Wednesday, March 29, 2017
When Chuck Barris died last week, all of his obituaries mentioned the TV game shows he produced ("The Dating Game," "The Newlywed Game," "The Gong Show," and The "$1.98 Beauty Show"), but not enough of them mentioned his autobiography, "Confessions Of A Dangerous Mind," in which Barris asserted that, in addition to his career in Hollywood, he was also a hit man for the CIA. It was unclear whether Barris was serious about being a part-time assassin, but the book was still a fun read that made a little bit of noise when it was published in 1984, but then was quickly forgotten.
A decade and a half later, Charlie Kaufman adapted the book into a screenplay in which Barris' CIA claims were presented seriously alongside his low-brow TV producer career. George Clooney came aboard to direct (his first feature) with Sam Rockwell -- in one of his earliest leading-man roles -- starring and capturing Barris' odd personality perfectly. The supporting cast included Drew Barrymore, Julia Roberts, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Rutger Hauer, Jerry Weintraub, and Michael Cera as Young Chuck.
To tell you more would be to give away the surprises that unravel through Barris' story and the fun everyone has playing it straight. I liked "Confessions Of A Dangerous Mind" enough to give it a spot on my Movies You Might Not Know list (which also now includes another title starring Rockwell, "Moon").
Tuesday, March 28, 2017
Last week, Variety magazine announced that, at its "Women In Power" luncheon next month, the honorees will include Jessica Chastain, Shari Redstone, Audra McDonald, Blake Lively, and Gayle King. Okay, fine, but then we hit the problem spot -- their "Lifetime Achievement Award" will be given to Chelsea Clinton.
Now, this has nothing to do with politics and everything to do with chronology. Clinton is only 37 years old -- she has yet to live a lifetime. I don't know what the minimum age should be for such an honor (65? 70? 75?), but I'm sure that it's not less than 40.
Even someone who has accomplished a lot before they've completed four decades on this planet -- Serena Williams, for instance -- shouldn't qualify for a lifetime achievement award yet. Let's see what she does with the ensuing decades. Sticking with tennis, Billie Jean King qualifies because of everything she did after retiring from playing, but Serena hasn't gotten to that point in her life yet, so we don't know what she'll achieve going forward.
As for Clinton, Variety says she was selected because of "her work with Alliance for a Healthier Generation, which empowers kids to develop lifelong healthy habits." Again, sounds good, but she hasn't even been at it for 20 years. She may go on to do amazing things in the next 20 or 30 years, but they haven't happened yet and thus aren't lifetime-achievement-worthy. And what if she does change the world for the better by the time she turns 70? Does she get a second lifetime award in one lifetime?
Now, let's be honest about what's actually happening here. Naming Clinton the award recipient ensures that lots of people who supported her parents politically will attend the event, and perhaps donate to whatever charity is involved. That's what many of these honors are really about -- name recognition and fund-raising -- which is why you don't hear of lifetime achievement awards being given to someone no one has heard of, even if they've done remarkable work.
Twenty-five years ago, in Washington, DC, I got a call one day from the B'Nai Brith saying they would like to honor me at a luncheon. I had never done anything for that organization, nor did I know anyone in it, but I was kinda famous because of my daily radio show and a lot of charitable work I'd done in the community. I told the caller I appreciated the thought and asked what I'd have to do (e.g. give a speech).
She told me that she'd need the names of a bunch of my friends and colleagues so the B'Nai Brith could contact them and invite them to the luncheon. I asked if they'd get in for free, and she told me they would not, that the organization would ask them to pay something like $100 each. I told her I wasn't going to put my friends in that awkward spot where they'd have to pay to see me receive an honor that wasn't actually an honor at all, but was merely a fundraising scheme.
The woman said, "Oh, no, we do this every year and we've never had anyone refuse to be the honoree." I told her that, in me, she finally had one.
I have no idea who they did sucker into going to that luncheon, but if they were doing it today, someone on the honors committee would probably suggest Chelsea Clinton.
