Here's the latest 3rd & Fairfax podcast from the Writers Guild of America. In this edition, the screenwriter of The Maze Runner, based on the popular series of books -- and its new film sequel: The Maze Runner: Scorch Trials (as well as the third movie in the series, currently in pre-production), T.S. Nowlin is interviewed by Ian Fried. In addition, for those of you interested in such things, there is a talk with Maureen Oxley, WGAW Senior Director of Residuals.
As I noted here the other day, Ron Moody created the role of 'Fagin' in the original production of Lionel Bart's Oliver! that opened in London in 1960. He then recreated that performance starring in the 1968 Oscar-winning Best Picture, which got him a Best Actor nomination.
I have the Original London Cast recording, and it's terrific. It's a bit more muted in tone the slightly brassier Broadway recording, though what's most notable is that the musical arrangements for Fagin's songs clearly emphasize the character's Jewish roots, with more Hassidic-sounding violins. Two cast members from the West End came over to the Broadway version -- Georgia Brown as 'Nancy' and Danny Sewell who played 'Bill Sikes.' (In fact, when I saw the touring company in Chicago, I remember noting that Sewell was in it. Clearly, he found a good role for himself and stuck with it...) There also is a bit more material on the British recording, in particular the song "That's Your Funeral," sung mainly by Mr. Sowerberry the undertaker. The song is in the Broadway show, just not on the album -- and it was cut from the movie. But perhaps most notable -- and unsurprising -- is how wonderful Ron Moody is. That's why the filmmakers chose to bring him back eight years later for the role he originated.
Ron Moody actually played the role a third time. In 1984, there was a revival of Oliver! on Broadway, and the big selling point was that it brought back Moody to his famous role. (Co-starring in the production as Nancy was Patti Lupone.)
There's no video I can find of Ron Moody in that original 1960 stage production -- but...I did track down footage of him singing Fagin's iconic song, "Reviewing the Situation" on stage in that 1984 show!
Much of the intonation is similar to his earlier two performances, which shows how impeccable he has the role down pat. But what's interesting is that you'd think he could sleepwalk through it, night-after-night after all those years. But it's as fresh and vibrant as you might imagine first night. That's what's so impressive about how impeccably similar it is to how he's done it before. But there are also little twists that add a liveliness and impishness to the stage production that you don't get in the movie. And it's clear how appreciative the audience is of it all.
For good reason.
The quality of the video and sound is not very good, as you might imagine. But if you click on the option to open the browser and turn the volume up, it's just fine. And simply a treasure to have -- all the more so since this comes from long-before any audience member had a Smartphone camera.
One nice thing from whoever took this video: they were happily well-aware of the song and staging, so when Fagin comes to the line around the 5:15 mark, crying out plaintively, "But who will change the scene for me?", the fellow with his camera knew to adjust his angle to capture a joke that was understandably left out of the movie.
Here it all is, for you to review...
"Kentucky clerk Kim Davis Switches to Republican Party"
In an interview with Reuters, the Kentucky County Clerk said, “My husband and I had talked about it for quite a while and we came to the conclusion that the Democratic Party left us a long time ago, so why were we hanging on?”
Yes, she's the one who's leaving, but it's the Democratic Party who "left us." Go figure. But I do understand her position. After all, the Democrats have always been the party of pushing religious belief as civil law, Jesus revivalism politics, traditional faith-based values, anti-abortion and imposing personal morality views on others.
But now that Democratic Party has changed, and left Kim Davis. I just think it's nice that she has found salvation from another political party. Hallelujah.
If we are to take the word of Gov. Scott Walker (R-WI), then it turns out God is a liberal.
It's hard to interpret the news any other way of Mr. Walker dropping out of the GOP presidential race only two months after announcing his candidacy on July 15, after explaining that it was "God's plan" that he run in the first place.
Before even announcing his candidacy, Gov. Walker was actually leading GOP polls in Iowa, and leading by a lot, with 22%, well-ahead of Donald Trump with 13%. Then he got into the race, and immediately sent out a fundraising letter which began --
My relationship with God drives every major decision in my life. Each day I pray and then take time to read from the Bible and from a devotional named Jesus Calling.
By the way, to be clear, the bold-face is emphasized that way in the letter. That was not my editorial addition to make it stand out. Gov. Walker wanted to make sure that you knew and you understood without any chance of uncertainty that not only did he pray every day and have a close relationship to the Almighty, but that after all that prayer and soul searching he had learned that it was "God's plan" that he run for presidential.
