Below are several of the photos, click here to see the entire gallery.
Tuesday, March 3, 2020
Last weekend, we went to the Motion Picture Costume Design exhibit at the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising (FIDM) Museum in downtown L.A. Costumes worn in Jojo Rabbit, Black Panther, Downton Abbey, 1917, Knives Out, Avengers Endgame, Rise of Skywalker and more were on display!
Below are several of the photos, click here to see the entire gallery.
Below are several of the photos, click here to see the entire gallery.
Saturday, January 25, 2020
Partly because our monthly bill for DirecTV seemed to go up in price every year, I'd been contemplating a change for awhile. But of course we still wanted to have live broadcast TV, and the alternatives when I did my research a year or so ago didn't quite seem to meet our needs, especially when it came to DVR capability, so we waited on pulling the trigger.
Mind you, we've been otherwise satisfied with our DirecTV service. But with the addition of several relatively less expensive streaming platforms to our household (including Netflix and Amazon Prime), the $158 monthly cost of DirecTV seemed out of whack with our actual viewing habits. While it varied within my household, I myself was probably spending only about 30 percent of my television viewing time, if that, on DirecTV. And our plan didn't even include any additional premium content like HBO, Showtime or sports packages.
Especially appealing was the "unlimited cloud DVR," where they keep an unlimited number of recordings for 9 months (versus reportedly 30 days on Hulu Live).
While the DVR feature is great, I discovered that YouTube TV also operates like an on-demand streaming service. So although I showed my wife how to "record" all scheduled episodes the Late Show with Stephen Colbert, I also noticed that if you searched and found a show in the system, you could still stream on demand recent past shows anyway! (Similarly, I had forgotten to record the premiere episodes of Doctor Who, but easily found the show available to stream on demand in the app). I presume this varies by show or network, but in some cases, we could find shows with many if not all past seasons and shows available! This goes way beyond what's possible through DirecTV satellite.
And, as a reminder, the YouTube TV app sits on the Amazon Firestick (and other smart streaming devices) alongside other popular streaming apps like Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hulu, and more.
The only real hole in offerings we found was the CW, Cartoon Network (for my son) and one local channel, which also happens to be the local affiliate owned by the CW. I discovered, however, that we could access Cartoon Network shows via Hulu, so adding a $5.99 Hulu plan (or $11.99 sans commercials) was something I certainly could live with since we were saving nearly $110 with the cancellation of DirecTV. (Heck, we can even add other premium channels, like HBO Go, as needed, again for a fraction of what it would have cost through DirecTV—and without a contract, so we're free to add and cancel those subscriptions at any time!) As for the CW, it has its own free app, where you can access all of its shows. (They had gathered together all the episodes of its Crisis on Infinite Earths series that crossed over properties like Supergirl, the Flash, and the Arrow, so I was able to access all the episodes.)
In addition, many people have found a workaround for getting their local stations through an antenna, and not the cheesy rabbit ears from back in the day—they are now digital/HD devices, and plug into the cable connection on the TV. Stations are required by law to broadcast their signals so that people can still get their local stations for free. Since you can find these antennas for as cheap as $12 (and most under $40), this is a reasonable workaround for the one local channel I'm not receiving.
I should add that earlier in 2019, I also switched my phone and internet service from AT&T to Spectrum, to save money and for faster internet speed. With the cancellation of DirecTV—which was purchased in 2015 by AT&T—I'm almost completely out of the AT&T ecosystem. Only my mobile device remains with the company!
Friday, January 3, 2020
I've also somewhat streamlined and re-organized the way these lists are presented. In the past, I listed all films together regardless of whether I saw them in a theater, DVD or streaming. For this year, I decided to group films and DVDs together; and placed films I saw on streaming services with other streamed content under the single banner of "Streaming." This is partly in recognition of the fact that some "films" are now streamed exclusively and that there is sometimes a gray area between streamed content, films and "television." (Indeed, I listed no television series at all that I watch regularly since I now have NetFlix, Amazon Prime and Disney Plus—so far, I still have DirecTV.)
The number of films seen in a theater this year jumped from about 7 in 2017, 8 in 2017, to 18 in 2019! I'm not sure whether that's a reflection of there being more films I wanted to see versus my having more free time to do so now that the kids are older.
