Latest Blog Posts

<p>Michael&nbsp;Curtiz accepts his Oscar for Best Director of &quot;Casablanca&quot;&nbsp;at the 16th annual Academy Awards.</p>

Michael Curtiz accepts his Oscar for Best Director of "Casablanca" at the 16th annual Academy Awards.

Credit: AMPAS

Michael Curtiz's 'Casablanca' Oscar and original 'Metropolis' poster hit the auction block

Got any money burning a hole in your Caymans account?

Attention movie memorabilia collectors with massive wallets. There are a pair of items on the auction block that you might be interested in.

First up, the Best Director Oscar Michael Curtiz won for "Casablanca" in 1942. Actually, the auction for this one at Nate D. Sanders apparently closed already but I never heard anything else about it after the initial  news (which I've been meaning to mention for a few days now). It was expected to fetch upwards of $3 million. Wowsers. And apparently David Copperfied previously owned it, having paid $230,000 for it in 2003. Um, my guess is he made a profit when he sold it to whoever owned it prior to last week's auction.

That's a pretty key piece of Academy history, indeed, of film history. I'd say it's on the top tier, with things like Orson Welles's "Citizen Kane" prize and the like. But again, no word yet on who the winning bidder may have been.

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<p>Andy Griffith</p>

Andy Griffith

Credit: AP Photo

Reflections on growing up with Andy Griffith in North Carolina

What he meant to this girl from Raleigh

I grew up in Raleigh, N.C., or The Big City, as it was referred to on “The Andy Griffith Show.”  

When I heard of Andy Griffith’s death this morning, it felt like I’d lost an uncle. I never met him, but for anyone in North Carolina who was raised watching “The Andy Griffith Show” whether in real time or in its continual reruns, Griffith was the closest thing we had to a human god who wasn’t famous for throwing a ball or was named Billy Graham. (Read Alan Sepinwall's fine appreciation here).

 Though Griffith played Andy Taylor, the sheriff of Mayberry, and I’m quite sure his jurisdiction did not extend beyond the city limits, it felt like his avuncular, benevolent presence watched over all of us.  Not only did the widowed father take care of his boy, Opie (with the help of Aunt Bee, or “Aint” Bee, as everyone on the show pronounced it), he saw to it that none of Mayberry’s fine denizens came to any harm.

Mayberry may have been a fictional town that stood in for Griffith’s real hometown of Mt. Airy, N.C., but it felt very real. “The Andy Griffith Show” was the first television series that I had knowledge of being set in North Carolina and every time someone mentioned Raleigh in an episode, this little girl’s heart would swell with pride that all over the country people were hearing the name of my home town. I felt like it put us on the map. Plus, Raleigh was seen as a thriving metropolis and destination on the show: Deputy Barney Fife frequently talked about coming to Raleigh on vacation, staying at the YMCA, and taking in a picture show.

Nothing ever happened in Mayberry that Andy couldn’t fix within an half-hour episode, whether it was someone stealing Aunt Bee’s pie recipe or Opie lying or Otis needing to sleep one off in the drunk tank...again. And heaven help those big city folks (usually from the North, if I recall correctly) who came through Mayberry thinking they could pull one over on the local rubes. Well, Andy would sit right down and set them straight with his sly, homespun wisdom. He’d send those city slickers packing. No pie for them.

Even better was when someone would come through Mayberry (an inordinate number of cars seemed to breakdown there), who just happened to have superior musical skills, like Flatt & Scruggs or The Dillards (as The Darlings). There was always time to sit and pick for a spell, often with Andy on guitar.

Yes, it was an idealized version of southern country life, but it didn’t feel that farfetched, perhaps because Griffith knew the area so well and threw in so many aspects of his own childhood. Even though there were broad characterizations, Griffith never made fun of his own and understood the difference between a stereotype and a caricature. Oh sure, it was fine for Floyd the Barber to poke fun at service station attendants Gomer or Goober, but they’d circle the wagons right fast if an outsider tried to do so.  My father traveled the state a great deal for work when I was growing up. I occasionally accompanied him to smalls towns just like Mayberry  where nobody knew a stranger, everybody was your friend and there was always a cold soft drink (usually a Sun Drop in a glass bottle) waiting for Walt’s daughter.

