Thursday, April 18, 2013

Image + Film + NYC = Tribeca Film Festival

Robert De Niro & Jane Rosenthal
I want to pay tribute to the Tribeca Film Festival  which has its first full day today in New York City.  TFF began in 2002, founded by Robert DeNiro and his long-time producer Jane Rosenthal as a creative response to 9/11.  The website says it is an international film festival that "supports emerging and established directors" and has brought about $750 million to NYC.  It's a comprehensive festival, premiering 85-90 diverse films (many made in NYC) and helping them get visibility and ultimately - distribution.  The festival only lasts for 12 days but Tribeca Film works year round. Time Warner Cable offers Tribeca films On Demand before and during a film's theatrical run. 

The only problem I have with TFF is that it's become elitist, just like a lot of things that take place on the island of Manhattan.  If you are in the film business or have a press credential, no problem but if you are not, good luck seeing anything.  Films are sold out before the festival begins and TFF says no film is ever "sold out" because they have what they call a Rush line.  However, for more popular films, the Rush line can be 2 city blocks long.  It's definitely a crap shoot but not hopeless.  I've waited on the line to no avail and then I've also done Rush to an extraordinary end.  Last year as I waited for the world premiere screening of Travis Fine's Any Day Now - a film I have facebooked and blogged about many times - someone came up to me and offered me two tickets free of charge.  I was alone and so I paid one ticket forward to a man who needed a single ticket and totally made his day.  I will never forget what it was like to see that film with an audience who were all as blown away as I was by it and by the transcendent performance Alan Cumming gives.  Daniel Day you were amazing, but Cumming gave the best performance of 2012 hands down and Any Day Now won Tribeca's Audience Award.           

I attended TFF in 2011 and 2012.  This year, I will miss it because I have to be in California.  However, they have a Tribeca Online Film Festival - so I can watch a few features and shorts and vote on them.  There are about 25 intriguing docs this year and here are the narrative features I'm most looking forward to:  Adult World, Almost Christmas, Before Midnight, A Case of You, Just a Sigh, The Pretty One and Run and Jump.  They are also screening The King of Comedy, starring none other than Robert De Niro for it's 30th anniversary, and And the Band Played On for its 20th.     

Nora Ephron
This year TFF is implementing a new award - The Nora Ephron Prize given to an outstanding female filmmaker.  Nora was definitely one of a kind - as writer, woman, filmmaker and inspiration.  She will always be special to me because she wrote When Harry Met Sally - one of the best scripts ever.  Nora is being honored in numerous ways in NYC right now - her son is making a doc about her for HBO, Tom Hanks is making his Broadway debut in her Lucky Guy and now this award in her name.  Good for you Tribeca, for honoring a hometown hero.  

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Image = Brooks & Reiner, A Love Story

Recently I have seen Mel Brooks and Carl Reiner in interviews talking about how they spend every evening together and I think it’s very sweet.  Mel goes to Carl’s house around 8:00 and they eat dinner and watch Jeopardy and any movie where one character says, “Secure the perimeter!” and another says “You should get some rest…” 

Estelle & Carl Reiner
I saw these two comedy legends on Jerry Seinfeld’s great web series Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee and wondered where Carl’s wife was.  I knew that Anne Bancroft – one of my favorite actresses of all time - died way too soon in 2005 at age 73 but I didn’t remember that Estelle Reiner had also passed at age 94 in 2008.  Estelle was a jazz singer and not really an actress, but that didn’t stop her from delivering one of the most famous lines in film history, “I’ll have what she’s having” in When Harry Met Sally. The Reiners were married for 65 years, until her death. 

Mel Brooks & Anne Bancroft
Anne Bancroft & Mel Brooks were married for 40 years and I always got the impression that they had a lot of fun together.  On her IMDB page, Bancroft is quoted with saying this about Mel:  “When he comes home at night and I hear his key in the lock I say to myself, Oh good!  The party's about to begin.”  They didn’t work together often (only the remake of To Be or Not To Be I believe) but it was Anne’s idea to turn The Producers into a Broadway musical and what great idea that was.

People talk trash all the time about how Hollywood marriages never survive and I love when someone beats the odds in Hollywood.  Brooks & Reiner are two great examples of shattering that image.  They have both had exceptional careers and great loves as well.    

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Carl & Mel met in 1950, so they’ve been friends longer than most marriages and almost as long as Carl & Estelle’s.  My mother was diagnosed with dementia a few weeks ago and it’s made me wonder about the future.  We never know what’s going to happen.  Life is a mystery and so uncertain.  But no matter what – it’s nice to know you have a best friend to share your evenings with. 

Friday, April 5, 2013

Image = Live From New York, It's... The Tonight Show?!

OK – I stayed quiet when ABC fired Regis Philbin because they no longer wanted to pay his salary and when they cancelled All My Children in favor of a cheaper-to-produce talk show but I can hold my tongue no more…  Jimmy Fallon taking over The Tonight Show  WTF?! 

Don’t get me wrong - I think Jimmy Fallon is one of the most talented Saturday Night Live alums ever.  (Here’s his amazing SNL audition –  Brilliant impressionist, musician, and just plain adorable.  The Barry Gibb Talk Show is on my list of the top five funniest sketches in SNL history.  I even enjoyed his films Taxi and Fever Pitch.  I enjoyed them so much that I’ve been wondering for five years why he’s been wasting his immense talent on a late night talk show (besides the consistent network money).  He could easily have a landmark comedy career like Robin Williams or Jim Carrey.  In my opinion, Fallon is too goofy as a host and has no real hosting talent.  Just laughs and gushes a lot.  He truly idolizes most of the people he’s interviewing, which is endearing, but not that interesting.  As I said already – he’s very cute and talented so Late Night with Jimmy Fallon is a hit.  But The Tonight Show is a whole other ballgame and I don’t think Late Night’s childish 12:35am antics will translate. 

From an image perspective, it seems all that matters on TV is youth and the bottom line, and this is sad.  What about tradition?  The Tonight Show has been an American institution since 1957.  There was Jack Paar, then the beloved Johnny Carson and because Jay Leno is popular with an older demographic as well as the middle of the country, he has succeeded in keeping it the number one late night show for 22 years.  So - why is NBC firing him?  They’ve done it before and it was a disaster.  Why do they think they can do it again?  And since The Tonight Show is number one, why do they want to get rid of Jay?  The only feasible answer is that they don’t want to pay him anymore.  And I think this is a travesty. 

Nothing about this story makes sense.  First, Fallon’s going to host The Tonight Show.  Second, they are moving the show to New York and last, Lorne Michaels is going to be Executive Producer.  The majority of Hollywood actors live in LA.  How will they get guests?  Fallon’s young – if he really wants the gig, he should move to LA.  Conan did.  And why does Lorne have to exec produce EVERY SNL alum TV project?  It’s been 38 years - give someone else a shot, Lorne!     

If NBC really wants to save money, why not just cancel The Tonight Show?  It’s had a great run of over 50 years.  Sometimes it’s about ending something gracefully instead of stripping it of everything that made it great in the first place, just to try to make a buck.

Maybe the American viewing audience will revolt like they did with the Conan debacle of 2009.  I’m taking the time & energy to write this and I don’t even like Jay Leno.  I can only imagine what people who watch him every night feel like.  The saving grace for me in all of this is that I am Team Letterman all the way and right now CBS is the number one network.