The letter then goes on to describe his very conservative agenda ("his" being Scott Walker's agenda, not God's), and he repeats later in the letter once again that "My decisions are based on my relationship to God," just so you really can't miss it. And so, if anyone knows with spot-on certainty what "God's plan" is -- especially since he notes in the letter that he's also the son of a Baptist minister, so there's one more pipeline straight to the Almighty -- it's Scott Walker.
So, the only conclusion we can draw from this is that if Scott Walker, with all his conservative views was leading the GOP race before officially announcing his candidacy, got into the race specifically because it was "God's plan" (sorry, that's "God's plan"...) only to see that very support plummet from the aforementioned 22% down to a mere 3% and have to drop out of the race just a mere two months later, it would suggest that "God's plan" was to discredit those poll-leading conservative values and do so in as fast and public a way as possible.
I don't see any other reasonable interpretation. It's his own words, bold-faced. According to Scott Walker, God meant for him to get into the GOP race -- only to then humiliate the Wisconsin governor and his conservative views. So, if it's "God's plan," then God meant to do this.
Okay, in fairness, there's one other reasonable interpretation. It's that Scott Walker doesn't have remotely as close a relationship to God as he believes, and he doesn't have a clue to God's thinking and God's plans, and what he said in his fundraising letter was nothing more than wishful, arrogant hopes and a soul-empty way to convince others of his piety so great that God Himself anointed Mr. Walker to be the most powerful man in the world, so that people would fork over money.
I know that there are many other possible interpretations, but those are the only two that are reasonable and substantive. After all, as the theory known as Occam's Razor states -- when there are many explanations, the simplest is usually the right one.
To be clear, I'm not saying that God's plan was to discredit conservatism. I'm saying that that's what Scott Walker is saying. I don't believe for a second that it was "God's plan" for Scott Walker to run for President of the United States -- any more than it was "God's calling" to Michele Bachman to run in 2011, or that Mike Huckabee has a direct line to God, or that any candidate does. If God wanted someone to be president, that person would be president. And he or she wouldn't even have to tell you. Any deity who can create the world in six days and cause a flood to cover the earth can fix an election without breaking a sweat. And you'd know it. When God wanteth something to come to pass, He makes sure you know. Otherwise, what's the point? Divine providence carries a lot of weight.
But if Scott Walker wants to tell you that it was God's plan that he run -- and he does -- then he's got to accept the consequences of what it means when God tells him to get out.
Several years ago, back in 1999 I read about a new play in London's West End that intrigued me. It was The Lady in the Van, written by the wonderful Alan Bennett, who wrote among other things such award-winning plays (and their movie adaptations) as The Madness of King George and The History Boys. He's also one of the founding members of Beyond the Fringe, the legendary comedy troupe that also included Peter Cook, Dudley Moore and the now-eminent Dr. Jonathan Miller.
The stage show starred Maggie Smith, and told the story of a homeless woman who is given permission by a homeowner to park her beaten-up van in his driveway for three weeks. And stayed for 15 years. Not only is the play based on a true story -- the homeowner whose life it's based on is...Alan Bennett himself.
I just saw today that it's been made into a movie, and Maggie Smith is recreating her original starring role. When I saw a photo from the film I thought with fascination that Alan Bennett was returning to acting and playing himself, but no it's the actor Alex Jennings playing Bennett.
You will understand my initial uncertainty...
Also in the cast are Jim Broadbent, Frances de la Tour and, obviously finding time before he began his talk show, James Corden (who also was in the stage and film version of Bennett's History Boys.)
Bennett wrote a memoir of the events, which is what he adapted into the stage play, and now the film. It's scheduled to release in December for Oscar eligibility (for Maggie Smith), and then a wider, though still-limited run in January.
Here's the trailer. (There's a wonderful exchange that ends a second trailer, but I think this one tells the story a bit better. The exchange comes after Bennett has clearly gone out his way for years on this woman's behalf, helping her endlessly. Pushing her down the road in a wheelchair, he asks her if he could make her a cup of coffee. She answers -- "Oh, nooo, no, I don't want you to go to all that trouble. I'll just have half a cup."
Every year when there's a Jewish holiday, TV stations tend to do a little piece wishing "our Jewish friends" a happy Purim or whatever. This year, WGN in Chicago sort of screwed up. ("Sort of" in this case shall be defined as royally.)
An editor for Chicago Lawyer magazine quickly noted the major gaffe and sent out a really blunt, very pointed Tweet to the station.
To those not as familiar with such images, that's an altered Star of David badge on a concentration camp uniform during the Holocaust.
This is known as a Yipes moment.
