Archive for the ‘Movies’ Category

Service of Feel-Good Sports Movies

Thursday, January 11th, 2024

For someone who doesn’t watch sports on TV I nevertheless have an affinity for movies about winning teams.

I recently saw “The Boys in the Boat,” directed by George Clooney, starring Joel Edgerton, Callum Turner and Peter Guinness. I love “You can do it! the underdog wins” kind of film. This one told a true story about an American rowing team in the 1936 Berlin Olympics. It was based on Daniel James Brown’s book.

It didn’t meet “Chariots of Fire,” one of my all-time favorite films of any and all genres, with its magnificent score and a more complex story than “Boys,” which I liked less passionately. When “Chariots” runs on Turner Classic Movies, that’s it. I’m in.

I also saw “Ferrari,” starring Penélope Cruz and Adam Driver. I would have liked it more had the interminable racing scenes been cut considerably. [I’m expecting to hear a sigh from racing car enthusiasts.] I most enjoyed the scenery, the acting and the personal interactions in the film. Oh, and it isn’t really a feel-good film, unless you focus solely on the handsome cars, but I don’t want to be a spoiler.

I mentioned “Boys” to a friend who responded with “What about ‘Cool Runnings’ and ‘The Mighty Ducks?’ Those were the cute sports movies of my generation.” He’s almost 40. He added “Cool Runnings=Jamaican bobsled.  Mighty Ducks= youth hockey.” I haven’t seen these.

He continued, “My dad loved ‘Rudy,’ a football movie about Notre Dame.” I missed this one too.

Do you have a favorite sports film? Do you also appreciate the uplifting nature of these movies?

Service of Legislating Art

Thursday, May 11th, 2023

Image by Lukas Bieri from Pixabay

I was once forced to follow another PR agency’s format both in presenting to the client the year’s placement results and my proposal. I froze. My mind didn’t accept their system. I had to fight to overcome what was to me cockamamie, convoluted organization. Normally, I plow into such a task with no trouble, especially enjoying the proposal part once I’ve determined my approach.

You can’t equate my dilemma with the creativity required to write a play or movie, but if the talent is given parameters and restrictions, inspiration must be tested. Nevertheless, I thought of my nightmare after hearing what a playwright’s agent told me and what Richard Dreyfus recently brought to light about the Oscar’s guidelines.

The agent said that in her stable of playwrights there is one of Hispanic background who has more work than he can handle. The others can’t get anything produced either because the subject matter or their characters don’t meet new strictures which specify required percentages of diversity and/or because the writer isn’t part of a minority.

And film? According to Lisa Respers France, CNN, “beginning in 2024, movies must meet certain criteria for representation to be eligible for the Academy Award for best picture.

“Films have to meet at least two of four benchmarks, which cover – among other things – whether the lead actors are from underrepresented groups or if at least 30% of the cast and crew come from these groups. Dreyfus criticized the new rules because, France quoted, “it’s an art. And no one should be telling me as an artist that I have to give into the latest, most current idea of what morality is.”

I am sad about this because while most recognize and hope to repair past wrongs, the powers that be show, once again, that they aren’t able to do so in a way that doesn’t negatively impact some. This solution is much like the one I described in a recent post, “Service of a Well-Meaning Initiative That Creates More Problems than it Solves.” To level the playing field so more would be able to buy a house the Feds ignite divisiveness by raising the monthly mortgage payments of buyers with good credit scores and large downpayments giving more favorable terms to riskier borrowers, reducing their fees.

I proposed a solution for the mortgage situation—focus first on putting a chicken in every pot rather than on home ownership and take away the halo around the latter–but have come up blank regarding how to achieve equity for creative endeavors. There must be a better way than putting virtual handcuffs on writers. Any ideas?


Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

Service of Intellectual Property—in Theater Too?

Monday, March 20th, 2023


Zurich, Switzerland. Image by Jörg Vieli from Pixabay 

I rented office space for a decade from a law firm that specialized in intellectual property. It’s big business. For years I represented brands belonging to a corporation in the top 100 of the Fortune 500 list and one of the first things I learned was how to refer to the corporate name–there was only one way, no “the” or “corporation.”

Friends who directed organizations such as the International Linen Association in addition to promoting the fabric watched out for inappropriate linen references. One example might be a textile using the color “linen” when the fabric was made of cotton or calling a line “Linen,” when it was made to look like it but was polyester.

