Monday, August 7, 2017
Harou Nakajima, the original Man-in-Suit, has passed.
Watching Godzilla movies will tell you that our gigantic, atomic-fire-breathing-pal had a definite personality. And I think you can chalk a good chunk of that up to Mr. Harou Nakajima.
To get a better idea of what I mean, give those first few Godzilla movies a spin and watch as the big fella becomes more himself. A sort of cranky giant who definitely has opinions.
I recently saw this video interviewing the actor. It is absolutely inspiring and a testament to a certain mindset we could all stand to try on.
Monday, July 31, 2017
Actor, Playwright, Director and pretty-cool-guy Sam Shepard has passed at the age of 73. He had been dealing with ALS for some time.
Shepard appeared in one of my favorite films, The Right Stuff, as real-life hero and pilot Chuck Yeager. It's one of those roles and performances I imprinted on at a young age, and I still marvel at each time I watch the movie.
He'll be missed.
Sunday, July 16, 2017
It's impossible to measure the impact this man had on pop culture and culture in general. Legendary director and inventor of the modern zombie genre, George Romero, has passed.
We'll miss you, George.
Saturday, June 10, 2017
This one hurts.
Adam West has passed at the age of 88.
Literally my earliest memories include watching Batman starring Adam West as Batman and Burt Ward as Robin. Steans-family lore states that my first words were "Batman" as I ran around our home with my security blanket around my neck.
The story is that I was toddler-ish and Jason was two years older, and my mom, The Karebear, had to make us dinner before my Dad got home from work (dude worked hard and late). In order to wrangle me, her ADD wunderkind, she figured out that I'd sit perfectly still for Batman, which happened to be on in syndication right when she needed to fire up the stove.
When the Michael Keaton-starring "serious" Batman was released, in 1989, when I was 14, the show came back on cable, and I totally got what they were up to. Somehow, inbetween, like many of my generation, there'd been some confusion about the show being a drama that was kind of stupid and something you grew out of. But, nope, the show had been winking to the older crowd all along.
Thursday, April 6, 2017
What can you say? Don Rickles was one of the five funniest people I can think of, and he was a pro and working right up til recent years, still himself and sharp as hell the last time I saw him on video.
Some people's comedy doesn't age well - I'm not sure how a lot of comedians from the first thirty years of TV would play today. But Rickles was always in a class of his own, decade after decade, and no one could do what he did and still be beloved by multiple generations. I think we all knew - that wicked tongue? It was the act. You never saw people who actually knew Rickles say a word against him, and if you doubt that, please do watch the doc, Mr. Warmth.
I mean, I can think of few things that would have filled me with more joy in this life than had the man ever called me a hockey puck.
Here's the NY Times obit.
He's truly going to be missed, and I hope all the media coverage he gets tells the younger kids he was more than a Mr. Potato - although that was sort of perfect, too.
Sunday, March 19, 2017
Monday, March 6, 2017
Turner Classic Movies host Robert Osborne has merged with The Infinite.
I was pretty much convinced that Robert Osborne was a robot. It didn't matter what time of day or night I switched on Turner Classic Movies, if a movie wasn't playing, he was providing an intro or outro in a smooth, polished, knowledgeable manner, like the best film prof you never had. In theory he was the prime-time host, but for several years in there, I literally remember no one else.
I mean, sure, it was just a few minutes per movie, but those need to be written, shot, etc... and it was clear he was pretty hands-on with all aspects. Including the phenomenal interviews he wrangled with innumerable Hollywood icons, and later as he'd co-host series with modern luminaries reflecting back on whatever run of movies they were about to show. And he always got to the nut of what made the film special both writ large and what made fans (these modern film stars) so passionate about the movie.
Sunday, February 26, 2017
Like all of you, we were saddened to hear of the unexpected passing of actor Bill Paxton.
Paxton became a favorite back in the mid-80's when we first saw Aliens in which he played Private First Class Hudson, the resident smart-ass of the squad of Colonial Marines sent in to investigate the situation on Acheron (aka LV-426). After that, we recognized him as Chet in Weird Science and the punk guy who maybe shouldn't have picked a fight with a naked Arnie in Terminator.
