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My Memories of Robin Williams

The first time I interviewed Robin Williams was at a roundtable movie junket. I sat immediately to his right. I watched him throughout the session, through tears in my eyes. He was hysterical. He was like a comic on steroids, or maybe it was something else. There was no doubt in my mind that he was a genius. 

 The next time I saw him was also in a roundtable junket session. He entered the room and quickly said, “Oh great. A minion.”  During the session one of my colleague’s cell phone rang. She was a bit embarrassed but Robin Williams picked up the phone and started talking to, of all people, her mother. Without missing a beat!

Then I sat across the table from him in the next roundtable for a film that was not a comedy. We were there to discuss the 2006 film The Night Listener. Robin was very serious that day, and reflected the tone of the film. Sure, there were some jokes peppered in the interview, but it wasn’t second after second of one-liners. Later, we both got in the elevator together. I stood behind him. He was solemn, looking down at the floor. I whispered, “nanoo nanoo” and he turned, smiled and said something witty. But that was the quietest I had ever seen Mr. Williams. I had seen him at his comic manic genius and in a quiet reflective state.

Then, Mr. Williams came to the Television Critics Association Press Tour to talk about his HBO special Robin Williams: Weapons of Self Destruction. He discussed the special and his heart surgery. He was a little slower at the time, because of the surgery, but his wit was pure Robin.

The last time I saw Robin Williams was seven months ago on the set of his TV show The Crazy Ones. He was funny, but the manically comic genius I had seen years ago, was replaced by a more mature man who was funny but not as over-the-top. I can only surmise he was struggling with internal conflicts.

I truly enjoyed each and every personal encounter with Robin Williams, as well as many of his movies and, of course, Mork. He had a long and incredible career. He was one of those actors (like Jack Lemmon) who could do comedy and drama films equally well. That’s a rare quality.

Rest in Peace, Robin Williams. You will hold a place in my memory. Thank you for all the great moments. When I think about Robin Williams I think about  the quote: I laughed so hard tears ran down my leg!

 

 

The Business of Writing

A while ago I wrote a short piece about The Business of Writing. In it I said, "In the old days when publishers took over and writers were responsible for writing, things were much easier for the writers. Now, with social media and the way of the publishing industry, writers, for the most part, are responsible for their own publicity, even if they are not self-published. My publisher is the first to say that the business has changed and writers must be more involved in self-promotion in order to be a success." 

The entire business has changed, print outlets are fading away, social media is taking over the world, and anyone who wants can put up an article, no matter if it is fact or fiction. 

To read my entire article about The Business of Writing, click here

The Times They Are A-Changin’

Getting the word out these days does not require a publicist to prepare a press release. It simply requires a little tweet. If you want something known, all you have to do is put together a brief sentence or two – maximum of 140 characters – and click. Poof! The information is now available around the world.

This struck home to me this morning when I read a tweet from my friend Jay Osmond who announced via Twitter that he just got married. By the way, congratulation Jay and Karen.

 In the “old” days, Jay would have had his publicist prepare a press release. That release would be sent out to publications or outlets. Then information might have been printed in that publication or outlet, thus trickling out to the public. 

Now all he did was tweet “I'm pleased to announce that Karen Randall & I were married last evening! We r the 2 luckiest people in the world!” Again, congrats to the new couple. 

With new media, the times they are a-changin’.

I have another friend whose daughter is about to go off to college. She is into the creative arts, however with the way of the world, she is looking for a career that will not be obsolete and also be “recession proof.” So she is considering pharmacology. After all, we all need our meds at some time or another. Her heart is in the arts, yet she knows that stability in the future is important.

The times they are a-changin’.

The world is changing faster than ever. Is that a good thing or a bad thing? Do you yearn for the good old days? Or do you embrace all the new technology and changes? I never wore a helmet to ride my bike. I wasn’t worried about being kidnapped. I knew not to talk to or take candy from strangers. But today’s children are under attack from all sides. 

With print publications dying out one after another, and with all the changes in the world with the aging population, technology booming, and political strife, this is a very different world than it was even ten years ago.

The times they are a-changin’.

Congratulations to Jay and Karen, good luck to Camille, and thank you Bob Dylan for your lyrics. The times, they are indeed, a-changin’.

 

Talented Families

I recently had the opportunity to attend (and review) three wonderful concerts. One was The Osmond Brothers, another was The Duttons, and the other night I saw The King Cousins. These are all talented families, and not all of the talent was on stage during these concerts. Every one of these families has other members who are performers and also artistic but were not part of these particular concerts.

Talent often runs in families. Even the acting profession has given us many talented families: The Bridges, The Bottoms, The Barrymores, the Cassidys, and several others.