Updated 3/28 5:29pm...Thanks to reader Jim Alexander for discovering that the original article I based this column on was incorrect. Chelsea Clinton will not receive a lifetime achievement award -- she will receive an Impact Award from Variety and the Lifetime television network. I'm glad to hear that, but stand by what I wrote about giving people under 40 (or even 50) an honor for achievements during "a lifetime."
posted at 12:05 AM
Monday, March 27, 2017
"Life" stars Jake Gyllenhaal, Ryan Reynolds, and four other actors you’ve never heard of, as astronauts and scientists on the International Space Station, where soil samples have been brought back from Mars containing a single-cell organism, the first known non-Earth life form. It appears to be a frozen state of animation, so one of the scientists tries all sorts of things to see if he can get it to come to life and, of course, that turns out to be a bad idea.
I do like the idea of testing the organism in space before it gets back to Earth to make sure it won't be harmful to humans -- sort of an "Andromeda Strain" Wildfire station a hundred miles up. But from there, "Life" is like an "Alien" remake, as the the creature devours the crew members one by one. Of course, they’ve lost communication with Earth (because that happens all the time), although I'm not sure what anyone at mission control could do to stop the alien from killing the crew.
My biggest problem with "Life" is its failed logic. I'm willing to go along with whatever rules you set up for your movie, but then the movie must live by them. My biggest pet peeve in this regard was in "ET: The Extraterrestrial," where we were told that the germs (or something) on Earth were fatal to ET's system, so it died. But then, it came back to life, with no explanation of how that's possible. Similarly, in "Life," we're told that the alien can't live without oxygen, and yet, it gets outside the space station to attack a crew member in space where there is no oxygen without any ill effects. Moreover, the damned thing lived on Mars, which also has no oxygen. So, WTF?
I won’t give away the ending of "Life," but I will say they blew their chance at a sequel. Oh, and while the credits roll, we're once again serenaded by Norman Greenbaum's 1969 one-hit wonder, "Spirit In The Sky," a song that's already been used in dozens of other movies and TV shows (check this partial list). The fee for using it must be ridiculously low.
The action in "Life" is very predictable, but I admit I was scared and grossed out a couple of times, and the claustrophobic cinematography inside the space station is well done, particularly scenes with the crew floating from one compartment to another. However, the filmmakers missed a big opportunity to lighten things up. Shortly after its discovery, the alien creature is named Calvin -- yet not one member of the crew is named Hobbes.
I give "Life" a 5 out of 10.
Saturday, March 25, 2017
Phil Keoghan returned to my radio show to talk about the 29th season of "The Amazing Race," which debuts in a new time slot, Thursdays at 9pm CT, on March 30th on CBS. The show (which has won 13 Emmy Awards, including 7-in-a-row for Outstanding Reality/Competition Program) is trying something new this time -- the two-person teams won't have a pre-existing relationship as they have in previous seasons. I asked Phil about that, as well as:
- Whether the new season has any new obstacles in addition to U-Turn and Yield;
- Whether CBS has renewed the show for its 30th season;
- Whether global politics impacted where the show can go;
- Whether the same audio/video people travel with teams the whole way or switch;
- How hard it is to keep things secret at the final stop in the US;
This week on the showbiz segment of my show, Max Foizey and I reviewed Jake Gyllenhaal and Ryan Reynolds in the space movie "Life," Kristen Stewart in the paranormal thriller "Personal Shopper," and some Netflix standup comedy specials.
This week's Harris Challenge -- the most fun you can have with your radio on! -- includes categories about Guys Named Chuck Who Didn't Die This Week, Forbes' Richest, and Space Movies Not Named Trek Or Wars.
Listen and play along, then click here to subscribe to these podcasts via iTunes!
On this edition of Knuckleheads In The News®, I have stories about a man with weed in his butt, a bible full of meth, and a book-burning wildfire. Listen, then click here to subscribe to these podcasts via iTunes!
Friday, March 24, 2017
I'll be back on my 3-6pm CT show on KTRS today. You can listen over the air, via the station's free app, or at ktrs.com.
In the first hour, I'll talk to Phil Keoghan, host of "The Amazing Race," which returns for its 29th season in a new time slot, this Thursday (March 30th) at 9pm CT, on CBS.
In the second hour, Max Foizey and I will review the new Jake Gyllenhaal/Ryan Reynolds space movie "Life," Kristen Stewart's ghost movie "Personal Shopper," plus other showbiz stuff.
In the third hour, you can test your trivia knowledge on my Harris Challenge and I'll have a new batch of Knuckleheads In The News®.
posted at 12:02 AM