Monday, February 28, 2011

Oscars 2011

Is it me or was this year’s Academy Awards ceremony a little bit on the boring side? While I must admit that my negative attitude could be the result of me losing my Oscar pool by one stupid category, I still think that this year’s ceremony was missing something. Or maybe a few things. Where was the drama? The amazing dresses? Sure there were some beautiful pieces worn by Jennifer Hudson, Penelope Cruz and of course Anne Hathaway but I still think Hollywood’s finest were going through the motions. Clearly I can’t get enough of Jeff Bridges or Robert Downey Jr. but I seriously thought the stars were going to bring more of their A-game to Hollywood’s biggest night. Here are the highs and lows:

-I was excited to see James Franco and Anne Hathaway double team the Oscars but it was Hathaway’s show. Did Franco hit some pineapple express on the bong before going on stage? He could barely open his eyes and acted as if this gig was just another day on General Hospital while Hathaway worked overtime to be fun, clever and cute.

-Kirk Douglas – Tough to watch but he was very funny. Exploitation or giving a true legend the chance to be in front of his fans?

-Melissa Leo – Congrats! The Fighter was one of my favorite movies of the year – in fact I thought it was one of the best movies I’ve seen in a long time – and Leo was one of the reasons it was so good. Way to drop the “F” bomb in front of millions of people. Alice Ward would be proud.

-Why were Josh Brolin and Javier Bardem dressed like twins?

-Loved David Seidler’s speech when he won Best Original Screenplay for The King’s Speech. I felt for him just like I felt for Colin Firth’s character.

-Anne Hathaway is a triple threat – a great actress, funny and she can sing! J-E-A-L-O-U-S!

-I liked the idea of the history theme but it felt forced.

-I love that Robert Downey Jr. is not afraid to laugh at himself – he is fantastic in every way.

-Loved Tom Hooper’s mom story when he won Best Director. Is it me or does he kinda look like James Cameron?

-It doesn’t get any classier or more legendary than Eli Wallach. (See The Holiday circa 2006).

-Always happy to see Jeff Bridges – so cute and so cool. And yes, I realize he’s old enough to be my father but whatever – he’s awesome.

-Is it me or does Sandra Bullock get funnier and cooler every year?

This year was interesting as there were so many quality movies to choose from – my favorites were without a doubt The Fighter and Social Network – but I really wish that Oscar night had done the movies justice. I’m thrilled that Christian Bale won for Best Supporting Actor – he was the force of that movie – but I’m honestly over seeing Best Actress winner Natalie Portman’s face. Maybe next year Hathaway will host the Oscars on her own and maybe cinema’s most dramatic people will actually show some more emotion.

Off The Map Observations

Shonda Grey’s Anatomy/Private Practice Rhimes has done it again. She has managed to create another show about hot doctors saving lives while trying to keep their emotional baggage at bay – but this time they don’t work in an expensive Seattle hospital or at a wellness center by the beach. Instead, these doctors are “somewhere in South America” and are doing a Doctors Without Borders thing in an effort to run away from their problems.

Here’s the deal so far…

There are the newbies:

-Dr. Lily Brenner is the goody goody who lost her fiancée in a tragic car accident and has her eye on a fellow doctor from the minute she arrives in the jungle.
-Dr. Mina Manard (who is played by Meryl Streep’s daughter) is no-nonsense and is constantly looking for the best cases. She accidently killed a kid in an E.R. she used to work for in the United States and is doing some “time” in the amazon to pay for her mistakes.
-Dr. Tommy Fuller is the screw up who is estranged from his family and got into plastics before going to the jungle.

The vets:

-Dr. Ben Keeton is the resident hottie who occupies all kinds of cliché. He looks like Sawyer from LOST, has a drinking problem, lost his wife and kid a few years ago and has many women who have their eye on him. He keeps his wife on life support so her trust fund can bankroll the clinic – saying this guy has series issues is the understatement of the year.
-Dr. Otis Cole is a recovering addict who apparently was in so deep that he refuses medication in dental procedures. He and Dr. Zita Alvarez are “dating” and are both equally hard on the new doctors.
-Charlie is the very charismatic local kid who helps out at the clinic by translating for the doctors still learning Spanish.
-Dr. Ryan Clark is by far the most annoying person on the show – and happens to be dating Dr. Keeton.