Today the most famous family is the Kardashians. WHY? What have they done besides have a great publicist? Do they have talent to entertain either by dancing, singing, or acting? NO. It boggles my mind to think that this family is one of the most talked about families today. I simply don’t understand it. They don’t do anything. Would you pay money to go see the Kardashians shop? I cannot understand anyone who is glued to the television set when a Kardashian show is on.

My advice to anyone who is mesmerized by the K family (I cannot even bring myself to type their name any more) is to take in a concert with a talented family. Then see what a real entertaining family is!

 

Academy Award Hosts

Ellen was the most recent host of the star-studded Academy Awards. I think she did an amazing job. After all, she broke the twitter record, and even twitter. The selfie she took live during the show was retweeted 779,295 times in about half an hour, and even more after that. Yes, I was one of those retweeting. It was a fun experiment and quite frankly, the photo was cute.

And bringing in pizza for the starving actors was another stroke of genius. There is no doubt that Ellen’s gig as host will go down among the best Academy Award shows. It was fun to watch. Her special brand of humor was what made it so much fun.

Later that night, Kevin Spacey appeared on Jimmy Kimmel and they attempted to match Ellen’s selfie, but it didn’t quite get the numbers Ellen did. During that show Spacey admitted he would like to host the Academy Awards. I sincerely hope he gets that job one of these days. He is wonderful and it would be a pleasure to see how he handles the show. Okay, so I do have to admit I have a soft spot in my heart for Kevin Spacey. Especially after he held my hand during an entire interview one time.

Growing up I remember Johnny Carson’s hosting gigs. I never thought anyone could top him. He had a great sense of humor and wonderful one-liners as well as memorable facial expressions. Yes, Johnny Carson was one of the best hosts.

Billy Crystal also stays in my memory. I still think about the comedy skit he did in which he was in a movie theater and set up a big video camera to record the screen. This was in the beginning of portable video recorders and cell phones that had cameras and before the movies ran there were announcements that no recording devices were allowed. His skit was hysterical.

So, who would you like to see host the Academy Awards? And what are your favorite memories from past shows? There are only 11 months left until the next one!

 

 

 

 

What a Job!

I admit, my job entails a lot of waiting, juggling, writing, researching, dealing with networks, studios, and publicists, and deadlines. However every once in awhile a little perk comes along that makes most of it worthwhile.

Last night – courtesy of Sony Pictures Home Entertainment and Carl Samrock PR – I attended a Blu-ray/DVD launch event for the fun film Austenland. If you haven’t seen it, you really should get the disc. It’s cute, funny, witty, and charming. You can read all about it in my review. But for now I want to make you all jealous - the launch event.

Entertainment Events are held in all kinds of places. I once went to a “princess party” at Paramount for one of their films. Hollywood events come in all shapes and sizes. The launch event for Austenland was held at a swanky Beverly Hills beauty salon. Yep, you read correctly. A Beverly Hills beauty salon. The Frederic Fekkai salon hosted this fun event, which, besides the usual hors d’oeuvres, included chocolates, chocolates, and more chocolates. Plus, specialty drinks and of course, champagne.

For the piece de resistance, I was treated to a manicure and my hair was styled by one of the salon’s amazing stylists. While the champagne flowed and the delicious munchies kept making their way around the salon, everyone was in great spirits. It was a fun evening, and, as I often say, “It’s a tough job but someone has to do it.”

Take some time to celebrate yourself, and definitely see Austenland.

 

Movie Love Songs

I just received the list of D23’s Love Songs. D23 is the Official Disney Fan Club. They are all things Disney. Any fan of Disney films, collectibles, trivia, etc, should definitely check into joining this club. If you are interested, check them out at D23.com.  But I digress.  Back to the list of love songs.

From D23, they suggest:

  1. ·      For the forbidden love: “So Close” (Enchanted)
  2. ·      For those afraid to make the first move: “Kiss the Girl” (The Little Mermaid)
  3. ·      For the budding romance: “I See the Light” (Tangled)
  4. ·      For a love that’s out of this world: “Supernova Girl” (Zenon: Girl of the 21st Century)
  5. ·      For the hopeful maidens: “Some Day My Prince Will Come” (Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs)
  6. ·      For the best friends: “If I Didn’t Have You” (Monsters, Inc.)
  7. ·      For those who love themselves: “This is Me” (Camp Rock)
  8. ·      For those who love their crazy families: “Nobody Else But You” (A Goofy Movie)
  9. ·      For a lasting love: “You’ll Be in My Heart” (Tarzan)
  10. ·      For those who don’t want to admit their hearts’ desires: “I Won’t Say (I’m in Love)” (Hercules)

While those aren’t the traditional songs for Valentine’s Day, I have added some non-Disney songs:

  • “True Love” (High Society)
  • ”Be Careful, It’s My Heart” (Holiday Inn)
  • “How Deep is Your Love” (Saturday Night Fever)
  • “When You Say Nothing At All” (Notting Hill)
  • “As Time Goes By” (Casablanca)
  • “Crazy For You” (Vision Quest)

Wow, I could go on and on. There are so many great love songs that have come out of movies. Even Ishtar (yes) had a funny but loveable song – “I’m Leaving Some Love in My Will”.

