Sunday, January 31, 2010

Jay Leno on Orprah

Even Oprah is mad at him!

I didn't see it, but apparently Oprah was picking on Jay Leno when he appeared in her show. Some coverage described Leno as whining. He did make an unkind comment about Conan's low ratings.

And apparently Oprah was siding with Conan, too. Told Leno that a joke he made about Letterman molesting his employees was "beneath him". This was in response to Letterman calling Leno "Big Jaw", or something.

Well, It's not Leno's fault he has a big jaw. But no one forced Letterman to have a love nest right there in his office where he would commit outrages against the innocence of junior staffers.

Jimmy Kimmel making fun of Leno on Oprah

"I don't think going on a comedy show and making jokes qualifies as a 'sucker punch'," he said.

He went in to say that his mistake when he went on Leno's show was thinking that Jay would have anything to say other than what was on the cue cards. He thought Leno would talk back, like comedians do.

Oprah's got nothing to brag about

Oprah's a monster. She was the one responsible for the state of these day time talk shows. Phil Donahue had a serious, respectable, informative show. The Oprah came along, stole his format and did shows on alien abductions and demonic possession. Donahue wouldn't sink to her level and he was run out. Then Oprah announced she was going to be classy for a change.

Word is that the reason she's retiring is that a new book is coming out about her and her disgusting show.

Leno and Letterman

Now, going back to the Tonight Show battle between Letterman and Leno, it seems that Johnny Carson, even though he made Leno his regular guest host, still intended to have David Letterman take over The Tonight Show, but Letterman was thwarted by Leno's backroom deals.

And then you have the FAKE child stars

There was the case of an old man who appeared on 20/20 or some such show claiming that he played Buckwheat in the old Little Rascals movies. Now he was reduced to working as an elderly bag boy in a grocery store.

Of course it was a lie. Buckwheat worked as a technician at Technicolor and had died a few years earlier.

There have been others. Old timers who usually claim to have played a non-existent character named Stinky in the Little Rascals.


There was little Phillip Paley. I remember seeing him on The Flip Wilson Show. He was a little martial artist. He got a black belt at age 9 at Chuck Norris's karate school. He flipped Johnny Carson on The Tonight Show and beat up Flip Wilson.

I remember being angry about that. It was fake! He didn't really beat up Flip Wilson! He was the youngest person to have a black belt in karate, and he was slightly younger than me, which meant that I would never be the youngest person to hold a black belt in karate. The fact that I didn't study karate was beside the point.

Paley went on to play Cha-ka on Land of the Lost. He spent hours being made up, was on a set sweating all day in the ape suit.

Imagine his chagrin years later when someone called Rodney Sheppard, part of some sort of "band" called Sugar Ray falsely claimed over a number of years to have played Cha-ka. This became part of his official biography. Phillip Paley was aware of it and finally did something about when it appeared in an issue of People magazine.

Paley's lawyers sent a letter and the "musicians" put out a statement announcing that it turned out that Sheppard hadn't played Cha-ka after all.

Kenneth Anger

You can't expect complete honesty from a devil worshipper, I suppose, but Kenneth Anger, the underground filmmaker claimed for years to have played the changeling prince in the old movie, A Midsummer Night's Dream.

I don't know if Anger was in the thing at all. They list him as an extra in But the changeling prince was played by a girl named Sheila Brown.

I can't find the reference to it now, but Anger claimed that there was as accident during the filming and the costumes of of the children playing fairies caught fire which explained his life of sado-masochism.

Is it really so wrong?

I guess it's impossible now, with But if you could claim to have been a child star in a movie that never existed, would it be so terrible? Isn't show business all fake anyway? Aren't you just getting into the spirit of it?

Is it any worse than Steven Spielberg telling that stupid story about how he sneaked into a movie studio and the studio executives were so impressed them gave him a job? It was all a lie, disproven years ago. Just like his claim to have been a victim of anti-Semitism in high school. He used that story when people questioned his qualification to direct The Color Purple. Reporters went to his school expecting to do a story on how Spielberg was persecuted and instead discovered it was a lie. Which makes me doubt the rather implausible story he told after making Schindler's List---that an old timer used his concentration camp tattoo to show him that if you turn a 6 upside down, it looks like a nine.

So why should Hollywood bigwigs be the only ones allowed to lie?