WGN is the major independent station in Chicago, and used to carry all the Cubs games for over 40 years, on both TV and radio. (They still carry a few games on TV, but none on radio.) They even carried the White Sox games. And still carry the Bulls and Blackhawks. So, as you can imagine, I watched it a LOT. Most people probably known them as one of the first "superstations" in the early days of cable, and they still broadcast nationally on cable as WGN America. Their reputation has always been very middle-of-the-road, very wholesome, very Midwestern moderate to a bit conservative. (More conservative in its earlier days, a bit less so today.) In fact, WGN radio still has an hour-long Noon Farm Report every weekday -- the station has a very strong single and broadcasts throughout the Farm Belt.
The station sent an apology to Mr. Karlinsky, and directed readers to their WGN News Twitter account. And also offered several on-air apologies, and had a page of apology up here on their website.
It's a reasonably good apology, and it's clear they're mortified. But I still have to shake my head a bit at their effort to correct things. Well-meaning but not pulling it off as smoothly as I suspect they wished.
For one thing, an article about this on Talking Points Memo references that the station posted an apology on its website and wrote that the graphic used on the air was from their file of stock graphics and that they "failed to recognize that the image was an offensive Nazi symbol. We are extremely embarrassed and we deeply apologize to our viewers and to the Jewish community for this mistake. Ignorance is not an excuse." Very good, but oddly when you click on the link and go to the WGN webpage with the apology, that wording is changed. No mention of a Nazi symbol. What they say is --
“Last night we ran a story to recognize Yom Kippur, the Jewish Day of Atonement. Regrettably, we failed to recognize that the artwork we chose to accompany the story contained an offensive symbol. This was an unfortunate mistake. Ignorance is not an excuse. We are extremely embarrassed and we deeply apologize to our viewers and to the Jewish community for this mistake.
"We are investigating how this situation occurred, reviewing our in-house policies and making changes in order to avoid such mistakes from happening in the future. Thank you for your understanding. We promise to do better.”
To be clear, that's a solid apology, as I said, and fine. I'm just not sure why the reference to what the mistake actually was is gone. Maybe they heard back that it made things more hurtful. Though it might just have been that they felt it was too embarrassing to the station to mention.
Further, though, they embedded a video of the on-air TV apology -- which was good, and again you tell tell that the anchors are really mortified -- by ending it,“So, let’s take a closer look…” and then run a story about Yom Kippur. At first, my reaction was that this wasn’t a case of “So, let’s take a look…” at all, as if it was their way to make good and be nice, but instead simply a piece they’d planned to do regardless and they just wanted to sound like they were doing something special for their Jewish friends. However, as I watched, I‘m not sure – it sort of seems like they might-well have rushed to find some Jewish temple, any Jewish temple really quickly, to get it on the air in time. I say that because for a story honoring the most solemn and High Holy day for Jews, a day so sacred that famously 50 years ago this year Sandy Koufax of the Los Angeles Dodgers wouldn't pitch in his regular start during the 1965 World Series because if tell on Yom Kippur, a day of deep reflection, no work, and fasting, WGN came up with a temple SO laid-back that the guy blowing the shofar is in a t-shirt. And further, on this day of fasting, most of the report shows temple members are sitting around a sloppy communal table eating! Clearly they were breaking the fast, but "eating" is really not the way most Jews think of describing Yom Kippur. This says to me that WGN probably did rush to get a story done, and the morning service was likely over by the point they arrived. In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if the shofar-blowing was over, too, and they asked him to do it for the camera -- which might possibly explain why he was in t-shirt. Or not.
The TV apology also, like on the webpage, doesn't explain what the "offensive image" was. That's really not necessary, and perhaps it was felt it would have detracted from the solemnity of the day, though in some ways I wonder if it might have been more appropriate to do a story about that rather than just a traditional piece about The Meaning of Yom Kippur. In a messy room with juice bottles lying around, and religious leaders dressed in their casuals. That way you address the offense so that it hopefully won't be repeated elsewhere. And ultimately, that offensive image is why you'r apologizing in the first place.
Again, I do get the sense that their heart was in the right place. They just could have used a tad more guidance on repeatedly getting it right. Here's the on-air apology and report.
I am fairly shocked, but admired Republican Senator Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) for taking her party to task on Tuesday over "playing games" in their rumblings about once again shutting down the government, using a strategy which she says is like "a game of chicken." This time, it's over defunding Planned Parenthood.
"I’m tired of the political games," she said. "I’m tired of the president’s game on this. I’m tired of the people on my side of the aisle who are pushing this strategy even though they know they don’t have the votes to pass the U.S. Senate, and they certainly don’t have the votes to override a presidential veto."
