Sunday, January 15, 2017
Tuesday, November 29, 2016
There's a new ghost show in town, Kindred Spirits with Amy Bruni and Adam Berry. They became one of the sub-teams on the long-running but sputtering-out show Ghost Hunters.
according to press reports. Amy and Adam left over disputes with the remaining founder of the show Jay Hawes.
Amy and Adam went on to form the show Kindred Spirits, which is a spin-off of sorts, albeit unsanctioned. I followed Ghost Hunters through Ghost Hunters International but I didn't love it (Why Ghost Hunters International sucks). I couldn't get into Ghost Hunters Academy at all. But when Adam Berry won the show, it was interesting to get to know him, usually paired with Amy Bruni, back on Ghost Hunters. This was after Kris Williams left the show for Ghost Hunters International. There are Ghost Hunters branded books but nothing yet on all the drama behind the scenes. I'm looking forward to reading about all that someday.
Recently the famous series had some unexplained and lengthy hiatuses after Grant Wilson left the show. The show finally reappeared this summer (2016) with the announcer introducing episodes as the “final season of Ghost Hunters,” an oddly played-down situation.
As an early adopter of this genre, I should feel bad about the end of the show except that I wrote this: Top 10 Reasons Why I Don’t Care If Ghost Hunters Comes Back, and the fact that so many other ghost hunters have won our hearts during those long absences of Ghost Hunters. Most successfully Zack Bagans and his motley crew from Ghost Adventures.
I go back and forth about Zack and his hyper-ghost-hunting shenanigans. but you can’t deny the fact that the people who come on their show seem a hellavalot more at ease than those who appear on Ghost Hunters. GA just seems like more fun at the end of the day, certainly more approachable. Hosting a show takes charisma and humor and self-deprecation, all things Zach has about enough of. He’s also pretty hard working. The show has tons of episodes and they’re constantly on air at the Travel Channel.
And then there's John Zaffis' The Haunted Collector. Not quite a spin-off of Ghost Hunters either, but one of their prior summer hiatus replacements, (when there was such a thing as a short GH hiatus). Zaffis has done a good job becoming the papa-bear of ghost hunting. The women on his show, (women are still a minority on these shows), are both very likeable. And I always enjoy the research component he brings to the show.
And then there are a plethora of other shows: hillbillies, people who only do institutions, Ghost Brothers (which I love too and hope returns soon), Dead Files, which is ridiculous with its prescriptions for chaos magicians and psycho-therapists for the dead, but is seemingly popular. There's even a sub-genre of celebrity ghost shows like the defunct Celebrity Ghost Stories, (modeled after Canada’s Ghostly Encounters with the half-hearted gravitas of Lawrence Chau), and its spin-off The Haunting Of with psychic Kim Russo.
After all this, Ghost Hunters seems ego-bound, uncomfortable in its own skin, and tone-deaf to the new “realities” of the genre.
But Kindred Spirits, on the other hand, aside from the muted title, (which may refer to the hosts, or the ghosts, or ghost who are related to us, or maybe even ghost hunters in general), feels naturally friendly but never silly, (Ghost Adventures can get silly). Adam and Amy are always trying to “get to the heart of it” which plays into the family focus of the show but also something about having feelings, allowing feelings, encouraging the feelings. People cry. Hugs happen. What a relief that feels like.
They’ve also incorporated the research component and you can watch them puzzling over ghostly clues throughout the show. In the first scenes they're always having a kickoff meeting over coffee and discussing aspects of the case. So like Nancy Drew and The Hardy Boys! There are rounds of thinking and problem solving. Adam has a thinking face. The focus is on the thinking and not the gadgets and all the playing with the gadgets (which is undoubtedly fun but has gotten a bit stale).
In these ways, the show feels like all the other problem-solving-based realty shows, (the cooking, fashion and surviving shows), and maybe this appeals to the nerds among us. But it also provides suspense and mystery to the show.
They also stay in one location for multiple days and so an investigation slowly evolves and you feel you get to know the homeowners who often join in on the final night’s work.
There are no night cameras. Who would have thought this would feel so refreshing? They use flashlights and electric lanterns. You can see color and texture again around the room and on their clothes.
Like all ghost shows, to one degree or another, this one makes tenuous leaps from the evidence to the conclusion. To its credit, Ghost Hunters did this less often than any other show, truth-telling during every wrap-up about how “we don’t really know what it is” but “stuff is definitely happening.”
After 12 years of ghost hunting, evidence never gets much more exciting than that. So a little friendliness and nuance helps a lot.
Read the poem about ghost hunting shows.
Saturday, October 15, 2016
I had a blast at the 40th anniversary party for Carrie! The night was both illuminating and a hoot.
