Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Kim and The Pope. Oh, Lord!

First of all, every time I see "KY clerk Kim Davis," it takes me a second to remember that KY stands for Kentucky -- and that she's not selling a lubricant.  Kim Davis is currently famous as the Kentucky clerk who broke the law and did not do her job when she refused to grant marriage licenses to same-sex couples.
She refused to follow orders from the Supreme Court based on her personal religious views in the public workplace.
In regards to her image, it didn't help matters any that Fashion Police could've arrested her for impersonating Kathy Bates in Stephen King's Misery.

This week came the jaw-dropping news that she had secret meeting with the pope in Washington, DC during his recent trip to America.

Here's something I noticed.  Paula Faris of ABC was the first TV reporter to score an exclusive interview with Kim Davis.  It aired on ABC's World News Tonight and repeated on Good Morning America.                                                                                                                                              
Then, Good Morning America had an exclusive interview with Davis in which she revealed that she had a secret meeting with Pope Francis when he was in the U.S. last week.  Davis' current husband accompanied her on the trip.  He's the one in the overalls.
I wondered why the Holy Father needed to meet with her and why he didn't meet with her in public so that the press could see.  Did the pope posse feel that being seen with her in public would disrupt the good vibes of his U.S. visit during the visit?  Heck, Pope Francis was onstage in Philadelphia with Mark Wahlberg -- "Dirk Diggler" from Boogie Nights, a movie that I still feel should've had Happy Meal action figures as a marketing tie-in during its theatrical release.

Also, who got Kim Davis and her husband from Kentucky to Washington, DC for that quick, clandestine meeting?  Did they get a great last-minute deal on Delta and book themselves?  Or did someone or some company take care of their travel arrangements?  And why did we get news of the Kim Davis meeting with the Holy Father after The Pope left America and had returned to Vatican City?  We didn't know about it when he addressed the U.N., when he visited Harlem or when he took to the stage in Philadelphia to enjoy some family entertainment.  I'd have loved to meet Pope Francis.  I was baptized a Roman Catholic soon after my birth.  I've not read or heard that Kim Davis is Catholic.  But, somehow, she got to the pope.  Reportedly in private.  In Washington, DC.

Did Pope Francis know about the Kim Davis controversy before he flew here to America?  Was it a big news story in Italy like it was here in the U.S.?  How much was he told about her and who told it to him before he and she met?  And how did ABC News land two exclusive interviews with the conservative Christian Davis?

A member of the controversial Duck Dynasty family of cable reality show fame was a contestant on ABC's Dancing With The Stars.  The head of the Duck Dynasty family made some loathsome anti-gay remarks that made national press, such as Huffington Post.  He got suspended from his hit A&E cable TV series.  A&E is owned by ABC/Disney.  The Duck Dynasty DWTS contestant briefly addressed that controversy before her fox trot.

Joel Osteen is a highly popular TV pastor, very telegenic, who's been a frequent guest on Good Morning America.  His show airs weekends on the ABC Family channel.  I've never heard the friendly Pastor Osteen make an anti-gay remark.  But, like Kim Davis and the Duck Dynasty daddy, he doesn't agree with same-sex marriage.  He believes in Christian compassion for gay people but he keeps pretty mum on the Supreme Court ruling.

So, with all that ABC thread, do you think Kim Davis has been asked to consider a fashion makeover and a twirl on Dancing With The Stars a year from now?  Keep in mind these are just my observations as an average TV viewer.  I am not a journalist.  But I do wonder if a journalist has noticed the same things.  Kentucky clerk Kim Davis on Dancing With The Stars doing a tango to "Jesus Is Just Alright" by The Doobie Brothers.  Think about it.




Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Watch For SPOTLIGHT

I'll not be surprised if SPOTLIGHT gets an Oscar nomination for Best Picture.  This is one engrossing journalism drama based on a true story.  Michael Keaton stars.  I've been a Michael Keaton since his movie comedy and short-lived TV sitcom days back in the 1980s.  He was the main reason why I saw Birdman.  In that movie, he was a former movie star who hit a career lull in middle age.  He turns to the Broadway stage to reinvent himself.  In that regard, Birdman was just like the classic Vincente Minnelli musical comedy, 1953's The Band Wagon starring Fred Astaire.  The big difference is that, in the wonderful Minnelli musical, the whole company of the show starts off with production that is in shambles.  By the end, they'd all come together as a unit to turn into a hit and sing "That's Entertainment."  In Birdman, the fellow cast members are in an individual orbit and never come together as a unit we come to love.  But Keaton's character in the drama is successful at reinventing himself.  In Spotlight, his character heads a group of workers who do come together, who do work hard as a unit, and they're all on the same page.
If you couldn't quite connect to the surreality of Birdman, I believe you'll like this straight-forward film a whole lot more with its fine Keaton performance.  Michael Keaton's performance in Spotlight could get him some Golden Globe or Oscar nomination consideration.  Rachel McAdams is an actress I've liked but I always felt she was used mainly as "the babe," if you know what I mean.  She was in Mean Girls, Wedding Crashers, The Family Stone and Woody Allen's Midnight in Paris.  She was a total treat in 2007's Married Life, a movie that tanked at the box office but didn't deserve to.
More about that later.  I've never seen Rachel McAdams better than she is as the tireless, determined newspaper reporter for The Boston Globe in Spotlight.  You feel that this woman had definitely worn down some shoe heels and acquired a few blisters doing footwork to meet people, ask questions, get answers, endure rude behavior and otherwise investigate a story.  She's so alive and focused in this unglamorous role.
In Boston, a very Catholic city, this small group of print reporters is assigned to investigate a story.  What seemed like a minor assignment from the new boss builds into a David versus Goliath case.  The Goliath is the Catholic Archdiocese.  The Boston Globe broke the local story of sex abuse scandals, molestations of young males committed by priests, that were covered up by the Catholic Church.  It grew into a much bigger story.  A national one.  The title refers to the Boston newspaper's investigative unit.
Spotlight does not open until early November, so I'll save a total review for that time.  But, should you be offered a chance to attend a preview of this movie, definitely go.  I think you'll really dig it.  The excellent cast includes Mark Ruffalo, Liev Schreiber, Billy Crudup and Stanley Tucci. Keaton plays the head of the investigative news team.
If you liked Alan J. Pakula's 1976 film, All the President's Men, put Spotlight in the same category.  It's a great reminder of what journalists did before social media and 24-hour cable news channels changed journalism after the attacks of September 11th.  These reporters do extensive footwork, drive used cars, spend hours in libraries, talk to people in person, go through files and files of information and put in long hours at work.  Much of it is tedious work.   They couldn't Tweet and reTweet.  They had to go beyond Google and Wikipedia for information.  And you can tell that they did it for the passion and love they had for the profession.  These weren't folks making star salaries.  They were working class professionals with families and attachments to the Catholic Church.

The story of this news team in Spotlight also becomes one of redemption.  I'll save that for when the movie opens.  Spotlight was written and directed by Tom McCarthy.  He gave three other fine films -- The Station Agent starring Peter Dinklage, The Visitor which earned Richard Jenkins a well-deserved Oscar nomination for Best Actor, and the high school wrestling drama, Win Win starring Paul Giamatti and Amy Ryan.

To see an earlier Rachel McAdams performance that I found most entertaining, rent 2007's Married Life.  A true gentleman, middle-aged and married, has fallen in love with a younger woman.  He can't bear the thought of breaking his wife's heart by asking for a divorce, so he plans to kill her.  He believes that would be more genteel.  Married Life is so...so French.  You'll be surprised at how stylish, bright and witty this movie is.  Set in the 1940s, it stars Pierce Brosnan, Patricia Clarkson and Chris Cooper.  Rachel McAdams plays Kay, the younger woman. The movie runs only about 90 minutes and -- as usual -- Patricia Clarkson is fabulous.  Here's a trailer.

Thanks for reading my blog post.



Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Emmy Winner Viola Davis

That victory was so significant.  Viola Davis is the first black woman to win the Emmy Award for Best  Lead Actress in a Drama Series.  The first.  And Emmys have been around since 1949.  For performers of color who've had to scuffle because the playing field of opportunity has not been a level one, it was a victory for us all.  Brava, Viola!
I've written previously that Viola Davis has already made Hollywood history.  She and Oscar winner Whoopi Goldberg are the only two black women who have more than one Oscar nomination to their credits.  That's not a statement on talent.  It's a statement on Hollywood's lack of opportunities for black actresses even after some of those actresses have gotten Oscar nominations or won the award.  Whoopi was a Best Actress nominee for The Color Purple.  She won Best Supporting Actress for Ghost.  I worked with Whoopi for two years.  We talked about that.  Her mailbox was not flooded with script offers after her first Oscar nomination.  With The Color Purple nomination to her credit, she could not get an audition for Ghost.  The producers refused to see her.  Whoopi told me that they saw several other actresses but would not see her. Patrick Swayze was the star of the project.  He told the producers to let Whoopi audition or else he'd pull out of the project.  She auditioned, she got the part, Ghost was a big box office hit, and she won an Oscar

Viola Davis was a Best Supporting Actress Oscar nominee for playing the conflicted mother of a Catholic school elementary student in Doubt.  She was a Best Actress nominee for playing a 1960s Southern maid in The Help.  Like Whoopi Goldberg and like three stars of TV's Empire -- Taraji P. Henson, Gabourey Sidibe and Oscar winner Jennifer Hudson -- Viola Davis turned to television because Hollywood had no good scripts for her.  She took a TV role not written specifically for a black woman.  The role was Annalise on ABC's HOW TO GET AWAY WITH MURDER.  Annalise is a brilliant professor of law.  She's also a married woman with a complicated, messy personal life that makes for juicy TV.  Annalise has a life that involves a murder.

How To Get Away With Murder became an instant hit series.  And then this happened on Sunday night, September 20th.  Listen to the acceptance speech.
Viola Davis thanked writer/producer/powerhouse Shonda Rhimes and producer Peter Nowalk for having the imagination to embrace diversity and consider her.  That embrace led to Emmy Awards history being made.
I worked with Whoopi Goldberg on a national weekday morning radio show.  I reviewed movies every Friday.  One movie I saw was the September 11th drama, World Trade Center, a 2006 film from Oliver Stone.  Nicolas Cage, Maggie Gyllenhaal and Mario Bello were the stars.  But there was an actress who had a bit part as a mother in a hospital whose brief performance went through me like sweet electricity.  She was, to me, the heart of that movie. Her performance was a statement on what we should all keep in mind about those we love. I stayed through the closing credits to see her name.  "Mother in Hospital" was played by...Viola Davis.  And then came Doubt followed by The Help on the big screen.

Not that it needs to me remade.  Who could top the original starring Bette Davis?  But...could you imagine a new All About Eve with Viola Davis as Broadway legend Margo Channing and Oscar winer Lupita Nyong'o as Eve Harrington?  And if Meryl Streep had not been available to do The Devil Wears Prada, Viola Davis would've been fabulous with a capital F as fear-inducing fashion magazine editor Miranda Priestly.

From Hattie McDaniel, Ethel Waters and Dorothy Dandridge to Ruby Dee, Cicely Tyson, Angela Bassett, Alfre Woodard, Diahann Carroll, Diana Ross, Mo'Nique, Best Actress Oscar winner Halle Berry and Viola's Best Supporting Oscar-winning co-star from The Help, Octavia Spencer and Lupita Nyong'o...those are some of the black actresses who received only one Oscar nomination in their film careers.  As I've also previously mentioned. the talented Jennifer Lawrence has 3 Oscar nominations, she's taken home one Oscar for Best Actress and she's only 25.  Lawrence has many opportunities.

I do believe that, in time, Broadway Tony winner and TV Emmy winner Viola Davis will make Hollywood history again as the first black woman to have three Oscar nominations to her credit.  A new season of How To Get Away With Murder starts Thursday night, Sept. 24th, on ABC.

