Monday, February 27, 2012

The Oscars: Hits and misses

What did you make of last night's Oscars telecast? Sure, it was better than last year's debacle co-hosted by James Franco and Anne Hathaway. But, seriously, is it just me or is the self-congratulatory tone of this event escalating each and every year?

Let's take a look at last night's hits and misses:

Hit: Tom Hanks looked great. His tuxedo offered up a unique look which suited him and the goatee made Hanks look younger.

Miss: Let's start with Angelina Jolie. Seriously, the leg looked great but the rest of the body--not so much. Eat a meal, Angie! I mean, those arms look like toothpicks.

Hit: Penelope Cruz had the dress of the night.

Miss: What was with so many women wearing pale-toned dresses?

Hit: Sadly, the montage of stills and film of those who passed away in 2011 was a highlight.

Miss: Sacha Baron Cohen successfully found a way to get on the red carpet as The Dictator and then found a way to spill the fake ashes of Kim Jong Il on Ryan Seacrest. No matter what you think of Seacrest, it was a bush league moment.

Hit: Billy Crystal.

Miss: Viola Davis. Not only did Davis look totally different given the new 'do and makeup job but she also missed out in the Best Actress category.

Hit: Cameron Diaz.

Miss: The "nip slip." Jennifer Lopez's "down to there" gown offered up what appeared to be a peek of "that" area on her left breast.

Hit: Emma Stone was fun as a presenter along with Ben Stiller who tried to act the part of experienced, veteran Oscar-goer.

Miss: Sean Young, who got busted outside of the Governor's Ball for allegedly duking it out with a security guard.

Hit: George Clooney. Does anyone look more "old Hollywood," in a good way, than Clooney?

Sons of Anarchy returning for at least two more seasons

Sons of Anarchy, a ratings leader for FX, is going to return for at least two more seasons.

Kurt Sutter, the creator of the smash series, has signed an overall three-year deal with 20th Century Fox TV and FX Productions, which jointly produce this highest-rated series in the network's history. As part of the deal, SOA was renewed through a sixth season and those close to Sutter, and the show, feel that a seventh--and likely final--season will occur as well.

(Source: The Hollywood Reporter)

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Prepping for a big weekend

Greetings from the left coast where Los Angeles and the film community here prepares for the 84th annual pat-ourselves-on-the-back festival known as the Academy Awards. Let's throw it around, shall we?

- Hotel rates for premium lodging in this town are doubling come tomorrow, given the influx of visitors for the Oscars. As an example, the Miramar Fairmont, in Santa Monica, is bumping its nightly room rate from $350 up to $700 plus.

- Under this year's balloting rules, Academy members will rank all nine Best Picture nominees. The combined score will then determine the winner, meaning that a film needs to be near the top of many ballots to be named Best Picture.

- Is it just me or does anyone else find it sick that Chris Brown and Rihanna are collaborating on two tracks? Their collaboration comes three years after he assaulted her. I understand Rihanna's desire to be provocative but domestic violence is a huge issue in this country. As for Chris Brown, it's a crime that he's been given the air time of late. Both singers have, in the past, asked the public to allow them space--to move beyond their public unsettled relationship. Yet, here they are flaunting the domestic abuse incident for commercial reasons. It's wrong and very, very sad.

- The Sonic guys are back! After a hiatus of a few years, a social media campaign has brought the two back with TV spots airing over the next few weeks. The pre-launch campaign began on February 9 with a concept that Peter Grosz and T.J. Jagodowski, the two spokesmen, wanted to get their jobs back with Sonic. The campaign included direct elements--a Twitter feed, YouTube channel and Facebook page, plus a website where visitors could view commercials made by the pair in an attempt to convince Sonic to take them back. The campaign was created by Goodby, Silverstein & Partners, San Francisco.

- Who appear to be the Oscar favorites in the primary categories? Best Picture: The Artist; Best Actor: George Clooney, The Descendants; Best Actress: Viola Davis, The Help; Best Supporting Actor: Christopher Plummer, Beginners; Best Supporting Actress: Octavia Spencer, The Help; and Best Director: Michael Hazanavicius, The Artist.

- Dave Grohl (Foo Fighters) has signed on as executive producer for a new comedy, on FX, about a rising rock band seeking therapy in order to keep the group from breaking up. The show will star comedian Dana Gould.

