Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Top Five Series Finales.

In the movie Cocktail, Bryan Brown’s character says, “All things end badly, or else they wouldn't end.”

I believe that’s really true. And heck yes I quoted Cocktail.

But I was watching the last episode of “The Larry Sanders Show” the other day and thought it was a perfect wrap-up to maybe the best sitcom ever. Which got me to thinking: it really says something about a show if the creator not only ends on his own terms, but gives the audience an appropriate sendoff. Here are five that accomplished this:

“Larry Sanders.” This show was brilliant from the first episode until the last, which featured a show within a show ending properly as well.

“Six Feet Under.” This had the best final five minutes of any show, in which we flash forward to every main character’s death.

“Extras.” Ricky Gervais does it right – he’s ended both his shows after two seasons, both on high notes. You can watch the last episode of “Extras” without having watched any others, and you’ll still be really moved.

“The Office.” The American version is very well-done, and so was the British original. It didn’t have a true final episode until fans begged Gervais for one, and he obliged with a 90-minute Christmas finale. According to Ricky’s episode commentary, during a pivotal romantic moment, cheers from all the viewing parties in London could heard throughout the city’s streets.

“St. Elsewhere.” ALN, the AmericanLife Network, is owned by the Unification Church, which recently realized that what Jesus would do is lose the religiousy programs and replace them with more profitable, classic dramas. Bless them, because I’ve become addicted to “St. Elsewhere,” a much superior hospital drama than “ER.” In the very final moment of the show, we realize the entire series was a figment of an autistic boy’s imagination. Amen.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Festivus, Part XXI.

The Oxford International Film Festival is the 21st fest to accept The Beneficiary. Though it actually takes place in Ohio, my Mom can finally brag to her yenta friends that I got into Oxford.

Since Ohioans were nice enough to honor me, I’ll reciprocate:

First off, as a show of my appreciation, whatever a Buckeye is, I want to either eat it, frame it or add it to my gas tank when I fill up. Put me down for tres of those babies.

Second, I’ve never been to Cleveland, but I have driven past it, and it seems to no longer be the place where hope goes to get raped. Congrats.

Third, Pringles were invented in Ohio. And my favorite type of food is "stackable."

And finally: kudos on having one of the rare governors who hasn’t cheated on his wife, been outed sexually, tried to sell a vacant senate seat or kept his socks on while sleeping with a high-class hooker. Much respect.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Five Paragraphs For Farrah.

Poor Farrah Fawcett got bitch-slapped by a bedazzled white glove on Friday when Michael Jackson rudely passed hours after her.

Someone oughta give Farrah her due. Okay, I'll do it.

Forget about the cheesecake poster, or the stoned appearance on Letterman. Wedged in between were some damn challenging roles. Did you know that before Farrah won a Golden Globe for Best Actress for the movie Extremities, she’d appeared off-Broadway in the film’s theatrical version, replacing Susan Sarandon? Pretty nifty.

And let’s not forget how great she was opposite Robert Duvall in the The Apostle. (Though my pal Jim Gleason stole the film.) All told, she appeared in over 50 TV shows and movies, plus she was married to the Bionic Man. That’s one helluva life.

Do us a favor, CNN, and wedge in just a teensy bit of props for Farrah. I’ve had an ass-full of Neverland coverage.

Friday, June 26, 2009

King Of Paparazzi.

Farah Fawcett and Michael Jackson. We lost two very famous white women yesterday.

This shot was taken from the backyard of my friend, super-composer John Hunter. John’s house overlooks Michael Jackson’s parents’ house, now inundated with cops, newscasters and crazies.

John’s had several news-people knock on his door and ask if they can park their vans in his driveway, to which John asks for 10,000 bucks in return. No takers as of yet.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

What They’ve Learned.