Monday, September 14, 2015

Arnold To Host CELEBRITY APPRENTICE

I say this as an ordinary TV viewer:  "NBC loves the GOP!"  When news broke yesterday that Arnold Schwarzenegger will replace Donald Trump as host of NBC's CELEBRITY APPRENTICE, a few folks on Twitter felt it was an odd choice.  I think it's a booking that fits well with NBC's history.  What a successful immigrant he is!  Born in Austria, he was a competitive bodybuilder whose muscles and accent got attention.
He took his biceps and recognizable accent to the big screen and proved to have muscle at the box office as Conan the Barbarian...
...and as The Terminator in a money-making film franchise...
...and even as Kindergarten Cop, one of his switches from action movies to comedies.
Arnold became an international movie star.  Like something in a Hollywood screenplay, he married into a political dynasty.  When he said "I do" to NBC journalist Maria Shriver, he married into the Kennedy Clan, famous and famously wealthy Democrats.

NBC  used to have a beaming red GE sign atop 30 Rock.  In those days, there seemed to be a reverence in the  way the network's Today Show did segments on the late President Ronald Reagan.  Reagan was once a Hollywood movie actor who became the TV host of General Electric Theater in the 1950s before he turned to politics.

Arnold Schwarzenegger, like former actor Ronald Reagan, became the Republican Governor of California.
When there was speculation that Schwarzenegger would throw his hat into the political ring and run for that office, news outlets expected him to make the announcement in a press conference.  In fact, one was scheduled.  Then it was cancelled.  Some reporters thought that the actor had changed his mind about politics.  He hadn't.  He made the announcement.  Where?  On NBC's Tonight Show with Jay Leno.

Sarah Palin was a guest co-host on NBC's Today Show in 2012.  Chris Christie performed in a Saturday Night Live comedy sketch ("Weekend  Update") and he was really good.  So good, in fact, that if the Republic Gov. of New Jersey quit politics, I bet NBC would offer him some kind of on-camera gig.  Recently, Christie was a guest on NBC's Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon.  So was Donald Trump.  Remember when Trump kept demanding that President Obama show up his birth certificate and we claiming that Mr. President was not a real American?  I thought that disrespect would get him fired as host of Celebrity Apprentice.  But it didn't.  One more observation about Chris Christie -- if he wasn't in political office and if Arnold was unavailable, I bet NBC would've tapped Christie to host Celebrity Apprentice.  His SNL appearance was a good audition for that spot.

And don't forget those two members of the Bush Family.  Access Hollywood host Billy Bush has two relatives who were the top men in the Oval Office.  Billy was a morning rock radio DJ in Washington, DC.  He didn't have any journalism background, entertainment reporter credits or TV experience.  Nonetheless, he got hired by the local news bosses of WNBC and made his TV debut doing light local lifestyle pieces for WNBC morning news viewers.  Four months later, he's doing pieces for the network's Today Show.  A couple of months after that, he starts doing pieces on NBC's Access Hollywood.  He's now the host of that entertainment news show.  Jenna Bush Hager didn't have TV credentials or a journalism background either.  But that didn't keep her from being hired by NBC News.  She's now a member of the Today Show on-camera team.  Jenna and Billy had the right stuff for NBC.

That's why the Schwarzenegger hiring is not strange to me.  That's my observation as an ordinary viewer who has watched NBC for a long, long time and noticed those things.  We may not have seen it coming, but he's the kind of talent the network would dig.  Will he say to good apprentices "You'll be back" and will he say to the bad ones "You're...terminated"?  We'll have to watch and see.

Actor Elliott Gould hit a homer as one of the several actors who played private eye Philip Marlowe onscreen.  He played Marlowe in the Southern California of the 1970s, the California with Ronald Reagan as the state's governor.  There's talk about Gov. Reagan in Robert Altman's 1973 mystery, The Long Goodbye.  In one scene with mention of Gov. Reagan, who could've known at the time that one of the extras would be a major movie star in the 1980s and was himself the future governor of California?  Take a look.
The hiring of Arnold Schwarzenegger to be the new host of Celebrity Apprentice makes perfect sense for NBC.  Personally, I hoped the network would replace Donald Trump with a Mexican...like comedian George Lopez.  But that's just me.