- What will all of the stars and industry folk chow down on at the Governors Ball on Sunday night? The appetizer and small bites menu, served up by master chef Wolfgang Puck, will include Chinois lamb with cilantro-mint vinaigrette, beet tortellini with goat cheese and toasted hazelnuts, spicy tuna tartare in sesame miso cones with masago, and Fuji apple salad with crumbled blue cheese, arugula, shaved red onion and apple cider vinaigrette.

- And, finally, guitar hero Carlos Santana is taking up a two-year residency at the House of Blues in Las Vegas. Beginning May 2, Santana will do 80 nights a year at the club with a show he's titled "Greatest Hits Live: Santana--Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow."

Friday, February 17, 2012

What's the fastest growing social website?

You're already on Facebook. You have a Twitter account. You check in on Foursquare. Maybe you do Instagram or Google Plus too. Who has time for yet another social website?

Well, apparently millions do as is now the next free site to become intensely popular--it's the fastest website in history to eclipse the 10 million-visitors-a-month mark.

Pinterest is an online scrapbook/bulletin board which allows you to customize your board based upon interests, e.g., "favorite Italian recipes," "cool craft ideas" or "home remodeling ideas." The site is easy to use--as you surf the web and see something of interest, you can click the "Pin It" button on your bookmarks bar. The whole process is like making a virtual scrapbook.

It's also easy to repin items that you see on a friend's board, or to find people to "follow"--those who have tastes like yours.

The appeal of Pinterest not only is due to its simplicity, but also that it's uncluttered. There are no ads and nothing pops up like on other social media sites. And, unlike Facebook and Twitter, you're not broadcasting out--you're creating boards for your own use based upon your own interests and inspiration.

While not a user, my experience with the site is that it also is far less self-absorbed than Facebook or Twitter. As a Huffington Post columnist wrote, "Facebook and Twitter posts tend to come with the silent subtext, 'Here's how great I am.' On Pinterest, the tone seems to be 'Wouldn't this be great?'"

Is there room for yet another successful social media site? Apparently, with Pinterest, the answer is "yes."

(Source: New York Times)

Thursday, February 16, 2012

The bloom is off Glee's rose

Bad news, Gleeks--just a week before its season finale, Glee (FOX) posted its second-lowest rated show ever. The 2.8 rating on Tuesday night isn't bad, when measured against most network shows, but it continues an alarming trend--Glee's ratings have been dropping dramatically over the past few weeks.

The show averaged a 3.7 rating among 18-49 year olds two weeks ago, then fell to 3.3 last week before this week and the further decline to 2.8. That's a decline of almost 25 percent over two weeks. And, the show is down 38 percent from its first year when it averaged a 4.5 rating against the 18-49 year old demographic.

Historically, shows which experience this kind of decline do not recover. And, while this is Glee--a show which captured viewers' fancies when it debuted--it also faces the challenge of characters graduating and moving on. Next year, star Lea Michele will be gone from Glee's high school setting.

Will Glee survive? I'm sure there will be a season four but a major injection of improved storylines coupled with fresh, appealing faces is critical.

Monday, February 13, 2012

The Grammys

The Grammys typically have one or two jaw-dropping performances per annual awards show and more than its share of "what the hell was that" moments too. Last night was no exception. Here are my hits and misses from The Grammys, held at the Staples Center and L.A. Live last evening in downtown Los Angeles.

Hit: Let's start here with Adele. What a voice! And, on a night when the music industry honored Whitney Houston and her incomparable voice, it was nice to see Adele--an artist who sings--singled out as the biggest honoree of the night.

Miss: Where to start? The top of my list here is Nicki Minaj. I mean, what the hell was that performance about? Was there something musically in there that I missed?

Hit: Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band opened the show and used the platform to highlight what good ol' kick-ass rock-and-roll is all about.

Miss: I'm not even going to look up the appropriate name for the mouse D.J. bit--why bother? If that was a performance intended to honor Don Cornelius, then the former Soul Train founder's legacy was permanently scarred last night.

Hit: Jennifer Hudson's rendition of "I Will Always Love You" was hair-raising, goosebump chilling and amazing, given Hudson's short amount of time to prepare for this showcase moment. She knocked it out of the park.

Miss: The Beach Boys reunion, fronted by off-key renditions of Beach Boy songs by Maroon 5 and Foster the People, was painful to watch. Brian Wilson was clearly uncomfortable, casting rather horrified glances around during the performance of "Good Vibrations."