So, what can you add to this list? What are your favorite love songs from movies? Valentine’s Day always brings out either the romantic or the Scrooge in us, but music can express our feelings sometimes better than we can ourselves. I know mixed tapes – or mixed CDs – are corny and outdated. But even in this age of mp3s, you can still create a song list for someone, or even yourself. What songs would you put together this year?

 

Disney Royalty

Snow White (1937) was the Disney Studio’s first animated feature film. Besides ushering in a new legacy for film, the character of Snow White started what is perhaps the most cherished franchise in movie history – that of the Disney Princesses.

Before we get further into the realm of the Princesses, it must be said that Disney has immersed its films in royalty, through the years. Bambi (1942) was the Prince of the Forest. Simba (1994) was a Prince who became King, although he did connect with Nala who then became Royal. And come to think of it, Bambi did have a wife later on named Faline. So, when you think about it, Princesses are at the heart of Disney Royalty, if you don’t consider The Sword in the Stone and a few others.

Let’s go back to the beginning. Snow White was a princess who is rescued by a Prince. She is technically a “double princess.” Next came Cinderella (1950) who married a Prince. Then came Aurora, aka Sleeping Beauty, a young Princess who is also rescued by a Prince. Those Princes were sure busy kissing Princesses. Aurora is also a double princess, if you will. Snow White, Cinderella, and Aurora are the original classic Disney Princesses.

Then in 1989 Ariel swam into our hearts. She was born into royalty then marries a Prince. Double Princessdom is becoming a thing for Disney. But this time he doesn’t rescue her. In fact, she rescues him, changing the dynamic of what a Disney Princess has been up until now. Ariel is the first modern princess. She can stand on her own two feet, or fins, whichever she happens to have at the time.

1991 brought us Belle, an intelligent young woman who falls in love with a Beast who just happens to be, yes, a Prince. Belle doesn’t rely on the Beast, but he learns to rely on her.

Aladdin filled the screens in 1992. Jasmine was the daughter of the Sultan who falls in love with a common man but is finally allowed to marry him. So, for Disney purposes, the Sultan is considered a King making Jasmine a Princess.

The Lion King ultimately brought us Nala, and Bambi gave us Faline, but let’s just keep this about the human Princesses.

In 1995 Pocahontas, the daughter of an Indian Chief in The New World, joined the ranks of Disney Princess, followed by Mulan in 1998. Hold on. Mulan? Technically to be Royal you have to be either born into royalty or marry into it. Mulan wasn’t born into a royal family nor did she marry a Prince. So, how does she join the Disney Royal roster? To many Disney scholars that is a conundrum. If she is indeed to be considered royal, then she is the first Asian Disney Princess.

Next, 2002 brought Lilo into the fold. Lilo? More on this later!! Keep reading.

In 2009 The Princess and the Frog made a Princess out of commoner Tiana who married a Prince. Tiana became the first Black Disney Princess.

Disney Studios is on a roll now. They are churning out Disney Princess films to meet the high demand of the worldwide audiences. And the products line of the company isn’t doing badly either.

A year after Tiana, audiences were introduced to Rapunzel, the princess who was princess-napped but ultimately made her way back to the castle. She is a strong-willed young woman with guts.

Talking about guts, next we have Merida. In 2012 Princess Merida showed audiences how really tough but also kind a Princess can be. She wasn’t about to take any guff from anyone. 2012 also gave us Sofia, a young girl whose mother marries the King, making Sofia a little Princess. Sofia is the first made-for-TV Disney Princess.

With the 2013 film Frozen, Anna became the newest addition to the Disney Princess roster. Her sister Elsa was a Disney Princess for the first part of the film before becoming a full-fledged Queen. Anna doesn’t need a Prince to kiss her or rescue her. She’s continuing the new tradition of Disney Princesses who are not mousey (no disrespect intended to the Disney Studio) or helpless. The new Disney Princesses are tough, strong, able, and still very lovable.

Now, let’s go back to Mulan and Lilo. Technically Mulan is not a Princess however the powers that be have decided to include her in the princess roster. But what about Lilo? The other day a friend told me she thought Lilo was a Hawaiian Princess. I informed her that she isn’t, however, drumroll please, I do have a story in which Lilo’s roots trace back to royalty. Before you get any ideas, this story is registered so don’t think you can steal my brilliant idea.