I find it interesting that Rhimes uses some of the same actors she’s used on Grey’s on Off The Map. Jason George (Dr. Cole) played Bailey’s love interest, while Valerie Cruz (Dr. Alvarez) played the wife of a patient who suffered a severe nail gun accident – a case that seriously hit home for Meredith. There have also been several guest patients visiting the amazon that also played guest patients in Seattle. Clearly, these actors love working with Rhimes – or it could be that ABC pays really well.

So far so good with this show even though it’s not reinventing any wheels just yet. But what it is doing is keeping my interest by providing great acting that is taking place in an exotic locale that does not include polar bears or black smoke. Since I’ve recently deleted Private Practice from DVR because I couldn’t take the never-ending depressing storylines, I’m hoping Off The Map continues to please.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Top 10 Nutjob Celebrities

After two decades of bad behavior with no consequences in terms of his popularity and ability to work, everything changed yesterday when Charlie Sheen’s extremely popular television show Two and a Half Men was canceled for the season. The cancellation was due to Sheen’s extended rant on the Alex Jones Radio Show on which he discussed his mental curing abilities, ninja training and magic fingertips. The most consequential part of Sheen’s rant was his verbal lashing of Two and a Half Men creator Chuck Lorre -- whom he later challenged to an ultimate fighting match.

Sheen’s craziness inspired me to list the 10 nuttiest celebrities in Hollywood. Here we go….you can’t make this shit up!

1) Charlie Sheen – Although this is the abridged version, Sheen’s rap sheet makes the Robert Downey Jr. of the 90s look like a saint:

• Jan 28, 2011: Sheen again checks into rehab to deal with what ails him.

• Feb. 23, 2010: Sheen voluntarily checks himself into rehab, a move his rep referred to as simply a “preventative measure.”

• 2009: Sheen is arrested on felony menacing charges and spends Christmas in a Colorado jail after wife Brooke Mueller tells cops the actor threatened her with a knife. Sheen ended up pleading guilty to misdemeanor third-degree assault and was ordered to spend 30 days in rehab, undergo domestic abuse counseling, and was placed on probation.

• 2005: Denise Richards files for divorce and publicly accusing Sheen of carousing with prostitutes and gambling, while discussing his drug and alcohol problems.

• 1998: Sheen enters lockdown rehab after being hospitalized for a drug overdose which was necessary after his father, Martin Sheen, turned him in for violating his parole.

• 1997: Sheen pleads no contest to battery charges brought by former girlfriend, model-actress Brittany Ashland, who claims Sheen threw her onto his kitchen floor and split her lip. He earned a year's suspended sentence, two years' probation and a $2,800 fine.

• 1995: Two words: Heidi Fleiss.

• 1990: Sheen accidentally shoots then-fiancée Kelly Preston in the arm. That same year he enters rehab for the first time to treat an alcohol addiction.

2) Mel Gibson – Being anti-Semitic is completely unacceptable. End of story.

3) Lindsay Lohan – When you steal, get caught doing drugs, are in and out of rehab and constantly find yourself in court you could call yourself Charlie Sheen – that is if you actually made money being an actor. Go away Lohan. Just go away.

4) Kanye West – “Yo Taylor, I'm really happy for you, I'mma let you finish but Beyonce had one of the best videos of all time. One of the best videos of all time!” Either Kanye needs to never attend award shows or he needs to learn how to sit down and shut up. I’m thinking the former is more likely.

5) Naomi Campbell – Just because you’re pretty doesn’t mean you can throw things at people. Put down your copy of Mean Girls before you hurt another assistant.

6) Michael Richards – Being racist is completely unacceptable. End of story.

