Sunday, February 24, 2013

Oscar Oscar Oscar: The Artist

For those of you keeping track, this will be the FINAL in our series of not-so-serious party posters that we created to delight and entertain our guests at our small annual Oscar soirees.  I say "small" because I don't want you to be insulted that you weren't invited.  But hey - feel free to print these up for your OWN Oscar parties.

Starting next week, I'll be posting the posters from this year's bash.

Today's offering was a delicious home-made artichoke dip.  Please note Berenice's earring.

Enjoy the awards!  We'll discuss soon!

Friday, February 8, 2013

Oscar Oscar Oscar: War Horse

Personally, I think when you're coming up with the menu for an Oscar themed party, hors d'oeuvres is a no-brainer.  And when Steven Spielberg hands you a gift like "War Horse," you don't look it in the mouth.

No equestrians were harmed in the making of this appetizer.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Oscar Oscar Oscar: Midnight in Paris

 Continuing the overview of poster puns and movie mishigass:

Sometimes the menu for our annual Oscar gathering is determined by the title.  It's often easier to come up with the mini posters first, and then figure out what food will go with them.

In this case, Woody Allen's MIDNIGHT IN PARIS became MIDNIGHT IN PEARS.  And we served a pear salad complemented by a lovely cheese display.  We also found a pear flavored soda, and then we were covered.

Now I'm getting hungry.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Comic-Kozzy: This Island Bradman Part 7

It is astonishing to me how much attention THIS ISLAND BRADMAN has garnered since I first posted about it over a year ago.

There have been blogs, ebay sales, and stories about what was once thought of as a mythical publication.  I've even heard from one of the co-stars of the book, now a grown man.

 Here's a video from legendary comic writer, Mark Waid:

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Comic Kozzy: When We Went Mad

Those of you who know me know that I love pop culture - and know that I love producing pop culture related documentaries.

And, because I'm friendly with the usual gang of idiots at MAD,  for years I've thought about doing one about the history of Mad Magazine.  Never actually got started on it, unfortunately.

And then this guy steps in and not only gets ahead of the game, he's doing a GREAT job (damn him)!

If you are now or have ever been a fan of MAD MAGAZINE, I urge you to go to this guy's Kickstarter page and put a couple of bucks into this very worthlesswhile project.

I want to see this doc, no matter who is doing it - and he seems to be getting it right, down to the music and the graphics.

Check it out if you get a chance.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Oscar Oscar Oscar: The Gulp

Every year, we gather a few close friends over to NOT watch the Oscars.  

Let's face it: the SuperBowl, the Oscars, Madmen season premieres:  they're all just excuses to get together with friends for junk food and parties and showing off our new big-screen TVs.  

And while I love movies, I really don't care that much about the Oscar ceremonies.  (Don't tell my friend Joe, who works for the Academy.)

That said, I DO like parties.  
And for the past two years my wife and I have a bunch of people over and we eat and drink and talk and have a TON of fun with both the nominees and the food by naming our various dishes, drink, desserts after that year's nominees.  We'd photoshop the posters and put up placards on the serving table so our guests can enjoy (or more likely moan) at the plethora of puns while they enjoy the culinary creations. 

So for those of you whose invitations got lost in the mail, over the next few weeks leading up to the Oscars themselves, I'll be posting the posters we made for the 2011 and 2012 Oscar parties.  

First up, from THE HELP, we posted this next to the bar.  (And it should be noted... this is a pre-Bloomberg poster!)

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Pop Culture as History

I was thinking the other day about my 11th grade history teacher.  He was memorable for being a "tough cookie."  Passionate about history.  Passionate about his work.  No sense of humor.

He took it VERY seriously and had little or no patience for those who did not.

I remember I got sick once while working on a theme paper for his class:  It was the first time I ever got literally sick over a stressful situation.  Even then I knew it.

I think I got an A on that paper, but not without some very sleepless nights.

I remember one day this guy brought in some old newspapers.  He had a Daily News from VE Day - Victory in Europe.  The war was over.  Sailors were kissing girls in Times Square.

The paper was filled with page upon page of articles, photos, blurbs - all dealing with the end of the war.

But I glimpsed something on the back page of that paper and raised my hand and asked a question.  I didn't mean to be impertinent.  And perhaps I did hope for a little laugh.