I gave a treatment (movie term for basic outline with story summary and description) to a friend of mine, Chris Sanders, who happens to be the guy who had the original idea for Lilo and went on to write the movie. Lilo deserves to be a Disney Princess. Chris gave me his stamp of approval, but was really not optimistic that Disney would entertain any ideas about the story, although he did think it is a good one. Disney guards their Princesses carefully, but when you think that Mulan isn’t really a Princess, then it makes sense to follow a backstory to elevate Lilo into the realm of Princesshood, or Princessdom. Disney can get in touch with me if this idea interests them, and it should!

Okay, so there you have it - the basic roster of Disney Princesses. The films: Snow White, Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, Pocahontas, Mulan (?), Lilo and Stitch (hopefully), The Princess and the Frog, Brave, and Frozen. These films have entertained, delighted, inspired, and become part of our lives. But the clever folks at Disney didn’t stop there, adding books, CDs, clothing, toys, makeup, and whatever other wonderful merchandising items they can create. The public devours anything related to Disney Princesses, and now, with the new outlook on life of the young women we favorably refer to as Disney Princesses, a new generation of movie-goers has some great female role models who can stand up for themselves, all the while keeping their senses of humor, their sweetness, and their lovability.

Disney has a gold mine with their beloved Princesses. To celebrate Merida joining the ranks, they held a lavish coronation ceremony at Walt Disney World. The Disney Princesses are fun, individual, and fans to both young and old.

One day, during the holiday season, I happened to wander into a Disney store. I went back two days later and all of the Disney Princess dolls were gone. They completely sold out. I have to admit, I was one of the purchasers. Let’s face it. Disney has a film franchise and marketing bonanza, and rightly so. There would only be one thing I would add. You guessed it. Lilo. Come on, Disney. Call me. Let’s talk.

 

Perks of the Job

Yes, I get to see movies before they come out. Yes, I get DVDs delivered to me before they come out. But did you know I can also see an entire TV series before it airs? That is sometimes the case, and recently I viewed season 4 of Downton Abbey and season 3 of Episodes. It’s a tough job, but someone has to do it!

You must keep in mind that the seasons of these shows are comparatively short. There are only nine episodes in the season of Episodes. And each episode is about 30 minutes. But that only makes watching them in one – or two – sittings that much easier, and definitely more enjoyable for me.

I did the same with Downton Abbey. I viewed the season in two days. I love doing this because I get the entire storyline at once and don’t have to wait a week to continue on and see what is going to happen next. This way I am able to fully write a preview for my readers, although it is often difficult because I really don’t like giving anything away, aka spoiler alerts. That’s the hard part about writing a preview of a series before viewers even get to see the first episode. I have so much I want to write about, but I keep it sketchy so I don’t reveal too much and ruin the fun for my readers. It’s a fine line, and I do know other journalists who will always give spoiler alerts, but I rarely do. I want to whet the appetite of my readers but not give away anything that would ruin their viewing pleasure. 

I could have easily written that #*XX!!* was going to die in Downton Abbey and that ^^#*@ was going to get fired in Episodes, but I didn’t. I didn’t want to reveal too much. So, how do we do it? Write just enough to make the story interesting but not too much to give away any secrets? That is what separates a good writer from a spoiler! 

As I said, it’s a tough job, but someone has to do it. I’m grateful it’s me!

 

 

Stage v Screen

Recently a new production of The Sound of Music aired on national television. I have heard comments about it ranging from high praise to disdain. The name Maria Von Trapp for many people will always be associated with Julie Andrews, who artfully portrayed the woman in the 1965 musical.

I remember going to the theater many, many, many times to watch that movie when it was first released. As a matter of fact, the last time they were taking a poll in the lobby as we entered to find out how many times people were coming to see the film. It was an amazing movie and a memorable viewing experience.

I have seen the stage production of The Sound of Music too. While comparisons will always arise between the stage and screen versions, I enjoyed watching the play unfold on the stage. There’s something about going to the theater to see a live performance.

While I do like Carrie Underwood who played Maria Von Trapp in the NBC production last week, I just couldn’t get into that show. It was flat, in my opinion. The acting, the singing, and the staging were all good, but it just didn’t translate to the screen and I found myself flipping it on and off, and finally off.

There have been TV movie remakes of many great musical films - South Pacific and Gypsy come to mind. It never fails, even if the new television production is wonderful there are always comparisons between the TV and the feature film versions.

This new incarnation probably engaged Underwood’s fans, which is fine. But again, to me there is something different about seeing a version of a hit movie on a live stage rather than on the small screen – even if it is a big flat-screen!

I didn't completely dislike the new version. I just didn't, or couldn't embrace it. Audra MacDonald is always phenomenal in whatever she undertakes, and the rest of the cast turned in fine performances. I just couldn't wrap myself around the production. It would have been more enjoyable for me to see this on the stage rather than on TV.

 

 

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