Archive for the ‘Theatre’ Category

Mike Nichols reported dead

November 22, 2014

Mike Nichols reported dead

When I was in high school, I took a film analysis class.

The movie that really made the subject work for me was director Mike Nichols‘ The Graduate.

That was a case where the deliberate symbology was effective, but not intrusive. It worked wonderfully well as a movie on the surface…which is where they should work. You can get completely caught up in it, pay no attention to the technique, and have an amazing experience.

If you do look at the technique, though, it gives it a deeper value. There is a repeated symbol used that, once pointed out to you, will be obvious. I don’t want to spoil the movie for you by telling it to you (that’s the danger of film analysis) because you’ll notice it every time it happens and be pulled out of the story.

Trust me, it’s there. 🙂

There are very few filmmakers who can pull that off: give you great story-telling without screaming about the font you used. 😉

While Nichols will always rightfully be known best as a mainstream director (Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, The Graduate, Silkwood), there are a few stand-out geek friendly works in the filmography.

One reason for that is that the biggest stars would go geek for Mike Nichols when that wasn’t cool. That’s changed over the decades: it’s possible (no jinx!) that Julianne Moore, a four-time nominee, will win an Oscar in 2015 while still having a movie which is the third in a Young Adult science fiction series in theatres. In fact, every acting Oscar winner from 2014 either has a significant geek-friendly movie out, announced, or rumored:

Why would George C. Scott star in a talking dolphin movie in 1973 or Jack Nicholson topline a werewolf movie in 1994 for Mike Nichols? While not every auteur is seen as a strong actor’s director, Nichols was. This was a cinematic master with a background in being on stage…actors weren’t just a tool to use to achieve a vision.

  • The Day of the Dolphin
  • Wolf
  • What Planet Are You From? (Gary Shandling alien comedy, 2000)
  • Angels in America (TV mini-series, 2003)

Mike Nichols wasn’t just a director, as in the cases above. He was a significant movie producer, but also worked in comedy (Nichols and May) and on Broadway (Annie, Spamalot). He was one of those rare  EGOT (Emmy/Grammy/Oscar/Tony) winners.

Good-bye, Mike Nichols: no one else has used more intelligence to produce more emotional response.

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This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the  The Measured Circle blog. To support this or other blogs/organizations, buy  Amazon Gift Cards from a link on the site, then use those to buy your items. There will be no cost to you, and a benefit to them

 

Mickey Rooney reported dead

April 7, 2014

Mickey Rooney reported dead

While it has been said that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, there is something distinctive about being the cultural shorthand (no pun intended…well, maybe a little…so to speak) for jokes.

In Mickey Rooney’s case, his significant and lasting popular impact allowed references to height, multiple marriages, and a “gee, shucks” kind of youthful enthusiasm. That enthusiasm lasted well into his third quarter century.

It’s important to note that these jokes weren’t because of a lack of respect (and I don’t intend my own introduction that way). Rooney was nominated for four Oscars…with the first nomination coming forty years before the last. He was also given an honorary Oscar in 1983.

He won two Golden Globes, and was nominated for five Emmys, winning one.

He appeared on stage (including the hit Sugar Babies with Ann Miller…starting when he was nearly 80).

His Hollywood Walk of Fame star recognizes his work not only in movies, but in radio and TV.

Throughout his career, Rooney had many geek friendly roles, including:

  • Voicing Oswald the Rabbit in the 1920s and 1930s (this came following his success in the Mickey Maguire series of live action shorts…which continued, meaning Rooney was doing two series at the same time)
  • The Lost Jungle
  • Puck in Max Reinhardt’s all-star version of A Midsummer Night’s Dream (1935)
  • Young Tom Edison (as the Wizard of Menlo Park)
  • The Atomic Kid: a 1954 wacky comedy in which Rooney becomes radioactive
  • The Mickey Rooney Show, a TV series with some geeky elements (including an episode with a robot)
  • Francis in the Haunted House, taking over co-starring duties from Donald O’Connor with the talking mule
  • Pinocchio, a 1957 live action TV version, with Rooney in the title role, and featuring Jerry Colonna, Stubby Kaye, and Fran Allison
  • As the Devil in The Private Lives of Adam and Eve (with Mamie Van Doren as Eve
  • In a memorable episode of the original The Twilight Zone, Rooney played on the perception of his  diminutive  stature, as a jockey who wanted to be big
  • It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World (it made sense that one of Hollywood’s most popular stars would be part of this celebrity-studded comedy)
  • How to Stuff a Wild Bikini (one of the beach party movies, with Buster Keaton, Annette Funicello, and Harvey Lembeck as Eric Von Zipper)
  • Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town (which still shows every holiday season, with Rooney voicing Kris Kringle/Santa Claus)
  • Night Gallery
  • Journey Back to Oz (voicing the Scarecrow)
  • The Year without a Santa Claus
  • Pete’s Dragon, which was perceived at the time as an ambitious mix of animation and live action at Disney
  • Rudolph and Frosty’s Christmas in July (back as Santa Claus)
  • Arabian Adventure (with Christopher Lee, Peter Cushing…and John Ratzenberger)
  • Creole (narrator: later edited into Misunderstood Monsters)
  • The Fox and the Hound (back at Disney, voicing Tod)
  • The Love Boat (“The Christmas Presence”)
  • The Care Bears Movie (as Mr. Cherrywood)
  • Little Nemo: Adventures in Slumberland
  • Erik the Viking
  • Silent Night, Deadly Night 5: The Toy Maker (as Joe Petto)
  • The Magic Voice (English narrator of this German cartoon…other voices include Corey Feldman and Dom DeLuise)
  • Kung Fu: The Legend Continues
  • Kleo, the Misfit Unicorn (as Talbut…a regular voice on this late 1990s series)
  • Conan (TV series with the Robert E. Howard character)
  • Stories from My Childhood (The Snow Queen episode)
  • Sinbad: The Battle of the Dark Knights
  • Babe: Pig in the City
  • Phantom of the Megaplex
  • Lady and the Tramp II: Scamp’s Adventure
  • To Kill a Mockumentary
  • The Happy Elf
  • Night at the Museum
  • The Thirsting
  • The Yesterday Pool
  • Wreck the Halls
  • A Miser Brothers’ Christmas
  • The Muppets (the 2011 movie)
  • The Voices from Beyond
  • The Woods
  • Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (not yet released)
  • Fragments from Olympus: The Vision of Nikola Tesla (not yet released)

Good-bye, Mickey Rooney…the world never stood taller than when you brought your attitude to it.

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the The Measured Circle.

James, Danny, Ben, and Waldo: the many lives of Walter Mitty

December 12, 2013

James, Danny, Ben, and Waldo: the many lives of Walter Mitty

SPOILER ALERT: I’m going to discuss a bit about different incarnations of Walter Mitty in this post. If you have not read or seen the works and want to have the joy of pure discovery, I would do that before reading this. I won’t get into a lot of detail

Geeks understand imagination.

We get the joy of picturing ourselves in different circumstances. Some of us go to considerable lengths to recreate the fantasy, notably with cosplay (“costume play”), and LARPing (“Live Action Role Playing”).

However, what we do is quite different from how Walter Mitty was portrayed in the original short story by James Thurber in a 1939 issue of The New Yorker.

One of the key things is that it was “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty” (emphasis added). Walter Mitty doesn’t share his imagination with others…they don’t know  what he is thinking.

In today’s society, it might be quite different. Walter Mitty might be part of one (or several) online communities (even anonymously), playing out those situations with others.

Is Walter Mitty a geek?

Certainly, he is intelligent, well-informed, socially inept, and with a vision beyond those of the “mundane” folks in his life…I think that would fit a lot of people’s definition. 😉

He has a geek’s knowledge of detail…and he has fun in his mind, even if his real life is…less than thrilling.

The 1947 movie with Danny Kaye considerably changed the message of the character. Now, Mitty becomes involved in a real-life adventure. What he imagined in the past is valuable to him, but it is clearly suggested that being in the real world is a better idea…coming out of your shell.

