Built For Speed: Richard Pryor in GREASED LIGHTNING (Warner Brothers 1977)


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Richard Pryor  (1940-2005) has been hailed as a comedy genius, and rightly so. But Pryor could also more than hold his own in a dramatic role. Films like WILD IN THE STREETS, LADY SINGS THE BLUES, and BLUE COLLAR gave him the opportunity to strut his thespic stuff, and GREASED LIGHTNING gave him top billing as Wendell Scott, the first African-American NASCAR driver. Pryor plays it straight in this highly fictionalized biopic about a man determined to break the color barrier in the predominantly white sport of stock car racing.

We see Scott returning to his rural Danville, VA hometown after serving in WWII.  He tells everyone he wants to drive a cab and someday open a garage, but his secret wish is to become “a champion race car driver”. He meets and falls in love with Mary (Pam Grier, who’s never looked more beautiful), and they eventually marry…

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A Love Letter to STAN & OLLIE (Sony Pictures Classics 2018)


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I told you Dear Readers I was going to see STAN & OLLIE when it came to my area, and last Saturday night I did just that. Taking the 22 mile trip down the highway to Swansea, MA to catch the 9:40 showing, I have good news and bad news. The good: STAN & OLLIE is one of the best Hollywood biopic I’ve ever seen, a loving tribute to the classic comedy duo. The bad: well, I’ll get to that a bit later.

The film follows Laurel and Hardy as they embark on a 1953 tour of the UK. The duo is older, in need of money, and Stan is working on obtaining funding for their screen comeback – an adaptation of the Robin Hood legend. Ollie is in poor physical condition due to his massive weight gain, but Stan has persuaded him to do the tour. They’re booked into…

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Book Review: HANDSOME JOHNNY, The Life and Death of Johnny Rosselli, Gentleman Gangster, Hollywood Producer, CIA Assassin by Lee Server (St. Martin’s Press 2108)


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Ever since THE GODFATHER, I’ve been fascinated by the history of the Mafia in America. I’ve devoured just about every book on the subject, and consider myself a bit of an expert on this clandestine crime cartel. I believe it was while reading Ovid Demaris’s 1980 THE LAST MAFIOSO, a biography of gangster-turned-rat Jimmy “The Weasel” Fratianno, that I first became aware of the man known as Johnny Rosselli. His story captivated my interest, so when I saw a new biography of Rosselli was on the shelves at the local Barnes & Noble, I thought it’d make a great Christmas present… for myself! Naturally, I bought a copy, eager to learn more about this man who played a pivotal role in both the Mafia’s rise and the shadowy underbelly of American life in the 20th Century.

Author Lee Server is someone I’m unfamiliar with, which is strange, because his previously…

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Hollywood Babylon: TOO MUCH, TOO SOON (Warner Brothers 1958)


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Hollywood biopics are by and large more about their entertainment value than historical accuracy. TOO MUCH TOO SOON is no exception. It tells the story of actress Diana Barrymore, daughter of “The Great Profile” John, based on her 1957 best-selling tell-all, and though it pretty much sticks to the facts, many of them have been sanitized for audience consumption. Dorothy Malone , fresh off her Oscar-winning role in WRITTEN ON THE WIND, is very good indeed as Diana, whose true life was much more sordid than fiction, and we’ll get to all that later. What makes the film for me was the actor portraying the dissipated John Barrymore – none other than Errol Flynn !

Errol Flynn (1909-1959) as John Barrymore

Don’t expect to see the dashing star of CAPTAIN BLOOD and THE ADVENTURES OF ROBIN HOOD here. Flynn (who a year later would release his own tell-all book, MY…

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Book Review: HOPE: Entertainer of The Century by Richard Zoglin (Simon & Schuster, 2014)


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He was unquestionably one of the most famous, most recognized persons of the 20th Century, the father of what we now know as stand-up comedy, the first true multi-media star. A patriot and a philanderer, a giver and a taker, a smart-mouthed comic and a friend to presidents and generals. But who was Bob Hope, really? This ambitious 2014 biography by Richard Zoglin attempts to answer that question, a meticulously researched tome that tries to uncover the private man behind the public mask.

with vaudeville partner George Byrne

Zoglin digs deep into the available archives and uses interviews with those that knew him to paint his portrait of the notoriously reticent Bob Hope, reaching all the way back to his hardscrabble beginnings as an immigrant in Cleveland with six brothers, an alcoholic father who was an itinerant stone cutter, and a stern but loving mother who served as the de facto head…

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My 2012 Emmy Nominations


So, for the past few days, I’ve been happily hopping around my section of the Shattered Lens Bunker and do you know why? 