More recently, The New York Times reported “David Stärkle, who oversees the enforcement of the Swissness legislation for the Swiss government, said that it would be misleading for Toblerone to continue to include an image of the Matterhorn, a symbol of Switzerland, on its packaging when some of its production was happening outside the country.” The wording on the packaging of the sweet treat—first made 115 years ago in Bern—will also change. It will now reference its founding in the country but will no longer be “Toblerone of Switzerland.”

Champagne can’t be used on a bottle by an adjacent region of France even if the product is as delicious and bubbly.

I get all these examples. The next one not so much.

After the movie musical “RRR” won the Oscar for the Best Original Song “Naatu Naatu” there was a kerfuffle by some about the performance on stage March 12. According to Yahoo News, even though the singers Rahul Sipligunj and Kaala Bhairava were Indians, none of the dancers were of South Asian descent nor were American choreographers Napolean & Tabitha Dumo. Lead dancers at the ceremony were Billy Mustapha who is Lebanese Canadian and Jason Glover, American.

According to Yahoo, “The two lead dancers in the song Ram Charan and Jr NTR did not perform on the award night….. Jr NTR told The Juggernaut the original actors didn’t want to take part in the performance to keep the focus on the singers.”

I saw the performance and it and the music were riveting. Check with my friends: I texted in real time that it was my choice to win. I didn’t think about who did what any more than I would have about the nationality of the actors in any show.

If the execution is superb, who cares? In fact, I most admire the famous actors who so convincingly become their characters I forget they are there. One was Robert Morse in “Tru” where he played Truman Capote. Morse was heterosexual and Jewish. Capote was neither. So? Another was Billy Crystal when he became his aunt standing on a Broadway stage with no props or costumes in “700 Sundays.”

I understand the business reasons for intellectual property. But I think that it is a shame when such specificity intrudes on theater. How many high school, college and amateur productions will be constrained should such thinking take hold? If there aren’t enough Jewish children in a class does that mean that “Fiddler on the Roof” is off the table? Did people squawk when Paul Newman played the lead in “Mr. and Mrs. Bridge” about a conservative country club couple in Kansas City in the ‘30s and ‘40s? Your thoughts?


Image by OpenClipart-Vectors from Pixabay 

Service of Irritating Add-On Charges

Monday, February 7th, 2022

I don’t mind some add-ons such as the five cent deposit on cans and bottles or the cost of a grocery bag if I leave behind one of my many totes–which rarely happens.

Well publicized airline surcharges must annoy many. Pick a price and cover things like booking–whether on the phone, in person or online; accept carry on luggage; serve peanuts, pretzels and a soft drink to everyone; lend a pillow or blanket and let people choose the seat they want. Stop adding charges for the small stuff. It’s petty. The approach makes me think the company would buy subpar fuel or skip aircraft maintenance steps to save a few more dollars.

I am bombarded with surcharges by my New York Times digital subscription. I think “gotcha” when I click on an article about a recipe and read about its background and click to see the ingredients list and instructions only to read I must first subscribe to the cooking section. It costs $5 every four weeks or $40/year. There are some free recipes but not for the one I’ve been bamboozled into reading. Then there’s the extra cost to see the “Wirecutter” recommendations.  I understand you must also pay for many of the games like the crossword puzzle. Just charge me a few dollars more on my digital subscription and stop hitting me left and right because I feel taken and will look elsewhere for the information kept from me. The paper featured mulligatawny soup over the weekend. I had an amazing bowl in Addis Ababa and never as good since. I’ll check out other recipes on the web.

The add-on is more subtle in this example. Two adults and two children went to the movies last Saturday afternoon in a Chicago suburb. The tickets cost $34. Two small popcorn, two small boxes of candy, one small drink and two cheese sticks cost $52. My goodness.

Are there add-on charges that irritate you and any you think are valid and are glad to pay?

Service of Favorite Films II

Monday, March 8th, 2021

As of Friday, New Yorkers are allowed back in movie theaters at a pandemic-safe 25 percent. Will they go?

So many films are available on demand or on streaming services such as Netflix, Amazon Prime or Hulu. I only subscribe to Netflix and have loved series like “Lupin,” “Marcella,” “Heartland” and “Anne with an E”  and films like “The Intouchables,” and “Midnight Diner.” I can’t keep up with all the entertainment. On my to watch list are “Made You Look,” “Captain Fantastic” and “Sister Sunshine.”