Friday, September 11, 2015

PUBLIC MORALS on TNT

"You don't think that your becoming a cop has anything to do with the fact that your father was a gangster?"  Edward Burns is the show's creator and lead actor. He's also the writer and director of the freshman episodes I saw.  Overall, he did a pretty good job.  I love a good cop show.  I used to work my nighttime schedules out so that I could be home to see Hill Street Blues and NYPD Blue when they were on the air.  I was really interested in PUBLIC MORALS, a cop show set in the New York City of the 1960s.
The show has a very stylized look, like Mad Men did.  The plainclothes cops in Public Morals deal with prostitution and gambling.                                                                                                                

In the premiere episode, Irish Catholic cop Terry Muldoon (Edward Burns) and Charlie Bullman (the always dependable Michael Rapaport) are busting a lovely blonde who's been turning tricks in her apartment.  She can't afford New York on her regular salary.
We also get a peek at the public morals of the cops.  There's a line between morality and criminality as thin as a razor's edge in this series.  Muldoon pockets $200 from the wallet of the nervous family man john who has been seeing the part-time hooker.  That's light compared to the opening scene in the premiere episode.  There's a lot of walking into dive bars packed with tough guys while soundtrack background music plays in Public Morals.  In the first episode, a young cop walks into a dive bar and squares off with his father.  They proceed to beat the crap out of each other.  The son is punching his father because his father hit the mother.  There's obviously no love with father and son.  Here's a trailer for Public Morals.
The show hasn't found its real voice yet but it's interesting to watch.  There's a nice tone to it.  Dialogue is delivered at a steady, brisk pace -- not quite as fast as in the classic film comedy His Girl Friday (which is mentioned on one episode) but rarely do we get long, meaningful pauses like in daytime dramas.  The camerawork is fluid.  You can feel the Martin Scorcese influences in Burns' direction.  But there are times when a character or a patch of dialogue seems more like the 1990s than the 1960s.  And a few characters can come off a bit one-dimensional.  There are recognizable types.  There's the bad boy cop who digs hookers, there's the boyish-looking clean cut rookie no one likes, there's the drill sergeant-tempered Italian cop and the hip black cop (sharply played by Ruben Santiago-Hudson).  Then we have the Irish mob guys.  There are rivalries in a family. Muldoon and his family live in an apartment in the Hell's Kitchen section of New York.  It's described as crime-ridden and a place where you can't get a good meal.  Today, it has a sizable gay community and some fabulous restaurants.                                                                        

I hope it goes more into the psyche of Muldoon like NYPD got into the psyche of Andy Sipowicz (played by Dennis Franz).  We saw Sipowicz evolve into a fuller, happier person.  He went from alcoholic who'd made racist comments to a devoted father who embraced diversity.  On The Sopranos, it was fascinating to see a mob boss in therapy.  In Public Morals, we get the Irish mob who wants to own the West Side.  A heavyweight character got whacked in the first episode and, in the fourth episode that airs Sept. 15th, his best friend wants revenge.  A hooker who saw the murder must be found.  I felt like I'd seen that storyline already. This is why I think more nuance and complexities could pepper future scripts.  Also, Public Morals takes itself a tad too seriously.

The cast is fine.  Edward Burns looks great and has created a solid character for himself in the action-packes series.  He hit big in the indie film he wrote and directed, 1995's The Brothers McMullen.  He was good in Steven Spielberg's WW2 drama, Saving Private Ryan (1998).  But movies really didn't utilize his talents.  Hell, back in the days of Hollywood studios, he'd have been in private eye dramas, film noir and wartime love stories with his handsome looks and husky voice.  I hope this TNT series makes Hollywood get a clue.  Michael Rapaport hits the right note.  Fashion-wise, he's taken a tip from Gene Hackman in The French Connection.


Brian Dennehy has a really juicy role as an Irish patriarch.  Timothy Hutton, who won a Best Supporting Actor Oscar for his role as the grief-stricken high schooler in 1980's Ordinary People, plays the physically abusive father.  The women in the episodes fell into three categories: Wives, girlfriends and hookers.  There was one nun.  The women's roles need to be developed.  However, Elizabeth Masucci is excellent as Muldoon's wife.

If I had to give Public Morals a grade, I'd give it a B.  Steven Spielberg is executive producer.


