Thursday, July 31, 2014

Internationally Shitting The Bed.

Starring in what is easily the worst segment in the history of the Oscars. You can’t unring that bell.

Rob Lowe was that star. (Click the video above to check it out. But skip around, because it’s really unwatchable. Rob enters about six minutes in.)

Here’s how he remembers it in his autobiography:

Every star can make a bad movie or TV show. If you are lucky, you may get to stay in the business long enough to make several. But very few get to participate in a train wreck in front of a billion people.

The pitch was simple: an elaborate musical number in the style of the famed Copacabana will open the show. A who’s who of old-time Hollywood stars will participate, including the biggest box-office queen of her era, Snow White. The gag will be that her date stands her up and I gallantly come to her rescue. 

There are ominous signs from the beginning. During rehearsals, it becomes clear that some of the older Hollywood legends cannot walk unassisted. So they are placed at tables where all they have to do is wave. Snow White is played by a sweet but inexperienced actress with a very high falsetto. However, when the big night arrives and she is faced with the living, breathing, actual stars, her voice jumps up two more octaves. By the time I make my entrance, live, in front of a billion people, she has that thousand-yard stare common to all performers who are going into the tank. We’ve all been there. I know the look. I look deep into her eyes, trying to get her to focus on me and steady her nerves. It seems to be going well. 

Then, out of the corner of my eye, I see the great director Barry Levinson in the middle of the audience. There is nobody hotter or more important on the planet at this time. I see him very clearly. His mouth is agape. He almost looks ashen. He turns to his date, and I can clearly read his lips as he says, “What the F is this?” Bravely, I soldier on. 

I leave the stage, not having a real sense of how it went over. I make my way to the green room, deserted at this early part of the show except for an elderly lady with flame-red hair, sitting in a corner alone. It’s Lucille Ball. “Young man,” she says, “I had no idea you were such a good singer. Please come sit with me.” 

She holds my hand, and kisses me on the cheek, and then I watch as leaves to receive her Lifetime Achievement Award to a standing ovation. Within weeks she will pass away. 

Every year people debate what’s wrong with the Academy Awards. Why they are always so long, so boring, or just plain terrible. I have my theories, but of these two things I am certain: first, don’t they ever try to take the piss out of the Oscars. The ceremony is not merely escapist fare for the average American; it is considered to be of cancer-curing importance, an evening of the highest seriousness, to be revered at all costs. I hadn’t realized that. Second: when Lucille Ball likes what you do, it’s hard to give a shit about anyone else.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Once Again, Out-Of-Context Thank-You Notes I’ve Recently Written To Casting Directors.

• A swim-up bar is the best place to flirt while standing in other people’s piss.

• A pretty woman can totally convince me to spend too much in a sports store. Then again, so can an ugly dude.

• I’m just waiting for the big earthquake that’ll finally make Apple Maps 100% accurate.

• Already regret the text I’m about to send.

• As to what sort of mischief Ringling Brothers’ clown college could get into with a Smart Car, the mind fairly boggles.

 • Summer is the worst time of the year to turn goth. What the hell was I thinking?

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

It’s Going On The Fridge.

Nothing gets me motivated for 10-15 seconds like a good inspirational quote.

The above will last a bit longer. From a casting director who works on two major new dramas.

Monday, July 28, 2014

One Trip To The Vet; Four Nutty Observations.

Waiting to pick up our dogs was both me (summer allergies gave Ricky an itchy butt) and a giant black man. The black guy’s dog came out first, and it was the tiniest white Shih Tzu, followed by my Pit Bull. I asked the vet tech “What’s wrong with this picture?” Outside: the Shih Tzu piddled as it left the place.

In the parking lot, an extreme head-scratcher: a motorcycle with a handicapped plate.

Around the corner: somebody’s quinceanera getting ruined.

Two miles away, and this one ain’t funny: for the first time in months, we finally got rain in LA, but it came out of nowhere in the form of a very rare thunder storm. It hit people swimming and playing volleyball on Venice Beach, killing one and injuring 13.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Sport Of Dirtbags.

You had them at arena football. You really had them when you named the team the LA Kiss. But you won them over forever with go-go dancers perched above the field.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

The Best Q&A Of The Year.

I dunked on my brother one summer, like, 20 years ago, on the adjustable hoop in the driveway, and I still think about it roughly twice a week.

It’s amazing what stays with you. Like the way I got to see my favorite movie of the year.

For the past couple weeks, anticipating the premiere of Boyhood, I couldn’t shut up about it, and so I called my friend John Kapelos last week and asked him to see it with me. He said, “Actually, I have an extra ticket to a screening for some movie this weekend. Let’s see..” as he read from an email, “it’s followed by a Q&A with Richard Linklater, Ethan Hawke, Patricia Arquette and Ellar Coltrane.”