I've got a busy day, so I’m turning the reins over to the good readers of the best magazine, Esquire, and what they’ve learned:

There is nothing wrong with a barbecue in the park that a piñata can't fix. --Luciano Noble, 27, Los Angeles

Everything before the “but” is bullshit. --Jordan Wallens, 32, Los Feliz, California

Traveling alone rocks. You can eat when you're hungry, nap whenever you're tired, see whatever you want to see when you want to see it, and meet whoever you want simply by asking them to take your picture. --Mike W. Miller, 35, Chicago

The only thing I ever got from doing free work was an opportunity to do more free work. --Barry Friedman, 47, Tulsa

If you know what you want, somehow you get there. --Keith Bradshaw, 56, Garland, Texas

People who are vociferous about their ability to multitask are usually just good at being a jackass and a moron at the same time. --Mike Shinners, 37, Torri di Quartesolo, Italy

If a woman asks you how many sexual partners you've had, the only answer is twelve. --Mark Motroni, 39, Manhasset, New York

A child's laughter is the greatest sound in the world. A child's laughter in a cornfield is the creepiest sound in the world. --John Buckler, 26, Lansing, Michigan

A minivan is the first indication that someone has given up. --Doug Gonterman, 38, Suwanee, Georgia

Some people will volunteer for just about any job, no matter how crappy. Try to sit next to these people in meetings. --Bob Sorensen, 47, Herndon, Virginia

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Virtual Reality.

On my blog, I’ve often rolled a grenade under the entire reality show industry. These orchestrated pieces of shit can’t die horrible deaths soon enough.

But when it’s the middle of a hiatus-filled summer, an actor needs a reason to occasionally shower and put on long pants. Which is exactly what I was able to do when the Tyra Banks show came calling.

“Tyra” is not exactly a reality show, but it certainly ain’t “Masterpiece Theatre” for that matter. Either way, I try to take the positive out of every experience in this town, and in this case I did my job.

It all took place a couple years ago. A producer for the show found me online, and asked if I’d be interested in coming on as a critic for an episode about dating. My segment involved a woman who was having difficulty scoring second dates, so I joined a few guys in the back room of a restaurant in Hollywood, and watched on a monitor as Miss First Date botched a blind setup.

The producers really liked my acerbic jabs, and asked me to come back and sit with Tyra to critique this chick to her face.

Now came the cool part. Being announced onto stage in front of an audience of 250 screaming women made me feel like Brad effin' Pitt. I then sat on the couch and was poised and relaxed and took control of the show. It was an addictive high, but even better: it reinforced that I can do this.

First Date Chick really hung in there while we ganged up on her, and apparently was upset about the ambush. Not excessively upset, however, because a couple weeks later we went out for drinks and we totally made out.

I love me.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Once Again, In Defense of Pits.

In the thespian equivalent of the old “number-of hot dogs vs. number of hot dog buns” mystery, there’s no rationale as to why acting headshots are 8”x10”, and the résumés we staple to them are 8½”x 11”.

Why have I taken you down this terribly safe and dull road? Because in the “special skills” section of my résumé, in which I let casting directors know I can, among other things, ski, swim and speak with a New York accent, I list “Good with all animals – I have a Pit Bull and I’M the boss.”

I suppose this statement actually propagates the myth about Pits I’ve often used this blog to debunk, so maybe I oughta delete it. And the myth appears to be as alive as ever. Take, for example, the recent national “Tweet of the Day” from Dustin Keller, tight end for my favorite team, the New York Jets, about scaling a wall to elude a Pit Bull chasing him. Hey Dustin, how about focusing a little more on beating New England, and a little less on beating down my personal cause?

Check the stats anywhere you like, and you’ll find the breed most prone to aggression is the Dachshund. Chihuahuas rank second while Jack Russell Terriers come in third. Pits trail far behind.

Then check out my nephew, above, who likes to plop himself right down on Petey. The boy’s been doing it since he could walk; his big sister even earlier.

Back to the NFL, where quarterback Michael Vick is now out of prison and looking to be reinstated into the league. If some desperate team decides to give him a shot, I’m going to be one vicious Dachshund when it comes to vilifying them. Mike may have paid his debt to society, but forgive me if I don’t embrace a guy who shot and drowned dogs. I’m just funny that way.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Festivus, Part XX.

Until now, I thought the only thing “international” about New Jersey was the IHOP on Bergen Street in Newark (ask for the No-Shooting Section.)