That said, my favorite films this past year rank among the best I've seen in many years. My absolute favorite was Taika Waititi's Jojo Rabbit, followed closely by Quentin Tarantino's Once Upon a Time...In Hollywood. Honorable mentions as well to Ford v. Ferrari, Knives Out, Little Women, and Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker; as well as Downton Abbey, Tolkien, and Aladdin. Films I enjoyed well enough but I thought were overrated (at least critically or by general audiences) include Shazam!, Frozen 2, The Favorite, and Captain Marvel!
Also read some great books, check them out below.... So without any further ado...
Little Women (12/29/2019)
Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker (12/28/2019) - rewatch
Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker (12/22/2019)
Knives Out (11/30/2019)
Frozen 2 (11/28/2019)
Ford v. Ferrari (11/23/2019)
Jojo Rabbit (11/11/2019)
Downton Abbey (9/21/2019)
Once Upon a Time… In Hollywood (9/1/2019)
Once Upon a Time… In Hollywood (7/28/2019)
Spider-Man: Far from Home (7/4/2019)
Avengers: Endgame (5/11/2019) - rewatch
Avengers: Endgame (4/27/2019)
The Favorite (1/5/2019)
The Hobbit: Battle of Five Armies - DVD (1/6/2019) - rewatch
Captain Marvel (3/10/2019)
Topsy Turvy - DVD (4/2019) - rewatch
Waking Sleeping Beauty - Disney+ (12/31/2019)
Star Wars: Return of the Jedi - Disney+(12/30/2019) - rewatch
Art of Imagineering, eps 1–6 - Disney+(12/30/2019)
Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back (12/29/2019) - rewatch
Great News, Seasons 1–2 (12/28/2019)
Star Wars: A New Hope (12/25/2019) - rewatch
The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel - Season 3- Amazon (12/10/2019)
Home for Christmas, 6 episodes - Netflix (12/9/2019)
Tucker: the Man and His Dream - Amazon (12/8/2019) - rewatch
Too Big to Fail - Amazon (11/30/2019)
Chris Claremont's X-Men - Amazon (11/29/2019)
The Mandalorian - Disney+ (11/25/2019)
Star Wars, Empire of Dreams - Amazon (11/24/2019)
The Crown, Season 3 - Netflix(11/23/2019)
The Real Rob, Season 2 - Netflix (11/16/2019)
Living with Yourself, Season 1 (5 eps) - Netflix (11/11/2019)
GLOW, Season 3 – Netflix (11/11/2019)
Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan, Season 2 - Amazon (11/2019)
Dolemite is My Name – Netflix (11/3/2019)
Modern Love, Season 1 (5 eps) - Amazon (10/2019)
Ghost World - Amazon Prime (10/2019) - rewatch
Victoria, Season 3 - Amazon Prime (09/2019)
Inglourious Basterds - Netflix (9/7/19) - rewatch
Prosecuting Evil: The Extraordinary World of Ben Ferencz - Netflix (9/2/2019)
Pirate Radio - Amazon (9/2/2019) - rewatch
Stalag 17 - Amazon (9/1/2019) - rewatch
This Beautiful Fantastic - Amazon (9/1//2019)
The Bookshop - Amazon (8/31/2019)
Jim Gaffigan - Amazon (8/2019)
Funeral in Berlin - Amazon (8/2019)
Richard Jeni: A Big Steaming Pile Of Me - Amazon (8/2019) - rewatch
Force 10 from Navarone - Amazon (8/2019) - rewatch
Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee - 2019 Season - Netflix (8/2019)
Nowhere Boy - Netflix (8/15/2019) - rewatch
Four Weddings and a Funeral - Netflix (8/3/2019) - rewatch
Spotlight - Amazon (7/2019) - rewatch
Marshall - Amazon Prime (7/2019)
Damned United - Amazon (7/2019) - rewatch
The Iron Lady - Netflix (7/25/2019)
Good Night, and Good Luck - Netflix (7/25/2019) - rewatch
In a World - Amazon Prime (6/2019)
San Pietro - Netflix (6/29/2019)
Always Be My Maybe - Netflix (6/16/2019)
Bathtubs Over Broadway - Netflix (5/23/2019)
John & Yoko: Above Us Only Sky - Netflix (5/11/2019)
The Highwaymen - Netflix (4/12/2019)
Unicorn Store - Netflx (4/11/2019)
Kim's Convenience: Season 3: eps 1-2 - Netflix (4/7/2019)
Arrested Development: Season 5 - eps 1-5 - Netflix (4/6/3019)
Bottle Shock - Amazon (4/5/2019) - rewatch
Arrested Development: Season 4 Remix - Netflix (3/22/3019)
Richard Jeni: Platypus Man (03/2019) - rewatch
Music and Lyrics - Netflix (3/3/2019) - rewatch
Saving Mr. Banks - Netflix (3/2/2019) - rewatch
Beauty and the Beast - Netflix (3/2/2019) - rewatch
Movie Movie - Amazon (3/2019) - rewatch
Henry V - Amazon - (2/2019) - rewatch
Billy Elliot - Netflix (2/15/2019)
Lincoln - Netflix (2/15/2019) - rewatch
