We have the latest marquee from the Royal Laemmle art house near me that changes every week. As I passed it on my morning walk on Friday, they have a particularly good, new one Now Playing and Coming Soon --
The other day, I posted here the utterly endearing ending of the movie All of Me with Steve Martin and Lily Tomlin joyously dancing
When my friend Myles Berkowitz followed that up by sending me a clip from the movie Pennies from Heaven, I was reminded how many things Steve Martin danced in -- and all the more, how well he did so. Rare for any actor, but incredibly uncommon for a comedian. I suspect that when most people think of Steve Martin and dancing, it's likely his "Happy Feet" bit from his old stand-up act. But all this isn't that. This is serious (even if at times comic...) dancing.
Pennies From Heaven stands out on several levels. Myles noted how incredibly gutsy Steve Martin was for what is basically going up against Fred Astaire. (And that's not meant metaphorically, but literally -- watch the video, you'll see). And it stands out, too, for absolutely terrific dancing. But further, as I recall, the whole movie was gutsy for him since the character is such an awful guy.
Mainly, though, this with Bernadette Peters is actually, really good dancing.
But it isn't just those two dances. Because not only is there a third, but it's probably the most famous of his dances. (And again, how odd to think of Steve Martin for his dancing.) There's a good chance most of you have seen it – with Gilda Radner on Saturday Night Live, and is all the more impressive for it being live.
But if you haven't seen it, we add it below to his resume. And it's so worth watching again.
There are still a couple of Josh Gad's Still Reunited Apart programs left, and today we have him getting back together the cast and filmmakers of Ferris Bueller's Day Off.
The show starts with Matthew Broderick as his only guest, but then adds one at a time, as the surprises pop in. There aren't too many behind-the-scene stories passed along, but more than most of the shows is a lot of the cast recreating scenes from the original film.
There's also a nice tribute to the late writer-director John Hughes. And one word of warning -- stick around to the very end.
For the past while, I've been posting photos of the marquee for the Laemmle Royal art house movie theater near me. Though they've been closed since the pandemic shut-down, one of their staff has been changing the sign each week with different movies supposedly "now playing" and coming next, each a commentary on conditions we're all facing. It's been pretty clever.
Here's the latest --
The other day, I wrote here about a celebrity fan-made home version "remake" of The Princess Bride, which is being presented on the Quibi streaming service as a fundraiser for Jose Andres' World Central Kitchen. I also posted a few minutes of video clips from the production.
Participants recorded their sequences alone at home, separate from all others in the same scene -- unless they were sheltering at home together. And not only do different actors play the same characters throughout the production, sometimes different actors even play same same character in the same scene. And switch genders with women playing men and vice versa.
For those interested, you can get the full thing here at Quibi.
However, for those who are intrigued but want to know a bit more before they dive in, here is almost 15 minutes of one complete section, the "Battle of Wits" sequence, where Westley and Inigo Montoya meet, and cross paths with Vizzini and Fezzik the Giant.
Here's the cast of characters, in case you need a cheat sheet. And you will. With a few other additions thrown in for good measure.
Jack Black - Westley
Diego Luna - Inigo Montoya
Kaitlyn Dever - Westley
Finn Wolfhard - Inigo Montoya
King Bach - Vizzini
Dave Bautista - Fezzik
David Spade - Westley
Tom Lennon - Prince Humperdink
Oliver Lennon - Rugen
Patton Oswalt - Vizzini
Jon Hamm - Westley
A moment of personal privilege today.
I found out yesterday that my friend Jeff Wright passed away on Monday. It wasn't from the coronavirus -- Jeff had gotten pounded by cancer 2-1/2 years ago and battled strongly against it, going through lots of procedures, having it come back, and fighting it again, but ultimately it was just too much.
I knew Jeff for 30 years. We weren't in close, regular contact -- we spoke or sent emails a couple times a year, and every once in a while we would have lunch...though it was a treasured friendship that lasted for 30 years, well-worth keeping up for three decades specifically because he was an absolutely wonderful guy. Truly nice, just gentle and selfless, decent almost to a fault. Really.
No, really -- so decent that it genuinely was almost to a fault. Sometimes you'd almost have to shake him silly to stop being so freaking decent. Really. Jeff was a very talented writer. Years back, in the very early days of his career, he co-wrote the first draft of a screenplay with another guy I know (who we'll call Ralph). Ralph had a touch more experience and credits, and told Jeff that it would be far beneficial to both their careers if he, Ralph, took sole credit on their draft so that when he and another highly-established writer did the second draft, Ralph's stock would rise more separately than as a team and allow him to bring Jeff along when they did their next script together. Jeff knew it would be important for him to get credit, but with his ethereally good, selfless nature didn't want to stand in the way of the insistence of his slightly-more experienced partner, didn't want to block the project which was moving forward when the new writer got involved, and agreed on the future benefit. (I found all this out after the fact.) The movie got made, was moderately successful, and Jeff was paid, but deeply warm-hearted Jeff never got that boost on their next "we're partners" script together, since it never occurred, But whenever I see the movie every time it shows up on TV -- and it periodically does -- I think of it as Jeff's script, as much as anyone's.
