THE RISE OF THE ___________

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I want to do anything but write about ________ today.

Literally anything. Except jump out of an airplane or die. Which in my mind is the same thing.

And, he referred to my hands –‘ if they’re small, something else must be small.‘ I guarantee you there’s no problem. I guarantee.’

I'm just gonna leave this here...

I’m just gonna leave this here…

Here’s what Modern Family writer @DannyZuker recently tweeted on the subject.

In the spirit of that, here’s a line from one of my favorite films, Rosemary’s Baby (1968) –

He has his father’s eyes…Satan is his father… 

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Drumpf.

Get ‘em out, get’ em out, get ‘em outa here!

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And suddenly all the Black people were gone – pushed and dragged away by large burly men when they dared to speak out in a public place. Or dared to just be standing around doing nothing but listening.

Bill Maher played the Hitler card in a short, hilarious reference on HBO’s Real Time With Bill Maher on Friday.

I suggest watching for its mere 2 minutes. But if you don’t want to it involves a visual of the Fuhrer shouting loudly and hysterically to thousands of rabid, cheering supporters in the 1940s. Yet instead of listening to words from the leader of The Third Reich we’re hearing recent 2015/16 sound bites from ________  as if they were utterances from Heil You Know Who.

The transitions are seamless. I mean, you’d never ever know. Even the occasional joke feels real. It all works.

Here’s part of the climactic monologue/speech from another movie I love, Tootsie (1982), when the hero-in-female drag explains why in the end female leaders are in much more preferable to their male counterparts.

…Now you all know that my father was a brilliant man; he built this hospital. What you don’t know is that to his family, he was an unmerciful tyrant – a absolute dodo bird. He drove my mother, his wife, to – to drink…

Dorothy tells it how it is

Dorothy tells it how it is

I don’t drink much myself but I can’t say a nice stiff Scotch wouldn’t hit the spot just about now. Perhaps even a sip would do it for me. Yes, I’m a lightweight. But at least I know it. Unlike some people.

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The grammar mistakes are________ ‘s, not mine. Just in case it was confirming his thoughts about how inaccurate journalists are. Well, I used to be a journalist. Now I’m just a blogger. Or, to use ________ ’s language, a loser. Of course, so is the New York Times, according to ________ . So, journalistically speaking, I’m in good company.

Louis C.K. wrote an open letter to his fans this week about the Person of Color (Note: Orange) whose name we dare not speak. It was funny, honest and intelligent. Creative reportage is perhaps the best description. Much like the new journalism writings of people like Tom Wolfe, Joan Didion and Hunter Thompson in the 1970s. But given the informality of Twitterverse and emailspeak of the new millennium, a quote like this speaks volumes:

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Of course, there was a lot more to what he said than that – a whole letter to the public, actually. You can read it here.

If you don’t, just know that preceding the above quote was this thought from Mr. C.K. (Note: Calling him that seems so weird, doesn’t it? #Louie) – he’s okay with the next president being from the other side of the aisle.

We are about 40 percent conservative and 40 percent liberal…And it always made sense that everyone gets a president they like for a while and then hates the president for a while. But it only works if the conservatives put up a good candidate. A good smart conservative to face the liberal candidate so they can have a good argument and the country can decide which way to go this time.

Though this is what Robert Redford had to say in one of the most romantic movies ever made – The Way We Were (1973). He plays a pretty boy aspiring novelist and eventual screenwriter who is speaking to mousy, brainy political activist/Jewish girl Barbra Streisand, a college classmate who he will marry, cheat on and years later divorce right after she gives birth to his only daughter.

Well, you make fun of politicians. What else can you do with them?

BRB watching this for the 1,000th time

BRB watching this for the 1,000th time

You can call them out – or not vote for them.

Actually, ________ ’s competitors are doing the former in great big shouts all over the country and every time you tune into our many airwaves. But none are willing to say they’ll do the latter. In fact, at their most recent debate this week, they all vowed to vote for him if he is their nominee. That’s exactly the opposite.

It sort of reminds me of a line from one of my all time favorite guilty pleasures – Postcards From The Edge (1990).

…I’m not a box, I don’t have sides. This is it, one side fits all!

It is interesting to note the character saying that is a reformed drug addict.

... or in the same condition I am when I watch any GOP debate

… or in the same condition I am when I watch any GOP debate

Movies, like history, repeat themselves and their messages. And often in the form of history – both past and present.   Much as I love film, there are times when I so wish this weren’t true.

The Valedictorian

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The visual imagery director Mike Nichols brought to The Graduate was so strongly persuasive that for several days after I saw it he had the clearly gay, not yet out, early adolescent me convinced that I could actually be straight. The stocking leg of sleekly sexy Mrs. Robinson beckoning the scared and too internally worried young boy/man – it all worked and made me wonder, “Hmmmm, perhaps there’s a…chance?”

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I’m not sure whether this was a good or bad thing. But I do know for certain it was as effective as it was unlikely. And any resentment I might have had towards Mr. Nichols for prompting that momentary confusion is forgiven not due to the fact that he died this past week but because it all worked out so gloriously for both of us in the end.

Mr. Nichols died at the age of 83 and accolades have sprung up, as they do, all over the globe for someone who has had such a prodigious career and was, incidentally, also married to one of the most famous newswomen in the world.   It’s also what will inevitably happen when one of a dozen proud earners of the EGOT – Emmy, Grammy, Oscar and Tony awards – passes away. A merely talented person can get fortunate and as a fluke be awarded any one of these in their field in an off year. But all four – and in this case awarded multiple times – it seems like the overused title of “genius” is for once earned.