Because it’s awards season, that’s why!  With the conclusion of the 2011-2012 TV season, Emmy ballots have been mailed and votes are being cast and, come July, we’ll know which shows and performers have been nominated for the 2012 Emmys. 

Before that happens, however, I would like to play a little game called “What if Lisa Was Solely Responsible For Picking the Nominees.”  Here’s how it works — I looked over and studied the complete list of the shows and performances that have been submitted this year for Emmy consideration.  And then, from that list, I picked my personal nominees.

(A complete list of every show and performer that’s been submitted for Emmy consideration can be found here.)

Below are my personal nominations in the major Emmy categories.  Again, note that these are not necessarily the shows and performers that I believe will be nominated.  Instead, these are the shows and performers that I would nominate if I was solely responsible for picking the nominees.

A complete list of my nominations in every single Emmy category can be found here.  (And yes, there’s a lot of Lifetime on the list.  There’s also a lot of Community.)

Best Comedy Series

Bored to Death (HBO)

Community (NBC)

Girls (HBO)

It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia (FX)

Parks and Recreation (NBC)

Raising Hope (Fox)

Veep (HBO)

Best Drama Series

Boardwalk Empire (HBO)

Breaking Bad (AMC)

The Client List (Lifetime)

Downton Abbey (PBS)

Game of Thrones (HBO)

Homeland (Showtime)

Pan Am (ABC)

Ringer (The CW)

True Blood (HBO)

The Walking Dead (AMC)

Outstanding Miniseries or Movie

Blue-Eyed Butcher (Lifetime)

Cyberbully (ABC Family)

Drew Peterson: Untouchable (Lifetime)

Five (Lifetime)

Girl Fight (Lifetime)

Hatfields & McCoys (History Channel)

The Hour (BBC America)

Of Two Minds (Lifetime)

Outstanding Variety Series

Conan (TBS)

Fashion Police (E)

Key and Peele (Comedy Central)

The Soup (E)

Tosh .O (Comedy Central)

Outstanding Variety Special

Betty White’s 90th Birthday Party (NBC)

Celtic Women: Believe (PBS)

The Comedy Central Roast of Charlie Sheen (Comedy Central)

TV Land Awards (TV Land)

Wendy Liebman: Taller on TV (Showtime)

Outstanding Nonfiction Special

Bobby Fischer Against The World (HBO)

Catholicism: Amazed and Afraid (PBS)

Crime After Crime (OWN)

God Is The Bigger Elvis (HBO)

6 Days To Air: The Making of South Park (Comedy Central)

Outstanding Nonfiction Series

America in Primetime (PBS)

American Masters (PBS)

America’s Most Wanted (Lifetime)

Beyond Scared Straight (A&E)

Inside Story (Biography)

Outstanding Reality Program

Antiques Roadshow (PBS)

Dance Moms (Lifetime)

Kitchen Nightmares (Fox)

Scouted (E)

Storage Wars (A&E)

Outstanding Reality-Competition Program

The Amazing Race (CBS)

The Bachelor (ABC)

Big Brother (CBS)

The Celebrity Apprentice (NBC)

Hell’s Kitchen (Fox)

Project Runway (Lifetime)

So You Think You Can Dance (Fox)

Survivor (CBS)

Outstanding Lead Actor In A Comedy Series

Larry David in Curb Your Enthusiasm (HBO)

Johnny Galecki in The Big Bang Theory (CBS)

Danny McBride in Eastbound and Down (HBO)

Joel McHale in Community (NBC)

Lucas Neff in Raising Hope (Fox)

Jason Schwartzman in Bored To Death (HBO)

Outstanding Lead Actor In A Drama

Steve Buscemi in Boardwalk Empire (HBO)

Bryan Cranston in Breaking Bad (AMC)

Jeffrey Donavon in Burn Notice (USA)

Damian Lewis in Homeland (Showtime)

Andrew Lincoln in The Walking Dead (AMC)

Timothy Olyphant in Justified (FX)

Outstanding Lead Actor In A Miniseries or Movie

Idris Elba in Luther (BBC America)

Rob Lowe in Drew Peterson: Untouchable (Lifetime)

Steven Weber in Duke (Hallmark Movie Channel)

Dominic West in The Hour (BBC America)

Ben Whishaw in The Hour (BBC America)

Outstanding Lead Actress In A Comedy

Zooey Deschanel in New Girl (Fox)