I never saw an episode of “Matlock,” Griffith’s detective series from the ‘80s and ‘90s, and I don’t remember him at all as the federal prosecutor in the made-for-TV movie “Fatal Vision,” which told the story of Jeffrey McDonald, a Green Beret stationed at Ft. Bragg accused of killing his wife and children (As a kid growing up 75 minutes from Ft. Bragg and having a father who served in the National Guard there, the memories of those deaths,  McDonald’s assertion that a bunch of “hippies” killed his family, and the subsequent trials in Raleigh are my equivalent of the Manson murders). He remained Andy Taylor to me.

I had grown up and long left North Carolina before I discovered Elia Kazan’s “A Face in the Crowd” in the mid-to-late ‘90s. Released in 1957, it starred Griffith, in his first movie role, as Lonesome Rhodes, one of the most craven, charismatic characters ever committed to the big or small screen. I watched the movie slackjawed, incredulous that Sheriff Taylor could be so duplicitous, evil, and, dare I admit it, sexy. Griffith brilliantly plays an Arkansas ne’er-do-well discovered singing in jail by a radio producer, played by Patricia Neal. He becomes a national folk hero, seemingly speaking truth to power, all the while hiding his nearly sociopathic ambitions. If there had been true justice, the role would have catapulted Griffith to the ranks of a top movie star. I don’t know why it didn’t, but if it had, we never would have gotten Sheriff Taylor. (Note: TCM will run “A Face in the Crowd” in a daylong salute to Griffith on July 18).

For a long time, I thought that Mayberry was only special to people from North Carolina, but I came to realize that what Griffith had created resonated with most southern folks and almost anyone from a small town; He  was seen as a national treasure and we were happy to share him.  Country music embraced the values that Sheriff Taylor stood for and considered Griffith one of their own.  “The Andy Griffith” show was immortalized in a number of country songs and in 2008 Griffith starred in Brad Paisley’s stirring video for  “Waitin’ on a Woman.” Paisley talks about working with Griffith here  and his death in this touching LA Times piece. (Griffith himself won a Grammy for his gospel recordings in 1996).

North Carolinians loved Griffith for representing them so well and for never abandoning them. He came back to live in N.C. more than 20 years ago and seemed to love his later years there, lending his voice and name to causes he supported. In 2002, TV Land donated a statue of Griffith to Pullen Park, the local Raleigh park my mom took me and my older sister, Jeannie, to when we were little to ride the train and the merry-go-round. It’s a statue of Griffith as Sheriff Taylor with Opie as they head for their fishing hole, just like in the show’s credits. My friend Debbie and I went to see it on one of my trips back home several years ago and it brought back a rush of childhood memories. I have no doubt that today that statue is covered in flowers and is serving as a meeting place for Griffith’s fans, just like Strawberry Fields served for John Lennon’s fans. I don’t know if Gov. Perdue has called for the N.C. flag to be flown at half-mast in Griffith’s honor, but it feels appropriate if she has. Griffith may be gone, but Andy Taylor will live forever.  I’m heading to Raleigh later this week. A trip to the statue, and maybe even a drive by the YMCA, may be in order. 

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<p>Tom Cruise in &quot;Jack&nbsp;Reacher,&quot;&nbsp;opening later this year</p>

Tom Cruise in "Jack Reacher," opening later this year

Credit: Paramount Pictures

Top 10 Tom Cruise performances

A salute to the actor on his 50th birthday

Movie star Tom Cruise has been, somewhat quietly, passing through one of the high-water marks of his career as of late. In December, "Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol" became his biggest box office success to date, which is saying something in a career that has included such blockbuster fare as "Top Gun," "Minority Report" and "War of the Worlds," not to mention three previous entries in the franchise; he managed to be just one of very few elements of "Rock of Ages," currently in theaters, to come away unscathed; and, oh yeah, he's turning 50 today.