So, The New Jersey International Film Festival makes it 20 fests so far. Hate to pat myself on the back – a phrase always followed by a pat on the back – but I meet more and more filmmakers whose films haven’t gotten into one festival, let alone 20. So I’m way proud.

Or at least I was proud until I read in New York Magazine that a nine-year-old prodigy director had gotten her film into The New Jersey International Film Festival. Dammit.

But wait – this just in: Ted the Director, who’s going to represent us at the fest, was notified that we’re definitely going to win an award at the closing ceremonies. So take that, ya brat.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Real Peruvian Genius.

My gym in L.A. – where you can get sweaty, pumped and your credit card stolen.

Here’s how the local paper reported it:

“A woman joined Bally in January, 2008 and learned the next month that her credit card was used to purchase airline tickets to Peru and products from Apple Online.

She had only had the credit card for a month, and tracked the security breach to the Bally employee who took the card out of the room when she joined.”

The good news, amigo, is that you get one more free trip: to Chino, courtesy of the state. Have a good workout.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Pre-Weekend A/V Time.

The Colbert ReportMon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
Formidable Opponent - Terrorism
Colbert Report Full EpisodesPolitical HumorStephen Colbert in Iraq

Sensible people might well ask how Google could possibly name Stephen Colbert the “Greatest Living American.”

This is why I never invite sensible people over for brunch.

Click above, and enjoy a segment from Stephen’s show called Formidable Opponent, in which he goes head-to-head with the only man he deems worthy of deliberation: himself. This is performed without editing – the picture is flipped and his tie is colored by effect. He is damn talented.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

The First Good Movie Of 2009.

“Hey, this is Phil. Leave me a message and I’ll get back to you. And don’t text me, ‘cause that’s gay.”

Six-and-a-half months into ’09 and not one movie made me crack a smile. 15 seconds into The Hangover, and I was laughing hard.

And it wasn’t just the writing and acting; it’s Todd Phillips bringing dramatic direction to a comedy, and making it even funnier. It’s pushing into shots and playing with film speed. It’s going to the sketchiest parts of Vegas, with you or without you. It’s hilarious. I wish I were in it.

This movie eats other comedies like Emeril eats shrimp. Plunk down ten bucks and see it.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Wrapping Up: A Blackberry® Photo Gallery.

The river behind our hotel suite. Perfect for helping you fall asleep. And within peeing distance of the balcony.

Prarie dogs pretty much run the joint. Almost flattened this guy with the rental car.

We rock-climbed some dangerous terrain and got wet and muddy getting around this frigid lake. But the toughest part for me was not having cell-phone service.

A cigarette vending machine in a bar is both a throwback, and a way to commit slow suicide for a mere seven bucks (Meanwhile, for only a buck more, you can put a helmet on that soldier in Cannes.)

The former whorehouse where my friends Mark and Michelle treated us to dinner. These days, the crabs are stuffed into herb-encrusted trout.

Me, doing Q&A after the screening of my film. Put a nickel in me and I’ll run for hours. But all jesting aside, the crowd was super receptive, seemed to really love the film and made my job a cinch by asking very intelligent questions. Plus they gave me the opportunity to close with a rousing "We love you, Breckenridge!"

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Day 4: Denver, In 100 Words Or Less.

The above sculpture, located outside the Denver Art Museum, is three-stories tall, and for an OCD guy, it’s like visiting Mecca… Crazy weather. Will rain for a few minutes, then get really sunny. Then rain, etc. Mother Nature is definitely a chick… I kept hoping to see a statue of Bob Denver, but no dice… The entire city is so tiny, it can be walked in about 45 minutes. But I think we had to drive to Chicago to get to the airport… The souvenir shop called “Only In Denver” sure had a lot of t-shirts made in Indonesia… I feel like I missed out by not ordering a Denver omelet at brunch.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Breckenridge, Day 3: Nature Boy.

Before we went hiking yesterday, professional wingman Mike Larkin read me tips on what to do in case we encountered a mountain lion. We came across fresh tracks – see above – but we were unfortunately (or maybe very fortunately) not able to apply what we learned… Finally saw the first good film of the year. Details later… They have white guys working in 7-Elevens here… Spending today in Denver before flying back. Hope for my sake I don’t bump into John Elway.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Breckenridge, Day 2: Global Cooling.