7) David Hasselhoff – There is a reason why Comedy Central chose you to be the latest idiot celebrity to be roasted. Actually there are several reasons which include but are not limited to: Baywatch, self-tanner, the drunken cheeseburger home video, Knight Rider and calling yourself “The Hoff.”

8) Casey Kasem – Nobody likes a dog hater. Get a grip.

9) Britney Spears - Shaving your head and then attacking members of the paparazzi with an umbrella doesn’t exactly make you the best role model for your kids, nor does it make the public like you. Thank you for getting your act together – or at least your public image – so the world could move on to other crazies.

10) Paula Abdul – If it walks like a nutjob, talks like a nutjob and acts like a nutjob then it’s probably a bag of nuts.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

For Ber

Bernise Jenkins was a force to be reckoned with. She was no-nonsense, she was tough and she was the best. She raised my mother, my aunt, my two uncles, my cousins and me. She shaped all of us. My grandmother hired her in 1953 – a year after my mother was born – to help her take care of her kids. And take care of them she did. Ber was part of our family from the moment she stepped into our lives and that never changed.

For two generations she took care of us. She was there for Marshall’s little league games, for my softball games – she carted us around everywhere. She even introduced us to her friends in Overtown – they loved us. She called us her white children. She always told the story that when I would bite Marshall she would tell him to bite me back. (I don’t recall being so mean to my cousin but there was no arguing with Ber!) When I pouted she made fun of me and made me laugh so hard that I forgot what I was pouting about in the first place.

She was an amazing cook – Ber’s French fries were the best without question. My mother loved her fried chicken – it was like it tasted better because Ber made it. Whenever we fought Ber was there to break it up – when something great happened she wanted to hear all about it. Her bulletin board might as well have been page 6 of the New York Times. Everyone wanted their picture on her bulletin board – that meant you were in. I remember when she first met my boyfriend Rodney – she loved him! She thought he was so handsome and the first thing she showed him when I took him to her house was the photo of the two of us she had on her bulletin board. That was it – he was in.

Ber always had her opinions- whether we liked them or not – and she always told us exactly what she thought. It didn’t matter what the topic of conversation was, Ber had an opinion. She also loved sports. Football and basketball were her favorites and she and Marshall would talk about the Dolphins and the Heat for hours. Just like our grandfather she always wore baseball caps and they were always in support of her teams. It didn’t matter what was going on – if there was a game on television she was watching. No questions asked.

Bernise became “Ber” when Marshall and I were little and couldn’t manage to pronounce her full name. And it stuck. She was Ber from that moment on.

In the last few years Ber’s health started to fail and if it wasn’t for my mother and aunt she wouldn’t have received the top notch care that she needed. Her loving nieces Betty and Michelle were there every step of the way and if it wasn’t for Julia, Carliqua, Janet and Anabelle, Ber would not have been as comfortable and happy as she was in her last few years. We will forever be grateful to them for everything they did for her – the woman who took care of our family for six decades.

When someone mentions Ber it’s hard not to talk about Bok as well –her partner for 20 years. They were a great pair and every time we walked through the door of their house they were always happy to see us. I miss them and the look on their faces because they made coming back to Miami so much better.

Mom always told me that our grandmother called Ber “Helen of Troy” when she was young because she always had men running after her. That makes me laugh but doesn’t surprise me because everyone always wanted to be around Ber. She was a lot of fun and always made you feel like you were her number one priority.

We will miss Ber more than anything in the whole world. She was our rock – kindhearted but tough as nails at the same time. We respected her opinion and always wanted to know what she thought – and she would tell us. Our family is forever grateful to Ber and everything she did for us. She was important to each and every one of us and I know for a fact that Ber stories will be told for many generations to come. We miss you and love you Ber.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Grammys 2011

Has it really been a year since I started this blog? My very first post was about the 2010 Grammys so I’m excited to be writing about my favorite awards show again.

