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June 23: Happy Birthday Frances McDormand and Joss Whedon

0623McDormandWhedon

Oscar winner Frances McDormand celebrates her 60th birthday today.  She earned an MFA from Yale’s School of Drama (making this three days in a row we have a Yale MFA in the headline).  After graduation she moved to New York, rooming with Holly Hunter for a time.  In 1984 two very important events in her life took place: she made her film debut in Blood Simple, and she married Joel Coen, the director of the film.

In 1984 McDormand also made her Broadway debut; four years later she was a Tony nominee as Stella Kowalski in A Streetcar Named Desire.  In the late eighties and early nineties, she appeared in the Coens’s Raising Arizona, Ken Loach’s Hidden Agenda, and Robert Altman’s Short Cuts, and received her first Oscar nomination for Mississippi Burning.  1996 was another good year for her, as she won Best Actress for starring as Marge Gunderson in Fargo.

Also in 1996, McDormand had a memorable cameo in John Sayles’s Lone Star.  She has received two more Oscar nominations, for Almost Famous and North Country, and critical praise forher performances in Wonder Boys, Laurel Canyon, Burn After Reading, and Moonrise Kingdom.  She won a Tony for starring in the original production of David Lindsay-Abaire’s Good People in 2011, and completed a Triple Crown of Acting by winning a Primetime Emmy as the title character of HBO’s miniseries Olive Kitteridge.

Joss Whedon is turning 53 today.  He began working in film and television as a writer.  He did the screenplays for Alien: Resurrection and a certain 1992 vampire film, was a script doctor for movies like Speed and Twister, and worked on series like Roseanne and Parenthood.  In 1997, The WB Network began airing a series he created, which bore the same title as the 1992 vampire film he had scripted.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer put Whedon on the industry map.  In the next decade he created several TV series.  Angel, a spinoff from Buffy, was fairly successful, but Firefly and Dollhouse were short-lived.  Serenity, the feature film follow-up to Firefly, was a terrific action film that no one watched, while the internet series Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog found a supportive audience.

In recent years, Whedon has put in a lot of time on the Marvel Cinematic Universe, as the director and writer for the Avengers films and the co-creator of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.  He also did a personal project, a film of Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing.  He is now working on projects for the DC Extended Universe—he is supervising post-production for the upcoming Justice League, and there are reports of a Batgirl movie.

Selma Blair is 45 today.  She played Liz Sherman in the Hellboy films, has done a variety of indie films like Kill Me Later, The Poker House, and Dark Horse, and played Kris Wales on Anger ManagementJoel Edgerton, who starred in last year’s critical success Loving as Richard Loving, is 43.  He played Owen Lars in the Star Wars prequels and has had a number of prominent film and television roles in his native Australia.  Swedish actor Matias Varela, who is 37, has starred in the Easy Money series of crime thrillers in his home country and appeared in the 2015 remake of Point Break.  Also turning 37 today is Melissa Rauch, who plays Bernadette Rostenkowski-Wolowitz on The Big Bang TheoryConnor Jessup, who is 23, played Ben Mason on Falling Skies and has been a regular on the second and third seasons of American Crime.

Australian actor Bryan Brown turns 70.  He is known in the US for starring as Rollie Tyler in the F/X films, and was also an Emmy and Golden Globe nominee for the miniseries The Thorn Birds.  Like Joel Edgerton, he has also had a successful career in Australian film as well.  Producer Lauren Shuler Donner is 68 today.  She has produced a wide variety of films over the years; most notably she has been a producer on every X-Men film since the original in 2000, including the Wolverine films and DeadpoolTed Shackelford, who is 71, is best known for playing Gary Ewing on Knots Landing, where he was one of two cast members to be a regular for all 14 seasons of the show’s run (he also made a few crossover appearances on Dallas).

Richard Bach, who is 81, was the author of the best selling 1970s inspirational novels Jonathan Livingston Seagull and Illusions: The Adventures of a Reluctant Messiah.

Our sports birthdays today start with the “Tennessee Tornado,” Wilma Rudolph (1940-1994).  Forced to wear a leg brace due to a childhood case of polio, Rudolph developed into a track superstar.  At the 1960 Olympics, she became the first American female athlete to win three gold medals at one Games, winning the 100 and 200 meter dashes and anchoring the 4×100 meter relay team.  LaDainian Tomlinson, who is 38 today, rushed for over 13,000 yards in his NFL career.  He made five Pro Bowls, was the NFL MVP in 2006, and will be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in August.  Retired French footballer Zinedine Zidane is turning 45.  Zizou led the French side to victory in the 1998 World Cup and added a victory in the Euros in 2000.  He was awarded the Golden Ball as the outstanding player of the 2006 World Cup, leading France to the finals; unfortunately, the final image people have of his career is his being red-carded for head-butting an Italian player in the final match.