Schitt’s Creek, Season 1, Eps. 1–3 - Netflix (2/9/2019)
The Founder - Netflix (2/8/2019) - rewatch
Ray Romano: Right Here, Around the Corner - Netflix (2/6/2019)
Agatha and the Truth of Murder - Netflix (2/1/2019)
Poldark (eps. 1-8) - Amazon (1/28/2019)
Monty Python's Almost the Truth: The Lawyer's Cut, Eps. 1–6 - Netflix (1/20/2019)
FYRE: The Greatest Party That Never Happened - Netflix (1/19/2019)
Eric Idle’s What About Dick? - Netflix (1/16/2019)
The Hobbit: Desolation of Smaug - Amazon (1/5//2019) - rewatch
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey - Amazon (1/2//2019) - rewatch
The Comedians: Drunks, Thieves, Scoundrels and the History of American Comedy by Kliph Nesteroff (12/29/2019)
Star Wars Memories: My Time In The (Death Star) Trenches by Craig Miller (12/24/2019)
Always Look on the Bright Side of Life: A Sortabiography by Eric Idle (1/15/2019)
Anything You Can Imagine: Peter Jackson and the Making of Middle-earth by Ian Nathan (1/5/2019)
Hollywood Babble On (12/31/2019)
OK Go - The Soraya (11/2/2019)
CCHS Football game and drumline battle (11/1/2019)
Band Competition (10/26/2019)
CCHS Football game and halftime show - Lawndale W 29-27 (10/11/2019)
CCHS Football game and halftime show - Palos Verdes W 55-52 (9/20/2019)
35th Anniversary Screening of Electric Dreams - Frida Cinema (9/7/2019)
The Ralph Report at the Improv (3/9/2019)
1776 – The Soraya (2/9/2019)
Cinderella (Peri and Syd) Music Center (2/6/2019)
Wicked (Peri and Syd) (1/26/2019)
CCHS Jazz Festival - Robert Frost Theater (1/26/2019)
Monday, December 30, 2019
For me, at least, Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker brings the nine-movie/three-part trilogy to a strong, thrilling close. While some have called it a “course correction” for the divisive Last Jedi—or worse, an exercise in “fan service”—for me, of the current trilogy, the film was by far the strongest and felt most like a Star Wars film. It contained plenty of sentimental shout outs for longtime fans while offering plenty of unique enjoyments to stand on its own.
I grew up with the Star Wars films, with the first film (since re-named A New Hope) having been released when I was 13 years old. Empire Strikes Back came out the summer before I left home for college and Return of the Jedi while I was in college.
The Rise of Skywalker has a lot on its mind and a lot of characters and loose ends to tie up, while introducing a few new ones, and for the most part it succeeds. And even within its limited timeframe, it provides plenty of moments for most of the characters, old and new.
Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford and Carrie Fisher all return and have touching movements—Luke Skywalker, Han Solo and Princess (or rather General) Leia all have a chance to say farewell. (Fisher, of course, passed away before the filming began but with the family’s blessing was seamlessly integrated into the story’s plot using already shot footage.) Their appearances inspire and push the story along.
At the end of the day, however, the focus and heroine of this trilogy is the mysterious Rey, former stormtrooper Finn and dashing resistance fighter Poe Dameron—as well as new villain Kylo Ren, who are all front and center. For me, Daisy Ridley’s casting as Rey was a particularly good casting coup for the series and the key reason I felt invested in the new trilogy. While John Boyega's Finn has little to do here, Oscar Isaac’s Poe—who I found a little forced and problematic in the other films—finally gets screen time with the others and has some of his back story filled in.
SPOILER ALERT (spoilers follow)
One of the film’s key reveals is Rey as the granddaughter of Emperor Palpatine, a villain who has loomed large in all three trilogies. (Demonstrating just how much ground this film had to cover, this reveal is made in the opening crawl of the film rather than dramatically during the movie). We discover that Palpatine has been pulling the strings from the shadows all along and amassed an army and armada large enough to crush the resistance once and for all as well as subsume the First Order that arose in the vacuum of the original Empire’s fall in the original trilogy.
