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Allen Adams

Allen Adams

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We’ve been doing this Celebrity Slam thing for a long time now – well over a decade – and while we’d never claim to be experts, it’s safe to say that we’ve learned a few things about how it all works in the celebrity sphere. There are a lot of nuances, a lot of dos and don’ts as far as how one should behave in order to avoid landing in doomed situations. We could offer up a lot of tips, but this week’s item gives us the opportunity to share one of the biggest.

Do NOT, under ANY CIRCUMSTANCES, take a swing at Taylor Swift.

Leaving aside the fact that she will almost certainly eventually write a song about you that is both damning of your character and catchy as hell, thus ensuring that the shade cast your way will be part of the pop cultural landscape for the foreseeable future … she will not be shy about calling you out in the moment. And when that callout happens, well – the Swifties will come.

This week, Netflix f---ed around and they are now finding out.

Tuesday, 02 March 2021 10:42

Weird National Briefs (03/03/2021)

Smooth operator

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — The Medical Board of California said it would investigate a plastic surgeon who appeared in a videoconference for his traffic violation trial while operating.

The Sacramento Bee reports Dr. Scott Green appeared Thursday for his Sacramento Superior Court trial, held virtually because of the coronavirus pandemic, from an operating room. He was dressed in surgical scrubs with a patient undergoing the procedure just out of view; the beeps of medical machinery can be heard in the background.

“Hello, Mr. Green? Hi. Are you available for trial?” asked a courtroom clerk as an officer summoned to appear in trial raised her eyebrows. “It kind of looks like you’re in an operating room right now?”

“I am, sir,” Green replied. “Yes, I’m in an operating room right now. Yes, I’m available for trial. Go right ahead.”

The clerk reminded Green the proceedings were being livestreamed because traffic trials are required by law to be open to the public, and Green said he understood. He appeared to continue working with his head down while waiting for Court Commissioner Gary Link to enter the chamber.

When Link appeared and saw the doctor on the screen, the judge hesitated to proceed with the trial out of concern for the welfare of the patient.

“I have another surgeon right here who’s doing the surgery with me, so I can stand here and allow them to do the surgery also,” Green said.

The judge said he didn’t think it was appropriate to conduct trial under the circumstances. He told Green he’d rather set a new date for trial “when you’re not actively involved or participating and attending to the needs of a patient.”

Green apologized.

“Sometimes, surgery doesn’t always go as,” he said before the judge interrupted him.

“It happens. We want to keep people healthy, we want to keep them alive. That’s important,” Link said.

The board said it would look into the incident, saying it “expects physicians to follow the standard of care when treating their patients.”

TME – Could be worse – at least he wasn’t present in court and performing surgery remotely.

There are a lot of ways in which movies can surprise us. Sometimes it is subtle – a film is funnier or more dramatic than we expected. Sometimes, it’s a little more overt – a stunt cast cameo or a third act twist. But the vast majority of these surprises involve what a movie is.

But what about when the surprise springs from what a movie isn’t?

That’s what I got when I finally, after spending a full year hearing about its excellence from various trusted sources since its debut at Sundance in January of 2020, got to watch “Minari,” the brilliant film written and directed by Lee Isaac Cheung. Now, these sources who sung the film’s praises steered clear of spoilers – what I heard was that it was great, not why it was great.

We all have our biases, conscious and otherwise. And when I heard that “Minari” centered around a Korean family moving to Arkansas in the 1980s, I made some assumptions about what the film would be about, assumptions that involved othering born of the racist attitudes of that place and time.

Instead, what I got was a moving family drama, a film that explored the complexities that come with being bound by blood and how cultural expectations can challenge the choices people make. It is a film about love and obligation, of the responsibilities and burdens we bear toward those who matter most to us. It is about differences, yes, but also acceptance, all in service of trying to do right by the ones who mean the most to us.

What does it mean to take on the role of an icon?

It’s one of the fundamental challenges of a biopic – how to invoke the spirit and sensibility of a famous figure in a manner that avoids caricature. The best of these performances aren’t impressions or impersonations, but rather honest appraisals of the person being portrayed, built on actual character rather than a few plucked characteristics.

It’s worth noting that sometimes in biopics, the skill and subtlety of the central performance far outshines the rest of the film. The movie becomes less about the story and more about the person to whom the story is happening. That doesn’t mean the film is bad, necessarily – just that it doesn’t fully live up to the actor at its core.

Such is the case with “The United States vs. Billie Holiday,” directed by Lee Daniels from a screenplay adapted by Suzan-Lori Parks from part of Johann Hari’s 2015 book “Chasing the Scream: The First and Last Days of the War on Drugs.” It’s a film with issues – tonal inconsistency, uneven direction, a somewhat meandering narrative and odd aesthetic choices.

And yet, many of the film’s sins are forgiven due to the sheer incandescence of Andra Day’s performance as the titular Billie Holiday. Even during stretches when the movie isn’t entirely working, Day NEVER stops working. She is absolutely magnetic onscreen, thrilling to watch. And when she starts to sing? Forget about it. Day papers over a lot of the film’s issues through sheer power of performance.

Abbott and Costello. Laurel and Hardy. Martin and Lewis. Lemmon and Matthau. Farley and Spade. Ferrell and Reilly. The history of cinema is rife with comic duos, esteemed teams that have done great things to advance the art of the laugh. Some were dedicated double acts, others came together through circumstance, but all brought us joy.

So it is with Tom & Jerry. The animated cat-and-mouse pairing has been delighting audiences since their debut in 1940 with their trademark slapstick mayhem. But now, they’re taking a trip into the third dimension.