Went on a great hike up a trail called Spruce Creek. It was a little more spruce than creek… Saw a great new mockumentary called Paper Hearts, starring Michael Cera. He played a nice, nervous, young guy, which was a stretch… I thought my friends Mark and Michelle were joking about taking us to dinner in an old whore house. They took us to dinner in an old whore house… A coyote ran right past us on Main St. He was in a hurry, so I didn’t ask him what he thought of my film.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Breckenridge, Day 1: Head For The Hills.

Nice little main street here, much like Park City, UT. But without the Mormans C-blocking all the fun… Loving the free, roomy suite they gave me – maybe because when I want to enter my apartment in L.A. I have to use a crowbar and a Sawz-All… Almost every business here is located in a refurbished, 100-year-old home. Let’s assume that back in the mining days, many of these were whore houses, the Starbucks of the 19th century… It was 36 degrees here last night, in the middle of June, and that ain’t right.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Weekend At Breckie’s.

Colorado. Where white teens are armed and dangerous, NBA sexual assault is legal and Nazi-brewed beer is as cold as a mountain spring.

This nutty state more than redeems itself this weekend, as I head out to the Breckenridge Festival of Film – and its accompanying free lodging. Professional Wingman Mike Larkin will be alongside as we take The Beneficiary to the place where John Elway carried on some serious philandering (I’ll stop now. I promise.)

This will officially be the 36th state I’ll have visited, according to the handy visual above. It looks like my quest to hit all 50 will require a road trip from Oregon through the Dakotas, to Nebraska and Iowa. It’ll click off nine more, and give Petey ample head-out-the-car-window time.

Early flight, so gotta wrap this up. Feel free to rob your boss of valuable man-hours today by mapping out your own state checklist. But first, wish me luck.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Once Again, A Suck-Up.

Last night, Marshall Herskovitz brought a new pilot script into my ongoing workshop.

Marshall co-created “thirtysomething” and “Once and Again,” wrote The Last Samarai and produced Blood Diamond. Getting critiqued by him – and eventually “borrowing” his ideas on acting and direction for my next film – kinda feels like stealing coins off a dead man's eyes. I approve that theft.

I can’t mention much about the pilot, except that it has the true feel of suburban life that made “thirtysomething” so unique. Then again, “The Real Housewives of Tallahassee” does capture that authenticity. I mean, they couldn’t legally put “real” in the title if it didn’t, right?

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

My Ten Favorite Documentaries: Part Two.

My Architect. Nathaniel Kahn, illegitimate son of renowned architect Louis Kahn, didn’t know his father very well growing up – Dad snuck out on his wife and kids a few times a year to visit Nathaniel and read him a bedtime story before hooking up with his mom. Nathaniel interviews famous architects, and visits all of his father’s buildings in an effort to learn about his dad.
Unique moment: Nathaniel, who seems pretty well-adjusted considering his upbringing (his father even had a third secret family) becomes emotional as he tours his dad’s masterpiece: the Salk Institute in La Jolla.

Roman Polanski: Wanted and Desired. What Polanski did was certainly despicable, but this doc takes a look into the tough life that led up to the incident, and the OJ-esque trial that ensued before he left town.
Unique moment: photos of the girl he allegedly raped reveal how startlingly young-looking she was at the time.

Slasher. John Landis, director of Animal House, became fascinated with Michael Bennett, a mercenary used-car salesman known as “Slasher.” Bennett, a functioning alcoholic and true showman, once sold 150 cars in one weekend (with the help of his dream team), and in this doc has the unenviable task of working a tent-sale in the poorest section of Memphis.
Unique moment: through a great use of replay, one of Slasher’s salesmen shows how he’s able to manipulate customers into paying more than they anticipated.

The Staircase. My cousin recommended this six-hour, very addictive story about Michael Peterson, a North Carolina novelist accused of murdering his wife by throwing her down a flight of stairs. A French film crew had total access to Peterson and his family, and the plot constantly twists.
Unique moment: whether you believe he’s guilty or not, the verdict is somehow still stunning. Don’t Wikipedia the case before watching.