Make room on the mantle!

Make room on the mantle!

I have many friends who have met, hung out and worked with Mr. Nichols over the years. Unfortunately, I never had the opportunity to do any of the three. But I feel as if I have because their stories are endless. They alternate between his brilliance as a director, the extreme smarts he brought to everything he touched in work and in life and an unrelenting and often quite scabrous wit. Not to mention his sophistication, occasional superiority, playfulness, penchant for secrets, kindness, generosity and yes – sheer, unadulterated genius.

Ugh, not that word again. Well, as my little sister used to say when that early adolescent me also begged her to let me play with her jacks on the kitchen floor – tough.

To be a recognized genius in show business is no easy feat – mostly because the arts are in the end so utterly subjective.   Still, in Mr. Nichols’ case any rational person measuring “genius” by any rational standard could be overwhelmed by his canon in just film alone. Very few directors make one or two memorable movies in their lives, much less five, six, seven or eight over almost half a century. That might not seem as impressive as I hoped to make it sound – that is until I start listing the films.

How many directors among us, or those aspiring to do anything meaningful in the movies, are capable of making their debut with something on the caliber of Edward Albee’s Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? Think you can? I invite you to Netflix it or rent it or even borrow my copy and then get back to me.

That pretty much sums it  up

That pretty much sums it up

If after watching one of the best movie adaptations of one of the best plays ever written with one of the biggest movie star couples that ever lived, then watch his follow-up film – a little throwaway classic we like to call The Graduate. These two releases in two consecutive years? Are you kidding? Not only will the latter live on as a seminal work in the history of movies, it also happens to be one of the few films that captured the tumultuous themes the 1960s and manages to stay relevant today. Don’t believe me on that either? Sit in on one of my college screenwriting classes, or the film classes of any of my colleagues at pretty much any university across the country and do an informal survey of this younger generation’s view of The Graduate – something I have done on and off for more than a decade.   Not a negative word about a movie that was shot nearly five decades ago (Note: Rare in itself) – a time not long after most of their parents were born.

Where do you even begin?

Where do you even begin?

Then there were other classics like Carnal Knowledge, Working Girl, Postcards from the Edge (Note: One of the truest and funniest movies about show business that I’ve ever seen) and Primary Colors. Not to mention the brilliant and seemingly inadaptable epic play Angels in America as a multi-part HBO movie. Which begs the question of Silkwood and Heartburn – about as different as two films can get but both equally affecting and chilling in very different ways. There’s no time to get into those or any others of the above or we’ll be here all night. Better to spend your time watching or re-watching any of them instead of spending one more second reading any more of what I or anybody else chooses to write about them.

We could stop there but we haven’t gotten to the theatre. I’ll try to make this brief but what do you say about an eight time Tony Award winner who directed so many of Neil Simon’s most seminal and successful early Broadway comedies – including Barefoot in the Park, The Odd Couple and Plaza Suite – only to produce the megahit musical Annie a decade later, follow it up by directing the even meggier hit musical Spamalot thirty years after that, only to follow that by winning a Tony Award less than a decade later for directing the late Phillip Seymour Hoffman in a much-acclaimed revival of Arthur Miller’s classic American play Death of a Salesman?

And he looked so freakin' cool doing it

Right at home

Had enough yet? It might surprise young people to know that Mr. Nichols began his career as a performer. Along with his friend and frequent collaborator over the years – Elaine May – he was one half of one of the most successful comic duos of the 1950s and 60s – Nichols and May. They played clubs around the world, guested all over television and sold millions of records – earning him his first “G” in the EGOT – the Grammy award.

The dynamic duo

The dynamic duo

For those who believe to be a brilliant director or artist of any kind means that one must create a very specific and very individual style that permeates their entire output, it is particularly interesting to note that as a filmmaker, man of the theatre, and performer Mike Nichols had no such signature or even strategy. Of all the many thoughtful quotes I’ve read and heard from him since his death the one that stayed with me is probably the simplest. When asked about how he directs scenes in comedy vs. drama he noted that all he really tries to do is figure out “what’s really going on” between the people. That search for “the truth” among human beings could be why he so easily cuts across so many genres and styles. On the other hand, it could just be that he was smarter and more perceptive than the rest of us.

Of course, EGOTS – or in layman terms: little statuettes voted to you by your peers – don’t account for or even prove genius beyond a shadow of a doubt. Still, it’s one of the only measures we have for the immeasurable. But if you still don’t buy that reflect on what Mr. Nichols has left behind in the aftermath of his death. No, I’m not talking about the massive tributes throughout the world from all of the top people across the board in the entertainment industry. Consider the work.

Oh.. and he was besties with Meryl Streep.

Oh.. and plus he was besties with Meryl Streep.

One final note: Mike Nichols was an immigrant.   He was born in Berlin with the name Mikhail Igor Peschkowsky and arrived in the U.S when he was seven years old with his family in order to escape the Nazi regime. He recalled that at the time he could only speak two phrases in English. One was: I do not speak English and the other was: Please don’t kiss me.

Clearly he was a dreamer to have achieved as much as he did.  So perhaps it stands to reason we give a few others the chance to follow in his footsteps and at least attempt to begin to fill the void. I think he’d approve. Though certainly he would say it more elegantly and with a dash more humor. Which sort of proves my point.