June Carter (1929-2003; known as June Carter Cash after her marriage to Johnny Cash) was the daughter of Maybelle Carter of Carter Family Fame; she, her mother, and her sisters performed for many years as Mother Maybelle and the Carter Sisters.  She co-wrote the song “Ring of Fire,” had big country hits with Johnny Cash, including “Jackson” and “If I Were a Carpenter,” and won multiple Grammys, including two for Best Traditional Folk Album late in her life.  Reese Witherspoon played June in Walk the Line.

Scottish folk-rocker KT Tunstall is celebrating her 42nd today.  Her singles “Black Horse and the Cherry Tree” and “Suddenly I See” both reached the Top 25 in the US, and the latter has been frequently used in the soundtracks of films and TV shows.  Jason Mraz, who is 40, has won two Grammys for his pop hits “Make It Mine” and “Lucky,” while his “I’m Yours” was a Top 10 hit and received a pair of Grammy nominations.  Randy Jackson, who turns 61, has played bass as a session musician with a very long list of artists, and was a judge for the first twelve seasons of American Idol.  Conductor James Levine, who is turning 74, is known for his 40-year tenure as the music director of the Metropolitan Opera.  He has won over a dozen Grammys in various classical categories.

Bob Fosse (1927-1987) was best known as a musical theater choreographer and a stage and film director.  He won the Tony for Best Choreography eight times, and also won Best Direction of a Musical for Pippin.  He was an Oscar nominee for Best Director three times, wining for Cabaret, and won several Emmys in connection with Liza Minnelli’s TV concert film Liza with a Z.

Irene Worth (1916-2002) was a distinguished stage actress who won three Tony Awards, and also spent several years in England with the Old Vic and the Royal Shakespeare.  On film she won a BAFTA Award for the 1958 film Orders to Kill and played Sigourney Weaver’s mother in EyewitnessDennis Price (1915-1973) was known for starring in the dark comedy Kind Hearts and Coronets and for playing P. G. Wodehouse’s omni-competent butler, Jeeves, in several 1960s TV adaptations.

Historical birthdays today include Alfred Kinsey (1894-1956) was an American biologist known for his controversial research on human sexuality, published in Sexual Behavior in the Human Male and Sexual Behavior in the Human Female, a pair of unlikely bestsellers collectively know as the “Kinsey Reports.”  Controversy also is attached to the name of Alan Turing (1912-1954), although it had more to do with how others treated him than anything he did.  Turing was a pioneer of computer science who worked on the World War II Enigma project; he also developed some of the earliest designs for working computers, as well as doing pioneering work in the area of artificial intelligence.  He was prosecuted in 1952 for engaging in a homosexual relationship and forced to submit to chemical castration.  Many decades later, the British government admitted their wrongdoing; Queen Elizabeth II issued a posthumous pardon in 2013.  Benedict Cumberbatch played Turing in the film The Imitation Game.

If today is your birthday, congratulations on sharing your big day with these notable names.  Birthday wishes to everyone celebrating a big day today.  Come back tomorrow for more celebrity birthdays.

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Posted on June 23, 2017, in Celebrity Birthdays and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 8 Comments.

  1. I’ve been a fan of Frances McDormand’s work ever since I first saw Fargo. She had a great year in 1996, with that Oscar-winning turn in Fargo, plus that cameo in Lone Star to sort of add an exclamation point.

    Joss Whedon is one of the great storytellers, for big screen or small, of our time. In some ways he’s a modern-day Howard Hawks, in that his series and films give a lot of attention to the relations among the protagonists—the Scooby gang, the crew of Serenity, the Avengers. Inevitably things get tense and even antagonistic, but when the chips are down, they pull together to vanquish the villains.

    As a fan of all things Carter Family, naturally I had to do a nice write-up for June’s birthday. She was a good musician, but even more a natural entertainer with a knack for comedy.

    It’s interesting to find Zinedine Zidane’s birthday in such close proximity to that of Michel Platini, his predecessor as the field general and playmaker for France’s national side. That may be the reason why the June 21 article comes up as one of the automatic links.

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    • I became aware of Frances McDormand thanks to Fargo, which I loved. I recently rewatched Almost Famous in which she was very good in a relatively small supporting role. A couple of years ago, I watched Blood Simple for the first time. Kind of a kick to see a young McDormand doing noir.

