Sunday, March 23, 2014


Laugh-out-loud funny doesn’t begin to capture the perverse humor that director/leading man Jason Bateman plops onto the screen.

Personally, I love to spend time with really smart kids.  However, Bateman, playing Guy Trilby, pulls the rug out from under his version of Spelling Bee brainiacs in ways that border on child abuse.  But no harm is done except to send up obnoxious and pushy parents plus the competition director, Dr. Deagan, played by Alison Janney, who brings new meaning to phrase ‘prune face.”

Bateman, acting since a kid, knows his way around a set and particularly how to work with actors.  He sails through his feature film debut with zany wit and assurance and expands his sardonic comic chops in the process. 

Screenwriter Andrew Dodge delivers a well-crafted black comedy that is a welcome addition to contemporary film humor for grownups.  My other gold star goes to the recent AMERICAN HUSTLE.

Playing opposite Bateman is a 10-year-old ball of sunshine, New York born Indian actor Rohan Chand.  This kid can’t stop sparkling, even under the most adversarial situations tossed at him by Bateman.  I wanted to love him and smack him at the same time.  An example?  As the lad leans over the top of his airplane seat and endlessly pesters Guy, the audience exploded with laughter when Trilby blurts, “ Hey kid, shut up, turn your curry hole around and sit.”

The burning question is why does 40 year-old Guy Trilby enter a nationally televised competition limited to kids who have not yet graduated from the 5th grade? All unravels in the final frames, and, while seemingly an author derived dénouement, the ‘get-even’ revelation works just fine in this high-spirited comedy.

Take a break and look forward to some delightfully spiteful giggles.  

Friday, March 7, 2014


The cheers that arose when 12 YEARS A SLAVE won Best Picture were well deserved.  I am proud the Academy seemed to rally around this film in spite of its weak box office and deeply distressing illumination of our nation’s embarrassing exploitation of Blacks.

The Academy membership is 94% Caucasian so this was also a concern.   Because it is a difficult film to watch I worried whether it would even find an audience.  These thoughts shaped my early January thinking as I tried to balance my personal opinions with what seemed likely to be manifest in the minds of industry voters. 

Perhaps a palette cleansing comedy like AMERICAN HUSTLE would snare the gold.  I was wrong.

The evening’s consensus represented a spot-on collection of winners that, in my opinion, has seldom happened in Oscar’s past.  Matthew McConaughey, Cate Blanchett, Lupita Nyong’o and Jared Leto deserved their honors. 

The Directors Guild awarded Alfonso Cuarón  (GRAVITY) its top prize, which is usually an indication of what film will win the Oscar.  I nevertheless applauded the Best Director gold going to Steve McQueen (12 YEARS A SLAVE).  I had been plugging for David O. Russell (AMERICAN HUSTLE) because directing great comedy is really really difficult. Nevertheless the fact that social, emotional and political issues dominated story lines was welcome. 

HIGHS & LOWS:  What they wore

1. Julia Roberts in a sad black Givenchy gown with a matronly peplum and ill-fitting black lace that covered her plunging décolletage with Victorian modesty.  No tits. Yawn.

2.  Will Smith wearing a tux and open neck white shirt with scarf peaking out that seemed to suggest -- ‘I’m just too cool and too important to be bothered with all this dress up shit.’

3. Kevin Spacey in a smart blue Burberry tux, a nice relief from tuxedo black, black, black.

4.  Sally Field looked matronly in a net embroidered long dress with short sleeves that looked positively dowdy on camera. Alas.

5.  Lupita Nyong’o floated in pale blue Prada with a neckline that plunged to her navel.  Here’s a young woman, flat chested as a boy, who looked sexy and lady-like at the same time.

6. Anne Hathaway’s Gucci designed gown featured her chest completely neutered with what looked like sparkling armor plating. That and her closely cropped hair completed a decidedly butch look.  Dull.

7.  Bette Midler showed up in a red floral Reem Acra gown that blended amusingly with the floral red Oscar carpet.  Remember her singing “Gonna lay down on my bed of roses”?  No, not tonight, Bette, we’ll “walk all over you.”


8.  Bradley Cooper and Brad Pitt vied for wearing perfectly tailored tuxes. At last Brad wore pants hemmed so they didn’t tumble 6 inches over his shoes.

9.  Charlize Theron in knockout Dior that parted as it swept over her left and right breast and hung deliciously suspended just below each shoulder.  This offered tension then release as the gown descended into a sheer floating train that delicately offered an elegant finale.

Enough with the frivolity.  Except for one note.  Plastic surgery victims included Goldie Hawn, Kim Novak and John Travolta.  And one billion viewers wondered if maybe it was just the lighting.

HIGHS & LOWS:  The show

1.  Ellen DeGeneres delivered a funny and free flowing opening monologue that was scripted yet came off spontaneous and even zany. It seemed to promise a great evening.

2.  Jared Leto gave a very moving acceptance speech upon receiving Best Supporting Actor for his stunning performance as a transgendered prostitute in DALLAS BUYERS CLUB.  He exceeded his 45 seconds but effectively urged compassion for everyone to be allowed to love whomever they choose without fear or prejudice.  He was graciously allowed to finish without being played off by the orchestra.

3.  Pharrell Williams sang a knockout HAPPY from Despicable Me 2 which brought the house down.  Kids on stage and celebs in the front row danced with him to create an opening number that will be remembered.

4.  Boredom set in during the next two hours until Lupita Nyong’o won Best Supporting Actress for her wrenching performance in 12 YEARS A SLAVE.  What radiance she brought to thank-you.  The audience loved her.

5.  DeGeneres asked the audience if they were hungry and ordered pizza.  Sure enough a chap delivered 3 boxes and Ellen passed out slices much to everyone’s delight.  Later she canvassed the audience to tip the delivery boy.  She conned $200 from Harvey Weinstein.  All Lupita could offer was her lip gloss, which Ellen immediately applied to her own lips!

 6.  Pink sang Somewhere Over the Rainbow in a distinctively phrased version in honor of the 75th anniversary of the WIZARD OF OZ.  Liza Minnelli, draped in an off-the-shoulder electric blue schmatta and blue streak in her hair, seemed pleased but miffed when Ellen said she made a convincing drag queen, then topped it off with ‘great job, sir’.  It was funny to everyone except Liza.

7.  At 11:00 p.m. (EST), it was 2.5 hours into the show and best Actress, Actor and Film had not yet been awarded.

8.  To add to the tedium Bette Midler sang a sappy and draggy rendition of Wind Beneath My Wings that seemed endless.

9.  At last, Cate and Matthew won Best Actor Awards and 12 YEARS A SLAVE received a thunderous applause when it was announced as Best Picture.  Amen!


Bottom line?  The show was only fair.  We needed more of Ellen and a tighter evening where the awards of lesser interest to one billion viewers are moved to an off-camera ceremony.  If the goal is to increase movie attendance, give us 2 zippy hours of genuine broadcast entertainment rather than 3.5 hours of drawn out of narrowcast self congratulations.