My review of music’s biggest night:

-Jennifer Hudson, Martina McBride, Florence Welch and Yolanda Adams showing 18-time Grammy winner Aretha Franklin the respect she deserves. Those are some huge voices. WOW.
-Christina Aguilera (almost) making up for her Super Bowl shit show.
-Madonna – I mean Lady Gaga – got everyone’s attention but it was nothing compared to last year’s dueling piano performance with Sir Elton John.
-Bruno Mars going black and white for what was a surprisingly great performance – not bad for a kid who used to be an Elvis impersonator.
-Loved the country music presence at this year’s Grammys – it shows how much the genre has grown and how popular it has become.
-Dear Usher and Justin Bieber – get over yourselves. Love, Laura
-Bieber and Jaden Smith? What is this? Fisher Price My First Grammys?
-David Letterman’s #9 surprise at the Grammy Awards: New music laws prohibit rhyming “ladies” with “Mercedes.”
-Letterman’s #4 surprise: Academy president finally explains the difference between “Song of the Year” and “Record of the Year.”
-Ladies and gentleman – Bob Dylan. Backed by what seemed liked 100 banjos and playing harmonica like it was 1975 even if only for a few seconds….so awesome.
-Lady Antebellum is one of my favorite country groups – they never disappoint.
-Cee Lo channeling Elton John in that sequin and feather outfit. His voice is so infectious that the accessories are fun rather than over-compensation. And the Gwyneth Paltrow duet – surprising because for some reason it worked.
-John Mayer, Nora Jones and Keith Urban – two guitars and three Grammy voices all singing Dolly Parton’s “Jolene.” Short and sweet but very well done.
-Three of music’s biggest names – Eminem, Rihanna and Dr. Dre – blowing everyone away. Rihanna’s voice is the perfect juxtaposition to Em’s aggressive voice and lyrics – and so is the mystery woman’s voice who was singing the hook for “I Need A Doctor.” For the record, since I don’t think anyone introduced her, the woman in question is Skylar Grey.
-Esperanza Spalding– loved her acceptance speech. Thank you for being so thankful.
-Mick Jagger paying tribute to Solomon Burke as he jumped around the stage like it was 1975.
-Random crowd shot of an 80s-haired Cindy Lauper.
-Rihanna pulling double duty tonight with two fabulous albeit different performances.
-Lady Antebellum cleaning up and winning three of the major categories including Record of the Year which I thought was for sure going to be taken home by Em and Rhianna or Jay-Z and Alicia Keys.
-It’s hilarious that CBS decided to have actors from its shows present several awards – I like all the actors but this is the Grammys not the Emmys.
-Was Arcade Fire trying to induce seizures?
-And did they really beat out Eminem for Album of the Year? FAIL.
-Kris Kristofferson doesn’t look a day over perfection. Very cool to see the man who gave Janis Joplin her biggest hit.
-Arcade Fire plays another song….ugh….ok turning the TV off.

Friday, February 11, 2011

The Two Eras of AC/DC

If you’re a fan of AC/DC there are a few things you know for sure: 1) They are one of the greatest rock and roll bands of all time. 2) Their hits will always get people excited. 3) They assured us that rock and roll ain’t noise pollution. 4) They’ve had two singers over the years that are so good and so similar that it’s extremely difficult to distinguish who is singing which song. So, here is a little trivia for all the AC/DC fans out there:

Original lead singer Bon Scott was born in Scotland before immigrating to Australia in his childhood. He was AC/DC’s captivating front man from 1974 until his death in 1980.

After passing out in the car on the way back to friend Alistair Kinnear’s house after a night of heavy drinking in London, Scott was left in the car. Since Kinnear was unable to move him, Scott was left in the car overnight to sleep off the effects of the alcohol. Unable to wake Scott the next morning, Kinnear rushed him to the hospital where Scott was pronounced dead on arrival. Pulmonary aspiration of vomit was the cause of Scott’s death and the official cause was listed as “acute alcohol poisoning” and “death by misadventure.”