“Tom & Jerry” is a live-action/animated hybrid film directed by Tim Story from a screenplay by Kevin Costello. It brings the iconic duo into the real world, folding together the outsized violence of the original shorts with an ostensibly real setting.

Now, you might wonder if characters whose body of work consists almost entirely of shorts can translate to a full-length feature. The answer is … sort of? While the Tom and Jerry dynamic remains intact and still largely works, the truth is that the kinetic explosiveness of their interactions simply can’t be sustained for 101 minutes. And while everyone in the human cast is doing their best, it doesn’t always click.

All that being said, kids are almost certainly going to dig this film, even if they might want a little more cat-and-mouse. And parents – particularly parents with fond memories of these characters – may well find things to like as well. Not a spectacular success, sure, but far from terrible.

Monday, 01 March 2021 12:42

The complicated greatness of ‘Pele’

There are many levels of greatness in the sports world. And there are many ways in which that greatness can be defined – and many ways to disagree with those definitions. For many, sports fandom is defined by such arguments.

But there are a handful of performers whose excellence is so profound, so paradigm-shifting, that they exist on a tier of their own. Icons of sport. All-timers. Legends. Players that redefine what we believe is possible.

Players like Pele.

“Pele,” the new documentary directed by Ben Nicholas and David Tryhorn, takes a look at the Brazilian soccer legend. Specifically, it’s an exploration of Pele’s four World Cups. While we get some of his early life, as well as some current perspective, the vast majority of the film concerns itself with the period from 1958-1970, a dozen years over the course of which Pele became the greatest soccer player that the world had ever seen.

At the top, fine art is big business.

One can argue about the ethical, moral and other ramifications that come with putting a price tag on creative work, but regardless of argument, there’s no disputing that the world of high-end art is one that is driven as much by economics as by aesthetics.

And any time there’s that kind of money involved, you can bet that there will bad actors seeking to cash in.

“Made You Look: A True Story of Fake Art” is a documentary devoted to relating the tale of the largest known art fraud case in United States history. Over the course of decades, dozens of forged works of art were moved through a famed New York City gallery. These paintings – ostensibly by noted Abstract Expressionists – would be sold to unsuspecting patrons for a total of over $80 million.

Written and directed by Barry Avrich, “Made You Look” – currently streaming on Netflix – walks the viewer through the long-running scam, introducing us to many of the principals along the way, as well as an assortment of experts. He paints a picture (sorry) of the vagaries of the art world, illustrating just what can go wrong when something that seems too good to be true is taken at face value – even if that face is an undeniably beautiful one.

Wednesday, 24 February 2021 12:51

Celebrity Slam - Kimye kaput

Look, there was no chance we were going to talk about anything else in this space this week. We’re talking about one of the iconic celebrity marriages (not to mention an all-time great of a portmanteau); our fundamental ethos demands that we talk about the dissolution of this union.

Kim Kardashian and Kanye West are calling it quits.

Wednesday, 24 February 2021 12:49

Weird National Briefs (02/24/2021)

Mobile home

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — After 139 years at 807 Franklin St. in San Francisco, a two-story Victorian house has a new address.

The green home with large windows and a brown front door was loaded onto giant dollies and moved Sunday to a location six blocks away.

Onlookers lined the sidewalks to snap photos as the structure rolled — at a top speed of 1 mph — to 635 Fulton St.

The house’s journey has been in the planning stages for years, the San Francisco Chronicle reported.

Veteran house mover Phil Joy told the newspaper he had to secure permits from more than 15 city agencies.

Joy said this move is tricky in part because the first part of the journey involves going downhill.

“That’s always difficult for a house,” he said.

Along the route, parking meters were ripped up, tree limbs were trimmed and traffic signs were relocated.

The owner of the six-bedroom house, San Francisco broker Tim Brown, will pay about $400,000 in fees and moving costs, the Chronicle said.

TME – Moving is different in San Francisco.

Monday, 22 February 2021 14:17

Hit the road with ‘Nomadland’

It’s always intriguing to watch a movie that blurs the lines between fiction and truth. Now, I’m not talking about “based on” or “inspired by” films – though one could argue that they partake in their own line blurring – but rather films that fold together the real and the fictional. Films that evoke that cinema verité vibe without being true documentaries.

That sort of vague and vaguely-explained categorization – it’s tough to articulate, but you know it when you see it – precisely and perfectly encapsulates Chloe Zhao’s “Nomadland.” The film – written, directed, edited and produced by Zhao – is adapted from Jessica Bruder’s 2017 nonfiction book “Nomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century.”

It’s a story about the road-roaming lifestyle adopted by an increasing number of people – older, middle-class folks – who have been forced out of their homes and into a nomadic lifestyle by the unfortunate realities of late-stage capitalism. The companies for whom they spent years working are gone, their homes and savings destroyed by the mortgage and banking crises. To survive, they move into vans and RVs and follow seasonal work – Amazon distribution centers and campgrounds and national parks and the like – gradually becoming part of the ever-growing subculture.

It also – aside from a pair of incredible actors (Frances McDormand and David Strathairn) at its center – is populated almost wholly by people playing lightly fictionalized versions of themselves, actual livers of the nomadic lifestyle.

That bringing together of the fictional and the factual is what pushes Zhao’s film into the realm of greatness, an intimate epic of the American west as experienced by those who have been left behind by one or more of this country’s 21st century economic collapses and rebirths. It is quiet and expansive all at once, a film enamored of the broad openness of the landscape while gently acknowledging how easy it is for individual lives to get lost in the vastness that is America.

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