      For a while, Buffy the Vampire Slayer was my favorite show on TV. Angel had its moments. I liked Firefly, but mostly saw it in repeats after Fox pulled the plug. Dollhouse took a long time to hit its stride and never fully came together. If it had been on cable instead of network (once again, Fox) who knows what might have been. So, yeah, I’m a Joss Whedon fan. Like most Whedonites, I assumed that his unproduced screenplay for Wonder Woman was a massive missed opportunity. But I’m hearing it is surprisingly sexist which is disappointing. I am still a Whedon fan, but lately I have had some reservations. I’ll still take him over Zack Snyder on Justice League,

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    • Marvel Studios Directors – Joss Whedon

      http://www.pajiba.com/film_reviews/marvel-studios-directors-joss-whedon.php

      Whether you love, hate, or find Joss Whedon problematic, I think it can be agreed upon that hiring him to direct the Avengers and shepherd “Phase One” of the MCU was the smartest decision Marvel Studios ever made.

      Prior to the release of the Avengers, Whedon was known mostly amongst pop culture and television junkie fans as one of the best in the business, having created Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, Firefly/Serenity, Dollhouse and Dr. Horrible’s Sing-A-Long-Blog. He also created and wrote the Astonishing X-Men (2004-2007) for Marvel Comics, which has become a classic X-Men run, and wrote comic series continuations of his Buffy and Firefly universes after their live-action conclusions. His skills as a writer were also well known in Hollywood, having worked on and written the scripts of Toy Story, Alien: Resurrection, Titan A.E. and Atlantis: The Lost Empire.

      Whedon’s influence on pop culture and entertainment throughout the 1990s and 2000s was tremendous. His unique dialogue, aka. “Buffy Speak,” forever changed how television was written, the term “Jossed” is now a permanent, indelible piece of vocab in pop culture, and his ability to create awesome, amazing characters and then have horrible, awful things happen to them, stomping on your heart until it is bloody disgusting mush while you feel twitching phantom pains in your chest, set a new bar for emotional torture. In recent years Whedon has received some flack for his portrayal of women, which is deserved, but it still remains that he wrote complicated, layered female characters at a time when such female characters were the exception in the industry rather than the norm. A creator who gave us Buffy Summers definitely did something right.

      His ability to write quippy, snarky dialogue and handle an ensemble cast made him the no-brainer choice to direct the Avengers. Whedon also did some uncredited polishes on Thor and Captain America: The First Avenger, in particular adding in the heartbreaking “I had a date” ending of First Avenger (Steeeeeeeeeeve!). Avengers came out May 2012 and as the saying goes, the rest was (superhero) history. The Avengers’s opening weekend of $207 million was the first time in my life I had ever seen an opening weekend that gargantuan. I remember checking Box Office Mojo every day to see how much money Avengers made that day. Avengers was the first time I had been cognizant of a full-blown, mega-blowout box office phenomenon that steamrolled everything in its path. With a domestic box office of $623 million and worldwide total of $1.5 billion, I had never seen a film make that much money before (Titanic doesn’t count because I was only six at the time and only had eyes for Princess Guinevere and the Jewel Riders).

      With the Avengers’ colossal success, the reign of the MCU and Marvel Studios was permanently cemented and for better or worse Hollywood was forever changed. Every studio in Hollywood started combing through their intellectual properties to see what could even peripherally be mutated into a cinematic universe (I SEE YOU HASBRO, EMOJI MOVIE grrrrrr), with Warner Bros., Fox and Sony immediately started getting to work on creating their own superhero cinematic universes with……varying degrees of success/failure. For Whedon fans, his success felt like long-awaited vindication of the special something you love – now EVERYONE knows how awesome and talented he and his work is!!! The irony about the Avengers’ success was that Whedon’s subversive horror comedy The Cabin in the Woods, starring Kristen Connolly (House of Cards), Bradley Whitford (The West Wing) and a pre-Thor Chris Hemsworth, was released just a month earlier after being delayed for two years. It made $64 million worldwide on a $30 million budget, but mostly passed under the radar. However, Whedon fans and anyone with even a passing understanding of pop culture and comics knew what was coming down the pipeline, and were probably busting a gut holding in laughter, thinking, “just you wait, just you WAIT muahahahaha!!!!!” I just looooooooooove box office vindication.

      Marvel did the logical thing and hired him to direct the Avengers sequel. Prior to starting production on Avengers: Age of Ultron, Whedon directed Much Ado About Nothing, starring Whedon acting regulars Amy Acker (Angel, Person of Interest), Alexis Denisof (Buffy, Angel) and Nathan Fillion (Firefly, Castle), which was a shoestring budgeted modern adaptation of the Shakespeare tale filmed at Whedon’s summer house and released June 2013. He also executive produced Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and directed the pilot for ABC in 2013, kicking off Marvel Studios’ expansion into television, and wrote the screenplay for paranormal romance In Your Eyes, starring Zoe Kazan (The Big Sick) and Michael Stahl-David (Cloverfield), which was released in May 2014.
      Unfortunately, despite his plans to make Ultron “more personal, more painful” the second time around with Marvel wasn’t as fruitful. Whedon wanted to tell a more intimate, personal superhero story while Marvel CEO Ike Perlmutter and his committee wanted to focus on setting up Thanos and the Infinity Stones and making Ultron a more boom-boom-boom blockbuster-y product. A messy promotional tour and sky-high fan and box office expectations (which in retrospect were impossible to meet) didn’t help either and exacerbated the whole situation.