Paxton was always a welcome name to see show up in the credits of any film, and you always knew you were getting something memorable out of him. He didn't have many blockbuster starring roles outside of Twister, but he continued to provide outstanding performances in supporting roles and found a lead role that worked well for him in HBO's polygamy drama, Big Love.
We'll miss Paxton. To say he went too soon is a tremendous understatement, and I think all of us expected him to continue to appear on our screens for decades to come.
But let us never forget that he also directed and starred in the video for Barnes & Barnes classic "Fish Heads".
Wednesday, January 25, 2017
Actor and producer Mary Tyler Moore has passed at the age of 80.
My first two memories of Mary Tyler Moore include realizing (a) that MTM tag at the end of shows was her production company and (b) thinking Rob Petrie married well the hell out of his league. I mean, I was like 7 or 8 and didn't watch enough TV to quite get how this works, but I was pretty sure Laura had settled or Rob was rich or something.
Years later she broke new ground with the Mary Tyler Moore Show, showing a divorced woman making it in the city as a reporter. The show was a hit and and Moore became a force in the entertainment world in her own right.
I'm not going to quite do her justice. She will be missed.
Thursday, January 19, 2017
We all have actors we may not seek out, necessarily, but it's a huge bonus when they show up in anything. Indeed, they make whatever they appear in at least five times better.
Since my mom dropped me off (way too young) to go see RoboCop, I've been a fan of actor Miguel Ferrer. I didn't know his actual name until college, he was "that guy from RoboCop, yeah, Bob Morton", but in the years since, and since Jamie has been around since college, she's heard the phrase "oh, hell, yeah. Miguel Ferrer" on innumerable occasions whenever I realize he is in a movie we're considering watching or his name pops up in the credits.
Fortunately for me, far as I know, Jamie shares my appreciation for Miguel Ferrer.
His mother and father (Rosemary Clooney and Jose Ferrer) were extraordinarily famous in their era, and not too many children of power couples manage to reach the levels of success Miguel Ferrer achieved. Or, you know, the place in the hearts of cinephiles and genre-geeks.
I straight up think he's a terrific actor, and while he wasn't often the leading man, he was a force on screen. I can only imagine what he was like in life.
Unfortunately, it seems Miguel Ferrer passed today after a battle with cancer. I had no idea he was ill, and I'm deeply sorry for his friends and family. He went far too soon.
Let's enjoy him as Bob Morton together, shall we?
Wednesday, January 18, 2017
You likely haven't heard of Pete Marston. He was the son of William Moulton Marston - aka: Charles Moulton - aka: the creator of Wonder Woman. Pete passed away today at the age of 87. He didn't have any professional association with DC Comics or Wonder Woman, but he did have a strong affection for the Amazing Amazon.
I am mostly aware of Mr. Marston through the website The Wonder Woman Network, which featured an extensive photogallery of Pete's private museum and a lot of pictures of visitors from all over, including Ms. Lynda Carter.
If I ever wanted to feel like my Wonder Woman collection was a reasonable size, I could always visit The Wonder Woman Network page. Also, Mr. Marston looked so cheery in his picture with Ms. Carter.
While I am very sorry to hear Mr. Marston has passed, I salute him for (a) having an astoundingly great WW collection, and (b) carrying the torch for his parents' legacy, as both are known to have contributed to the character and her mythos. I'm glad he knew Wonder Woman was still beloved as much (or more) in 2017 as any other time.
I just wish he'd been able to see the Wonder Woman movie coming soon.
For a quick gallery of pictures of his collection, click here.
Monday, January 16, 2017
Eugene "Gene" Cernan has passed at the age of 82.
His early career included time as a Naval Aviator, and he earned degrees as an undergraduate from Purdue and a Masters in Aeronautical Engineering from the Naval Postgraduate School.
An astronaut of the Gemini and Apollo era, Cernan was pilot of Apollo 10 and Commander of Apollo 17. As was widely remarked in the press today, Cernan was the last human to have stepped foot on the lunar surface.
Cernan also pulled the "Snoopy" landing module out of a deadly spin during the Apollo 10 descent - which was never intended to land, just see how all that would work on Apollo 11 when someone finally did touch down.
Somehow Cernan's name has been better known than many other astronauts, at least in my mind, and that may be due to his continuing participation and advocacy for the space program and his frequent appearances on television.
