Wednesday, March 01, 2017

'Cause you asked for it...

Okay, here it is in print -- my Oscar review (for those who even remember all the way back to Sunday).  Thank you for responding and subscribing.   I've got some cool things planned for the podcast and other cool things planned for the blog.   Anyway, if you would still like to listen to the review just go here.  Thanks much.  Enjoy the snark. 
In a year of alternate facts, congratulations to LA LA LAND for winning the Best Picture Oscar. HOLY CRAP!! Maybe the greatest clusterfuck ending an Oscarcast will ever have. They’ll be talking about this one for years. Now I wonder if I really won that Emmy.

My question is, if Jordan Horowitz, that LA LA LAND producer didn’t so graciously announce that MOONLIGHT had won and they just got off the stage and the show ended, what would have happened?

Now you wonder if MANCHESTER BY THE SEA didn’t actually win. Or DEADPOOL.

Donald Trump has to be so pissed. People are not talking about HIM.

I fully expect him to tweet: “Congratulations to the Best Picture winner: TRIUMPH OF THE WILL.”

I’m still not certain what happened. From what I understand Price Waterhouse has two envelopes for every winner. So when they handed the envelope to Beatty & Dunaway that was for Emma Stone for Best Actress rather than the envelope for Best Picture. That’s why Beatty sputtered and was confused wondering what was going on. But Dunaway could have read the Emma Stone part too and just said this is the wrong envelope. I’m also confused at how Horowitz got hold of the correct envelope.

Beatty apparently was given the wrong envelope (by a now unemployed member of Price-Waterhouse). Of course, what was it doing there in the first place?

The fact that Warren Beatty looked lost, that didn’t surprise me at all. That’s the way he is at the Beverly Glen deli. And Faye Dunaway, who announced the wrong winner, well she has an excuse. She can just say it wasn’t her. Whoever that woman was on stage she was unrecognizable as Faye Dunaway. She could claim “that was Jeffrey Tambor” from TRANSPARENT.

Jimmy Kimmel was clearly pissed – signing off with “I’ll never do this again” when actually I thought he did a nice job. I would just say next time don’t take an Ambien before going on stage.

Getting back to the fuck up of all fuck ups – I’m sure the administration will blame it on illegal Academy voters.

And by the way, snafu aside that was quite an upset. LA LA LAND was considered a lock – although no one I know actually loved that film. Most, myself included, were completely underwhelmed. The stars can’t sing. That’s sort of important in a musical.

My friend Jon Weisman had a great tweet. He said LA LA LAND just became the Atlanta Falcons.

And I don’t think Faye Dunaway is going to be hosting THE MATCH GAME anytime soon.

You have to feel for those producers of LA LA LAND that had the rug pulled out from under them, but honestly, weren’t you sort of amused after all those lofty acceptance speeches “they said we were fools to dream,” “this was a brave and courageous journey”, etc. to have someone go, “Uh, sit down. You lost.”

Considering how pissed Steven Spielberg was when SHAKESPEARE IN LOVE beat out SAVING PRIVATE RYAN, if he were in this situation, Barry Jenkins would have had to wrestle him to ground to get the Oscar out of his cold dead hands.

How much do you think the bar bill was for the LA LA LAND after-party?

On the other hand, THIS is why we watch this tedious award show every year – because every so often you see something completely unexpected and jaw dropping and you know it’s live. That’s what makes for great television. And now, one of the few shared experiences we all have… other than mass protests.

Meanwhile, the Trump bashing was kept to a surprising minimum. Not that any of his supporters were watching anyway. I bet the only show that gets a lower rating in Alabama is the Chabad Telethon.

I did like Kimmel’s line that “the show was airing in more than 225 countries that now hate us.”

The Iranian Director who won for THE SALESMAN but didn’t come because he didn’t want to spend two weeks in a holding cell, prepared a stinging statement but unless they replay it on Fox News no one who matters will have heard it.

I bet there were more Trump jokes but when the mere mention of Ivanka got an audible groan, I suspect they wisely pushed them aside.