      Ultron was an enormous success in May 2015, making $459 million domestically and $1.4 billion worldwide, but its tumultuous tensions behind-the-scenes showed on screen. It isn’t a crappy superhero film in the vein of Green Lantern, the 2015 Fantastic Four, Catwoman etc. by any stretch of the imagination, but lightning definitely didn’t strike twice. However, I stand by my prediction that as Ultron ages it will gain a better rep.

      Afterward, Whedon took some much-needed downtime and worked on some smaller projects, announcing a new comic series Twist, in the vein of a Victorian female Batman. He directed Save The Day, a series of get-out-the-vote PSAs in 2016, starring a slew of celebrities and actors from Nicole Byer to Chris Pine to Robert Downey Jr. (it must be awesome having superheroes as friends). His most recent PSA was in 2017, a heart-wrenching what-if/it-possibly-could-happen look at could occur if Planned Parenthood was shut down.

      Verdict: 7/10. Whedon is getting back in the creative game after some time away from the pop culture and industry eye. He has been hired by Warner Bros. to write and direct a solo Batgirl film for the DC Extended Universe and stepped up to handle the reshoots and post-production of Justice League in the wake of Zack Snyder bowing out to be with his family in the aftermath of personal tragedy. It is always a good thing to be the talented Switzerland between two industry superpowers (ohhhh the puns!). At this point, DC Films/Warner Bros. needs all the help it can get, with Wonder Woman being the only unequivocally good DCEU film to their name. Personally, I think Whedon has his work cut out for him sifting through Zack Snyder’s very….singular aesthetic and directorial style to try and shape it into a somewhat coherent and not downright depressive blockbuster. But hey, I bet he’s thanking his lucky charms that he’s not dealing with the 60+ character three-ringed circus that is the Avengers: Infinity War and its untitled sequel. Hopefully after completing his DC Comics films, Whedon can work on some of the projects he has in development, such as the Untitled World War II Horror film he has kicking around.

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  2. We had a Movieline interview with Selma Blair not too long ago. I remember her from Cruel Intentions. Up until Hellboy, she was probably best-known for kissing Sarah Michelle Gellar. I have seen Joel Edgerton in a few movies and always enjoyed his work. I don’t watch The Big Bang Theory, but I am familiar with Melissa Rauch from the old VH-1 show, Best Week Ever where she appeared as a regular member of the panel.

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  3. Frances McDormand, I’d be all set if she was only in “Blood Simple” and “Fargo”, but then there’s the rest of the Coen Brothers library she appears in (“Raising Arizona”, “Barton Fink”, “The Hudsucker Proxy”) plus films like “Primal Fear”, “Lone Star” (there’s that film again), “Almost Famous”, and “Laurel Canyon”. I think she’s done some work as either a featured or background performer.
    Selma Blair, I went through a phase where I viewed 2002’s “The Sweetest Thing” multiple times; I can’t say the same thing about “Cruel Intentions” (I think it’s okay though). I happened to catch the 2012 direct-to-video film “Columbus circle on the Escape channel last year, and I felt it was serviceable.
    Bryan Brown, I LOVE THE F/X films. and also liked him in the steamy film “Full Body Massage”.
    Wilma Rudolph, I learned about her from watching this one sports show late at night (after “Monday Night Football”) on ESPN in the early 1990’s.
    LaDainian Tomlinson, heck of a player; could do it all at his position. Those Chargers teams (shame they left San Diego) were loading in the 2000’s, too bad they didn’t even win an AFC title.
    Bob Fosse, I enjoyed the films that I viewed in which he directed: “Cabaret”, “Lenny”, “All That Jazz”, and “Star 80”.
    Alfred Kinsey, well, I’ve seen the film “Kinsey”, does that count for anything?

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    • Besides the F/X films, Bryan Brown has done a lot of good work in Australian cinema; two that I like are Two Hands (also with a young Heath Ledger and Rose Byrne) and Kill Me Three Times.

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      • I’ve seen Bryan Brown in other films (the perfunctory love interest in “Gorillas in the Mist”, “Cocktail”, “Tai-Pan”, “Blame It on the Bellboy”), but none of the Australian pictures,

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  4. Just wanted to add a little bit of bonus Joss Whedon content, maybe my favorite scene from any of his productions:

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