Buddy JuanD has alerted me to a documentary about Cernan, Last Man on the Moon, which we hope to watch very soon.
Here's to an American hero.
Wednesday, December 28, 2016
Actor, singer and dancer Debbie Reynolds has passed. This would be something we'd cover under any normal circumstance, but, of course, Reynolds was also the mother of actor and author Carrie Fisher who left us just yesterday. We can only imagine the tremendous loss Fisher's daughter, Billie Lourde, is experiencing at this moment. She has our sympathies.
Reynolds is most famous for her part in Singin' In the Rain, one of the best remembered musicals of any era in Hollywood (and a heck of a film). A few years back she appeared in Behind the Candelabra, a Liberace biopic, playing Liberace's oft-referred to mom. She was honestly pretty great.
Here's one of the show-stoppers from Singin' In the Rain, with Gene Kelley and Donald O'Connor.
Tuesday, December 27, 2016
We are devastated to say that actor and author Carrie Fisher has passed.
I can't say I knew much about Fisher as a person - same things as everyone else. The Hollywood pedigree, the issues with substance abuse, the biting wit, her dog, Gary.
It had been a very, very long time since I'd re-watched Star Wars, which I did when The Force Awakens was released, and it's amazing to see how darn good she was in that first movie, fluctuating accent and all. I love all the main characters of Star Wars, no doubt, but if my personal collection of Star Wars stuff is any indication, and as longtime readers will probably have figured out, I'm a fan of Princess Leia first and foremost.
And, of course, her life seemed to be on such an upswing of late. She would make Star Wars Episodes VII, VIII and IX, she had a book out that seemed to be moving a lot of copies, and from what I could see on social media, there was a generation of young women who were calling her "Space Mom", properly idolizing the character she'd imbued with tremendous strength, and building her social media army as she embraced them back.
She's leaving behind her daughter, Billie Lourd, a talented actress from what I hear. Her mother, Debbie Reynolds, famed actress of the 20th Century. Gary, too, of course. And all of us, a planet of people who wished her the best not just as Princess Leia, but as Carrie Fisher, too.
I'm shocked she went so young and so suddenly, and I'm genuinely very sad. You'd think this year would have toughened me up a bit. I'm going to miss her on the talk show circuits, freaking out the robo-hosts when she goes on a tangent or drops some truth that makes them uncomfortable, or curls up on one of their over-stuffed couches, her shoes on the floor. I liked this era of Carrie Fisher and General Leia.
She'll always be royalty to me.
Sunday, December 25, 2016
Utterly shocking if it weren't 2016 - today we found out that George Michael, the famed pop singer, had passed at the age of 53.
A lot of other people are going to memorialize Michael better than I could. As much a singer and entertainer, the last couple of decades I've been impressed with how Michael pushed back on the MTV machine and made it through when his personal life was exposed in an era when coming out of the closet was something that could kill your career.
I liked some of George Michael's songs despite the fact he wasn't exactly in my wheelhouse, but my favorite was always Freedom! '90. That's one of his "doesn't matter your genre of choice" songs. It's just solid.
Let's remember George Michael today by wrapping up Christmas Day with some of his best.
Thursday, December 8, 2016
Astronaut and United States Senator John Glenn has merged with The Infinite.
Truly one of the giants of the 20th Century, John Glenn was part of the Mercury 7, America's first manned spaceflight program. He had served as a Marine in two wars and as a test pilot and would remain a Marine while working with NASA. He would become one of the most famous names in space exploration before continuing in public service as a US Senator, elected in 1974. He would leave the Senate in 1999.
As an astronaut, Glenn was the first American to orbit the planet, orbiting the Earth 3 times before plunking down in the Atlantic, proving Americans were on a par with the astounding Russian space program, and setting the stage for the Gemini and Apollo missions.
As a kid, thanks in part to the film The Right Stuff, we spoke the names John Glenn and Chuck Yeager with reverence. These were the guys who lived the lives we dreamed of but didn't even aspire to. Even in college when I'd hear Glenn was associated with some political decisions I didn't agree with, you still said "well, man, he's John Glenn. I assume he knows what he's doing."
How the man was not elected President, I will never know. Bad timing in the Reagan-era, I guess.