I enjoyed The Rise of Skywalker because it celebrated and honored the entire series. While the Force Awakens played it safe by hewing close to the original film (some called it it a remake of the first film), the Last Jedi seemed to go out of its way to disassemble the core themes and ideas of Star Wars, asserting that the trilogy’s heroine, Rey, was a “nobody" (i.e., not a Skywalker or of any lineage burdened with manifest destiny). Indeed, the film implied that anybody could be strong with the Force. The Rise of Skywalker, however, seemed to have an equal measure of fan service and new thrills and ideas. It was a near impossible task to satisfy all fans, but I think Disney (and director and co-screenwriter J.J. Abrams) balanced all these elements well, resulting in an emotionally satisfying closure to the Star Wars/Skywalker story arc.
Saturday, November 9, 2019
My family and I had the pleasure to see OK Go in concert on November 2.
The family-friendly show was a concert but also a bit of performance art —though they played live, their performances were often played in sync with the videos for which they are famous, many of which have gone viral.
And showcasing their creativity and playfulness, they invited the audience to download an app to their phones and play along with one of their numbers, with cues given onscreen on what notes to hit.
At various moments in the show, they also paused for some Q&A, displaying lots of humor and wit. And, of course, there was showmanship—in addition to the videos, at some points in the show, they had machines that blasted confetti onto the audience during a few numbers. For the encore, they invited kids to come on stage to dance as they performed a cover of Blur’s “Song 2,” as many in the audience joined them in their seats.
One of the highlights was their talking about how they stumbled across their niche, first playing the video clip below before they came on stage, from a local morning show in Chicago in 1998, when they were just starting out (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IwoD4pfvuC4, though no need to watch it.)
After the band came out to sing their first number, they told the story behind the clip. Apparently, the show didn't have the capability for bands to play live, so acts were asked to lip sync their performance. So they instead decided to choreograph a boy band dance with a fake rock band air-guitaring in the background.
The lead singer at the time was working as an engineer at the National Public Radio (NPR) station in Chicago and asked co-workers at the radio station to play in the fake band—two of the people in the band in the above clip (who they showed in close up stills on screen) were now-notable NPR radio personalities Ira Glass (This American Life) and Peter Sagal (host of Wait Wait Don't Tell Me).
Shortly after this appearance, when Glass was doing some live shows, he asked the band to open for him—and specifically asked whether they would perform the boy band dance from the above video. They did and it got such a positive response from the audience it ended up becoming part of their act/niche. This led to their other videos—many of the questions during the Q&A asked about their creative process.
It was an enjoyable evening.
Thursday, November 7, 2019
|Gene "Bean" Baxter and Kevin Ryder|
While I was in college here in L.A., KROQ rose to prominence in the 1980s playing punk rock and then New Wave, then became known for being on the cutting edge of alternative rock in the ‘90s. Kevin and Bean began inauspiciously on New Year’s Eve 1989 (to terrible reviews and ratings the first few years) until finding its footing. In fact, I recalled hearing them on the air on their first day. To me, they seemed to be a poor attempt to follow the format of Mark and Brian, the morning DJs on rival L.A. rock station KLOS (who themselves stepped down from their show in 2012 after 25 years, also a remarkable run), but they soon found their own voice.
I haven’t listened to them straight for all 30 years since I’ve alternated in stretches that sometimes lasted years, often listening to other stations including Mark and Brian and National Public Radio, but over the last decade, the Kevin and Bean Show have usually been my main company on my morning commute. It was sometimes just background noise and the supporting players changed over the years, but it certainly was comfort listening that seems worth noting now that the team is breaking up. In 2015, the National Association of Broadcasters inducted Kevin and Bean into its Broadcasting Hall of Fame—and tomorrow night, they will be inducted into the Radio Hall of Fame in New York.
In addition to Kimmel and Corolla, Kevin and Bean helped put on the media map others like physician Dr. Drew Pinsky, and comedian and impressionist Ralph Garman. Radio is a volatile industry, so this 30-year run — with it partially ending on its own terms — is quite a remarkable feat.
The last show was a lovely and funny send off. (I couldn't listen to the whole show live but heard much of it later in the day since each show is available as a podcast.) In addition to the guests mentioned above, the show included calls from the Poorman — an iconic KROQ DJ from back in the day who was fired from the show 23 years earlier after an incident with Bean (though they buried the hatchet, you could still hear the animosity)—and Ralph Garman.