The Ace Hotel Theater hosted the event, which was a fundraiser for WeSpark, a cancer support charity. The event also promoted the release of Shout Factory's new collector's edition Carrie Blu-ray. Silver stars had been hung in the lobby to match the Carrie prom scene decor. There was also a traditional prom photo opportunity. We arrived about a half-hour before the screening and waited on line at the bar, hoping to order a "Bloody Carrie" - the signature drink of the party - but they had already run out! I bought raffle tickets and we found seats in the orchestra section of the theater, which quickly filled up.
The 4K presentation of Carrie looked incredible. I hadn't seen the film on the big screen before. There was a definite crowd participation angle to the evening, as people laughed at most of Piper Laurie's lines and other classic moments. Sometimes they even shouted the lines before they were delivered, which bugged my friend who had not seen the film before (and who jumped at the ending!). At the start of the prom massacre, when Carrie shuts the doors and cuts the lights in the gym except for the red light, they flipped on some red lighting in the theater - it was very effective!
After the screening, there was a panel discussion, moderated by Bryan Fuller (writer of the 2002 Carrie TV movie). The panel featured Doug Cox (The Beak - the tuxedo T-shirt kid), Noelle North (Frieda, who was nice to Carrie at the start of the prom), Nancy Allen (WeSpark executive director and bad girl Chris), PJ Soles (Norma, who wore her red baseball cap everywhere, even to prom), Paul Hirsch (editor of many Brian De Palma films, co-editor of Star Wars, many more), and Piper Laurie (nominated for a Best Supporting Actress Oscar for her role as Carrie's mother).
Bryan did a great job moderating and involving everyone in the discussion. PJ Soles talked about her eardrum being ruptured by the fire hose during the filming of the prom massacre. She also revealed she had auditioned for Nancy's role, and De Palma offered her a small part after she didn't get it. De Palma suggested she wear the red cap. PJ's swagger, perhaps powered by the cap, convinced De Palma to put her in more scenes and create a role for her as Chris' best friend. PJ also said she drove Betty from Chateau Marmont to the set everyday because Betty didn't drive, and she thinks Betty advocated for her. She said Betty would put on eye makeup in the car each morning, although they would be getting makeup on the set, because she didn't want De Palma to see her without makeup. Nancy Allen talked about getting along great with John Travolta, despite the way they slapped each other around in the film. She said John's slaps were weak, but Betty Buckley didn't hold back.
Doug Cox said the tuxedo shopping scene was mostly improvised, and it was added at the last minute, after he had wrapped. Paul Hirsch talked about speeding up that scene and said he did it to avoid having a third jump cut in the scene. Hirsch and several actors talked about De Palma's obsessive storyboarding. Hirsch illuminated some of the key scenes and talked about building tension. He said the rocks falling on the house at the end was meant to be an echo to an opening scene where Carrie is a child and summons flying rocks with her mind, but that scene ended up not working. PJ and Nancy disagreed about whether they were paid $625 or $604 a week. Piper Laurie said she didn't know how to interpret the script, but her husband told her that her role was comedic. When she began rehearsals, De Palma corrected this interpretation. It certainly has a campy quality and people laughed at most of her signature lines like "I can see your dirty pillows."
The actresses also talked about how they were somewhat duped into doing the nude locker room scene. De Palma had told them it would be so smoky that people wouldn't see much, yet you can see just about everything. Allen said that Amy Irving cried when it came time to shoot the scene, so she ended up not removing her bra. Hirsch said George Lucas had told him that he felt De Palma's choice to have that much nudity in the second scene of the film signaled the audience to brace themselves because anything could happen.
They also played a video message from William Katt who couldn't attend in person. He credited the film for launching his career. Without Carrie, there would be no Greatest American Hero!
After the discussion, Jackie Beat came out, looking fabulous in a sea-foam green floral gown and wearing large glasses reminiscent of Helen (Edie McClurg's character). Jackie auctioned some items including movie posters signed by all the panelists, plus John Travolta. Jackie also emceed the costume contest. My friend Scott made it to the finals in his blood-spattered suit, but eventually lost to a very credible Tommy Ross with an oversized curly blond wig and a bloody Carrie. Jackie was hilarious in dismissing people from stage, including a group of girls in matching pink bridesmaid dresses and two clever guys who wore shabby discolored pillows with a sign: "Dirty Pillows." There were a couple good PJ Soles imitators, including a drag queen who was wrapped in a fire hose. We felt dressing as Miss Collins, the gym teacher, was a missed opportunity. The crowd was enthusiastic and many came dressed in 70s tuxes with ruffled shirts and puritanical long gowns. The fun continued as DJs played some 70s tunes and the prom party rolled on in the lobby area.
WeSpark is a charity that provides counseling and supportive services to people who have been diagnosed with cancer. I hope they raised a lot of money with this fun event. It was one of those "Only in LA" events that keep me living here. And I have to say the bullying in the film seemed strangely appropriate for our current political climate. I look forward to November 8 when we can plug it up!