“That’s Boyhood!”

And so we went. It was a remarkable way to see the film. Here are some of the things discussed:

• To help her bond with the kids who were going to play her son and daughter, Patricia babysat them for a weekend. Richard then asked her to name their characters.

• After the first four years of shooting, Richard’s daughter wanted to drop out, and asked him to kill off her character. But Richard thought that was too momentous a plot shift, and made her finish the next eight years.

• Richard never cheated by shooting footage years later and pretending it was original. Everything was shot chronologically.

• After watching the beginning of the film, Ethan thought he looked handsome, and that this would lead to a few other offers for roles. Then, he got to the end, when he’d aged 12 years, and gave that right up.

• Ethan also had a profound thought about the technique of the film: “Stories in novels progress through years all the time, so this type of storytelling is not unique in that regard. But it’s completely original in a film.” He was genuinely thrilled to be a part of it. He also kept deflecting attention on him, constantly praising Patricia. He’s a good guy.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

The Best Film Of The Year.

We should really thank our dads for bringing us into this world, since our moms were probably tired and not in the mood.

Fatherhood and tired moms are a major thread throughout one of the most innovative films of all time: Boyhood.

Writer/director Richard Linklater had an idea for a screenplay in 2001 about a boy growing up in Texas. But rather than use prosthetics to age the characters, he decided to shoot them for a week every year for 12 years.

This could have been simply a gimmick, but this was Richard Linklater, the king of independent film. (Independent = no money. No money = no CGI, no exotic locales, no hefty actor salaries. Dialogue is everything.) So he cast a six-year-old named Ellar Coltrane, who had never acted before, and had faith the kid would able to carry the movie and maintain his skills when he was 18. (He got lucky – Ellar can act and has poise.) Linklater then cast his own daughter (who also had never acted) as Ellar’s sister, and his friends Patricia Arquette and Ethan Hawke as their mom and dad, because he could rely on them, and they wound up collaborating on the writing as much as they could.

As daunting as this project seems, in some ways Linklater did himself a service. He didn’t have to use makeup to age actors (or cast an older actor to play teenage Eller.) He didn’t have to worry about using period-appropriate hairstyles, wardrobe, cars or props. We used flip-phones in 2001, and smart-phones in 2013. Pop culture has shifted from Britney Spears to Lady Gaga. Roger Clemens is seen in actual footage, pitching at the top of his game in 2005. Nowadays, he’s a steroid-using pariah who hasn’t played in seven years.

It’s fascinating. The film that opened four days ago began shooting before 9/11 happened. And four years before YouTube was launched, and six before the first iPhone. When production began, just about all movies were shot on 35mm; that film stock isn’t even produced anymore.

Linklater managed to keep the story linear and the footage seamless. You only know a year has passed because Ellar has subtly aged or his changed his haircut. I won’t spoil the story, but I will tell you it’s so real and you’ll feel so engaged that even though it’s two hours and 46 minutes long, you’ll want it to continue. It received a 100% rating on Rotten Tomatoes and it’ll get multiple Oscar nominations. You gotta see it.

Monday, July 21, 2014

My Weekend. In Which I Eat My Feelings.

This breakfast biscuit sandwich hasn’t killed me, so it must be making me stronger.
Melrose Place Farmers’ Market 

Chocolate cookies with Frangelico whipped cream. My feelings are delicious.
Chaya, Beverly Hills 

My favorite food – chicken parm – at the best Italian restaurant in LA. My whole life is one big cheat day.
Mezzo Mundo, Studio City 

You’d think they’d just coast after coming up with the coolest name for a breakfast place, and yet, there they are, warming up the syrup in a bin full of hot water. Stellar.
Bread and Porridge, Santa Monica

A big bag of assorted bubble gum. Does Obamacare cover TMJ?
CVS, Burbank

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Rest In Peace.

Elaine Stritch died on Thursday, and as sad as it is to see her go, she left nothing in the tank, working as an actress for over 70 years. She was inducted into the American Theater Hall of Fame, but her true legacy is recurring as Colleen Donaghy, mother of Alec Baldwin’s character on “30 Rock.” Check out the above clip (forgive the video quality) and see what we’re going to miss.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Thursday, July 17, 2014

The Fourth Great Movie Of 2014.

Sorry, I was going to listen to your band. But I saw that more than two members were listed under “percussion.”

Begin Again opens with hippy singers on an open-mic night in a New York City bar, each one shittier than the last until Keira Knightly reluctantly steps up. Mark Ruffalo’s character, a drunken, washed-up record exec instantly thinks he’s discovered the answer to his problems.

Yeah, it gets a little sweet at times (Ruffalo easily finds parking right in front of wherever he’s going in Manhattan), but you want to believe it. You want to believe that music can change people’s lives after their hearts break or their careers go down the toilet. The original title of the film was Can a Song Save Your Life?, a bit on the nose, but writer/director John Carney knew better.

