a high wire, which I have no doubt she could (and probably will) master at some later date.

9. TOO MANY FAMOUS NEWCASTERS – Every freakazoid entertainment show host or correspondent you have ever seen anywhere on every channel is in attendance.  You don’t know all of their names but recognize their faces or their dimples or their fake boobs, or hair transplants or Botox or Restalyne injections.  They, too, are looking their best.  Or some version of what they perceive as the latter.  No, I didn’t see Sasha Baron Cohen dump the ashes on Ryan Seacrest.  I can’t be everywhere!!!

10.  PIZZA WON’T BE YOUR GO-TO FOOD IF YOU EAT IT EVERY NIGHT – Perhaps the Oscars are not as exciting on TV anymore because the stars are accessible and everywhere.  Elizabeth Taylor never used to give interviews.  And by the way, she was THE last movie star.  Which reminds me, couldn’t they give her a separate moment alone after two best actress Oscars, a Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award and a lifetime of moviedom memories for all of us through all of eternity?  Closing out the somber “In Memoriam” segment didn’t seem to quite fit the good time gal who donated an oil painting of herself to the place where, in her later years, she most liked to hang out in – the West Hollywood gay bar, The Abbey.

The patron saint of the Abbey

11.  OSCAR GOLD — The statuettes are still the coolest looking of them all up close. They’re pretty.  They’re shiny.  Oh, and side note — It used to be that winners had to bring their Oscar to the Academy where they were sent off to be engraved with your name (well, not YOUR name, the winner’s name) and returned a month later.  Now, right after the ceremony, the actual winner (that means you, Jean) have to go to a table at the Governor’s Ball, where a small plaque is soldered on to your statue by an expert technician and you are quickly sent on your way.    (PS – The statues are heavier than you think.  I’ve held them several times.  Though not that night, alas).

12. THE AUDIENCE IS ON ITS OWN – Billy doesn’t talk to you during commercial breaks.  But there is a man who periodically brings out the largest broom/Swiffer you’ve ever seen across the stage to make sure it stays shiny.  And some of the best action is off-camera between the presenters.  J-Lo and Cameron giggling and pointing; Emma Stone reassuring Ben Stiller that she wasn’t seriously insulting him (why not??); and standing O’s for Octavia and Meryl (but you should’ve seen those, along with Angie and her leg laughing).

13.  ALL DOGS GO TO OSCAR — You can’t go wrong with a movie that has a dog, especially a Jack Russell terrier.  Check out “The Artist” and “The Beginners” and tell me who really deserved Oscar in those films.  And yes, I have a Jack Russell Terrier.  Her name is Rosie.  And she is not going to have a career in the movies.  I don’t want her to turn out like Lindsay Lohan’s dog.

The Artist's REAL star

14.  FANCY MEETING YOU HERE – One of my favorite moments was when a very attractive young woman in a pretty pink gown and a cool diamond stud in her nose called my name.  I stopped and finally realized it was one of my former students from not too long ago – a working director who was at the ceremony with a friend.  I fully expect her to be in the front orchestra one day, getting her popcorn first and being seated moments before the show.  Yes, it can happen to you.  And any of us.   But only if you get to work.  Right now.  Don’t worry about what you’ll say or what they’ll say about you much later.  People like to talk.  And — as far as what you’ll wear to this most iconic of events where you’ll be watched by, like, oh, a billion people – don’t worry, it’s gonna be free.  And most of all — it’s gonna be faaabulous.

Future Oscar winner, Rachael

Til Oscar’s next glitzy night…