I’m still enamored of favorites on Turner Classics such as “Chariots of Fire,” “Roman Holiday,” “Brief Encounter,” “When Harry Met Sally,” “The Way We Were” and “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner?”

Will people be happy to stay home or are folks desperate to get out? For a year we’ve watched movies from the comfort of our sofas accompanied by our choice of snacks. On streaming services we can watch whenever it’s convenient–there are no show times–stop a flick or episode to text a friend, wash a dish, grab a nibble, replay a missed section or visit the loo.

Before sharing an indoor space with strangers for two hours with masks on–or off-and-on between handfuls of popcorn and sips of soda–some will wait for 70 percent of us to be vaccinated or at least to see if any venues require proof of covid-19 vaccination.

Is New York being too cautious to the detriment of the economy? Mississippi and Texas have lifted all pandemic restrictions including mask-wearing in all venues.

Going to the movies makes for a perfect date for teens and college friends, for folks who want to get out of the house and as an excuse to meet a friend and grab a bite before or after. I’ve loved going to the movies alone or with a pal. When my husband watched football or golf many a Sunday I’d be off to the flicks. I’ll expect I’ll return but not yet. And you? Are you waiting for herd immunity to kick in? Are you happy to forever cocoon in place to satisfy your flick fix?

Service of Looking for Trouble

Monday, February 10th, 2020

Some people look for trouble usually, but not always, to benefit themselves.

Folks in retail have many tales to tell. Yesterday there was a kerfuffle at a Manhattan chain drugstore. One of the employees, planted to escort customers to the aisle and product they need and to keep an eye on things had apparently accused a woman of stealing. She responded by screaming at the top of her lungs. I moved to another part of the store pronto.

A friend who works in a boutique has too many stories of customers who try to pull one over on the business. At the slightest hint that they won’t get their way these shady customers also yell and scream. This is a good strategy because they know that no retailer wants to discourage other customers who are uncomfortable with a fight. While infuriated, my friend is forced to give them what they want.

I’ve written before about the woman who sat behind me at a restaurant. The place was  having a bad staff day. I’d been there many times and service was prompt but something had happened–most likely a chunk of waiters had called in sick. The remaining ones were scrambling, apologizing profusely along the way. This customer wanted a free meal and ratcheted up her negative claims escalating from “You are discriminating against me because I’m a woman eating alone!” which was unlikely as the restaurant was in Grand Central Terminal where lots of women travel and eat alone to “I’m a cancer victim. I want to see the manager!”

More recently a friend and I were listing our favorite movies. We agreed on Gigi. She told me about an acquaintance, perhaps inspired by the Me-Too movement, who claimed that the song “Thank Goodness for Little Girls” was disgusting and smacked of something dark.  You be the judge. Think 1958 when the movie premiered.

The words Maurice Chevalier sang:

“Each time I see a little girl
Of five or six or seven
I can’t resist a joyous urge
To smile and say
Thank heaven for little girls
For little girls get
Bigger every day
Thank heaven for little girls
They grow up in
The most delightful way.
Those little eyes
So helpless and appealing
When they were flashing
Send you crashing
Through the ceiling”

This reminded me of the woman who threatened to sue a former wallpaper client because she claimed that the pattern–letters of the alphabet sprinkled in all directions–spelled nasty words inappropriate for a child’s room. Sure, all the letters for millions of words were in that wallcovering but really, talk about a stretch.

Do you have examples of people who look for trouble because that’s just how they are or because they want something for free? Is it valid to rip into vintage films, songs or books and measure them by today’s sensibilities and contemporary word usage thereby placing them in a cultural or entertainment dustbin?

Service of Can You Go Home Again? Do Revivals Work for Businesses Like FAO Schwarz or the Playboy Club or Comedies?

Tuesday, September 4th, 2018

I’m intrigued by the concept of revivals. Two once successful businesses that closed are attempting them now–FAO Schwarz and the Playboy Club—and a prominent theater critic wrote in his Neil Simon obit that they don’t work when it comes to comedy.

Charles Passy covered the Schwarz and Playboy stories in Wall Street Journal articles, “FAO Schwarz Is Set to Return, And It Needs People to Dance on the ‘Big’ Piano– Midtown Manhattan store will be staffed with demonstrators, magicians and men and women playing costumed roles, including toy soldiers” and “Playboy Club Returns to New York, Bunnies and All, but Will It Hop? Industry experts question if the club’s concept will still work, as it comes back to the Big Apple after a three-decade absence.