But I was legitimately curious:

"Who won the ball game?"

It did get a little snicker.

This teacher turned flush red.

He slammed the paper down and glared at me.

The class literally jumped as he began screaming - growing angrier with each passing moment.  Raging at the disrespect.  The lack of scholarly interest.  The temerity and impertinence and rudeness of our entire generation.

Ouch, I thought.  I cringed.  In that moment I forgot why I had asked the question in the first place - all I saw was my grade going down for the semester.

The truth is, though, that I was genuinely interested in what ELSE was in that newspaper.  Because we KNEW that the war was over.  We KNEW that the good guys had won.  We knew this because we learned all of that in history class.

But I wanted to know:  what movies were playing in the theaters?  What plays?  How much were tickets?  Who was on the radio at the time?  Who was playing in what sport?  What music was popular?  What was on the funny pages?  What stores were advertising sales?  How much was a cup of coffee at the Horn and Hardart?

I wanted context.  I wanted to know what was going on at THAT MOMENT in pop culture.

It was the beginning of a curiosity that has stayed with me to this day.  When I got to college, a professor named Warren Susman was teaching courses in American Pop Culture History which showed me I was not a crazy person:  pop culture has the ability to paint a portrait of what is going on with us at each moment in our history.  What our obsessions are.  What our interests are.

Susman told us:  If you watch any cowboy movie - although it is set in a particular period - you can tell WHEN that movie was made: based on the style of filming, the haircuts, the dialogue, the themes.  There's a difference between STAGECOACH and SHE WORE A YELLOW RIBBON and BUTCH CASSIDY and THE WILD ONES.  Who were we when these movies were made?  What kinds of metaphors are embedded in the images?

Same thing went for horror movies:  The films of the 30's  (Frankenstein, Dracula, Wolfman) all dealt with threats from Eastern Europe.  The 50's?  Paranoia and fear of atomic energy and communism (Colossal Man, Invaders of the Body Snatchers) .

You get the idea.

I turned my love of pop culture and its place in history into kind of a career.  I've interviewed hundreds of people in the movie, television and even comic book industry.

Little tidbits I've learned, fascinating in their context.  The personal moments, memories and miscellany.

Sherwood Schwartz, the great creator of Gilligan's Island told me that they were filming the first pilot for the show when they heard the news that JFK had been shot.

Lucy and Desi could not be shown in bed together on TV, even though they were married in real life.

While shooting the series "IN THE HEAT OF THE NIGHT" in the south, Carroll O'Conner, who played the sheriff and was an executive producer on the show, went with a small crew to see an actual Ku Klux Klan meeting being held near where they were shooting.  Though he was just doing research, and stayed out of sight, as I heard this story, I couldn't help but think of Archie Bunker at a Klan meeting.

Okay - I've gotten off on a tangent here.

The point I think I'm making is that history is NOT just the big events.  It's about the people alive DURING those events.  It's about how pop culture responds to those events.

And when we look back at the time and place - the MOMENT when these events happened - and give them context- What movies were we watching?  What music were we listening to?  What silly news stories were being covered in the feature section?   - it fleshes out our history far better than memorizing names and dates or the headlines that scream at us from the front page.

In 2011, I pitched Bio a show about the response of the entertainment industry after 9/11.  It wasn't a show about 9/11 itself:  It gave CONTEXT to what was going on in addition to the horrifying events of that day.

What gratified me the most about the response to that show was not that people liked the show:   it was the responses of people like one friend of mine:  Her daughter, who had been only a few years old on 9/11, who had grown up in the aftermath of 9/11, had never thought about how people were impacted right after the events.  Had never realized all the things that had to happen for life to get back to normal.

And after 9-11?  So many of our movies and TV shows are about the end of the world.  The destruction of New York.  The Big Event that changes everything.

From 24 to Homeland to Cloverfield to the Walking Dead to Fringe to The Event.

And don't forget the super-heroes:  that fantasy that someone is going to come along and protect us or save us from the big bad that is just on the edge of our peripheral vision.

The point is:  Pop culture isn't just our escape.  It's a reflection of our concerns, our anxieties and our fears.  It's the dreamscape and the steam-valve of our subconscious, writ large on the screens both Imax and iPhone.