The Bridge. After reading an article about the shocking number of suicides committed by people jumping off the Golden Gate Bridge, a previously inexperienced filmmaker dropped his life, put together a crew and set-up four cameras by the bridge for a year. There’s actual footage of people leaping off, and subsequent interviews with friends and family.
Unique moment: the cameras capture a guy grabbing a woman before she jumps. She kicks and screams, but lives.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Profiting Off The Motor-Mouth.

When I found out a network was searching for actors who were passionate about sports, I almost pulled a hammy responding.

The casting director called, and wanted me to come in to audition for a sports show in the same genre as “Around the Horn,” in which panelists are pitted against one another. I can think of worse ways to spend my summer, so I put on a Derek Jeter BP jersey and hightailed it to her office.

She put me on camera, and had me discuss various sports topics, then praise my favorite teams and slam their rivals.

So, paying me to bash the Red Sox? Really? How much can I get for 20-minute naps, or peeing on the side of the freeway? Because when it comes to that stuff, I’m a Viking.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Festivus, Part XIX.

New York is a beautiful, amazing place – between May 1st and May 31st. Otherwise, it's dark, wet and miserable, like the landscape of an old Led Zeppelin song.

But I do dig its film fests.

The Independent Features Film Festival is number 19 for The Beneficiary. It takes place in Tribeca, and according to the festival’s acceptance note, “the event will include parties, premieres, awards shows and award-winning films chosen by a global audience.” I owe you one, Sri Lanka.

And now, the obligatory Beneficiary story. Months into filming, my life savings drained, we were shooting the crucial opening scene in the lobby of L.A. Center Studios. During a take, a loud boom echoed through the lobby, and when we looked up, the heat from one of the set lamps had caused a giant crack in one of the large plate-glass windows.
Damage cost: two grand.

One of my favorite TV shows, “Numb3rs,” is shot in the same building, and whenever I see that window I die just a little bit. “Numb3rs,” by the way, airs Friday nights at 10. It’s both an underrated drama and a terribly sad glimpse into my social life. T.G.I.M.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Meanwhile, I’m An All-Star Loser.

My friends are quick to praise the fancy shirts selected for me by Jenn the Lawyer/Stylist. They are some buttoned-down goodness.

And when I saw Yankee closer Mariano Rivera at last week’s Magic/Cavs game, sporting one of the exact shirts that I wear, I almost got wood. Not to worry, however – the state of California C-blocked me by recently upholding the same-sex marriage ban.

Friday, June 5, 2009

My Ten Favorite Documentaries: Part One.

Entertainment summer hiatus in an economic depression has rendered me a complete shut-in. The good news is I’m now eligible for Meals on Wheels.

And what better way to bide time until inevitable death than with a Netflix subscription and its large selection of documentaries. As an actor, I learn a lot from scripted movies, but good documentaries show people at their most real moments.

As I wrote this up, it got a little lengthy, so here are my first five favorites, with the rest to come next week:

Paper Clips. In the rural town of Whitwell, TN – not exactly the epicenter of Judaism – a middle school teacher is interested in having her students grasp the enormity of the number of people killed in the Holocaust. She asks them to collect six million paper clips, and it’s a tremendous undertaking. But as word spreads about their endeavor, donations arrive, including some from the desks of celebrities.
Unique moment: octogenarian Holocaust survivors visit the town to share their heartbreaking stories with the children.

The Big One. Thanks to his unique use of editing and art direction, Michael Moore changed the way documentaries are made. I chose one of his more obscure films, in which Michael brings a camera along on a nationwide tour in which he promotes a book and tries to convince big companies to stop downsizing. This film, shot eleven years before our current economic crunch, resonates even more now.
Unique moment: employees at a Borders bookstore meet Michael covertly in the middle of the night and ask him to help them keep their full-time hours and benefits.

Street Fight. An Esquire article kicked off my admiration for Newark mayor Corey Booker. This doc is about his original campaign to unseat a very crooked politician.
Unique moment: the director, after having become recognized and harassed by Corey’s corrupt opponent, hands the camera over to a friend, and the friend captures some really shady shenanigans on election day.

