Tom Shales looks at "Carson on TCM," a weekly series of shows culling great Carson interviews.
Jay Leno and I go way back. One of my fondest memories is of Jay chasing me around the parking lot of the Hotel Bel-Air in Los Angeles. I always tell people that I thought of the Bel-Air, which I could still afford in those days (long long ago), as more a sanitarium than a hotel. You know how in L.A. your waiter has probably written a screenplay or two? At the Bel-Air, one of the parking attendants had actually starred in an ABC network series several years earlier! He played a wolf-boy.
This year's Outguess Ebert contest seems a little like shooting fish in a barrel. For the first time in many a year, maybe ever, I think I've guessed every one correctly.A few years ago, I came across an article about the newly identified psychological concept of Elevation. Scientists claim it is as real as love or fear. It describes a state in which we feel unreasonable joy; you know, like when you sit quiet and still and tingles run up and down your back, and you think things can never get any better.
I tried applying it to that year's Oscar nominees. Did it work any better than any other approach? You need Elevating nominees. An example of Elevation would be when the bone morphs into a space station in "2001." Did I feel Elevation in making any of my Guesses this year. That doesn't mean it was a bad year at the movies. Harvey Weinstein, accepting his achievement award from the Producers' Guild, said he thought 2012 was the best in 90 years. Maybe he felt Elevation when he gazed upon the Weinstein Company's box office figures.
By Tom Shales
Jimmy Kimmel still comes across like a guy who crashed a party and got caught at it, yet adamantly refuses to leave. He has no real business being there -- hosting a late-night network talk show, that is -- and may even know in his dark little heart that he's out of his depth, but he's gotten away with it for ten years, so why pull out now? Since he's probably making $25 million a year or so, and ABC has agreed to underwrite the subterfuge, it's hard to imagine Kimmel voluntarily getting the hell out of Dodge.
We can be very glad Barack Obama won his bid for re-election for reasons that have nothing to do with politics. Unlike Obama, his defeated opponent is, to put it gently, not a gifted public speaker. He actually has a warm and semi-mellifluous voice when speaking in a normal tone into a microphone; the best parts of his TV commercials were when he said he was Mitt Romney and he "approved this message. " Up on stages and platforms, however, he displayed little talent for galvanizing a crowd, or even holding attention.
August, 2012, marks the 20th anniversary of the debut of "The Larry Sanders Show," episodes of which are available on Netflix Instant, Amazon Instant, iTunes, and DVD. This is the third and final part of Edward Copeland's extensive tribute to the show, including interviews with many of those involved in creating one of the best-loved comedies in television history. Part 1 (Ten Best Episodes) is here and Part 2 (The show behind the show) is here.
A related article about Bob Odenkirk and his characters, Stevie Grant and Saul Goodman (on "Breaking Bad"), is here.
by Edward Copeland
"It was an amazing experience," said Jeffrey Tambor. "I come from the theater and it was very, very much approached like theater. It was rehearsed and Garry took a long, long time in casting and putting that particular unit together." In a phone interview, Tambor talked about how Garry Shandling and his behind-the-scenes team selected the performers to play the characters, regulars and guest stars, on "The Larry Sanders Show" when it debuted 20 years ago. Shandling chose well throughout the series' run and -- from the veteran to the novice, the theater-trained acting teacher and character actor to the comedy troupe star in his most subtle role -- they all tend to feel the way Tambor does: "It changed my career. It changed my life."
August, 2012, marks the 20th anniversary of the debut of "The Larry Sanders Show," episodes of which are available on Netflix Instant, Amazon Instant, iTunes, and DVD. This is Part 2 of Edward Copeland's extensive tribute to the show, including interviews with many of those involved in creating one of the best-loved comedies in television history. Part 1 (Ten Best Episodes) is here.
"Unethical? Jesus, Larry. Don't start pulling at that thread; our whole world will unravel." -- Artie (Rip Torn)
by Edward Copeland
Unravel those threads did -- and often -- in the world of fictional late night talk show host Larry Sanders. On "The Larry Sanders Show," the brilliant and groundbreaking HBO comedy that paid attention to the men and women behind the curtain of Sanders' fictional show, the ethics of showbiz were hilariously skewered.
Why not fold documentaries into my list of the "Best Films of 2011?" After all, a movie is a movie, right? Yes, and some years I've thrown them all into the same mixture. But all of these year-end Best lists serve one useful purpose: They tell you about good movies you may not have seen or heard about. The more films on my list that aren't on yours, the better job I've done.