I think I'm ready to start writing again.

Hope you'll join me.

(Oh, and just in case you were wondering:

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Comic-Kozzy: This Island Bradman Part 6

Hey, guys!  Guess what I found?

I only had one personal copy of the uber-rare Superman Bar-Mitzvah comic - but when we moved... I found another one in my storage unit!

And it's in pretty good condition.

I'm thinking of putting it on Ebay...

Any takers?

Thursday, December 13, 2012

More Miserables - Les Spoilers

For those of you who care about such things, I now have bragging rights:  I've seen the new Les Miserables weeks before it opens - and it's really good.  (Eat your hearts out for another week)  For those of you who don't care, carry on.

I had only seen the musical once on Broadway, years ago.  I recalled enjoying some of it, though it slogged on for a good three plus hours, it seemed.  Also when I saw it on Broadway, I was so far back in the theater, everyone looked alike to me.  I couldn't tell who was who a lot of the time.

I'm married to a wonderful woman who LOVES Broadway Musicals so much that she once worked at a theater just so she could Les Miserables every single night - more than sixty times.  (Insiders call it "Les Mis" - and it's much easier to say that way)  She even has a crew jacket.

So though it was not high on my must see list, when I got an invitation to an advance screening, and being a dutiful husband, we went.

I enjoyed the film very much.  It's beautifully shot.  The music still seemed more familiar than I would have expected.  And seeing it on the big screen helped me finally put the piece into it's place both historically and geographically.  I could tell who was who.

And, it's a very loud movie.  With lots of very overwrought scenes.  And very dramatic music.  And lots of very, very unhappy people (hence the title - Les Miserables).   These people lead terrible lives.  They're beaten and raped and kidnapped and pillaged and shot at and poor and enslaved and prostituted and robbed and fired and killed and Anne Hathaway even gets her hair chopped off.

By the way:  about Anne Hathaway:  this girl has come a long way from The Princess Diaries.  The woman has chops.  Gorgeous, with an astounding voice and an expressive face that, though not even thirty years old, is able to convey the wisdom and heart-break of the ages.

Her brief time in the film as Fantine includes a three minute piece that is absolutely one of the most courageous and breath-taking moments I have ever seen on the big screen.  Others have given away this moment.  I will not.  You'll know it when you see it.  Director Tom Hooper made a risky choice for this particular scene: a single shot, without editing, that will surely earn Ms. Hathaway an Oscar.

You read it here first.

I'm not going to comment too much more about the film - I just wanted to mention that one scene - which, for my money, was worth the price of admission (even though I saw it for free)

Just a few other observations:

Hugh Jackman was great, although he probably could have cut down the entire French army if he'd just used his claws.  And Russell Crowe, sans telephone, did some damage himself.  Nice job.

Helena Bonham Carter should do more films away from her husband.  Sasha Baron Cohen seems to have further cemented his reputation as comic relief in French period pieces.

A final question:  why is it that all the actors in a film that takes place in Paris all have British accents?

Friday, March 2, 2012

RIP Davy Jones

Like many bloggers, I've gotten a little lax of late about posting, so that it feels like any time I'm posting it's for an obit.  But, you know, when a cultural icon like Davy Jones of the Monkees passes away, and I've got something in my archives that might be worth adding to the mix of tributes, I kind of feel obligated to post.

So, from TV Land Confidential, this snippet is from an interview that my buddy John Werner did with the talented former Monkee.

The Monkees' Davy Jones Dead at 66

How much of The Monkees was ad libbed?

DAVY:  There were a lot of things in the show, not to be disrespectful to the writers, that weren’t quite right at the time. 

For instance, let me give you one example.  When I sing Day Dream Believer, I changed one word.  

“Now you know how happy I will be.” 

(John Stewart, the composer) wrote, “Now you know how funky I can be”.  

And I said “funky, that’s a great word” It’s like can you dig it.  You know, we’re not hearing "can you dig it that much".  But I was credited for that in 16 magazine. 

So , anyway funky wasn’t going to work for me.  John wasn’t very happy when he heard it.  

But I said "Happy is long lasting word, let’s change that," and we did.  And I’m sure he’s "happy" now.  That was changed, and it’s an on going tune. I hear it all over the place all the time.