Overnight. Maybe my favorite. Low-rent Hollywood rocker/bartender Troy Duffy writes a script entitled Boondock Saints. It grabs the interest of then-Miramax CEO Harvey Weinstein, and Weinstein greenlights Duffy to direct it. Duffy then implodes in his own success and burns every bridge. The documentary was shot by two of his friends (they managed his fledgling band) whom he screwed over.
Unique moment: Duffy leaving threatening messages on Weinstein’s voicemail, and telling his band-manager friends they weren’t going to get a penny of the money he knew they deserved.

The King of Kong. Crazy look at the best of the best Donkey Kong players. When algebra teacher Steve Wiebe earns a controversial, world record score on a game in his garage, he must travel to an arcade in New Hampshire and try to recreate his high score, thereby proving his skills and unseating the reigning champion.
Unique moment: the guys who head up an organization they formed to keep track of high scores essentially pull a B&E on Wiebe’s garage to confirm he hasn’t tinkered with the machine he used to record his score.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Ass Kissing, Blogger Style.

There’s no doubt that talent is the #1 priority in landing a role. But it can’t hurt to step right up and plant one.

Last night, director Bobby Roth brought a new script he’s working on into my weekly workshop. Bobby and I are festival blood brothers; he screened his first film at Cannes in 1976. He said back then the city was teeming with “jeweled starlets and fat men wearing white belts and matching shoes.” Nifty.

He’s led a really interesting life, most recently directing most of the episodes of “Prison Break.” He also happens to be married to Bruce Springsteen’s sister (that’s Bobby with his brother-in-law, above), and has over 4300 friends on Facebook. Apparently you no longer need to wait until your funeral to gauge your popularity.

So if our shared career-opening chapters are any sign of a pattern, I figure in twenty years I’ll be directing prime-time TV, married to Justin Timberlake’s sister, and gain 4299 friends. Sweet.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Welcome To Paradise, Sir.

Thanks to the Intraweb, even if you missed Conan O’Brien’s debut as host of “The Tonight Show” on Monday, you're not completely out of luck.

Click above and check out the show’s opening bit, which I thought was fittingly epic. This is the kind of TV I want to do.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Back To School.

Last night, I went to my first class at the new studio owned by my favorite teacher, Annie Grindlay. It was surreal, being with Annie and my old classmates in a whole new setting. Sorta like when Laverne and Shirley moved from Milwaukee to Hollywood. I kept making double entendres hoping Lenny and Squiggy would burst through the door.

The new place is state of the art, especially compared to our last studio, which featured TVs purchased long before Laverne and Shirley were conceived.

Summertime in the worst economic crunch of our generation is not beneficial to show business, so I might as well use the time to work on my craft. And try to keep this blog as entertaining as possible until Barry O. straightens this whole thing out. With six entries every week, thank Jesus I’ve got Festivus.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Festivus, Part XVIII.

After a 12-hour flight to Paris, a one-and-a-half connection to Nice, and a half-hour shuttle to Cannes, it couldn’t be more convenient to be accepted into a festival right here in L.A. Well, it could be more convenient if I find one that takes place on the left side of my bed (I’m a right-side guy, and call permanent shotgun there, btw.)

The Los Angeles United Film Festival, and its kinda enigmatic logo is the 18th fest to honor The Beneficiary. Fist-bump me.

Today I’d like to recall my favorite day of shooting, and maybe my greatest morning ever: creating the road-rage scene. Ted the Director held on for dear life with the crew on the back of a Shotmaster, a converted Ford F350 with tiered seating, on the 210 Freeway, while I was behind the wheel of a car behind them.

Ted directed me via walkie-talkie as I veered in and out of traffic, and thanks to CHP officers on motorcycles a hundred yards ahead and behind us, I had carte blanche to do 110 mph during rush-hour. It was so utterly intoxicating that for a moment I wanted to drop everything and pursue a career in stunt work. But then I recalled my fears of heights, explosions and knees to the groin.

If you ever get the chance to legally experience the thrill of three-digit territory during a morning commute, feel free, as I did, to gun it and laugh like Tickle Me Elmo.