That's particularly true were you to depend on the "short list" released by the Academy's Documentary Branch of 15 films they deem eligible for nomination. The branch has been through turmoil in the past and its procedures were "reformed" at one point. But this year it has made a particularly scandalous sin of
"I believe that if, at the end, according to our abilities, we have done something to make others a little happier, and something to make ourselves a little happier, that is about the best we can do. To make others less happy is a crime. To make ourselves unhappy is where all crime starts. We must try to contribute joy to the world. That is true no matter what our problems, our health, our circumstances. We must try. I didn't always know this, and am happy I lived long enough to find it out." - from LIFE ITSELF
(click image to enlarge)
Documentaries became a box office factor with the rise of such films as "Hoop Dreams" and "Roger & Me." Before then, there were hit music documentaries like "Woodstock" but most other nonfiction films could expect short runs in few theaters before dutiful audiences. What a small but growing minority of Friday night moviegoers is beginning to discover is that there's a good chance the movie they might enjoy most at the multiplex is a doc.
In alphabetical order, these were the best documentaries I saw in 2010:
"Death panels" is such an excellent term. You know exactly what it means, and therefore you know you're against them. Debate over. This term more than anything else seems to have unified the opposition to the Obama health care proposals. It fuels the anger that has essentially shut down "town hall" meetings intended for the discussion of the issues.
Of course the term is inspired by a lie. There are no conceivable plans to form "death panels" or anything like them. The Obama plan, which has some bipartisan support, doesn't seek or desire to get involved in any decisions about who should live and who should die. But now we hear "death panel" repeated so often that the term has taken on a sort of eerie reality, as if it really referred to anything.
Gene Siskel and I were like tuning forks. Strike one, and the other would pick up the same frequency. When we were in a group together, we were always intensely aware of one another. Sometimes this took the form of camaraderie, sometimes shared opinions, sometimes hostility. But we were aware. If something happened that we both thought was funny but weren't supposed to, God help us if one caught the other's eye. We almost always thought the same things were funny. That may be the best sign of intellectual communion.
Gene died ten years ago on February 20, 1999. He is in my mind almost every day. I don't want to rehearse the old stories about how we had a love/hate relationship, and how we dealt with television, and how we were both so scared the first time we went on Johnny Carson that, backstage, we couldn't think of the name of a single movie, although that story is absolutely true. Those stories have been told. I want to write about our friendship. The public image was that we were in a state of permanent feud, but nothing we felt had anything to do with image. We both knew the buttons to push on the other one, and we both made little effort to hide our feelings, warm or cold. In 1977 we were on a talk show with Buddy Rogers, once Mary Pickford's husband, and he said, "You guys have a sibling rivalry, but you both think you're the older brother."
Once Gene and I were involved in a joint appearance with another Chicago media couple, Steve Dahl and Garry Meier. It was a tribute to us or a tribute to them, I can't remember. They were pioneers of free-form radio. Gene and I were known for our rages against each other, and Steve and Garry were remarkable for their accord. They gave us advice about how to work together as a successful team. The reason I remember that is because soon afterward Steve and Garry had an angry public falling-out that has lasted until this day.
Gene and me in the 1980s. Looking at this photograph by Chicago's Victor Skrebneski, Gene said, "Even our mothers don't think we look that good." (Photo by Victor Skrebneski)
I was surprised how depressed I felt all day on July 21, when Richard and I announced we were leaving the "Ebert and Roeper" program. To be sure, our departures were voluntary. We hadn't been fired. And because of my health troubles, I hadn't appeared on the show for two years. But I advised on co-hosts, suggested movies, stayed in close communication with Don DuPree, our beloved producer-director. The show remained in my life. Now, after 33 years, it was gone--taken in a "new direction." And I was fully realizing what a large empty space it left behind.
Mark Zupan went home to Austin, Texas, for 14 hours on Saturday, to attend a buddy's wedding. That was his third weekend at home since April. The star of the documentary "Murderball" has been caught in such a whirlwind of overnight stardom that the latest news -- Eminem wants to play him in a fictional version of the story -- is just one more news item.
Gene Siskel dreamed of getting into one of the legendary poker games Johnny Carson held in his house in Malibu. He thought Carson would be a masterful poker player, able to send signals and conceal them with such facility that to watch him would be an entertainment and an education.
Q. In your review of the movie "Torque," you refer to the chase scenes as having "the same level of reality as a Road Runner chase." This is most likely true, and much of the reason I'll avoid this movie. But I have one nit to pick. Then you say "One of the bikes is built around a Rolls Royce jet engine," as if this is patently absurd. Well, however absurd it may be, it's also quite true. Just ask Jay Leno, he owns one. (David Smith, Scotts Valley, Calif.)