Lena Dunham in Girls (HBO)

Tina Fey in 30 Rock  (NBC)

Julia Louis Dreyfuss in Veep (HBO)

Mary-Louis Parker in Weeds (Showtime)

Martha Plimpton in Raising Hope (Fox)

Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama

Claire Danes in Homeland (Showtime)

Sarah Michelle Gellar in Ringer (The CW)

Jennifer Love Hewitt in The Client List (Lifetime)

Julianna Margulies in The Good Wife (CBS)

Elizabeth McGovern in Downton Abbey (PBS)

Anna Paquin in True Blood (HBO)

Outstanding Lead Actress In A Miniseries or Movie

Kristin Davis in Of Two Minds (Lifetime)

Anne Heche in Girl Fight (Lifetime)

Rose McGowan in The Pastor’s Wife (Lifetime)

Emily Osment in Cyberbully (ABC Family)

Sara Paxton in Blue Eyed Butcher (Lifetime)

Outstanding Supporting Actor In A Comedy Series

Charlie Day in It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia (FX)

Danny DeVito in It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia (FX)

Donald Glover in Community (NBC)

Nick Offerman in Parks and Recreation (NBC)

Danny Pudi in Community (NBC)

Matt Walsh in Veep (HBO)

Outstanding Supporting Actor In A Drama

Bruce Campbell in Burn Notice (USA)

Peter Dinklage in Game of Thrones (HBO)

Giancarlo Espositto in Breaking Bad (AMC)

Michael Pitt in Boardwalk Empire (HBO)

Michael Shannon in Boardwalk Empire (HBO)

Alexander Skarsgard in True Blood (HBO)

Outstanding Supporting Actor In A Miniseries or Movie

Powers Boothe in Hatfields and McCoys (History Channel)

Justin Bruening in Blue-Eyed Butcher (Lifetime)

Mark-Paul Gosselaar in Hide (TNT)

Sir Roger Moore in A Princess For Christmas (Hallmark Movie Channel)

Tony Shalhoub in Five (Lifetime)

Outstanding Supporting Actress In A Comedy

Alison Brie in Community (NBC)

Kristen Chenoweth in GCB (ABC)

Anna Chlumsky in Veep (HBO)

Gillian Jacobs in Community (NBC)

Cloris Leachman in Raising Hope (Fox)

Aubrey Plaza in Parks and Recreation (NBC)

Outstanding Supporting Actress in Drama

Christine Baranski in The Good Wife (CBS)

Kristen Bauer Von Straten in True Blood (HBO)

Kelly MacDonald in Boardwalk Empire (HBO)

Christina Ricci in Pan Am (ABC)

Sophia Turner in Game of Thrones (HBO)

Deborah Ann Woll in True Blood (HBO)

Supporting Actress In A Miniseries or Movie

Tammy Blanchard in Of Two Minds (Lifetime)

Kaley Cuoco in Drew Peterson: Untouchable (Lifetime)

Lisa Edelstein in Blue-Eyed Butcher (Lifetime)

Jessica Lange in American Horror Story (FX)

Jena Malone in Hatfields and McCoy (History Channel)

Review: The Futurist – The Life and Films of James Cameron (by Rebecca Keegan)


2009 will probably go down as the year James Cameron returned from a self-imposed exile from feature-lenght filmmaking. It has been 12 years since his last major film for a big Hollywood studio. Titanic became the all-time box-office king with Cameron winning accolades and awards for his efforts. He was no flushed with money which has allowed him to take a break from making films audiences have come to expect from him. Instead he decided to go back to his first true-love growing up in Chippewa, Canada. Cameron went exploring the deepest parts of the ocean not just as a filmmaker but a scientists, researcher and explorer. This time of his life after proclaiming himself “King of the World” in the 1998 Academy Awards shows the dichotomy of James Cameron’s life and personality: the artist and scientist in one body.

It is the task of Rebecca Keegan’s biography of this modern-day renaissance man to give an insight as to how the two sides of Cameron made him the success he is today and one of the pioneers in filmmaking. The Futurist will look back to his childhood and, with unprecedented access to Cameron’s family, close friends, associates and, best of all, James Cameron himself, show us a glimpse at the very reclusive filmmaker. The book doesn’t overly fawn over Cameron’s talents and achievements, but if there was a man deserving such attention it would be Cameron.  Keegan never really points out and concentrate on the negatives of Cameron’s life and personality, but does allow these traits to show how committed and focused an individual Cameron was when it came to his work and demanded nothing less from those who worked with him.