That’s a very different feel. Walter Mitty in the short story might like to come out of his shell (maybe), but there is no suggestion that will happen, or even endorsement of the idea. In the short story, these ideas are a defense to a humdrum existence…not something that will give him real world power.

To be clear, I’m a big Danny Kaye fan, and like the 1947 movie very much…but it isn’t the same as the story at its heart.

There were radio adaptations (including one with Danny Kaye), and stage productions (it was part of A Thurber Carnival), but geeks may fondly (?) remember the 1975 live action/cartoon combo, The Secret Lives of Waldo Kitty.

I enjoyed this odd 1975 Filmation production. There were live action pet cats and dogs, and one of them, Waldo Kitty, would have pop culture parody daydreams, which were done in animation. Waldo might become “Catzan” (Tarzan), or Captain Herc of the starship Second-Prize (a Star Trek parody), or several others. Like the 1947 movie, these fantasies actually helped Waldo deal with real world challenges.

Reportedly, it was challenged by the Thurber estate, and became a one-season wonder.

Now (releasing on December 25 2013 in the USA), Ben Stiller is doing a new version (starring and directing). While I haven’t seen it yet, it appears to be taking more of the approach of the 1947 movie than the story.

Certainly, it’s reasonable that you would have more character development in a movie than in a short story. I’ll be interested to see how this is…I’ve been hearing some good things about it.

One other thing: there was a TV series called My World and Welcome to It, based on Thurber’s writings, and starring geek-friendly William Windom. It wasn’t specifically Walter Mitty, though, although a fantasy life was certainly a part of this show (which many remember fondly).

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the The Measured Circle. To support this or other blogs/organizations, buy  Amazon Gift Cards from a link on the site, then use those to buy your items. There will be no cost to you, and a benefit to them.

* I am linking to the same thing at the regular Amazon site, and at AmazonSmile. When you shop at AmazonSmile, half a percent of your purchase price on eligible items goes to a non-profit you choose. It will feel just like shopping at Amazon: you’ll be using your same account. The one thing for you that is different is that you pick a non-profit the first time you go (which you can change whenever you want)…and the good feeling you’ll get. :) Shop ’til you help! :)  You can also support a non-profit you or another geek (if you are gifting something) would appreciate…one of the ones listed here, perhaps: Weird & geeky groups you can support by shopping at AmazonSmile.

2011: The Measured Circle Year in Review

January 6, 2012

2011: The Measured Circle Year in Review

Movies

I had suggested that 2011 might be the Geekiest Movie Year Ever, and certainly, looking at the top movies, they did very well.

There are some late year releases that are going to join the top tiers (Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows, Mission Impossible – Ghost Protocol and Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked will all make over $100m domestic gross). Those are all sequels, and there are fewer originals in the box office champs this year. Four of 2010’s top ten weren’t sequels (Inception, How to Train Your Dragon, Tangled, and Despicable Me). At this point. only Thor and Captain America are non-sequels in the top ten (and that may not be final…MI may get up there for one).

However, if we look at non-geek movies in the top twenty, they definitely were on the rise this year. In 2010, we had True Grit (#13), Grown Ups (#15), Little Fockers (#17), and the King’s Speech (#18) (and I’d entertain arguments about the Karate Kid #11). This year (based on rankings of domestic gross on December 31st…it will change), it’s The Hangover Part II (#4), Fast Five (#6), The Help (#11), Bridesmaids (#12), and Horrible Bosses (#20).

Originality still works in animation…successes included Rio (#15), Rango (#19), Hop (#22), and Gnomeo & Juliet (#27).

When we look at live-action geek originals, there really is no comparison with the cartoons: Super 8 (#18), Battle Los Angeles (#32), Immortals  (#33), Zookeeper (#34), and Contagion (#39).

Some movies that weren’t as successful?