I have memories of both. On a visit to FAO Schwarz with a first grade classmate and her mother the girl pointed to Santa and reported to my six year old self that he didn’t exist. I attribute happier recollections of the store with gift reconnaissance for my nephews. As for the Playboy Club, it paid bunny wait staff four times what other jobs I’d applied for after college offered. The reaction I’d expected from my father—he’d had a fit when he learned I’d modeled fully clothed for an art class—was only one of several good reasons I didn’t pursue the opportunity.

Terry Teachout’s Neil Simon obituary began “All comedy dates, and every pure comedian sooner or later becomes passé—even one as beloved as Neil Simon.” After “Lost in Yonkers,” wrote Teachout in The Wall Street Journal, “Mr. Simon would never again write a full-fledged box-office smash, and none of his plays has since been successfully revived on Broadway save as a star vehicle. His last bow there as a playwright, a 2009 revival of ‘Brighton Beach Memoirs’ directed by David Cromer, closed after nine performances.”

Teachout observed: “And while his plays remain popular with amateur troupes and smaller companies elsewhere in America, most of the major regional theaters tend to steer clear of his work.”

In an op-ed piece in the same paper associate editorial features editor Matthew Hennessey wrote that theater today is “dominated by crowd-pleasing jukebox musicals and adaptations of popular movies. In the last few decades of the 20th century, Simon, who died Sunday at 91, was a household name.” Broadwayworld.com proved Hennessey’s assertion. A headline last week was “Jerry Zaks will bring Mrs. Doubtfire musical to Broadway.”

Hennessey continued: Simon’s “domination of the Great White Way from the 1960s through the ’80s has no contemporary comparison. The current toast of Broadway, ‘Hamilton’ creator Lin-Manuel Miranda, has staged two original hit shows in a decade. In 1966 Simon had four plays running in Broadway houses at the same time.”

Do you think that FAO Schwarz and Playboy Clubs will/can fit today’s customers? What about revivals of once popular comedies–do they all become passé? Perhaps “Mash” and “Honeymooners” fans, or those who tune in to the TV version of “The Odd Couple” –derived from Simon’s play–don’t buy tickets to Broadway or major regional company theaters because they are simply too old or too poor? Or maybe laughter is out of fashion on the Great White Way?

Service of Subscriptions: A Winning Business Model—Sometimes

Thursday, August 9th, 2018

Before Amazon customers buy a toothpick, its 100 million Prime subscribers have handed the company from $77.88/year to $119/year, representing the cost to students and everyone else respectively. [Some may be grandfathered at $99.99.] Nobody outside the company seems to know the breakdown so you can’t do the math but 100 million paying $1/year would represent a tidy sum.

Subscribers get benefits such as free fast shipping for eligible items, shopping deals, streaming films and TV shows.

According to Rachel Siegel of The Washington Post, “The real money, though, is in the buying power these shoppers wield: Prime members reportedly spend an average of $1,300 a year on Amazon, compared with $700 for its customers who are not members.” And it seems that many of the former don’t comparison shop.

The subscription model works for others such as Netflix, which Siegel reported has 125 million members. Health clubs too—which count on people paying for a year and not returning after a few months.

On the other hand, MoviePass has had trouble calculating its fee and benefits–a shame as the concept originally served a purpose, especially for customers in cities where one movie ticket costs upwards of $15. Its monthly fee will soon increase to $14.95 from $9.95. According to Nishant Mohan in The Wall Street Journal, “MoviePass, which has more than 3 million members, lost $98.3 million on $48.6 million of revenue in the quarter ended March 31.”

Tuesday’s Journal reported that the company would limit subscribers from one movie a day to three a month. Ben Fritz wrote that the company had forecast 5 million subscribers by December 2018 which chief executive Mitch Lowe admits might not happen quite that fast. He told Fritz: “Ultimately, I believe this is a 20 million-subscriber business over the next three to four years.”

Meanwhile, it’s trying to stay afloat. It has competition such as AMC Entertainment Holdings with 175,000 members with a monthly $19.95 charge to see three movies a week at its US theatres. MoviePass “plans to limit the availability of first-run movies opening on more than 1,000 screens during the first two weeks.” It also has had technical glitches. One recent day its app featured showtimes for e-ticketing theatres, only, and none others.