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Meeno Peluce

Meeno Peluce. He's Punky Brewster's brother. He was one of the kids in the original Amityville Horror movie. He even seemed to have done a stunt, falling on the basement stairs.

Later he played Tanner in The Bad New Bears TV series, he played the kid on a western sit-com, Best of the West, and, finally, he was the kid in the series Voyagers, which was sort of a cross between Terry Gilliam's Time Bandits and the TV show Quantum Leap. I read he works as a photographer now---I'm not sure.

As a child actor, Meeno had a knack for crying. I hope he was one of those kids who could cry on cue, because if not, the demands of the show must have left him an emotional wreck. He was to crying what Bruce Lee was to martial arts. Well. What Ernie Reyes, Jr., was to martial arts.

I remember him from Best of the West, which I sort of liked at the time. Meeno's TV father went on to be Ricky Schroder's TV father on Silver Spoons. I had seen but didn't remember him in The Bad News Bears TV show which I didn't like. And I did remember him in The Amityville Horror. I wondered how they got him to do his own stunt, or if they somehow got a tiny stunt double for him. Maybe he just tripped and fell and they kept the cameras rolling.

Anyway, I don't really have anything to say about him. I just happened to come across a set of DVDs of the show Voyagers.

Meeno's co-star on the show, Jon-Erik Hexum died just a year after the show left the air. He was killed in a tragic accident with a prop gun on the set of another show.

It's surprising when you look at the number of actors who have been injured or killed on the job.

Dick York's career ended because of a back injury he suffered in a movie. William Shatner's ears have been ringing ever since an episode of Star Trek where an explosion was set off too close to him---he was close to suicide because of it once. If you've seen the movie Ed Wood, you know about Bela Lugosi's problem. Linda Blair suffered a broken back in The Exorcist. No one knew about it at the time, but it caused her problems later, and Ellen Burstyn has suffered back problems because of a shot where she falls on the floor in that movie.

Noah Hathaway did a number of his own stunts in The Neverending Story, even though he was only about 12. But before filming began, they took him out to practice horseback riding for the movie. He fell off the horse and broke his back. He was in the hospital for a month before filming on the movie began. Years later, he was working as a dancer but had to quit because of back problems.

Roy Kinnear, who appeared in Help! and Sherlock Holmes' Smarter Brother was killed in a horseback riding accident while filming The Return of the Musketeers.

Acting is surprisingly dangerous work. And there are other unpleasant things about it.

In a TV documentary about The Brady Bunch, they talked about their Hawaiian vacation episode.

Peter really didn't want the tarantula on him. But he had to do it.

Sherwood Schwartz didn't care. He just said that there was more to being an actor than saying your lines.

Ellen Burstyn tells young actors not to be generous with their bodies. Don't volunteer to do stunts. It's not worth it.

And directors need to be extremely careful about the health of safety of their cast and crew.

Charles Grodin, writing about the filming of the movie King Kong mentioned that the director did not want to risk having actors run through a real jungle. It was too dangerous. He had to fight with Dino De Larentis over spending the money to construct a set for the scene.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Poor Conan

Yes, he's lost his battle. Walking away with $40 million. Combined with what Leno and everyone else is being paid, this may cost NBC close to the $100 million that the U.S. government has promised in aid to Haiti.

There was the movie Night Shift some years ago about the last fight over the Tonight Show between David Letterman and Jay Leno. It presented Leno as a very nice guy who was oblivious to what his obnoxious manager was doing---she helped push Carson out of the way by spreading a false story that he was retiring. This prompted Carson to actually announce his retirement. In the movie, we see Leno on the phone with Johnny assuring him that he had nothing to do with the rumor.

I don't know to what degree the present situation hurts Leno's image.

NBC had a couple of reasons for doing what they did. Five years ago, they didn't want Conan O'Brien leaving NBC and going to another network for a better time slot. So five years ago, they told him they'd give him the Tonight Show now.

Then, when the five years was up and it was time for Conan to get The Tonight Show, they didn't want Leno going to another network since he'd take his audience with him and crush Conan in the ratings. So they moved him to 10 p.m.

Leno did badly at 10 p.m., as they probably expected. The Tonight Show never had a large audience compared to prime time programs. But now he gave Conan a bad lead-in, so the new Tonight Show did even worse than expected.

So, Conan is finished. Too bad. At least he collected a substantial consolation prize.