I have no problem with her dragging President Obama into her complaints. Both sides on occasion play political games and create logjams. My quibble is that if she does so, she should be clear what she's talking about, because I'm not sure what "games" he's been playing here. Her complaints against the GOP are clear because she's very specific about them in her 15-minute harangue on the Senate floor. She even noted having sent a letter to fellow-Republican Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) last week asking him to explain his "strategy for success" if the government shuts down over Planned Parenthood -- and added that as yet she hasn't gotten a response.
(I'm not saying she doesn't have a point about the president, but she doesn't say what it is, so I don't know. As far as I'm aware, the Democrats here have just continued a long-standing bipartisan government policy -- even during Republican Administrations -- of funding Planned Parenthood, and Republicans in the Senate are the ones who want to change that. Democrats are hardly without flaws, I just wish he'd have addressed them here to show how, in this instance, they're as much to blame. Without that, it strikes me as more a case of her having to throw Barack Obama into the mix in order to give her some cover. And honestly, if that's what it takes to criticize her own party, so be it.)
This isn't the first time that Sen. Ayotte has brought up this matter. said she also asked in 2013 when the last shutdown happened over Republican attempts to defund Obamacare.
"We saw the movie in 2013, and I don’t think we should relive that movie," she noted, referring to when Republicans shutdown the government over the Affordable Care Act. "Let’s remember what happened when you shut the government down and you reopen it -- it costs you more money. So if you care about the fiscal state of the country, let’s not waste money shutting the government down with no result."
She said that while she agrees with her party about moving money earmarked for Planned Parenthood into other community health centers, what the GOP is trying to do here is the wrong way to go about it.
"And so therefore they can’t answer the question, 'What’s the endgame for success here?' even if you feel as passionately about these issues as we all do," she said. "The answer is they don’t know the answer."
It's worth noting that Planned Parenthood is doing nothing illegal. And that abortions aren't even illegal. Further, even if one is morally against legal abortions and are virulently against the government funding legal abortions -- the government not only isn't funding abortions at Planned Parenthood...the government can't. It's actually against the law -- the Hyde Amendment, passed in 1976 (39 years ago!) prohibit any federal funding to be used for abortions. So, defunding federal dollars to Planned Parenthood would not take any money away from abortions.
Okay, that's just basic foundational facts. Back to the matter at hand.
Hat's off to Sen. Ayotte for her criticism of the GOP playing games and having no end strategy in trying to shut down the government. If she wants to drag President Obama into her complaints, I would expect nothing less from a Republican, but go forth and prosper. Yes, it would be nice to know what her criticism of the president actually is when it comes to the Republican shutdown strategy, but if she has specific criticisms and if they're valid -- or even if not -- whatever it takes to drive some sense into the Republican Party on this endless government shutdown craziness, swell.
This is an odd, poorly short video, but a real treat and so lucky to have, whatever the quality.
On June 30, 2010, a West End revival of Oliver! celebrated the show's 50th anniversary. And for the finale, they brought out a special guest -- 86-year-old Ron Moody, who not only played 'Fagin' in the Oscar-winning film (getting a Best Actor nomination himself)...but he was the original 'Fagin' in that first London production.
He makes an entertaining, often funny speech honoring the original production, and then with a bit of begging by the young actor who plays 'Oliver,' (properly imploring, Please, sir, I want... oh, you know) and then after faux-insisting it's been far too long and he doesn't remember the words, he leads the company in "You've Got to Pick a Pocket or Two."
As I said, the cell-phone camerawork here is dismal, and the sound is sometimes hard to make out. But credit to the fellow for recording it and uploading the piece of treasure. For the most part it's fairly watchable.
It takes place over two videos, and there's a bit of overlap. So, in order to get the song all in one piece, my suggestion is that just after the 8:03 mark of the first video, stop it and then go to the second video. There'll be a bit of overlap, starting with Moody's introduction again for some reason, and the jumping to him greeting the youngster playing Oliver, about a minute in.
The actor playing Fagin is a fellow named Russ Abbot, and he has some pleasant byplay with Moody, but this is really Ron Moody's moment, and he shines. It's all the more poignant knowing that he passed away only a few months ago in June, at the age of 91, so it's all the more a pleasure to have this, whatever the quality.
Remember, jump videos at the 8:03 mark when Moody and young Oliver greet each other.
Robert J. Elisberg is a two-time recipient of the Lucille Ball Award for comedy screenwriting. He's written for film, TV, the stage, and two best-selling novels, is a regular columnist for the Writers Guild of America and was for the Huffington Post. Among his other writing, he has a long-time column on technology (which he sometimes understands), and co-wrote a book on world travel. As a lyricist, he is a member of ASCAP, and has contributed to numerous publications.
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