Christmas video

Tunesday: White Christmas

The Grandaddy of old Christmas videos…and the best-selling single of all time. Bing Crosby & Danny Kaye, with a special vocal surprise if you listen through to almost the end (around the 2 minute mark).


Southpaw–My (hair)Brush with Celebrity

I worked the past week as an extra in a movie to be titled “Southpaw,” directed by Antwon Fuqua and, as I mentioned the other day, starring Jake Gyllenhaal, Forrest Whittaker, and 50 Cent.  Arriving on set last night was another star, Rachel McAdams.  I have no designs on a career as an actor, but it seemed like a fun thing to do. While Pennsylvania’s fantastic Film Tax Credit brings a lot of Hollywood to western Pennsylvania, like The Fault In Our Stars, The Dark Knight Rises, The Perks of Being a Wallflower, Jack Reacher, Promised Land, and The Road, to just name a few, it is not common for a major motion picture to be filmed ten blocks from my home.  So, I rearranged my life and signed up.

It was a lot of fun.  I met some cool people, and a lot of weird people–some the kind of weird you expect when folks are mass-hired for temporary, low-wage jobs.  Others just weird in the way that doesn’t necessarily show until we’re thrust together in close proximity, in a situation with lots of down time and a lot of external stimuli to react to.  You’re sitting shoulder to shoulder with people, waiting to watch millionaires play pretend, and it’s pretty natural to look to one side and say, “Hey.” Or “having fun?” Or “sandwiches again for lunch?” The next thing you know, you’ve got a fleeting friendship–you’ve got, um, maybe the best word for it is “buddies.”

There was the guy who sat down beside me and said “Explain String Theory to me real quickly….”  Uh yeh, right.  Or the pudgy bald guy who blurted out, “the last time I bedded an 18-year old I was 36,” as a non-sequitur, as if he’d been holding that line in reserve all week, waiting for a good moment to let if fly.  For his trouble he got awkward, nervous laughter and some wincing. Finally–and most famously, the haggard, 90 pound older woman with the unnaturally black dyed hair, homestyle tattoos, and witchy poo face who rasped in her cigarette-scathed voice about her career in musical theater and all the professional wrestlers she’s bedded. One of the extras told me later that she’d shown up at his yard sale last summer and loudly told similar stories until he gave her the stuff she wanted for free and begged her to leave because she was scaring off the other browsers.

But I’ll get back to the people.  The process–hundreds of us worked for a week to create what can’t end up being much more than 15 minutes of film, and even that feels long.  The costs are astounding.  Extras salaries alone, not counting overtime and the bounty of food they provided, cost somewhere around $60/minute for 14 hours or more a day (I worked 56 hours last week).  Scenes are filmed multiple times from multiple angles, with long waits for “reversals” when the cameras are flipped from one side of the shot to the other.  Yesterday, for example, this was my day:

  • Arrive
  • Stand In Line To Check In and Receive Pay Voucher
  • Stand In Line For Wardrobe Check (I looked “great”) after a cursory glance.
  • Stand In Line For Hair and Make-Up.  If nothing else, “Southpaw” has provided me with a lifetime first: hairspray.  I have worn hairspray 5 days straight.
  • Get a pass from Make-Up (I looked “perfect,” of course).
  • Have my somewhat undisciplined hair brushed and sprayed into a helmet suitable for the amphibious invasion of a hostile nation.
  • Browse the breakfast buffet (bagel, banana, donut holes and coffee)
  • Sit and wait…for the next 2.5 hours.  Talked a little, tried to read, mostly slept.
  • File onto set (along with 300 others–it’s a large scene), take seats, and wait.
  • Filming begins, 3.5 hours after arriving, lasts about 4 hours
  • Sent on break for about 40 minutes, told not to eat “lunch” (it’s 530 pm) because it’s not lunch time yet. It’s break time.
  • Told to eat “lunch”–it’s been sitting there on the tables all this time.
  • Told to wait.  Some people sent home.
  • Assembled in a group for my scene, stand around in that group for half an hour.
  • Costume change.  Predictibly, I look “great.”
  • Stand around in the same group of people, in a different place, for a breakdown of the scene.
  • Led inside for scene–it’s a really cool one, lots of conflict.  Jake Gyllenhaal is tremendous and Miguel Gomez brings tons of charisma–he’s almost a scene stealer. One of the extras, a guy I’ve talked to all week, gets a bump to a speaking role–just one line, but he’s building a film career so it’s a big deal.
  • Break.  We’re led off the set for a short break while the crew arranges things for the reversal–some people lose their places, but I just have to slouch so a camera can shoot over my head: this may be my big moment to get my face on the film in a way that I’m actually recognizable, and I’m slouching!  Ugh.  It’s karma for a lifetime of arrogance about my above-average height.
  • The scene is just fantastic–the best part of a long week–and we’re dismissed.  It’s 11:45 pm.
  • Stand in line to have pay voucher signed and verified.

More later….


Hangin’ With Jake–Hope You’re Not Jealous

jake-gyllenhaal-takes-his-dog-for-a-walk-in-nycApologies for being absent of late–please don’t take it personally.  I still love you, but I’ve been busy hanging out with Jake Gyllenhaal. Really. Sort of.  Wish I could say more, but I’m pledged to secrecy.