Cruise has been in the news a lot this week as a result of his (naturally very public) divorce from Katie Holmes. But I'll save the melodrama regarding what the "real" story is behind all of that for those overly interested. It's unfortunate that this planned piece of commentary ended up coinciding with one of Cruise's personal low points, but so be it. As noted in The New York Times yesterday (beat me to the punch), he always bounces back.

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<p>Even in publicity photos, Andy Griffith wound up playing straight man to co-star Don Knotts.</p>

Even in publicity photos, Andy Griffith wound up playing straight man to co-star Don Knotts.

Credit: CBS

Andy Griffith: Appreciating the late, great sincere TV icon

The star of 'The Andy Griffith Show' and 'Matlock' died today
Andy Griffith, who died today at the age of 86, was one of the great television stars of all time not because of his skill with a joke (though he was splendid as both comedian and straight man), nor because of his dramatic chops (though his performance in the 1957 movie "A Face in the Crowd" is seared in the memory of anyone who saw it), but simply because audiences found something innately decent and trustworthy about him. Whether as small-town sheriff Andy Taylor on "The Andy Griffith Show" or a crafty aging lawyer on "Matlock," Griffith was someone viewers wanted on their side.
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<p>Emilie Dequenne and Tahar Rahim in &quot;Our Children.&quot;</p>

Emilie Dequenne and Tahar Rahim in "Our Children."

Credit: Versus Production/Peccadillo Pictures

Karlovy Vary: 'Our Children' wows as temperatures rise

Émilie Dequenne is astonishing in Cannes critics' hit

KARLOVY VARY, Czech Republic - I don’t why it didn’t occur to me that a film festival located high in the Czech mountains in the middle of summer would be on the warm side, but it didn’t – it’s been a humid few days of filmgoing here at the Karlovy Vary International Film Festival, even when some films haven’t packed much heat. Handily enough, the air conditioning throughout the festival center apparently chose this weekend to go on the blink, introducing a sauna-like atmosphere to certain screening rooms that, in the words of a glass-half-full Czech critic I overheard yesterday, “intensifies the experience.”

The experience was only moderately de-intensified this evening with an electrical storm that did little to dampen the enthusiasm of the numerous al fresco beer drinkers at this cheerfully youth-populated festival. “The weather here is Karlovy Varied,” remarked a British writer-director, who’d probably rather not be credited with that line, as we joined them. The festival itself may want to reappropriate it for advertising purposes. My viewing list from the last two days has been nothing if not Karlovy varied: it spans, among others, a blissful big-screen return visit to Jean-Pierre Melville’s “Le Samouraï,” a Finnish-Portuguese western inspired by the work of Henry David Thoreau and an erotic Dutch character study understandably – if not quite accurately – described by several critics as a female-focused “Shame.”   

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Watch: The full Adam Lambert + Queen concert from Kiev
Credit: AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky

Watch: The full Adam Lambert + Queen concert from Kiev

How does he compare with Freddie Mercury?

Adam Lambert opened his first of four dates as frontman for Queen Saturday in Kiev, Ukraine and you can watch the full two-hour set below.

Yes, it’s as big, glam, and over the top as you’d expect.

[More after the jump...]

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Watch: Florence + the Machine road trip on 'Breaking Down' video
Credit: Island Records

Watch: Florence + the Machine road trip on 'Breaking Down' video

Retro feel suits the song perfectly

Just in time for 4th of July, Florence + The Machine deliver a video that feels a bit like a celebration of the U.S.

The gauzy clip for “Breaking Down” unspools like old home movies: a mixture of scenes shot on the road and stock footage. It opens as a patriotic pinwheel (note to self: go buy Sparklers) spins over a Los Angeles road sign. What follows is Florence Welch hanging out in a pool circa a ‘60s housewife. We travel to New Orleans and Las Vegas as the tune (the most mainstream track on “Ceremonials”) plays on. Our travels bring us back to Los Angeles and the Hollywood Bowl.

[More after the jump...]

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<p>The album art for Chris Brown's latest, &quot;Fortune.&quot;</p>

The album art for Chris Brown's latest, "Fortune."