The Creative Community faced an agonizing dilemma this year – how can you acknowledge the dangerous state of our world and not let it spoil your good time? And remember, this IS Hollywood. When President Reagan was shot the morning of the Academy Awards the blazing headline in the next day's Variety was "OSCARCAST POSTPONED." Underneath, in much smaller letters, was "President of the United States shot". Gives you some perspective of this town.

The solution this year: Wear blue ribbons for the ACLU and hit the bar.

As for the show itself:

Well, first, let me back up. A moment or two about the red carpet shows.

How many of you miss Joan Rivers? I do. How many of you miss Melissa Rivers? Hands? Anybody? Hello. Did you ever notice that Gayle King is Oprah’s Melissa Rivers?

I guess KTLA, channel 5 in Los Angeles was not allowed to really interview many red carpet guests. They did a three hour show featuring their usual hosts, Sam Rubin the footstool to the stars and dashboard bobblehead Jessica Holmes. But mostly it was canned features and not live interviews. Which is too bad. They’re usually good for at least five staggeringly stupid questions. But picking up that mantle, God bless her, was Kristin Smith for ABC’s coverage. She asked Casey Affleck why so many films filmed in Boston. And to Emma Stone she said, “LA LA LAND is about dreamers. What advice do you have for dreamers?” Emma said, “Uh, that’s a big question.” But it’s just not the same without Sam gushing, “Every star in the galaxy is here” and Jessica Holmes mispronouncing everyone’s name including her own.

The show got off to a good start with Justin Timberlake doing his nominated number from TROLLS. Except the celebrities looked so awkward clapping and dancing. They’re not there to party. They’re there to win their goddman hardware, look better than everyone else, get shit-faced, take their $30,000 swag bag and go home to yell at the help. But you know they started the show with Timberlake “to get the kids.”

Jimmy’s monologue was breezy and mostly funny. Meryl Streep was a good sport. She’s the new Jack Nicholson. It’s as if every host now plays to her.

The set originally looked like URINETOWN. But then it changed every ten minutes. Gold clamshells, Mastro’s without the steaks, shimmering blue Oscars, a giant waffle iron. Apparently, at 11:30 in the morning some giant set piece crashed to the ground. No one was hurt although I’m sure the producer wished it landed on Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway.

Back in a minute, but first – I was glad that Randy Thomas was back as the announcer. Don’t you just imagine she’s announcing YOUR name?

(at this point I played a sound byte of Randy announcing that I had won as Oscar. See some of this stuff works better in audio form.)

I thought Mahershala Ali gave a very heartfelt acceptance speech. Many of the speeches were lovely. I didn’t appreciate when that one winner was rushed off the stage though as he was talking about his mother dying. And I loved the guy, I think he won for a music category, who thanked his mother for letting him get out of soccer to be in a musical.

The Best Documentary went to OJ, MADE IN AMERICA. I wonder if he thought the one about him was I AM NOT YOUR NEGRO.

Most of the women looked spectacular this year. Notably Brie Larson, Alicia Vikander (resplendent in her size zero Louis Vittan), Scarlett Johansson, and Naomi Harris.

My daughter Annie has a good rule. No movie over three hours should be eligible for Best Editing.

The first time they dropped candy from parachutes it was a cute bit. By the third time it was tedious. And it’s time to put to bed the Jimmy Kimmel – Matt Damon feud.

Janelle Monae came dressed as a TV test pattern.

And Michelle Williams came as Mia Farrow on her wedding night to Frank Sinatra.

The scariest moment of the night was when the celebrities had to actually confront real people. They did a bit where a tour bus group was ushered into the auditorium and the looks on some of the actors’ faces was priceless. Many looked panicked. Some of the stars were good sports. Denzel, who did not appear to be loaded this year, Ryan Gosling, and Mahershala Ali all had fun with it. Others sat there like they needed volunteers to take a hill.

The most uplifting moment was when Katherine Johnson, the real-life mathematician for NASA and the inspiration behind HIDDEN FIGURES was brought out on stage. That almost made up for the long-winded ponderous acceptance speech by Viola Davis. What was that all about? “Artists are the only profession that celebrates what it means to live a life.” So, uh, if you’re not an artist you don’t count, or just exist? Not sure. Reminds me of when Jerry Lewis had a very brief talk show and would end it by saying, “The greatest thing I could wish for you is that you have show business people as your friends.” Viola started by saying that all stories come from dead people. Huh? And ended by turning into Norma Desmond. “And I want to thank the craft-services person.” Get off the stage!