Commentary Funny and/or Strange

Bonnie and Clyde….


Okay, I’m in.


Smell The Irony: Ice Cube #1 at Box Office In “Ride Along”

So, Ice Cube is a big winner this week starring as a police officer in the “cop buddy-action-movie” Ride Along, and I have to say that I’m just tickled to death.

I’m laughing, of course, because I’m thinking of the video attached below.  I know, I know–Ice Cube sold out long ago.  I took my kids to see “Are We There Yet,” back when the kids were 7, and we had a fine old time at the theater, chomping on popcorn and laughing at the mean old gangsta was abused by a couple of little kids, and smiling when it works out in the end, but even a “crazy motherfucker” can have a soft spot for the kids, right?

And, on a related note:

Commentary Uncategorized

A Great Film Short…”Validation”

Hugh Newman

Commentary Uncategorized

Love Actually–10th Anniversary


Some good friends came over last night to join us in some delicious imperial stout (Thanks, Jarrod!) and our annual watching of Love Actually, the Christmas movie that most of us love and lots of us love to hate–a fairly successful situation for a movie that, while it uses Christmas as it’s framework is, as the title suggests, a movie about love in it’s myriad forms and configurations.  It’s clear why I enjoy this film: I’m a sentimental sap, a sucker for pulled heartstrings–and this movie yanks on them by the dozens. love-actually-21 I have to admit that I’m a bit surprised by the depths of antipathy that some other people project on this film, and even I have to admit that it’s more than the usual, toxic broth of cynicism, arrogance, ignorance and stupidity.  A lot of the critics seem relatively intelligent.  I’m not going to go too far into this, when it’s expressed so eloquently here:

Utter bullshit, of course.  The title’s hyperbole speaks for itself: I’m pretty sure Love Actually is NOT the least romantic film of all time.  “I Spit On Your Grave” and Mel Gibson’s Jesus Torture-fest come to mind.

After that, lets put on our Ad Hominem for a moment and wonder aloud what kind of moron confuses the convention of romance with the emotion of love.  Romance is a mood, love is a yDbKt3Cfeeling. Romance is an ideal.  Love is, well, often far less than ideal–which is far often the best kind of love.  Got it?  This movie is about Love, actually. (get it? couldn’t resist).  But I’m not the hero of this story.  Another writer at The Atlantic took up the sword/pen and defended our noble movie with a patience and depth I couldn’t be bothered to find.  Emma Green, you are the hero of the moment

I wrote this elsewhere, but it pales next to Ms. Green’s black belt defense:

tumblr_l0vlx6hPUZ1qbrf8eo1_500It was Mao who said “kill all the intellectuals, right?” I am relatively confident that Christopher Orr, were he to attempt an improvement, would pen the most absolutely boring film ever made. The sheer audacity of servicing nine “love” stories–and this story is about love, not romance–requires a certain level of imagination that most of what is happening with these people is happening between the cuts–while the camera is focused on the other couples. Laura Linney and her beau, for example, are shown at the end of a long evening date, so contrary to their relationship being purely physical they’ve had time alone together, plus five years of workiing together and a shared mutual attraction–but the kicker is that the love story isn’t theirs; Linney’s character’s story is the love for her brother, the sacrifices she makes in her own life for him.

I’d argue that Firth’s character doesn’t fall in love when he sees his crush in her underwear, it’s clearly been building over their time together and is only fully realized when they jump into the cold, eel-infested pond and separately realize neither ended up there for practical reasons, but out of their growing affection.

As for the PM and the foul-mouthed staffer–I’m sure I’m not the only one who met someone, out of the blue, who just stunned them like a cannon shot to the sternum from the very first moment. It happened to me some article-2277496-0073BC7300000258-625_634x416time ago, and I recognized it as something weird and cool and magical and the kind of thing that is best left alone. I met a woman some years ago and quite unexpectedly found myself in a stammering, ridiculous fit of adolescent awkwardness even though I was well ensconced in a relationship with a fine woman who happened to be standing about 4 feet away at the time; for days afterwards my thoughts turned constantly to this young woman–in my circumstance, it manifested as intense curiosity, but had I been single (she was) I know, with complete certainty, that I would have been punted ass-over-teacups into a full-blown drive-past-her-house-repeatedly crush. I pity the critic for never having experienced this, nor even having the capacity to imagine such a powerful feeling.

I proud  to admit that I’m one of the people who loves the crap out of this film–and yes, Bill Nighy is a major reason why. But I like it all. I like the stupid vanity/foolishness/delusions of the Alan Rickman character, the tone-perfect reaction to his selfishness from Emma Thompson’s character. I read this Christopher Orr article and what I realized was that’s it’s little more than a snobbish, verbose confession that the guy just didn’t get it. He’s virtually shouting it: “I missed the point completely! I just didn’t get it all! I’m obtuse as a moose! As dense as a dirty diaper! But boy can I show off my book-learnin’.” There’s also the possibility that Mr. Orr just never really felt or understood love, but that’s too sad to consider.