I’ve noticed disgruntled customers gripe on social media. One subscriber wrote on Facebook: “I’m unable to cancel my account. They say you’re liable for a year. It’s crazy. You have to go thru their app for customer service and that took more than 2 hours.”

Have you had trouble getting out of a subscription? How many times can a company stumble and succeed in the end?  Are there some subscriptions you endorse? Any you don’t?

Service of the Comfort of Vintage

Monday, January 23rd, 2017

Whatever “vintage” means to you—if you’re 20, 1980s films, fashion and décor might describe it while if you’re 50, it could be all things 1950. For some there’s comfort and perhaps a soothing visual to live with a grandparent’s furnishings; for others, reminiscences shared with an uncle while watching Audrey Hepburn on Turner Classic Movies brings smiles.

I thought of this after seeing “La La Land,” a movie I enjoyed. The writer/director Damien Chazelle is 31 yet he picked the 1940s/1950s romantic musical genre for the setting of his story. He added zero pyrotechnics, violence or gore and none were missed. The film set a record at the Golden Globe Awards winning seven including recognition for best motion picture—musical or comedy—performance by an actor and actress, director, screenplay, original score and original song.

Elle.com ran a article about what’s in or out in fashion. Nikki Ogunnaike reported we should “anticipate a shift toward contrast denim styles in vintage silhouettes.” [This look is in contrast to skin- tight jeans popular today.]

I’d saved a December, 2016 section of The Wall Street Journal‘s “Off Duty,” because of its cover story, “Presents with a Past,” that featured 50 nostalgic gifts “whose origins date back decades and beyond.” The subhead continued that the gifts will “conjure a simpler time when the holidays were lower-voltage, but just as bright.”

Speaking of voltage, most of the suggestions would burn a hole in most wallets. There was a gold bracelet by Sidney Garber reminiscent of flexible metal coils first popular in the 1930s for $12,200; a 3-day slumber party at a historic English country estate @ $15,600/night for 16; Prada’s jewel encrusted mules for $1,150; a $685 pair of retro headphones; a mink stole for $5,500 and a chauffer to drive you from Paris to Versailles in a period Citroen starting at $370.

I don’t spend that kind of money for the loved ones on my list. The Wall Street Journal editors chose a few things under $100 too. There was a box of Turkish delight [$35]; a rubber band-propelled toy car [$25]; an apron [$47]; a ‘70s popular fondue pot [$95]; traditional Belgian speculoos cookies [$20]; a Mickey Mouse wall clock featuring a 1930s style rodent [$65], and an Italian knit necktie [[$90].

The J. Peterman Company catalog seems to be going strong with its focus on vintage-inspired men and women’s fashion.

Have you noticed vintage influences creeping back more now than in recent years? Do you welcome them or consider them old fashioned and therefore not worthy of your attention? Do you think that in turbulent times people look back to what they recall or think may have been a calmer period?

 

Service of Fear

Monday, October 31st, 2016

It’s Halloween today. I decided that nobody is interested to know about everything that scares me nor would they want to address what scares them—we’ve got too many important things to be nervous about relating to the impending elections.

So I decided to lean on the “treats” side of the celebration and write about scary movies.

But scary movies frighten me so I’m not the one to write knowledgably about them. I loved “Wait Until Dark”– [anything with Audrey Hepburn] –but tend to avoid such flicks. Guess I’m normally nervous and don’t need additional stimulus.

So I asked the people in the office in which I share space. What amazed me is that everyone had a favorite and there is only one duplicate! This is their list: 

     “The Haunting” –Lee A

     “When a Stranger Calls” –Mike S 

     “The Birds,” “Psycho” & “Rear Window” & “Trump TV”—David R

      “The Conjuring” & soon, by DJ  Trump: “When Mexico Attacks” –Pat C 

            “The Gate” –Danny M 

            “The Strangers” —Brandt Z 

            “Halloween II” –Joshua C 

            “The Thing” –Stephen H 

      “The Shining” –James B AND Jeff M           

      “Poltergeist” –Dan M 

       “The House of Wax” –Bambe L

       “Bones” –Kori M 

Do you like to be frightened by movies? What is your favorite scary one? Is there a difference between creepy and scary?

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