How do I describe Leslie Mann’s dress? It’s like if you tried to gift-wrap a vacuum cleaner.

And how many times did they cut to a reaction shot from someone in the audience and you said, "Who's that?" More this year than ever.

The best make-up award went to SUICIDE SQUAD for dying actors’ hair different colors.

Michael Shannon is starting to look like Jaws from those James Bond movies.

Auli’i Cravalho did a beautiful job of singing that song from MOANA. Amazing poise for a 16 year old. And very beautiful. I imagine Faye Dunaway will be in her plastic surgeon’s office Monday morning saying, “this time give me that face.”

Shirley MacLaine had the best line of the night. She said “that was the greatest reception in 250,000 years.” All those past lives and she winds up Warren Beatty’s sister.

I loved the New York Times ad.

What happened to Halle Berry? She turned into Diana Ross.

Lots and lots of standing ovations this year. It was like a Jewish High Holiday Service. After awhile people just got tired of it and you could see them wrestling with “should I? It’s only the old lady from NASA. Nah. I’ll save it for when LA LA LAND wins Best Picture.”

Amy Adams is turning into Jessica Rabbit.

Okay, ZOOTOPIA was a good cartoon but did it “make the world a better place?” I don’t think so. That would be THE BATMAN LEGO MOVIE.

Did Nicole Kidman also have her arms done?

The IN MEMORIAM piece was very moving. Sara Bareilles singing Joni Mitchell’s “Both Sides Now” offered just the right blend of sadness and celebration. Don’t you always wonder who is going to get the pimp spot? Which death Hollywood considers to be the most significant? Well, in this case, it was nice to see that Carrie Fisher finally upstaged her mother.

Happy that Kenneth Lonergan and Barry Jenkins won the two screenplay Oscars. Leave it to writers to give eloquent BRIEF speeches without claiming that only artists can give meaning to life.

The Academy went overboard on diversity this year, and even then Will Smith can’t get a nomination.

Fox Searchlight spent $17.5 million to acquire Nate Parker’s BIRTH OF A NATION figuring it was Oscar gold for sure this year. Too bad they didn’t spend $5 and check his rap sheet.

Emma Stone looked elegant in her Roaring 20’s flapper gown. Congratulations on winning an Oscar for starring in a musical when you can’t sing or dance.

Lin-Manuel Miranda didn’t get his EGOT. But he will. Maybe he did. Who gave it out?

Salma Hayek always looks gorgeous so she’s always a presenter and she can never pronounce anything. She had trouble with “The White Helmet.”

Sofia Boutella’s hair off to one side was interesting. Very Picasso.

Yeah, the Academy says it celebrates diversity but how come not one alien from ARRIVAL was nominated?

So Mel Gibson has been welcomed back by Hollywood. I guess anti-Semite is now a diversity group.

This year’s Oscars will long be remembered. What a colossal blunder. John Travolta is now off the hook. Rob Lowe and Snow White are now off the hook. I’d hate to be Faye Dunaway’s personal assistant. Next year expect the ballots to tabulated by the accounting firm of Goldberg and Fishman on Ventura Blvd. in Reseda. And if this year the theme was diversity, next year it will be “We don’t give a shit who wins as long as we get it right.” On to the Emmys.

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Okay, I'll make you a deal

A number of you have asked why I posted my Oscar review exclusively on my podcast this year.  The simple and completely honest answer is that I'm trying to build an audience for the darn thing.  I put a lot of time and effort into it and would like to not just be talking to myself (the way I do the rest of the time).  There are lots of podcasts and they're hard to launch.

But I totally get that for some, reading the review is an easier and less time consuming endeavor. 