Bon Scott’s Biggest Hits:

Whole Lotta Rosie
If You Want Blood (You've Got It)
Highway To Hell
Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap
It's a Long Way to the Top (If You Wanna Rock 'n' Roll)

After Scott’s death the band briefly considered ending AC/DC but then decided that Scott would have wanted the band to continue. They auditioned several candidates for his spot but a few days after hearing Brian Johnson sing “Whole Lotta Rosie” from Let There Be Rock and Ike & Tina Turner's “Nutbush City Limits” he was hired.

A few months later, AC/DC, with Johnson on the mic, recorded Back In Black, which would turn out to be their biggest-selling album ever. The album was certified platinum three months after its release, and by 2007 it had sold more than 22 million copies in the United States and over 45 million worldwide, making it the fourth highest-selling album ever in the US and the second highest- selling in the world. Johnson had made his mark and had showed the music world that AC/DC could continue on.

Brian Johnson’s Biggest Hits:

Hells Bells
Shoot to Thrill
Back in Black
You Shook Me All Night Long
Rock and Roll Ain't Noise Pollution
For Those About to Rock (We Salute You)
Rock 'N Roll Train

AC/DC was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in March 2003. In 2009 the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) upgraded the group’s US sales figures from 69 million to 71 million, making AC/DC the fifth best-selling band in US history and the ninth best-selling artist, selling more albums than Madonna, Mariah Carey and Michael Jackson. The RIAA also certified Back in Black as double Diamond (20 million) in US sales.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Super Bowl XLV

Everyone watches the Super Bowl for different reasons and only one of them has to do with football. Obviously if your team is competing then of course the game is a really big deal. For the rest of us, it’s all about the commercials and the halftime show. So let’s start with the commercials. I was happy to see that music was a big theme in this year’s commercials and of course I always appreciate the clever ones as well. These were my favorites:

1) Budweiser: I always look forward to Budweiser commercials because I love the Clydesdales! This year didn’t disappoint with the commercial taking place in a western saloon with an angry cowboy who becomes a very happy cowboy when he gets his Bud. He is so happy, in fact, that he breaks into song – Elton John’s “Tiny Dancer” – and the rest of the bar sings along with him. A nod to the bus scene in Almost Famous? Either way, it was my favorite commercial of the Super Bowl.

2) Volkswagen: Coming in a VERY close second, the commercial with the little kid dressed as Darth Vader was awesome. After unsuccessfully trying to perform a Jedi mind trick on a dog and a baby doll, he is “successful” when he tries it on his Dad’s car. A.k.a. His father’s car has a remote start. The kid’s body language is hysterical – he is so startled and excited that his trick worked that he doesn’t know what to do with himself. The look on the father’s face is priceless as well.

3) Car Max: “I feel like a kid in a candy store…like a mermaid at a swim meet… like an acrobat in a mattress store…like a hippie in a drum circle.”

4) Mercedes Benz: Any commercial that starts with Janis Joplin singing “Oh lord won’t you buy me a Mercedes Benz….” is bound to be great. And it was. Seeing all the different makes and models was very cool and seeing Puff Daddy (Diddy? Dirty Money?) get his car stolen was the perfect ending.

5) NFL: Loved the montage of characters from some of the most iconic television shows in history getting ready to watch some football: The Simpsons, 90210, Seinfeld, Friends, Happy Days, Cheers, etc. At the risk of sounding cheesy it was like seeing a montage of old friends.

6) Chrysler: The homage to the city of Detroit was full of hope and surprisingly, Eminem. I found myself, if only for 30 seconds, cheering for the city’s comeback. Somewhere Kid Rock and Bob Seeger were raising their glasses.

7) Best Buy: Ozzy Osbourne asking, “What’s a Bieber?” Good question.