Garman had been on the show for 18 years before he too was let go under somewhat mysterious circumstances. The move upset a lot of listeners, and the morning team and radio station seemed to think it best to cut all ties with Garman afterwards. (In fact, my wife was a big fan of Garman and stopped listening to the show afterwards; he's since established his own successful morning podcast, the Ralph Report, and my wife and I have attended his occasional recorded comedy shows with director and actor Kevin Smith, Hollywood Babble-On).
But on this morning, Garman called in and it was an incredibly sweet moment; Bean gave him a lovely introduction, crediting Garman with creating some of the best moments of the show, including an infamous incident in which he got through to the President of France at the time, Jacques Chirac, by impersonating Jerry Lewis, which Bean said was the single greatest moment of the show. Though Lewis threatened to sue the radio stationed and the show was forbidden from ever replaying the tape or speaking about the incident, with both Chirac and Lewis now passed (and under new station ownership), they spoke about the bit and played a brief clip from it. Bean told Garman he planned to mention Garman at the Hall of Fame event and said the day would not have felt right without hearing from Garman. Great moment.
|Photo from Bean's last day at KROQ (Bean is not in the photo since he has been broadcasting the show remotely|
from his home for many years)
Saturday, September 14, 2019
(I’ve previously written about him on my blog here, regarding 1978’s Superman versus Muhammad Ali comic-book. Though I intended to bring my copy, pictured at right, to the event for him to sign, I forgot it at home! When I first walked in and introduced myself, I mentioned this to him—we both laughed and I told him, “Next time!")
Adams is a pivotal figure in the industry, in that he was one of the artists who pulled comics into the modern era. He came into the industry at the perfect time, when radical change was needed. A shift had already begun in the early 1960s, with the debuts of the Fantastic Four at Marvel Comics and the modern-day version of the Flash at DC. Prior to that, comics had been in a period of doldrums—while remembered fondly by many (some feel it’s time for the pendulum to swing back), with some exceptions, comics generally had become too safe, fantastical and, in some cases, even silly. This was in large part due to the scare the industry had gone through during the early 1950s, following complaints (and Senate hearings) that comics had become too violent and inappropriate for children, and a cause of juvenile delinquency.
Adams also was an early vocal advocate of artists' rights. He was among the first proponents for a union and was instrumental (along with fellow cartoonist Jerry Robinson) in getting recognition and a pension for the creators of Superman, Jerry Shuster and Jerry Siegel, who were both living in poverty when the Christopher Reeve Superman film hit theaters in 1979. Adams and Robinson shrewdly used the film's release as leverage to shame Warner Brothers, the parent company of DC Comics, into doing the right thing.
So of course you can imagine what a thrill it was to see and meet Adams at an event organized by local L.A. area cartoonists, at Adams’ new comic-book store, the Crusty Bunkers, in a building that also has served as the home office for his Continuity Studios West. Adams’ studio over the years has been involved in comics, advertising and animation; as those activities have wound down in recent years, Adams decided to open a comic book store/boutique in the space.
As alluded above, Adams first tried to break into the industry at a moment of transition in the industry when everyone told him that the business “would be dead in a year.” He talked about wanting to break into comics while even in high school, where even his teachers (one of whom was a professional cartoonist) discouraged him.
Because of these "lost years," as he and others have noted, at one point when he started in the business, everyone was either five years older or five years younger than him, making him a bridge of sorts between the old guard of cartoonists and industry professionals and the new guard.
As a result, Adams had plenty of funny and juicy stories (and opinions) about comics pros who loom large in the history of comics, such as Mort Weisenger, Julius Schwartz, Robert Kanigher, Jack Kirby, Joe Kubert, Alex Toth, Frank Frazetta, and Stan Lee, as well as his contemporaries and some of the cartoonists who have followed, like Archie Goodwin, Murphy Anderson, Wendy Pini, and Dave Sim. He particularly had kind words about Jack Kirby and Stan Lee, acknowledging and talking about their role in revitalizing the industry in the early 1960s.
Though Adams could have kept going with a willing and captive audience, the evening eventually came to a natural conclusion—ever the gracious host, he invited people to take photos with him. This gave me a few moments to speak a little more with him. He was extremely kind and generous with his time, and clearly enjoyed being among fans and fellow professionals.