So I'll make you a deal.  Subscriptions are huge to the success of podcasts.  So are five star reviews.  Why this is so, I have no idea.  I'm still trying to figure out Nielsen boxes.  But they are, especially subscriptions.  Even if you subscribe and don't listen that's a big help.   So I tell ya what, if enough people subscribe today (which just takes a couple of clicks) and maybe a few toss me a star or five I will post the review tomorrow in the blog.  

You just click on the DOWNLOAD ON ITUNES button above, click on "view in iTunes", and subscribe.   Or go here

There are also ways of doing it on your smart phone apps but I'll leave that to you to figure out (translation: I have no idea).

Thanks so much for your support of the podcast.  I'm trying to present different types of features and interviews -- stuff that I can't do in print and keep the blog content as fresh as its always been.   Oh, and have a life. 

So that's my deal.  I hope you take me up on it. 

Your obedient blogger,


Oscar follow-up

There’s always the second day autopsy on the Oscars after the first day’s initial reactions.

As expected (certainly by me), the ratings were among the lowest ever. I think the combination of Trump supporters not wanting to hear about tolerance and acceptance and diversity and a lackluster slate of movies that no one saw or gave a shit about caused that rating slide. Don’t blame Jimmy Kimmel.  Or the Starline Tours.

I wonder how many people on the east coast actually saw the trainwreck ending live. Lost in all the hoopla about the snafu was that the Oscarcast was way over time.

They could have dropped Mean Tweets (that’s a TV bit not an Oscar bit), cut the tour bus schtick in half, lost the tweet to Trump (it took forever and had no great payoff), and not parachuted in donuts. Or played walk-off music halfway through Viola Davis' speech.  That would have saved half an hour.

Thanks to those who listened to my review on my podcast. If you haven’t heard it yet you can go right here. And please subscribe. Subscriptions are vital in the podcasting world. I know some people prefer just the written version, but a lot of you are saying it added another dimension to actually hear me say the jokes the way they were intended. It was fun to do although I got to bed at 4:30 in the morning. I won’t be doing this with the ESPY’s.

I felt bad for Jimmy during the finale clusterfuck. He clearly was overwhelmed. This is where a seasoned pro is needed. Hope, Carson, even Letterman might have been more in control. It’s like when Al Michaels was calling the 1989 World Series and there was a major earthquake. He instantly turned into a news anchor and handled that emergency with complete assurance and grace. Give Jimmy a few years to really settle into that role and he’ll be that guy too. Remember, when you’re hosting a live event, you have to be ready for the unexpected.

Considering the money that studios pour into Oscar campaigns, when the producer of one film says he happily gives the award to another, behind the scenes the studios are freaking out! Lots of money changed hands as a result of that blunder.

Mixed reaction from commenters on Viola Davis’ speech. Also, some real nasty comments overall, some I just rejected. Again, this is a humor blog. If you want to poke a little fun at something, fine, but several times over the last few days I’ve had to put a halt to threads that were getting out of hand. Play nice, kids.

I'm sorry but I thought Jennifer Aniston's choking up during the IN MEMORIUM intro was over-the-top and fake.  

There weren’t any real fashion disasters this year, at least none that I saw.

HELL OR HIGH WATER picked the wrong year to be in Oscar contention.

Nicole Kidman is taking some internet flack. Everyone has that fine line between deciding whether an actress is still glamorous or scary. For many, that line has been crossed. I thought she is still a procedure away. 

And finally, my friend Earl had a fascinating observation. What if the snafu were reversed? What if MOONLIGHT originally won and then were told that the lily-white LA LA LAND beat them instead? I can’t even imagine the brouhaha that would have caused.

Monday, February 27, 2017

My Oscar review

Normally in this space I post my annual snarky bitchy Oscar review.  But this year I'm trying something different.  I'm doing the review exclusively on my podcast.   That way you can hear the jokes as drippingly sarcastic as they were meant to be.   And what a truly BIZARRE ending to that ceremony.  Yikes!  I talk all about it. 

To listen, just click on the podcast arrow above or right here.   Enjoy. 

Episode 9: My Annual Snarky Oscar Review

Ken reveals the most jaw-dropping Oscar ceremony in history. The winners, the losers, the blunders, the fashions, the politics, the red carpet, the facelifts, the glamour, the whole self-important ego-palooza. Join Ken for Hollywood's finest hour and most embarrassing moment.