  • Hoodwinked Too! Hood vs. Evil: wide release (over 2500 theatres), big stars (Glenn Close, Joan Cusack, Cheech Marin, and many more), a thirty million dollar budget, and a 50m+ first movie, this one only earned about 10m
  • Straw Dogs: again, big names, big release, remake of a cult classic…you probably would have budgeted $25m for this, too. Gross: about 10m dogro
  • The Thing: okay, not star-studded, but still…prequel to a cult classic, promotable genre…I would have bet the 35m here, probably. Return in dogro: aobut 16m. Not the best year for R-rated horror
  • Some other 2011 geeky movies that didn’t make 25m dogro: Apollo 18, Fright Night, Shark Night 3D, Conan the Barbarian, Dream House, Mars Needs Moms, Your Highness, Season of the Witch

I’m still working on the 2011 Box Office MVPs…hope to have that soon.

TV

It was a good year for geek TV. While The Cape failed to get a second season, a number of new geek shows did. Cable continues to be the best bet, but Once Upon a Time drew good numbers as a network show. Here’s a look at some highlights from the year:

Some 2011 Debuting Series and Their Status

  • Alphas on Syfy (renewed) team of people each with an extraordinary ability
  • American Horror Story on Fox (renewed)
  • Being Human on Syfy (USA version) (renewed) ghost, vampire, and werewolf are roommates…based on BBC series
  • The Cape on NBC (canceled) superhero
  • Death Valley on MTV (renewed) mockumentary: cops deal with zombies and such
  • Face Off on Syfy (renewed) competition show for special effects makeup artists
  • Falling Skies on TNT (renewed) aliens invade Earth
  • Finding Bigfoot on Animal Planet (renewed) reality show search for Bigfoot
  • Game of Thrones on HBO (renewed) based on George R.R. Martin’s book series
  • Grimm on NBC (ongoing) cops and fairy tales
  • Kung Fu Panda: Legends of Awesomeness on Nickelodeon (ongoing)
  • The Nine Lives of Chloe King on ABC Family (canceled) Discovered Destiny series
  • Once Upon a Time on ABC (ongoing) fairy tale characters in our world
  • Paranormal Challenge on the Travel Channel (unknown) reality competition
  • Paranormal Witness on Syfy (unknown) nonfiction
  • Person of Interest on CBS (ongoing) computer predicts crimes
  • Prophets of Science Fiction on the Science channel (ongoing) documentary
  • Teen Wolf on MTV (renewed)  more serious take on the movie
  • Terra Nova on Fox (unknown) time travel and dinos
  • Unforgettable on CBS (ongoing) special (but medically real) power
Special note: Congratulations to Peter Dinklage for winning an Emmy for a performance in a geek series (Game of Thrones). That’s certainly noteworthy…Leonard Nimoy was nominated for playing Spock, but didn’t win for it.

Books 

Bestselling geek books listed at Amazon.com for 2011:

  1. Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson
  2. Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Cabin Fever by Jeff Kinney
  3. Inheritance by Christopher Paolini
  4. A Dance with Dragons by George R.R. Martin
  5. The Son of Neptune by Rick Riordan
  6. 11/22/63 by Stephen King
  7. Dead Reckoning by Charlaine Harris
  8. The Throne of Fire by Rick Riordan
  9. Miss Peregrim’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs
  10. The Land of Painted Caves by Jean M. Auel

Games

Released in December, Star Wars: The Old Republic (an MMORPG…Massively Multiplayer Online Roleplaying Game) got to a million players faster than any of its predecessors. While that takes a considerable personal commitment, there is no question that the game with the biggest crossover cultural impact could be played for thirty seconds at a time: Angry Birds. Traditional gamer games, like Call of Duty (both Modern Warfare and Black Ops) and Madden were in the top ten, but so was Just Dance 3 (and 2). Games being marketed for fitness and for party interaction seems like a bit of an evolution. The Kinect was  part of the national conversation…and “hacking” it was promoted in a TV ad. The Kindle Fire provided another platform…and home hardware expanded its offerings (giving you movies/TV and the web). What’s the future of dedicated home gaming hardware? Will games be played overwhelmingly on portable platforms…and “gaming systems” become simply entertainment systems?