Hit: LL Cool J did an admirable job as show emcee. I wondered, as I watched, if LL aspired to this post back when he began his rap career in the mid-1980s.

Miss: The Coldplay and Rihanna collaboration on "Princess of China" fell flat. There are times when the Grammy attempt at placing performers together simply doesn't work--this pairing was one of them.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Saturday morning coffee

- Let's give birthday shout-outs, shall we, to Missouri girl Sheryl Crow, who turns 50 today; Jennifer Anniston, still cover girl fodder at age 43; and Burt Reynolds, who clocks in at 76.

- CNN's Candy Crowley received the William Allen White Citation at the University of Kansas' School of Journalism & Mass Communications yesterday. And, in her remarks, Crowley noted that she's worried about an electorate that only gets its information from one news source. She also, when asked, said that if she'd done one thing different in school it would have been to "pay more attention in history." Crowley used that statement to point out that we live history every day.

- Did you see Modern Family on Wednesday night? Greg Kinnear's character was re-enacting the Saturday Night Live skit of the family who loves to kiss on the lips, regardless of gender or station. Funny stuff...

- When will Oklahoma Joe's in the old TGIF restaurant space open at 119th and Roe in Leawood, KS? There finally appears to be demolition and retrofit activity going on but the presumed opening date of this month seems optimistic.

- The Los Angeles Police Department captain who handled the crime scene on the day Don Cornelius killed himself was once on Soul Train. Captain Tina Monett Morris once appeared on the show, when she was a teenager, as a dancer.

- Given all of the lingering discussion about the commercial, and Clint Eastwood's role in the spot, methinks that Chrysler was successful with its Super Bowl advertising. The continuing conversation only keeps the brand in the public discussion well after the game is over.

- Google Wallet may be virtual but it appears that there is still danger of "losing" your wallet. According to, Google Wallet is "easier to crack than a walnut." A new hack surfaced today found that if you get your hands on a Google Wallet-enabled device, you can easily get at the personal information inside by tweaking a few settings and clearing the app data, allowing you to input a new pin all your own. Yikes!

- Search engine rankings for January 2012: Google, 66.2%, up from 65.9% in December; Bing, 15.2%, up from 15.1%; Yahoo, 14.1%, down from 14.5%.

- My favorite social media post of the week: "You can't be married to Gisele and win the Super Bowl at the same time. Fair's fair." (Source: Wall Street Journal)

- Finally, to all of my friends on Facebook who use that social media device as an hour-by-hour "here's what I'm doing" diary--have you ever heard of Twitter? Just sayin'...

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Catching up on the world of entertainment

- The 2012 Best Picture nominations for the Academy Awards are in place and The Help leads the field when considering domestic gross numbers. The Help is currently at $170M followed, distantly, by Moneyball at $76M and War Horse at $72M.

- While it's great that Red Tails has elevated the story of the Tuskegee airmen, the story deserved better. This is a movie which needed the understanding touch of a Steven Spielberg-Tom Hanks collaboration, a la Saving Private Ryan and Band of Brothers. The dialogue in this movie was painful and the sub-titling on the German flight scenes was downright laughable.

- Well, I'm flattered by the company I'm keeping. Readers of this blog know that I'm an unabashed fan of Homeland (Showtime.) And, others are now picking up on the quality of this drama--Showtime's public relations department is having a hard time keeping up with the demand for DVD sets of Season One. Yes, I know the first season has not yet been released to the general public but no less than ABC News anchor Diane Sawyer and a staffer for former President Bill Clinton have asked for the 12 episodes of this show.

- If you didn't tune in to the premiere of Smash, you need to check it out. NBC's much-hyped new show opened last night to solid numbers--11.5 million viewers and the biggest 9:00 p.m CT/10:00 p.m. ET drama ratings this year. However, industry observers expected bigger ratings given the lead-in of The Voice, which had 17.7 million viewers. Smash is very well done and stars ex-American Idol finalist Katherine McPhee along with Debra Messing.