Okay, another screenwriting story on his decency almost to a fault, though fortunately with a better ending. Jeff had written a lovely children's adventure screenplay and gave co-story credit to the person who typed the script. I couldn't understand -- Jeff explained that he didn't have enough money to pay her in full what she deserved but she'd given him some feedback on the script, so he said he'd give her co-story credit. He knew full-well that giving feedback was not even remotely writing, but...he'd given his word. However, when I made clear that he'd never be able to use the script as a sample of his work with someone else's name also on it and kept pounding that in relentlessly against his insistence that he'd promised, he'd promised, "but I promised," he finally agreed to change the title page, worked things out with the typist and thank goodness took his proper full credit.
Happily, Jeff did get a co-writing credit on a fairly-high profile movie that made it to the theaters, though it didn't do well (long story about that...), the comedy BASEketball from David Zucker that starred Trey Parker and Matt Stone of South Park. That was back in my dark days of PR and I did the publicity on the film -- the screenplay was a lot of fun, unfortunately the filmmakers just mucked it up trying to make a sweet PG movie into something R-rated, which they acknowledged later.
Aside from being so nice and decent, Jeff also loved baseball. So, he gets a double-bonus on being an absolutely wonderful guy. As I said, we didn't get together often or talk often, but it added up to a lot over 30 years, and every time we did I just felt better afterwards. I'm just better for knowing Jeff.
The last time I saw Jeff was last year when we met for dinner at a restaurant in the Silverlake district that made Chicago-style deep dish pizza. It also gave me the chance to finally meet his wife Laurie. They'd married a few years back, but schedules never worked out. Boy, did he marry well. Just an absolutely lovely woman who Jeff adored, and who was a total, impressive, loving Rock of Gibraltar during his last very difficult couple of years. It wasn't the proper ending, but -- sorry, I've got to use the pun because it fits too well -- it was the Wright life.
I'd met Jeff when I was hired to be the publicist on the Naked Gun films, and Jeff was working with the Zucker Bros. company. And since they tended to put people around them in small roles of their films, Jeff was in a bunch of them. In fact, because he'd started out as an aspiring actor before becoming a writer, he actually got lines!
And so, here he is in Naked Gun 2-1/2: The Smell of Fear. Jeff plays a stock boy who comes in around the 30-second mark.
However, the walk-on role that Jeff got the most attention for came in the original The Naked Gun film -- because it involved the famous, hugely-popular sequence when Leslie Nielsen pretends to be opera singer Enrico Pallazzo and destroys singing the National Anthem. Jeff played the Dodger Stadium usher who has to go get Signor Pallazo and bring him to the field. That's Jeff coming down the hallway at the 2-minute mark.
So, happily, Jeff Wright will live on in film. But of course SO far, far, far more he will live on for his profound decency, warmth and glowing kindness in all those people who so-dearly admired and appreciated him.
One show to rule them all.
We have another Reunited Apart episode with Josh Gad. This one is creating a reunion of sorts with the cast and behind-the-scenes filmmakers of the Lord of the Rings series.
As you might imagine, there are a lot of people involved here. And though a few people pop on board early, most of the those here don't know who's coming next, and these surprises are much of the fun. Needless-to-say, there are tons of stories passed back and forth. And it's not surprising how much affection there is between people, given how long they all spent together making the three movies.. Enjoyable too that host Gad gets everyone involved with recreating scenes from the movies.
Be sure to stick around to the very end after the credits.
One annoyance with the series -- and the only one -- is that episodes are not just riddled with ads, but they drop in at any random time, in the middle of a conversation, for instance. The good news is that they can be clicked away after a few seconds.
There's a point to all this, bear with me. It's really worth it.
You may have read about (or not, since -- though it's gotten attention -- it hasn't gotten the attention that something this adventurous and fun deserves) the new "remake" version of the movie The Princess Bride.
The short version is that, having seen some "fan video" versions of movies, director Jason Reitman had the idea do have very well-known actors film short segments of The Princess Bride at home during lockdown and then edit them all together so the full movie would be "remade." He pitched the idea to the new streaming service, Quibi, which got on board. (Quibi streams high quality, short videos specifically and solely made to run on mobile phones.) The original movie's director Rob Reiner gave his approval, actors signed on, and the project went forward. It was all done as a fundraiser with money going to Chef Jose Andres' wonder World Central Kitchen.
Among the many actors involved include John Malkovich, Jack Black, Seth Rogen, Jennifer Garner, Josh Gad, Chris Pine, Penelope Cruz, Tiffany Haddish, Hugh Jackson Jon Hamm, Zoey Deutch, Elijah Wood, Charlize Theron, Keegan-Michael Key, Adam Sandler, Jason Segel, Zoe Saldana, Sophie Turner, Bryan Cranston, Patton Oswalt, Sarah Silverman, Paul Rudd, Sam Rockwell, Common, Neil Patrick Harris, and...okay, you get the idea. There's a lot more, but that's a good start. Okay, one additional actor -- Cary Elwes recreates his role as Westley.