Sunday, August 21, 2016
Friday, April 08, 2016
When I saw the trailer for Everybody Wants Some, I couldn't have been more excited - here was a sorta sequel to my favorite Richard Linklater film Dazed and Confused, set in my favorite decade (the 80s) and featuring my favorite sport (baseball). Perhaps my expectations were just too high because the film really fell flat for me. I can identify a few issues:
- Women's roles - There's only one female character in the film who actually gets a name and a little development as a love interest for our hero Jake. Still, she seems more like a muse than a fully developed character
- Casting - Most of the actors are in their late 20s. With the mustaches, they look more like 30. They just don't seem convincing as college students. I find it hard to believe Linklater couldn't find enough quality actors in the 19-22 range for the roles.
- Lack of depth - There's some attempt at philosophizing over the bong, led by the likable Willoughby (played by the cute Wyatt Russell, spawn of Kurt Russell and Goldie Hawn), but it doesn't get deep at all. It seems to be included so the film can pretend to be aspiring to be more than "Porky's."
- Lack of baseball - There's only one scene where the guys actually play baseball, and there's no game situation. We are shown their competitive spirit in other ways, such as ping pong and knuckles competitions. But baseball as a subject is ripe for philosophizing, as we've seen in films ranging from Bull Durham to Field of Dreams to Moneyball. Linklater, who played baseball himself, really does nothing with it. The one scene I liked comes in the beginning where the All-American star hitter on the team tells the freshman pitcher, our hero Jake, that they'll never be friends because of his mistrust of pitchers. There could have been a lot more of that.
- Unrealistic settings - There's a party thrown by the drama students that rivals some of the biggest corporate parties I organized or attended while working at Google, These corporate parties had huge art direction budgets. I just can't believe students would be able to pull that together, especially on the weekend before school actually starts. It just feels like it's thrown in for entertainment value. The party at the Moon Tower in Dazed and Confused was much more realistic.
- Boring main character - Although cute and likable, Jake is something of a cypher. The title tells us "everybody wants some" but we have no idea what Jake really wants. He seems to want to get laid, but he doesn't obsess over it. He doesn't think about baseball at all. He kinda likes the female character with a name. It's all a bit wishy washy.
- Idols as Angels: I loved the opening number "One Voice" where Idols past and present filled the stage and all were wearing white. This felt like the Ghosts of Idols Past.
- Dunkelman is back! It was fun to hear a little repartee between Seacrest and Dunkelman again.
- Sanjaya's wigs: While he didn't get to speak, we glimpsed Sanjaya in the audience twice - once with a huge Mad Max mohawk and once in a powdered wig.
- Simon, Paula and Randy: This was a fun reunion to witness. It wouldn't have been a satisfying finale without seeing these three and especially Simon, and he really did seem moved by it all. He's still looking good. We wrote these love haikus for Simon back in 2002.
- The Rocker medley: I loved seeing Bo Bice with short hair (unrecognizable, but he looks good), Constantine Maroulis, Caleb Johnson, James Durbin, and Chris Daughtry perform together.
- Idol Gives Back tribute: Harry Connick and Marley Fletcher, a kid from The Ellis Marsalis Center for Music in the 9th ward of New Orleans, sang "What A Wonderful World" together, in a touching segment honoring the Idol Goes Back charity that has raised $185 million for underserved youth in the US and around the world.
- 3 Divas Reunited: LaToya London, Fantasia Barrino, and Jennifer Hudson sang "Bridge Over Troubled Water" to remind us how much the show had gone downhill since they were The Class of Season 3.
- J Lo the Showgirl: her segment was basically a commercial for her Vegas show. Well, I'm sold.
- William Hung: Yes, they needed to go there.
- Tamyra Gray: She looked fierce, singing "Sober" with Jordin Sparks and Kara DioGuardi and singing "Girl Crush" on her own. She was one of the most memorable contestants from Season 1. We wrote a bunch of haikus about the contestants of Season 1 back in the day.
- Justin Guarini: Justin looks pretty handsome with the shorter hair. He can no longer be compared to Sideshow Bob.
- Carrie Underwood: I have to admit I was too hard on her back when I wrote this screed about her after she won Season 4. She has grown a lot of personality since then. She always had the voice but I found her wooden. Now her songs are sassy and smart. And she even did a passable Stevie Nicks tonight, singing "Stop Dragging My Heart Around" with Keith Urban.
- Constantine Maroulis: He's my all-time favorite Idol. I wrote these haikus about Constantine back in the day.
- Kelly Clarkson: Although her performance was taped due to her being unable to attend due to impending childbirth, it was still fun to see a hugely pregnant Kelly sing a medley of her many hits.
- Ace Young and Diana DeGarmo: Idol put them on stage together tonight but failed to mention they are married - missed opportunity to showcase a true Idol love connection. Diana is only 28 but something about her face and hair makes her look like she's in her 40s - can't really put my finger on it but she's always had that look.
- Taylor Hicks: He's my second-favorite Idol and I wish we'd seen more of him tonight, but how about that stylin' purple velveteen jacket?