Listen to the Hollywood & Levine podcast!

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Writing the Academy Awards

I’ve never written for the Oscars. I would very much like to, just for the experience. But from what I understand it’s a horrible thankless job.

I did have the chance once, but had to turn it down. My partner and I were showrunning ALMOST PERFECT in 1996. We got a call from Quincy Jones (who was producing the show that year). He had first asked Larry Gelbart who passed. Quincy asked if he could recommend someone else and bless him, Larry mentioned us. I can’t tell you how many writing offers we received thanks to Larry Gelbart. He got us way more work than our agent. But we had to turn it down because we were already working 90 hour weeks.

All of the following information is second and third hand, but from what writers of award shows have told me, this is pretty much the assignment.  You might find it somewhat less than idyllic.  

The hosts generally have their own people. But they may want you to assist. And of course, the host’s people are in charge. Depending on who that is, you may serve at the pleasure of some asshole you wouldn’t hire to write a laundry list.   Or someone you've fired. 

You write the banter between presenters. Then it has to be approved by each presenter, their manager, agent, publicist, dog walker, and psychic. Also the producers, network, and standards-and-practices. When revisions come back you don’t know if they’re from the star himself and must be followed or his pool man in which case they’re just suggestions. And more often than not these revisions are way worse than what you wrote.

Still, when they bomb you’ll be blamed for it.

There’s also the issue of writing for some actors who couldn’t be funny if it meant world peace. They will take your genuinely funny lines and trample them into the ground.

You’ll be blamed.

Or worse, they will ad lib. We’ve all seen excruciating examples of that.

It’ll be your fault.

Sometimes presenters come in with their own schtick. So when Will Ferrell and Ben Stiller do a bit that bombs you’re the one who takes the heat.

From what I hear the weekend of the show (i.e. now) the rehearsals are insane. Presenters jockey for position, things get changed, stars are in, stars are out, your lines get cut, you’re scrambling to write new ones then don’t know who to give them to for approval.

The night of the show you’re on call to feed ad libs to the host so that he looks good. And if he doesn’t pull them off you-know-who is held responsible.

Meanwhile, some presenters can’t read off the teleprompter so they inadvertently kill a few of your jokes that have worked every rehearsal. Pin those on you, too.

Still, it’s gotta be a trip to at least experience this once. Even if Dustin Hoffman muffs your joke, hey, you can say you wrote for Dustin Hoffman. For two days you rub elbows with Hollywood royalty. Perhaps Amy Adams or George Clooney will say hello. (Good luck with the twins, George.)   I don’t know if you’re invited to any post-Oscars parties. Or whether you get any swag. I doubt it but maybe you do.  Like I said, it would sure be worth doing once. 

Of course if I wrote the show I couldn’t review it. Hmmm. That’s probably reason alone to hire me.

But since they didn’t this year I will be reviewing tonight’s Academy Awards. For the first time I'll be delivering my snarkfest personally on my podcast.   And if you don't like it, blame the Oscar writers. 

Saturday, February 25, 2017

New choice!

There was another great exercise for comedy writers in Andy Goldberg’s improv class recently. This one was called “New Choice!” Two people would do a scene and periodically someone would say something and Andy would interrupt with “New Choice!” The performer then had to devise an alternate line. If Andy wasn’t satisfied he’d again bark “New Choice!” Sometimes it would take two or three lines before the scene was allowed to proceed.


Me and Fred are in a Costco.

Fred: What are you here to buy?
Me: Cheerios.
Andy: New choice!
Me: 300 rolls of toilet paper.
Andy: New choice!
Me: A case of Trojans and a dozen oysters.

Later in the scene:

Fred: I don’t have cash. Do you take American Express?
Andy: New choice!
Fred: Do you take the Diner’s Club card?
Andy: New choice!
Fred: Do you take second-party Group-ons?

You get the idea.

Why is this such a good exercise?