Conan tap dancing

I saw interviews with Conan early on when he started hosting Late Night. He did what most of these people do. Tried to present his success as a fulfillment of destiny. He talked about how he had demanded tap dancing lessons as a child. He wanted to be an all-around entertainer even then.

Seems to be a common thing. Bernardo Bertolucci claimed that, as a child, when he played with other children, he would order them around, acting like a movie director even then.

Mike Lookinland (TV's Bobby Brady) was more modest in his claims to destiny and his actual achievement. He works in Hollywood as an assistant camera operator. He focuses the camera. And he pointed to the home movie camera Robert Reed gave him for Christmas as the thing that started it all.

Successful people and luck

Here's what I think.

If a highly successful person says he doesn't believe in luck, it means he got to where he is through sheer luck.

If a highly successful person modestly says that he was just lucky, then he clawed his way to top by committing some monstrous act he hopes nobody finds out about.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

The thing about 3D

It's been around for years. Now they're convinced it's the big thing?

I saw a pretty good kung fu movie in 3D. I remember it well. I walked home at two a.m. and saw a man walking down the street carrying a bag of groceries and a rifle. I went to a payphone. We didn't have cell phones or 9-1-1 in those days. I dialed the operator.

"Get me the police!" I said.

"Oh. Okay," the operator said.

I think there was something Sergei Eisenstein said about 3D movies being the next big thing, but I didn't read it, so I didn't know if he actually meant stereo movies---the USSR did make some---or if he meant something like composition in depth or something like that.

But here's the thing:

Binocular vision is only used to judge distances up to about 10 feet. Anything more than ten feet away, you use other visual cues to judge distance. So 3D should only work for stuff in close-up anyway---or at least it only makes for greater realism in stuff closer than ten feet. Further away, it's just a distraction and an annoyance.

Conan O'Brien

I think he should duke it out! Stay! Don't leave! Fight! He doesn't want to wreck The Tonight Show by moving it to a later time slot. I say, wreck it! Wreck it for everybody else!

Simon Cowell

Is that how you spell his name? I think, for his last show, they should shut off the metal detectors, give the body guards the day off, and let him say whatever he wants to the contestants.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Art Clokey, creator of Gumby, dead at 88

Art Clokey, the creator of Gumby, died at age 88.

He created Gumby as part of a student project at USC in the 1950s and was later recruited by the Lutheran Church to create Davy & Goliath.

I never understood Gumby. I watched it in the '60s. But what was he? Was he a toy? Was he a person? A strange, surreal show.

Avatar passes the one billion dollar mark

They're claiming the thing cost $400 million to make, although there's some confusion about this. Did that include distribution costs? In theory, it would have to gross a billion dollars just to break even.

Well, it's grossed a billion dollars now. We'll see what kind of profit it ends up making.

Since 3D seems to be its big selling point, it's possible it won't do so well on DVD or pay TV.

Friday, January 1, 2010

How the West was Won in Cinerama

Sometimes panning and scanning isn't so bad

How The West Was Won looks like it must have been really impressive on the big screen. But on TV, it's pretty much unwatchable.

It was filmed in Cinerama, a three strip process. Three strips of 35mm film put together in one widescreen image.

On the big screen, you could presumably see the faces of the characters and make out the details. On TV, you see nothing but a lot of longshots where you can't make out any detail.

Think about that next time you see these high brows talking about great letterboxing is! They have those little promos on Turner Classic Movies showing Martin Scorsese talking about what the director intended for you to see. So the director gets to dictate what we see and can't see?

Of course, in general, letterboxing is better. Everything looks better letterboxed! Letterboxing makes low resolution video look like a big budget motion picture!


In the old days, by the way, it was surprisingly common for movies to be shot on videotape and released on film.

In 1965, there was a big budget movie released, a biopic of Jean Harlow. As it happened, there was a low budget made-for-TV movie about Jean Harlow that was shot on videotape. To cash in, the producers transferred it to film and released it theatrically.

There were also concert movies made by AIP, and some other movies. I don't know when they stopped using the name "Electronovision".

There was Norman, Is That You, shot on video, and a few other early examples of theatrical films shot on video.

I think they should have started using the term again for movie shot on video. And when the movies are letterboxed, call it "Electronoscope".

Audiences hate movies shot on video so much. It couldn't hurt to give it a fancy name.