- Finally, Saturday Night Live comedienne Kristen Wiig is in negotiations to star opposite Ben Stiller in The Secret Life of Walter Mitty. The film will center on a timid magazine photo manager who goes in search of a missing negative. Wiig plays Stiller's co-worker and girl of his fantasies. (Source: The Hollywood Reporter)

Monday, February 6, 2012

Super Bowl: Hits and misses

The day of gluttony is over. The antacid tablets have been consumed. Some of you may be battling hangovers this morning. Yet, there's work to be done--what do we make of last night's Super Bowl commercials and non-football activity?

Hit: The pre-game was spot on with Miranda Lambert and Blake Shelton offering up a touching duet on America the Beautiful and Kelly Clarkson hitting it out of the park on the always difficult Star Spangled Banner.

Push: Madonna's halftime was okay...but not great as in "Prince great." Madge rocked it out well for a 53-year old but the entry to the stage took up too much valuable time thus keeping us from hearing other hits from the pop star. I was expecting more...

Miss: Hyundai. It was another year of automotive advertising taking center stage and Hyundai, who just three years ago had offered up the Hyundai guarantee via the Super Bowl, ran work which was so-so at best.

Hit: Audi. An automaker who gets it is Audi--this year's spot highlighted their LED headlights and took advantage of the current fascination with vampires.

Miss: Coke. I hate to say it but the polar bears are getting old. This brand needs a major refresh at the Super Bowl.

Hit: Doritos. One of only two laugh-out-loud spots for me last night was this brand's spot featuring a dog who did away with the family cat.

Miss: Busch Light Platinum. The bottle's cool--the advertising was not.

Hit: VW. Last year's best spot (child Darth Vader) was followed up by this year's overweight dog who ultimately loses weight to chase the VW Bug.

Miss: Dodge/Chrysler. I loved last year's spot for this automaker which featured Eminem and paid homage to the city of Detroit. It's hard not to like anything with Clint Eastwood but this rendition tried too hard and struck too political a tone.

Hit: Kia. Let's face it, it's hard to make a Kia sexy. This ad tried hard and did a pretty good job.

Hit: Chevrolet - Camaro. A hot car plays right into a college graduate's testerone-fueled fantasy of the riches the auto can provide.

Hit: Career Builder. Yes, I know--apes/chimps in advertising is considered off-limits by some. But, seriously, did you not laugh at this spot featuring, yet again, the worker tormented by his scheming "co-workers?"

What was missing? Well, thankfully, the sophomoric humor which has been so popular over the past five years or so was nowhere to be seen. GoDaddy continued to showcase their sexist approach to "advertising" and Adriana Lima will likely be one of the most downloaded women on the 'net today after being showcased on the Teleflora (a really bad spot) and Kia commercials.

GE tried to use the Super Bowl as a platform for their corporate message but it felt flat amidst the auto and other, more entertaining work.

Overall, it wasn't a great portfolio of work but, of late, what is on this biggest viewing event of the year? The game and associated broadcast has grown so large and overwhelming that little can stand up to the immensity of that programming.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Super Bowl Sunday gluttony

We all know that Super Bowl Sunday is second only to Thanksgiving when it comes to food consumption among Americans. But, holy guacamole, get a load of these statistics, as highlighted today in the Wall Street Journal:

- 4.4 million pizzas will be sold on Sunday by Pizza Hut, Dominos and Papa John's--more than five pizzas for every man, woman and child in the Super Bowl host city of Indianapolis.

- 111 million gallons of beer will be consumed--enough to fill 168 Olympic-sized swimming pools.

- 43.2 million pounds of tortilla chips are eaten on Super Bowl Sunday, reinforcing the decision by Doritos to be a Super Bowl advertiser. That's the equivalent of 96 Statues of Liberty!

- Not to be outdone, we will consume 45.8 million pounds of potato chips--no word if these are baked or not--which equates to 10 space shuttles.

- You want wings, you say? Okay, 100 million pounds of wings will be served on Sunday--1.25 billion pieces, enough to circle the Earth more than twice.

- Pretzels bring up the rear in the salty snack category but 13.2 million pounds will be consumed, no small amount of sodium being inhaled by we football fans.

- And, finally, as guacamole has grown in popularity, the use of avocadoes has risen to where we now consume 71.4 million pounds of the fruit. If you stacked, on a football field, the 143 million avocadoes which make up this amount, that structure would rise 27.5 feet above the playing surface.

It was this latter statistic which caused the executive director of the Avocado Board to pontificate, "avocado people are party people!" Rock on, guac lovers...

(Source: Nielsen, Wall Street Journal)