Ok, onto the halftime show. After reading the mixed reactions on Facebook, clearly not everyone loved the Black Eyed Peas. But I found positives and negatives to the performance:

What was good:

-SLASH!!!!!!!! The notorious Guns N Roses guitarist is ALWAYS a welcomed musical guest and I sure as hell wasn’t expecting to see him appear on my television screen. I loved his glitter glam top hat and seeing him play the iconic “Sweet Child O’ Mine” guitar solo was amazing. Fergie – you are a lucky girl!
-The choreography was visually pleasing and all those lights with all those people looked very cool. I can’t imagine the amount of time it took to practice and put all of that together but they did it.
-Even though I’m not a fan, surprise guest Usher was fun – seeing him jump over and land in a split was also pretty impressive.

What was NOT so good:

-The group sounded terrible and the live auto-tune voice was not helping at all.
-Even though the number of hits Black Eyed Peas has is notable, their songs might as well all be called “In Da Club” because that’s the only place they are appropriate.
-The only people I know in that group are Fergie and so when the other two members sang it reminded me why they aren’t famous.

Clearly the Super Bowl is going to be the topic of conversation tomorrow so please share your thoughts and opinions with me!

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Turn On Lights Out

Apparently boxing is making a comeback. Although there is no shortage of famous boxing movies from the past few decades – all the Rocky films, Raging Bull, The Hurricane, Ali, Cinderella Man– there has been a recent surge of boxing in pop culture. With the help of one of the best movies I’ve seen in awhile, The Fighter, and the newest FX television series Lights Out, boxing is seemingly everywhere.

While I’ve never really watched boxing on TV, I have covered a few amateur fights at the Denver Athletic Club which have always been exciting. That being said, I’ve never gone out of my way to watch HBO fights or boxing reality shows like The Contender until I saw the previews for Lights Out and thought it looked interesting. I also figured that if FX’s track record indicates anything (this is the same network that brings us Rescue Me, Sons Of Anarchy and Justified) the show was going to be gritty, hardcore, well-acted and contain a TV-MA warning before each episode. And I was right.

Lights Out stars Holt McCallany as aging former heavyweight boxing champion Patrick “Lights” Leary who struggles to find his identity and support his wife and three daughters after retiring from the ring five years prior. Leary’s career came to an end when his wife Theresa gave him an ultimatum to either stop boxing or lose his family. Unfortunately, this ultimatum came right after Lights loses a match he should have won after taking horrible advice from his father/former trainer. Now the loss (which was also his last time in the ring) haunts Lights on seemingly a daily basis as his neighbors, family, colleagues and people of the press constantly bring it up.

In addition to his father, Theresa and the girls, Lights’ family also includes his brother and businesses manager Johnny and their sister who owns a diner. After paying for his brother to go to business school, putting his wife through medical school, currently paying for his three girls to attend private school and their palatial house complete with a neatly manicured lawn, Lights is tapped out for cash. He should have all the money in the world but instead he is missing payments on the house and cars and is being chased down by the IRS. His financial problems leave him at a tough crossroads as he is battling the urge to return to boxing or reluctantly accept a job as a brutal debt collector. Meanwhile, Lights may be suffering from a form of dementia commonly found in boxers. Of course Lights doesn’t want his wife and children to know about the financial or health issues so he is, according to Theresa, “back to lying like the old days.” Clearly we will see what she means in future episodes – unless Lights gets back in the ring to fight the boxer he unfairly lost to five years prior.

While McCallany plays Lights with a calm, cool demeanor one wouldn’t expect from a boxer his character is a cliché so far. He keeps having flashbacks of his fighting days, specifically his final fight, and there’s no question he misses being in the game. Physically McCallany looks like a boxer who hasn’t missed a day of training and although Lights continues to be a local legend who draws people asking for autographs while calling him “champ,” the legend is fading. Like his brother Johnny says – “you were a champ but five years was a long time ago.”

How the series will go remains to be seen but I find myself very interested in what Lights decides to do with his life and how he plans to turn it around. I hope he stops doing these embarrassing public appearances (kids’ birthday parties, hosting bingo nights, mattress commercials, etc.) and does something great. I’m assuming he will get back into boxing but who knows – FX features ballsy shows for a reason and, like Lights himself, they are not afraid to do something unexpected.