The book details how Cameron’s parents may have had a major influence in how he turned out in life. Born of a father who was a mechanical engineer and an artist of a mother with a self-reliance and powerful personality which would imprint the young Cameron at an early age. In fact, Keegan devotes the early sections of the book to showing how gifted the Cameron brood was from Jim’s parents to his four other siblings. But in the end, it was Cameron who was the take-charge of the litter. Even at an early age it was he who led the other kids on his projects (which included building a plane from scraps and junk around the neighborhood). Right from the beginning Keegan was able to show us the many experiences and influences that both lead to him being one of the world’s foremost filmmakers to one also renowned for his dictatorial-style on the film set.

The Futurist really offers just a glimpse on the life of Cameron. It is a life that could almost be a primer for all young people dreaming to be filmmakers themselves or just whatever they want to do in life with something they love. Keegan’s casual writing style doesn’t have the dry, academic tone of most biographies. She almost treats the biography’s many chapters as a behind-the-scenes look into every film project Cameron has been a part of. From his early days as model builder in Roger Corman’s New World Pictures right up to his latest project for 20th Century Fox, Avatar. While each film discussed was already quite interesting for a fan of the filmmaker and those films, I was even more interested in finding out how Cameron’s own dedication and laser-like focus on each project showed both the genius and madman aspect of the man. Here was an individual so intelligent that he could converse with artists and scientists and keep up, if not, hold his own.

One specific anecdote in the biography which shows a lot about Cameron as a modern renaissance man was his time between Titanic and Avatar. This was a part of Cameron’s life where the scientist in him took precedence. He was working on a Mars film project and had come to work with NASA engineers and scientists on future plans to try and reach the Red Planet. Having access to unofficial papers and technical papers on such a project, Cameron was able to come up with a hybrid Mars lander which would also double as the rover. He submitted the plans and design specs to this “lander rover” to the NASA team who ended up more than impressed. A similar-looking lander rover would soon land on a later Mars mission and all thanks to the outside the box thinking Cameron was able to add to the scientists who had been working for years on the project. One of the NASA engineers was so impressed that he was heard to have commented that if Cameron wasn’t a filmmaker he definitely would’ve turned out to be an exceptional engineer.

It’s that admiration from those who have worked with Cameron which comes up more than once in Keegan’s book. She shows not just his artistic side but his love of science and research. Cameron definitely comes off as the know-it-all in the room. Whether one sees that as a negative or a positive it doesn’t change the fact that he probably does know it all and do it better than most in a room of contemporaries. We learn from Keegan’s inside-look at Cameron’s life how he could easily be a one-man film set. Most filmmakers, even great ones, rarely pick up a camera or become a major part of the editing process. Cameron could do everything that needs to be done on a set minus the acting. The Futurist also goes to great lenghts to point out that while Cameron was great at pretty much anything the needs to be done to make a film as a writer he admits to her how much he struggles at it. He sees the writing side of the film equation as something he wished he could do better and always trying to improve at it. This goes towards the many criticisms about Cameron’s film being cardboard cutouts of stories already done and done better. It goes to explain Cameron’s need to control every aspect of his film projects that he only trusts himself and, maybe close friends, to write the script for his films.

He wants to film his stories, his ideas and not other people. It definitely shows how many in Hollywood could equate that with him being very egocentric in how he deals with his peers. Some may admire this trait and others may see it as a man over his head and banking on the simple taste of the general population to make his films succeed. While I do not subscribe to the latter, I do think that much of the backlash he has received with his last two films go back to his ego and superiority over others. It is not easy for people who think they know what they talk about when it comes to film and everything that goes in making one be made to feel stupid when he makes it known. But then he has made a habit of being vindicated in the end despite these trait flaws. As the saying goes, “Sometimes the truth hurt.” James Cameron definitely comes across in the book as a no-nonsense, bullshit-free dictator who is smarter than everyone else.

In the end, Rebecca Keegan’s The Futurist is an engaging look-inside the mind of the man who has proclaimed himself “King of the World” and who others have called under their breath as a tyrannical dictator of a filmmaker. While the book could’ve been much longer and gone into even more detail about Cameron, his life and his films Keegan has definitely laid down the groundwork on any future Cameron biographies both official and unofficial. There’s definitely more to learn about this unique blending of romantic artists and dedicated science genius in one mind and body. For fans of James Cameron this book is definitely a must-have and read. For those just wanting to know more about this pioneer filmmaker then this book is a great primer to learning more about him.