Album Review: Does Chris Brown have good 'Fortune' on new set?

Will it be his last album?

Chris Brown is coming off his Grammy win for best R&B album for “F.A.M.E.” Now he’s going for the second half of the equation with “Fortune,” out July 3.  And if Brown's words at Sunday night's BET Awards are true, it will be his last record.

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<p>Casey Wilson and Adam Pally in &quot;Happy Endings.&quot;</p>

Casey Wilson and Adam Pally in "Happy Endings."

Credit: ABC

If I had an Emmy ballot 2012: Outstanding Comedy Series

A great, diverse year for sitcoms offers an eclectic list of hypothetical nominees

Okay, we're almost at the finish line with this year's Emmy project. Completed Emmy ballots were due last Thursday, but that's not going to keep Dan and I from hitting the top two categories with our usual split: I'll pretend that I have an Emmy ballot and make my picks for the six actors or shows I would put on my ballot, while Dan will rank the potential nominees from most likely to least. And, as always, we are working off of the actual Emmy ballot, so we can't consider shows that didn't submit themselves, nor can we reassign one to a more suitable or easier category.

Today we're doing Outstanding Comedy Series. Dan's predictions are here, and my picks are coming right up...

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<p>Jessica Sanchez has a record deal.</p>

Jessica Sanchez has a record deal.

Credit: AP Photo/Matt Sayles

'American Idol's' Jessica Sanchez follows Phillip Phillips to Interscope

When will the runner-up's album come out?

“American Idol” Season 11 runner up Jessica Sanchez has signed with Interscope Records. Her album is due in October.

Interscope, which has the first right of refusal on signing the “American Idol” finalists, will take the 16-year old in a more “urban flavor,” according to The Hollywood Reporter.

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<p>HBO&nbsp;has renewed &quot;The Newsroom,&quot;&nbsp;starring Emily Mortimer and Jeff Daniels, for a second season.</p>

HBO has renewed "The Newsroom," starring Emily Mortimer and Jeff Daniels, for a second season.

Credit: HBO

HBO renews 'The Newsroom' & 'True Blood'

Sookie Stackhouse and Aaron Sorkin will both be back next year

HBO has renewed "True Blood" and "The Newsroom."

For a while there, HBO was like clockwork with its renewals, ordering new seasons of shows on the Tuesday after their premieres. But they've gotten out of that practice lately: "Enlightened" had to wait til the end of its season to get the good news, while "Girls" and "Veep" were a few weeks into their respective seasons when it happened.

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<p>Smashing Pumpkins</p>

Smashing Pumpkins

Credit: EMI

Interview: Billy Corgan talks new Smashing Pumpkins, rock radio, Radiohead and reality TV

Frontman chats about Jessica Simpson, M83, Amanda Palmer, Radiohead, Nicki Minaj... and 'Oceania'

As Billy Corgan said in our recent interview, Smashing Pumpkins are never, ever going to be an “Oldies act.” This week, it was laid bare that at least 54,000 album buyers know that the rock troupe is still alive and releasing new material, with the latest set “Oceania.” Radio continues to serve as a good reminder of the Pumpkins’ past.

Those sales put the Pumpkins at the No. 4 slot on the sales chart this week, but not without Corgan going on an all-out media blitz in the weeks leading up to the full-length release. The 13-song set was the result of a new distro deal with EMI, the major label that was also busily re-releasing the Pumpkins’ “Gish” and “Siamese Dream,” and today announced the reissue of the Pumpkins' 1994 "odds and orphans" album "Pisces Iscariot" (due July 17). The act’s lineup was new, too, as was this eclectic album’s role: “Oceania” was conceived as an album-in-an-album, in the middle of what Corgan intends to be a 44-song suite, “Teargarden by Kaleidyscope.”
Below is an abridged version of our talk, which covered everything from his ex-girlfriend Jessica Simpson to his Chicago-based independent professional wrestling company Resistance Pro to his favorite new artists (M83) to why he loves radio. Hey, he even likes Radiohead and is pitching a reality TV show. Billy Corgan is refreshingly game to talk about it all.
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