Miscellaneous Pop Culture

  • A major story was the Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark musical on Broadway. It became the subject of jokes when it had difficulties getting up and running, including some injuries. There was backstage drama as well. However, it would eventually set a one-week Broadway record of nearly three million dollars. That may not be enough to make it profitable, but it is popular
  • Watson’s IBM won a highly-touted Jeopardy tournament…and would later help with medical research
  • Telepresence robots were in the news…allowing an immunochallenged child to attend school, buying a scone
  • Netflix changed its pricing plans, and ran into massive bad publicity.  Amazon gave free video streaming at no additional cost to paid Prime members
  • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention published information on how to survive a zombie apocalypse
  • To great fanfare, Pottermore, an online Harry Potter experience was announced. Harry Potter e-books did not materialize when expected
  • DC Comics renumbers and reinvents its comic books with the “New 52”

In Memoriam

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the The Measured Circle blog.

More synthetic people news from Japan

November 15, 2010

More synthetic people news from Japan

I mentioned President Obama’s meeting with a robot during his recent trip to Japan.  I talked about how that country seems to have a more positive, accepting view of robots than the USA does.

Here are two more exhibits in the argument.

First, there’s the J-pop rock star, Hatsune Miku.  She sells out stadiums…and she has no physical presence.  That’s right, Miku is a hologram.  She performs on stage with a live band.  She is not voiced by a singer backstage…she uses a speech combining program, similar to Vocalizer, which is used by Amazon’s Kindle to do text-to-speech.  Voice artist Saki Fujita (Yozakura Quartet) recorded sounds that are then recombined into new words…allowing Miku to sing songs unknown to Fujita.

You can see her perform here:

Switched.com article

Less successful is robot actor Geminoid F.  This one is an avatar for a backstage performer.  Geminoid has been appearing in a play opposite human actors.

Switched.com article

Ironically, the original robots in Karel Čapek‘s R.U.R. (the play that coined the term) were what we would now call androids.  They weren’t mechanical, Robby the Robot types…they were synthetic humans.  So, humans have played “robots” on stage for decades…but robots playing humans may not be as well accepted.  Hardly seems fair, does it?  😉

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the The Measured Circle blog.

“If you stop being a…”

October 22, 2010

“If you stop being a student, you stop being an artist.”
–Ross Graham, 9/1980

This is one in a series of quotations.

I’ve been working, from time to time, on a book of quotations for many years.  I call it, “The Mind Boggles”, from one of my favorite quotations.  I do source quotations a bit differently from a lot of people.  In the case of a work of a fiction, I consider that the character said the line…not the author.  As a bit of an author myself (in a minor way), I can tell you…my characters definitely say things that I would never say.  These are all quotations that I’ve collected myself: I’ve read the book, seen the TV episode, and so on.

Hope you enjoy them!

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the The Measured Circle.

Flash! Kevin McCarthy reported dead

September 13, 2010

Flash! Kevin McCarthy reported dead

If you’ve ever referred to an unemotional coworker as a “pod person”, you probably have Kevin McCarthy to thank. 

The veteran actor starred in the 1956 classic, Invasion of the Body Snatchers.  

If you ever read film analysis books that include science fiction, you’ll see Body Snatchers discussed in serious terms…not something that always happens.  It will be called a metaphor for fear of the “commie menace”.

All that may be true, but McCarthy’s performance is a large part of why the movie (although not a financial success initially) has become part of pop culture.  When he is in the street yelling, “You’re next!” his desperation is palpable. 

Although that role would, for many people, define his career, his list of credits (genre and otherwise) is impressive.  He was a popular TV guest star in the 1960s, appearing on The Twilight Zone, Honey West, the Man from U.N.C.L.E., The Invaders, and many more. 

His other genre movie work includes the original Piranha, The Howling…and the remake of Body Snatchers with Donald Sutherland.

In the 1980e played Claude Weldon on the nighttime soap, Flamingo Road.