When writing a script, it’s human nature to come up with a joke and want to just go with it. But more times than not you’re settling. You need to be tough on yourself. Write down the original joke for reference then say “New choice!” And don’t restrict yourself. You’re not limited to the number of choices. Come up with a crazy choice or two; let your imagination really run wild. Who knows? From time to time you might stumble onto something truly brilliant that you never would have thought of otherwise. But the point is, get in the habit of looking for alternatives.

Now that may sound obvious, but just wait. It’ll be the end of the day, you’re tired, or you’re behind schedule and all of a sudden you’re rationalizing that “Cheerios” is the best, funniest reason why anyone would ever shop at Costco.

Improv class in general is a great training ground for young comedy writers. It teaches you spontaneity.

New choice!

It teaches you character development.

New choice!

It forces you to challenge yourself.

New choice!

It’s a helluva lotta fun!

Friday, February 24, 2017

Friday Questions

Gather around kids for some Friday Questions.

John E. Williams gets us started.

On the many shows on which you worked, which actors in your opinion played their characters the most distant from their real personalities? For instance, I know you've told us Nicholas Colasanto was nothing even remotely like Coach, and I think we all know Kelsey Grammer in real life couldn't be less like Frasier Crane. I have always assumed Alan Alda is very much Hawkeye in a lot of ways, but for all I know I could be wrong.

Ted Danson – twice. Sam Malone was a former athlete and womanizer. Ted knew very little about baseball and was as far from a Lothario as one could be. It actually took him a while that first year to get into a groove because he was so the opposite of Sam.

And then as Becker. Ted is the world’s nicest guy playing a disagreeable crank.

Alan Alda was indeed a lot like Hawkeye, but I’ve seen him in roles where he pays villains and assholes and he’s great in all of them.

Did you ever see him in that Louis CK series, HORACE AND PETE? He plays a bigot that makes Archie Bunker look like Mother Teresa.

I emailed him to say how much I enjoyed him in that role and he wrote back saying it was great fun to do.

From Alec Nickopopoulous:

"Friday Question" - Ken, I love the podcast. What is your studio setup? Quiet garage? Professional soundproof booth at home? And what mic are you using?

I do it out of my home office. I’m very lucky. The acoustics are great. When I close all the doors there’s no echo. Everything I record is edited and assembled on the computer, assisted by Adam Butler, who is an audio wizard.

It’s pretty amazing actually. People can now get studio quality or near-studio quality out of their homes or garages or sensory deprivation tanks.

Not sure of the mic.  It looks like a baby Sennheiser.   Or one of those mics you use to say "Number 12, your pizza's ready!"

GlennNYC asks:

I've been watching the TV show "The Good Place", which recently ended it's 13 episode first season. They've made "Extended Episodes" available on the NBC website and ON-Demand on some cable systems. It's been fun seeing extra dialogue and extra scenes which sometimes have good jokes or plot points which clarify later events. Other times, I can see why they felt the need to tighten the show up. I was wondering what you thought about it; is it a gift to the fans or does it dilute the impact of the show? Also, would you have liked the option to release Extended episodes when working on MASH, Cheers, Frasier,... or would you rather just leave well enough alone once things are final?

On the one hand, anything you can do to generate more fan interest in the show is a good thing. So if people are willing to log on to watch supersized versions of your series, great.

On the other, often less is more. Even if it means cutting some good jokes, usually the shorter version of a show is tighter and better. So the extended version is like serving a dish that is still under-cooked.

Of the shows I’ve worked on, the only one I wish we could offer longer versions is MASH. We crammed so much into those shows and if we had to cut for time we sometimes lost some real great stuff, but we had to in order for the stories to make sense. There are a few episodes during my watch that I feel are choppy and could use an extra two or three minutes.

But CHEERS and FRASIER – I prefer the air versions.

Longtime friend of the blog, Wendy M. Grossman has a FQ:

Over at his blog, Earl Pomerantz has a post up marveling at the number of outlets current writers have to pitch to. This is a situation freelance journalists are familiar with, and standard advice to beginners is always to study the markets (magazines, newspapers) you want to sell to and tailor your pitch to them. You can still, if you do it right, resell the same story to multiple non-competing outlets if you find different angles or ways to tell it for different audiences. So I'm wondering: do today's aspiring sitcom writers need to tailor their pitches differently for HBO, AMC, CBS, etc. Do they need to do more rewriting and rethinking for different outlets than they did in the past when there were just three networks?