Thursday, September 10, 2015

Be Like Irving Berlin

HOLIDAY INN and show biz legend Irving Berlin.  I'll use them to make a point about this whole Kentucky clerk Kim Davis situation.  Berlin wrote many of the longtime standards in our American Songbook of popular music.  He was a Russian-born Jew who came to America and wrote great songs for Broadway and Hollywood musicals.  He lived to be 101.  I'm sure you're already familiar with his high place in America's Broadway and Hollywood music history.  I pray this doesn't make me sound unpatriotic.  When I was in Catholic grade school, Sister Mary Magdalena taught us youngsters a song to sing for a special afternoon assembly.  The tune was "God Bless America," one of the many songs by Irving Berlin.  That song stirred me more than the national anthem did.  And it was in my vocal range.  It was written by a man who wasn't born here.  He was born overseas.  He became an American.  "God Bless America" was sung in the wake of the September 11th attacks in 2001.  Our wounded spirits needed his song.
When movies learned to talk, audiences heard an Irving Berlin song.  Al Jolson sang "Blue Skies" in 1927's The Jazz Singer, the film that ushered in the sound era.

Berlin wrote songs that became signature tunes for Ethel Merman -- such as "There's No Business Like Show Business" in the Broadway hit Annie Get Your Gun.                                                                      

He wrote all the songs in an original 1935 Hollywood musical comedy called Top Hat starring Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers.  The title tune became Fred Astaire's theme song.  He wrote their songs for Follow the Fleet and Carefree.


He wrote all the songs performed by Fred Astaire and Judy Garland in 1948's Easter Parade.

Paramount Pictures was filming a new movie called HOLIDAY INN.  Like Easter Parade, Alexander's Ragtime Band, Blue Skies and 1954's There's No Business Like Show Business, this was a Hollywood musical with new and some old songs by Irving Berlin.  Holiday Inn starred Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire.  For Crosby, Irving Berlin wrote a new song called "White Christmas."
Apparently, he never said to Paramount executives "Hey, guys.  I'm a Russian Jew.  My religious beliefs don't include Christmas.  I can't write a Christmas song for Crosby."  He wrote it because....that was his job for the film.  For doing his job, he won the Oscar for Best Song of 1942.  Bing Crosby had a huge hit record with "White Christmas."  He sang the song again in 1946's Blue Skies and the 1954 musical White Christmas co-starring Rosemary Clooney, Danny Kaye and Vera-Ellen.

Irving Berlin did his job -- and we were all culturally the better for it.

Consider our United States Postal Service.  Think of all the Jewish letter carriers who did their job and put Christmas cards and catalogues in your mailbox during the holiday season.

As for Kim Davis, she did not have to go to such law-breaking extremes to show her religious opposition to gay rights, marriage equality and this year's Supreme Court ruling.

You can just tell from her hair, make-up and wardrobe that she she doesn't have any gay male friends in her life.

As Irving Berlin wrote and sang, "God Bless America."