He continued to work, right through this year…often in roles of characters in authority, like politicians and military men.  One of his most famous stage roles combined the two, with a one-man show as Harry Truman.

Most people may not remember now that he was nominated for a Best Supporting Actor for Death of a Salesman (and won the Golden Globe for Most Promising Newcomer for the same role).  While that early critical success may have been overshadowed by appearing in a science fiction classic, his fans never forgot him.

Good-bye, Kevin…without you, our paranoia would never have been the same.

Kevin McCarthy at IMDb

Playbill obituary

Reuters obituary

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the The Measured Circle

“Laughter becomes extreme only if…”

August 12, 2010

“Laughter becomes extreme only if it be consecutive.  There must be no pauses for recovery…The jester must be able to grapple his theme and hang on to it, twisting it this way and that, and making it yield magically all manner of strange and precious things, one after another, without pause.  He must have invention keeping pace with utterance.  He must be inexhaustible.  Only so can he exhaust us. ”
–Max Beerbohm
quoted by Kenneth Tynan in Show People

This is one in a series of quotations. 

I’ve been working, from time to time, on a book of quotations for many years.  I call it, “The Mind Boggles”, from one of my favorite quotations.  I do source quotations a bit differently from a lot of people.  In the case of a work of a fiction, I consider that the character said the line…not the author.  As a bit of an author myself (in a minor way), I can tell you…my characters definitely say things that I would never say.  These are all quotations that I’ve collected myself: I’ve read the book, seen the TV episode, and so on. 

Hope you enjoy them!

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the The Measured Circle

Yo-ho, Yo-ho, an usher’s light for me!

May 4, 2010

Yo-ho, Yo-ho, an usher’s light for me!

Kudos to Stitch Kingdom for

this article

in which they report that Disney Theatrical, the Broadway/touring show arm has registered a number of website domains that suggest they may be looking to turn several movie properties into musicals, like their highly successful The Lion King.  Oh, not stylistically the same, necessarily, but you get the idea.

Adapting Pirates of the Caribbean makes sense to me.  Although, can’t you just hear Captain Jack’s slurry delivery? 

“Ladeeshandgennlemenishtoimeforinnamishn”.  😉

Seriously, though, that could work.

Freaky Friday?  Yeah, I can totally see that one.

But the Flamingo Kid?  Romy and Michelle?

Well, domains are cheap…  😉

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the The Measured Circle blog.

A Wicked trip to the mall

March 29, 2010

A Wicked trip to the mall

“The story you are about to read is true.  The names have been changed to protect the ignorant.”

So, my Significant Other and I were shopping at the mall.  Well, my SO was about to go to a store where I wasn’t going to go.  I have allergies, and just can’t hang out near the cosmetics counter.

The mall was celebrating the Broadway show, Wicked.  They had this huge display down in the waiting area.  You could go into a specially-built area, and see original costumes from the show (with big Don’t Touch signs), and watch videos about it.

I was watching the videos, and one of the people working there engaged me in a bit of conversation.  I explained that I was a big Oz fan…I have the original forty novels, for example.

The employee liked the show…although, like me, hadn’t seen it yet.

Here was the kicker.  The person asked me, “Which came first…the Wizard of Oz or Wicked?”

Yow!

I’m pretty sure it was a serious question.  Now, I know young people sometimes like to pretend ignorance, just to mess with your mind a bit.  I don’t think that was it, though…I think this person really didn’t know.

I’m a professional educator (and former actor), so I’m pretty good at keeping a straight face.

I calmly explained that The Wizard of Oz predated Wicked…by about ninety years.  I was talking about the novels, although I checked later, and it’s really ninety-five years.

Still…sigh.  If you don’t have the context of how it is different from the original, how does that affect your enjoyment of the show, I wonder?

It’s sort of like the old joke, when the teenager says, “Oh, was Paul McCartney in a band before Wings?”

That one obviously goes back quite some time…decades, even.

Anyway, just had to share.  🙂

 This post originally appeared in The Measured Circle blog.


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