Most scenes with multiple characters in them could have have one actor in each shot -- after all, the actors were each sheltering alone at home -- so even scenes had to be patchworked together, even if they didn't match. Sometimes those husbands and wives (or partners) were both actors, so they'd be able to record their scenes together. All the actors had fun with it -- using home utensils for props, bringing in their pets to play the dangerous animals, and sometimes switching genders for the characters they played. And no single actor played the same role repeatedly throughout the movie. There were dozens of different 'Westleys' and 'Princess Buttercups' and 'Inigo Montoyas' and...well, everyone. Fred Savage -- who played the little boy in the original film -- got involved, as well, recreating his role, having the story read to him by his grandfather. And who played in the grandfather in one of those scene? The original director, Rob Reiner. And a few short clips from the original movie were occasionally edited it, as well.
Jason Reitman did not direct the movie himself. Each segment was "directed" by the actors themselves in their individual scenes, though Reitman would consult with them about what was needed and help with sending some necessary props. And of course he was involved with getting it all edited together.
For those interested, you can check out the whole production here at Quibi.
And here's a minute-and-a-half segment to give you a short idea. That below is Tiffany Haddish and the rapper Common, who apparently are social-isolating together. They are a bunch of treats in the video, which begins in the little boy's room (not Fred Savage here) as his grandfather reads him the story.
But no, all that's not the point here. That above is the bonus.
This is the point.
As you know, Carl Reiner passed away the other week at the age of 98. And he made his final appearance in this production, inspired by the film that his son Rob directed. And all the more notable, he performed in the final scene.
And that's not the only thing notable. I'll leave it at that for now.
I don't have a video of it to embed, but it's available from a tweet. And I don't say this often -- like almost never, but if you have a hanky around, you might want to keep it at the ready.
Folks, when you've got to go...this is the way to do it.
Once again, I took my morning walk past the neighborhood Laemmle Royal art house movie theater in order to check out the marquee because (as I note each week) they change on Fridays to make some pandemic joke.
I stared at it a bit though, not sure what in the world they were referring to this week. And then, finally, it hit me, and I burst out laughing. It's also probably their most political comment. I'm not sure how many people passing the theater by will get the joke, since it's pretty subtle, most especially compared to their previous marquee quips. But clear enough since it was definitely in the news.
For those still scratching your heads --
Rio de Janeiro, as you know, is the largest city in Brazil. Its president, Jair Bolsonaro, has long been a close ally of Trump. Indeed, in his ongoing and ill-advised effort to suck up, he's similarly been very dismissive of the coronavirus, referring to it merely as nothing more than "the flu." Bolsonaro has also even followed in his buddy Trump's footsteps an advocate of the drug hydroxychloroquine being the miracle cure, despite it not having medical approval anywhere in the world.
This past Wednesday, Brazil President Bolsonaro tested positive for COVD-19.
As CNN reported about Bolsonaro's response now, "He also acknowledged the grave risk posed by a virus that he has in the past dismissed as just a 'little flu.' 'We know the fatality of the virus for those of a certain age, like me, above 65, as well as for those with comorbidities, diseases, other issues. In those cases, the virus could be decisive and lead to death -- everyone knew that.'"
Well, not everyone. And even those who did didn't always say it.
But back to the main point here -- I don't know who's in charge of the Royal's marquee, but hats off for their love and knowledge of movies, and willingness to go all-in with subtlety.
When Carl Reiner passed away last week at the age of 98, most of the articles about him understandably focused on his influence on the history of television. His film work -- as an actor and director -- has been mentioned, but not with the detail of TV. Yet he directed some truly wonderful films, most notably Oh, God! and All of Me.
And if All of Me existed only for the dance over the end credits, terrific as the movie is, that would have been enough for me. I think the dance is one of the more joyous scenes I've watched in a movie.
If you haven't ever seen the movie or if you've forgotten the specifics of what gets us to the scene, here's a brief recap.
Lily Tomlin plays a very wealthy invalid. She's made a deal to put her spirit in the body of a young, health, beautiful woman, played by Victoria Tennant. Through a mix-up, her spirit gets put by mistake into Steve Martin -- who gives one of the great comic performances of two people (one a woman) in one body. I rarely say someone "should have got a nomination but was overlooked," since it means someone else would have to be dropped off the list. But comedy does get overlooked, and this was a virtuoso performance. If I had to drop a nominee off from that 1985 list, I'd select Jeff Bridges in Starman. A very nice job, but this was masterful. But I digress. Anyway, we only see Tomlin when Martin passes by by mirrors, but they talk and argue throughout the movie. And eventually fall in love. And in the last scene, Martin dances with Victoria Tennant which leads to probably the best camera move in Carl Reiner's directing career. It's glorious.
(I'll only add that I have always loved the actor Richard Libertini from Second City, and here he plays the swami, who you'll see at the table.)
And now, on to The Dance. What a way to go out...
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.
Feedspot Badge of Honor