Tuesday, September 8, 2015

On COOLEY HIGH

I reviewed COOLEY HIGH in my college newspaper when the movie was new.  I enjoyed it then.  I feel it's even more significant now.  A few reviewers called this 1975 release about high school kids in 1964 "the black American Graffiti."  That was meant as a compliment.  American Graffiti got George Lucas Oscar nominations for Best Director and Best Original Screenplay.  Lucas' tale about Caucasian high schoolers coming of age in California in 1962 was also a big box office hit and a nominee for Best Picture of 1973.  Cooley High is now available on Blu-ray thanks to OliveFilms.com.
Directed by Michael Schultz with a screenplay by Eric Monte (creator of the Good Times TV sitcom), we follow high school students and friends on the near North Side of Chicago.  The cast includes Glynn Turman, Lawrence Hilton-Jacobs and Saturday Night Live member Garrett Morris as one of the school teachers.
Lawrence Hilton-Jacobs, wearing a cap and seated up top, was known to millions as a high schooler on the hit ABC TV sitcom Welcome Back, Kotter.  Glynn Turman was also on a sitcom.  He was in the cast of the NBC sitcom A Different World.  He's done extensive TV acting appearances and he's also familiar as a mayor on HBO's The Wire.  By the way, Turman was the first (and probably only) black actor to be in a film written and directed by acclaimed Ingmar Bergman.  Turman played Monroe in Bergman's 1977 production, The Serpent's Egg starring Liv Ullman.
By the way, Glynn Turman was the first (and probably only) black actor to be in a film written and directed by the renowned Ingmar Bergman.  Turman played Monroe in Bergman's 1977 drama, The Serpent's Egg, starring Liv Ullman.  Not a bad credit to add to his resumé after playing Leroy "Preach" Jackson in Cooley High.
In the September 2 edition of The New York Times this week, J. Hoberman wrote about this 1975 comedy/drama in an article entitled "Seventeen and Cooley High:  No Easy A's, but Powerful Lessons."  Cooley High director Michael Schultz went on to become one of the busiest directors of episodic television.  A native of Milwaukee, Wisconsin (where I attended college), he directed Eric Monte's semi-autobiographical Cooley High script and then, for a while, made Hollywood history as the African-American director who'd been given the biggest budget ever to call the shots on a a major Hollywood studio release.  1978's Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band was chock full of Beatles tunes and the Bee Gees but it was, unfortunately, a huge flop.  However, Schultz directed the only big screen musical finale that puts Carol Channing, Tina Turner and Chita Rivera next to each other.
There was a time -- long, long ago -- when Denzel Washington made comedies.  One of those comedies is 1981's Carbon Copy.  In it, George Segal (now seen as the grandfather on the ABC sitcom, The Goldbergs) plays a white executive who discovers that he has a black son.  The son is eager to be adopted into dad's predominantly white life and community.

Michael Schultz directed that one too.  And let's not forget to thank Mr. Schultz for giving us...Car Wash.  And didn't we all disco dance to the title tune back in 1976?

And didn't we all just love the inimitable Antonio Fargas as the ever-so-real Lindy?

About Cooley High, J. Hoberman wrote this in The New York Times:  "Mr. Schultz's movie is set just before the movement for racial equality turned north (and increasingly violent)."  Schultz's high school movie, to repeat, was set in 1964.  Let's jump ahead to another director who became extremely popular and beloved for directing movies about high schoolers in the Chicago area -- the late and beloved John Hughes.

I admit that I was entertained by his movies when they came out -- movies such as Sixteen Candles (1984), The Breakfast Club (1985) and Ferris Bueller's Day Off (1986).  These were movies made years after the movement for racial equality that Hoberman mentioned in his newspaper article.  They were modern-day movies set in Chicago -- Chicago during the Oprah years when she was a new local morning show host soon to become the national queen of daytime TV with her syndicated talk show and studio audience in Chicago.  The John Hughes teen comedies were amusing but, as a person who spent a lot of great time in the Windy City, I always felt like shouting at the screen, "Hey, John Hughes!  Ya know there are black kids in Chicago high schools!  And black actors who could play parts as students and teachers!"
The 1980s racial diversity that you saw in the average Oprah weekday studio audience was rarely, if ever, reflected in a John Hughes teen feature.  When his popular movies starring Molly Ringwald were new, I was new in New York City and working as an entertainment reporter.  I interviewed Ringwald and other young cast members of Hughes films.  I watched the movies with a reviewer's eye -- and a more critical one than I had when I reviewed for The Marquette Tribune in Milwaukee when Cooley High was released.

The only ethnic young actor I can recall in a John Hughes teen comedy was Gedde Watanabe in Sixteen Candles as "Long Duk Dong."
I love the actor but that Chinese menu item/male sex organ name of his (screenplay by John Hughes) was on the lame side.  He had dialogue that reminded me of stereotyped Asians in 1930s Hollywood movies.  Gedde deserved better.

Cooley High is a worth a look.  It's very entertaining.  And it was great to see African-American high school students in 1960s Chicago.  Because, in the John Hughes Chicago of the 1980s, there was no such thing as African-American high school students to pal around with Molly Ringwald or Matthew Broderick.

GMA Avoids the Gay

Friday, November 17th.  As usual, I was watching the network morning shows.  I wanted to catch the last half-hour of GOOD MORNING AMERICA be...