And he made the best romantic dramedy of the summer. See it.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

An American Rob Lowe In Paris.

The best thing about the Somali pirates in Captain Phillips: Johnny Depp was completely unrecognizable.

Rob Lowe almost played a pirate. In his book, Stories I Only Tell My Friends, he talks about screen testing for the Roman Polanski film Pirates, before he was star. He got the role, but the film took too long to get financing and he turned it down, only to be replaced by what he called the “French Rob Lowe.” (See above.)

Here’s Rob’s story about traveling to Paris for the audition: Rob Lowe.

As I wander the halls, a bleary-eyed man looks out. I recognize him at once as Bill Murray, one of my favorite actors. 

“I thought I heard room service,” he says. 

“Sorry. I hope I didn’t disturb you.” 

“Oh. You’re American! Good. These frogs are driving me crazy. Wanna watch some golf?” 

I want to tell him that on The Outsiders we had Caddyshack-watching parties, but something tells me I shouldn’t. I explain that I’m here for a screen test for Pirates. Soon I have to meet Roman Polanski for dinner and we say our goodbyes. 

“Thanks for letting me hang out,” I say, as we shake hands. 

“Thanks for not stealing my wallet. Oh, and good luck on the pirate thing.” 

The next day, as I leave my room for the early flight back to Los Angeles, I trip on something at my feet. It’s a beautiful leather-bound book. I open it to find it’s a first edition of The Complete History of Pirates. I look closer and there is an inscription. It reads: 

To Rob– 
All the best on your movie. 
Your pal, 
Bill Murray

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Gracias, Fellas.

In the six months since my place was remodeled, my yard has been a veritable king cake of shit the construction guys left behind.

Not a day goes by in which I don’t find shards of glass, pieces of tile, paint chips, and yesterday, the above doozy. I’m no vet, but I’m thinking a rusty saw blade is not a healthful puppy treat.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Face It:

Judging by the way you dressed her, she ran the hell away.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

If You Watch ONE Of My Friend’s Trailers That Has Bill Murray In It, Make It This One. It Has Bill Murray In It!

When someone finally harnesses the ability to time travel, its best application will be to skip past the commercials before movies.

Until then, thank Jesus for the ArcLight, where commercials are off-limits. It’s trailers only. And while I was there the other night, as one began, I immediately felt a jolt of adrenaline. It was for St. Vincent, a film my friend Ted Melfi wrote and directed. Ted directed the film I wrote and starred in a few years ago, and it was accepted into 45 film festivals. He’s reached the height of showbiz, and he busts his ass and deserves it. His trailer is above.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

The Third Great Movie of 2014.

The first month of dating is just the guy saying, “What?! You've never seen (movie title)?!” hundreds of times.

So ladies, listen up: see Edge of Tomorrow now, and avoid that scolding later. This is one of the smartest action films ever. With a premise so intricate it made me think about what Bryan Singer said after he directed The Usual Suspects: “Even I can’t quite figure out my film.” Imagine that with a videogame-like reset button, activated by shooting a guy in the face.

By the way, isn’t it truly amazing Tom Cruise is in his fourth decade of being an A+ actor whose movies gross $100 million? That’s some rarefied air.

Go see this.

Monday, July 7, 2014

How I Spent Indepence Day Weekend. By Matthew Shevin.

When someone sitting near us at Son of a Gun ordered one of these, we bet on whether it was a burger or dessert. Turns out it was a push: the Italian Burger – gianduja, brioche (toasted like a burger bun), caramel and maldon.

Speaking of dinner, a Great White bit a swimmer at the pier by my house. That’s gotta smart.

He’ll live. And he’s got a lot to look forward to. “Community,” one of my favorite TV shows, had been canceled by NBC. But yesterday, Yahoo Screen picked it up for a new season. Thank you, Jesus.

It was the worst-grossing box office for July 4th weekend since 1999. But that ain’t on me – I saw three films, and spent the equivalent of a small country’s GNP for one of them.

Friday, July 4, 2014

Move Over, American Flag Cake Featured In Parade Magazine.

Last night, I wolfed down LA’s true patriotic dessert: tempura ice cream with red bean.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Please, Put The Tiparillo Out First, Patriot.

Everyone have a kickass and  somewhat-safe 4th, okay? Okay.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

An All-New “Excerpts From My Text Messages.”

“Hi, you’ve reached my voicemail. Send me a text like a normal person.”

Seriously. It’s 2014. I promise to reply preposterously. Here are a few recent ones I’ve sent, with my outgoing messages in blue:

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Hey, Commercials:

I stopped by a laundromat yesterday. The people who you think are there aren’t there.