In the Fall of 1998, I was recently graduated from college and running a distance learning broadcast studio at the University of Texas. News came down that NASA was sending Glenn back into space to test the rigors of space flight against the physiology of older adults. Whatever the excuse, man, it was amazing to see Glenn back in the suit, showing America how it could be done. I talked the instructor who was teaching at the time of the launch to let me pipe in a broadcast of the take-off, mostly because I wanted to see it, but he must have wanted to see it, too, because I watched it on my monitors while the space shuttle took off on the screens up in the classroom. No one said a word until they were safely out of the atmosphere.
Glenn lived to the age of 95. We will not see his like again in my lifetime.
Godspeed, good sir.
From the outstanding film The Right Stuff, played here by the always excellent Ed Harris:
Saturday, November 26, 2016
Well, 2016, you finally got one I'm not going to shed a tear over.
I'm not going to eulogize Castro, but it would be disingenuous not to note the death of someone who had such a pivotal role in international politics for so many decades. You guys have Wikipedia, so I'll leave you to look him up on your own.
We seem to inch towards a free Cuba, year by year. Perhaps with Castro's passing, our neighbors are that much closer to a better tomorrow.
Saturday, October 22, 2016
God. Dammit. 2016.
Comics artist Steve Dillon has passed.
Dillon was one of the finest comics artists of the past few decades, mixing an illustrative quality with cartooning and pitch perfect sense of tone and a moment. Not only did he have one of the deftest pencils when it came to capturing the exact, perfect expression for every character in a panel - something I assume he did effortlessly as he did it in every panel - but his ability to change pacing, to whip between romance to horror to comedy within a single page remains unparalleled and may never be matched.
His pairing with Garth Ennis was a boon to the medium, from Hellblazer to Preacher to The Punisher. I don't just consider Preacher a seminal comics work of its era - I consider it a seminal work of its era - full stop. That said - not recommended for all audiences, Mom.
Monday, August 29, 2016
Gene Wilder has merged with The Infinite.
Included in everyone's list of favorite movies, you'll find Blazing Saddles and Young Frankenstein. Like you, I watch both with alarming frequency, just dropping in for 30-45 minutes or more when I see them on cable. We watch Young Frankenstein a day or so before Halloween every year as a break from actual horror movies.
What to say?
There really wasn't anyone who was like him before and there certainly isn't anyone like him now. Who else brings such a thoughtful, skilled, deftly nuanced approach to comedic roles in quite the same way - the punchlines sometimes going by so quietly you almost missed them on the first go-round - or delivered with such staccato bombasity you barely have time to register what's happening before you find yourself laughing. And that's part of what makes the movies work so well on watch after watch after watch. He managed to wrangle the cartoony freneticism Brooks brought to the screen in Blazing Saddles, but he was never the straight-man. He was just funny in his own right, and he knew how to make a scene work far better than it should, even when the jokes were so broad you could drive on them.
Of course, his Willy Wonka came seemingly out of nowhere, a manically perfect performance not intended to comfort children but there for them to understand when, maybe, they got a little older. That weariness and dissatisfaction of the genius among mortals, that keeper of the faithl in the land of the wicked, just brilliantly played.
I'll always like Young Frankenstein best, but that won't come as a surprise. There's nothing in the film he does I'd say doesn't work. He's in perfect sync with everyone in the cast, holding all their various tones together and making for one of my favorite comedies in any medium.
I'm very sorry to hear Mr. Wilder has passed, but am so grateful for what he brought us, and I'm cheered by the massive outpouring in social media. I hope he knew, and I hope his family knows, how much love people had for him and his work.
Saturday, August 13, 2016
The Guardian is reporting that actor Kenny Baker has merged with The Infinite.
From a very young age, I was aware that there was a guy sitting in R2-D2 and driving him around, and like most everyone else, I suddenly got why the trashcan had so much personality. There was an actual person putting actual thought into what was going on with that bucket of bolts.
Baker appeared in a lot of genre film, and seemed to be game for re-appearing as R2 in both film and in TV specials.
By the time The Phantom Menace rolled around, the technology was there to let Baker drive R2 around via remote control, and that continuity between the movies and R2's was a highlight of the prequels for me. I mean, who doesn't like R2-D2?
We'll miss you, Mr. Baker. You gave all of us a robot buddy.