Monthly Archives: May 2017
It’s Clint Eastwood’s 87th birthday today. After his service in the Army (those were the days of the draft), he began working in film and television in the mid-fifties. He got his first real break as a star of the TV Western Rawhide, and then came to the attention of Italian director Sergio Leone, who cast Eastwood as the “Man With No Name” in his famous trilogy of spaghetti Westerns. The commercial success of those films gave Eastwood the stature to get funding to produce his own films; since 1968, Eastwood has produced the large majority of the films he has starred in or directed through his Malpaso Productions.
Those included the films which gave Eastwood his second career-defining role, that of maverick San Francisco cop “Dirty” Harry Callahan. They also included Eastwood’s directing efforts; he directed his first film, Play Misty For Me, in 1971, and has subsequently directed over thirty features, inevitably including several Westerns.
Right now, there are two sci-fi sequels out (two admittedly otherwise very different movies), Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 2 and Alien: Covenant. Therefore, it’s the perfect time to mention Sony’s failed attempt from a few years ago at reinvigorating a big sci-fi franchise. Men in Black was somewhat of a surprise hit in 1997. Based on an obscure comic book starring someone whose more of a character actor and someone who, though he already had a couple of hits under his belt, was still more so known for his sitcom and rap career, it ended up becoming beloved by critics and audiences and it was a huge hit at the box office (and basically made Will Smith a movie star). It was then followed up with a cartoon that was successful enough to run for a few years.
Idina Menzel is celebrating her 46th birthday today. After she graduated from NYU with a degree in Drama, she auditioned for a new musical by a relatively unknown writer, composer and lyricist named Jonathan Larson. The musical was an adaptation of Puccini’s opera La Boheme, it was titled Rent, and Menzel was cast in the character of Maureen Johnson. It proved extremely popular in an off-Broadway run, and was soon moved to Broadway, where it was a big hit. Menzel received a Tony nomination for Best Featured Actress in a Musical.
Menzel moved on, a few years later, to land another plum musical role, as Elphaba in the original Broadway production of Stephen Schartz’s Wicked (she also originated the role on the West End). She received the Tony for Best Actress in a Musical and also became associated, for many people, with a certain song.
As a child actor in the 80’s, Heather Graham faced a unique career challenge in that her strict parents would not let her take parts in movies they found offensive. In the 90’s, fully grown and freed from her parents’ restrictions, Graham enjoyed a measure of success as a leading lady. This profile from the May 1997 issue of Movieline magazine sees Graham on her way up with a supporting role in Paul Thomas Anderson’s Boogie Nights.
Well, here we are at the end of my Spring Break journey to Walt Disney World. While each of my previous videos has been just a portion of one of my vacation days, today’s final video will cover pretty much all of my park activities from my last day in the parks. Since my flight back home was set for late afternoon that day, I would have only from rope drop until around lunchtime to squeeze just a little more enjoyment out of my visit. That manifested itself in one more chance at favorite attractions like the Haunted Mansion, Splash Mountain, and the PeopleMover, last-minute opportunities at experiencing things I hadn’t yet on this trip, and trying a long-delayed food item that I’ve seen plenty of love for elsewhere. Unfortunately, it also meant dealing with a potentially inconvenient event that struck very early on. Come along and experience my eventful last day at the Magic Kingdom!
Four-time Oscar nominee Annette Bening turns 59 today. She spent much of the first decade of her career on the stage, making a number of appearances with theater groups in California and Colorado. She made her Broadway debut in 1987, in the original production of Tina Howe’s Coastal Disturbances, and received a Tony nomination. Her film debut in 1998 was in The Great Outdoors. Two years later she made her film breakthrough as Myra Langtry in The Grifters, receiving her first Oscar nomination, for Best Supporting Actress.
If David Lynch was going to return to Twin Peaks, one thing was clear, it was going to be on his terms. Lynch nearly walked away from the project early on when Showtime didn’t approve his budget. But ultimately the eccentric auteur got his way and for better or worse, the new season of Twin Peaks reflects Lynch’s singular vision. Showtime gave David Lynch a pile of money and complete creative control. If nothing else, it will be interesting to see what he did with it.
I hope all of you are enjoying the holiday weekend. I suspect Johnny Depp and the folks at Disney are smiling. The fifth movie in the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise topped the box office over the Memorial Day weekend. It appears Johnny Depp isn’t box office poison after all. At least not when he’s playing Jack Sparrow. Pirates is just the latest good news for Disney. While the weekend’s other big release, Baywatch, is falling short of expectation, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 continues to perform well and the studio’s live action Beauty and the Beast became one of the few movies to gross over half a billion dollars domestically. Without adjustments for inflation, it’s the eighth highest grossing movie in US history!
Let’s get out our treasure maps and see if we can dig up this week’s recap of activity here at Le Blog.
Singer and actress Kylie Minogue turns 49 today. She was cast as tomboy Charlene Mitchell (later Robinson) on the Australian soap opera Neighbours in her late teens; during her two years on the show she won four Logie Awards (Australian Emmys), while the episode featuring her character’s marriage was one of the most-watched in Australian TV history. During her time on the show she signed her first recording contract. Her first studio album, Kylie, came out in the summer of 1988 and included a cover of a Gerry Goffin-Carole King song that became her first big hit.
Paul Bettany celebrates his 46th today. He made his acting in a London revival of J. B. Priestley’s play An Inspector Calls (directed by Stephen Daldry), and began working in British cinema in the late 1990s. In 2000 he received his first starring role, in Gangster No. 1, and then made his first Hollywood features, playing Geoffrey Chaucer in A Knight’s Tale and Charles Herman in A Beautiful Mind. During the filming of the latter, he met his wife-to-be, Jennifer Connelly. Two years later he starred as Dr. Stephen Maturin in Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World, receiving a BAFTA Award nomination.
We have a pair of legends as headliners today, each pictured with his “instrument” of choice.
Miles Davis (1926-1991), one of the most influential figures in the history of jazz, began taking trumpet lessons at the age of 12. He started at Juilliard in 1944 but soon dropped out to perform full time, playing with Charlie Parker among others. By the late forties he was leading his own bands and issuing regular recordings on the Prestige label. In 1955 a young saxophonist by the name of John Coltrane began playing with Davis; they collaborated for several years before Coltrane emerged as a leader himself.
In 1957, two of Davis’s most innovative and influential albums came out. Capitol released Birth of the Cool, a set of sessions that had been recorded several years before, which contains exactly what the title promises—some of the tracks which define the sound called “cool” jazz. The same year brought Davis’s first of many great albums with Columbia, ‘Round about Midnight, which exemplifies the “hard bop” style of jazz.
Fans of the Pirates of the Caribbean rides at Disney theme parks have always known that dead men tell no tales. Amazingly Disney managed to release four Pirates movies without using the memorable catch-phrase as a subtitle. Today sees the release of the fifth and supposedly final entry in the Pirates franchise. So it seems like as good of a time as any to rank the Pirates of the Caribbean movies from Worst to First.