You’re right, Wendy, pitches today do have to be tailored for each potential buyer. Every network has their own “brand” even if they really don’t but just think they do. Gone are the days you come up with one pitch and just peddle it from network to network. Today you have to illustrate how your show fits into their distinctive (even if its not) brand. A series you might pitch to CBS would never fly at Fox. Netflix and Amazon and Hulu and AMC and USA and TV LAND, etc. all have their agendas and a young writer would be wise to learn what those are.

The downside is you may only have one or two options per idea, but the upside is if you get lucky you can sell three different projects to three different networks.

What’s disheartening on the broadcast network level now is that you almost have to come in with a package deal. It’s not enough to have a million dollar idea. Now you have to have a director attached, or a star attached, or an A-list pod producer attached to get their attention. And it helps a lot if your idea is just an adaptation of a foreign show that is a success in that country.

And finally, from another longtime friend of the blog, Johnny Walker:

Ed Catmull talks a lot about the major benefit that Pixar experiences from visiting the places their stories are set in, and I know that you're from a school of TV writing, Ken, that benefited a lot from primary research (M*A*S*H, and the Charles Brothers on Taxi).

Did you get a chance to do any research before starting Big Wave Dave's? That would have been fun! :)

As a matter of fact, yes, I did. I went to the North Shore of Hawaii, interviewed owners of surf shops, and took a lot of photos. I also connected with Ron Jacobs, a radio icon who was born and raised in Hawaii, and got a lot of background from him. Ron remained aboard as our technical consultant.

And the best part, of course, is that I was able to write off a trip to Hawaii as business and have it legit.

David Isaacs and I once met with a movie director who was very hot at the time, coming off a series of big hits. He said he didn’t care what his next movie was about as long as it was set in Hawaii. He wanted to spend several months in Hawaii. That’s what I call “artistic vision.”

What’s your Friday Question? I answer them on my podcast as well. Please check it out. You can leave your FQ’s in the comment section. Mahalo.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

THE LEGO BATMAN MOVIE -- My bat review

It was nice seeing Batman without Christopher Nolan or Zack Snyder there to turn him into a dark brooding tortured soul. Instead we get the more Donald Trump version. He thinks he can save the world all by himself, he hurts other peoples’ feelings, he never wants to share credit, and he thinks he alone has all the good ideas. The difference is you like this Donald Trump. Or at least tolerate him.

This sequel to the LEGO MOVIE has the same dizzying amount of stimuli coming at you, but it doesn’t have the same writers and suffers somewhat as a result. That is if you can stop to take a breath and compare. I appreciate their desire to fill every frame with as much as possible and cram in as many jokes, pop culture references, and silliness as they can, but after awhile it gets to be overkill. And the trouble with that is some real great jokes get lost in the relentless tornado.

MAD Magazine frequently does that, filling every inch of space with gags. But MAD Magazine you can read at your leisure. You can savor every hidden laugh. But this movie, at least for me, felt like I was watching a 90 minute version of THE BIG BANG THEORY opening title sequence.

Certainly there is the desire to constantly entertain, but it’s okay to slow down and take a breath once in awhile. I know the thought is that Millennials have no attention spans and must be distracted every second or they’ll get bored and will play the LEGO BATMAN VIDEO GAME on their phones while watching the LEGO BATMAN MOVIE, but I think Hollywood is doing Millennials a disservice. If the story is good they’ll get into it, if the jokes are funny they’ll laugh. Even at a normal pace.   But when everything is a wild chase scene, the real chase scenes don’t carry the same wallop.

Slowing the action from time to time allows the audience to recharge, get their second and third winds. THE LEGO BATMAN MOVIE is brimming with ideas and like I said, there are many wonderful moments and snappy lines. I just think it would please more if it tried to please less.

Before the film, they showed the
trailer for a new LEGO NINJA MOVIE. I’ll be skipping that. I’m waiting for THE LEGO TWIN PEAKS MOVIE.