Ricardo was one of the smoothest screen presences around, an advocate for Mexican-born actors and had fought through some intense physical maladies for the last 15 years of his life, but stuck it through till the verge of 90. And we are merely glad to we got a chance to acknowledge his 88th and final birthday with proper NCDSUV homage before he died. He will be missed.
Hopefully all those anticipatory Super Bowl partiers will be ready to step aside from their beer bongs and nachos during the pre-game festivities for a solemn moment of poignancy. Awkwardness will no doubt abound in America's living rooms, and girlfriends will assuredly be slapping their insensitive partners' into compassion when Jennifer Hudson takes the stage to sing the National Anthem before the big game on February 1.
This will, of course, be the singer/actress' first public appearance since the horrific slayings of her mother, brother and nephew in October. And what a doozy it is. However, much as I'd love to muster my usual cynicism and insinuate that Hudson manipulated the situation into a triumphant PR resurgence, I will propose the following two motives on her behalf: A. She's using the money toward legal fees to send the alleged killer to jail or for a foundation in her late relatives' names, or B. She's viewing this is as the utmost cleansing catharsis, perversely less excruciating than reemerging via a series of smaller appearances.
Either way, Hudson has one hell of an inner resolve. Maybe it's her whole Jesus-loving thing. Hmmmm. Perhaps I should give that a try.
Varied and conflicting reports surrounding the death of John Travolta's 16-year-old son, Jett, continue to circulate. Everyone seems to be secretly hoping that the actor's Scientology in some way affected his decisions regarding medication and proper care for Jett's Kawasaki disease, and the movie star's camp keeps refuting authorities' claims of the child being left unattended for a great length of time.
But whatever the case, we can all rest easy knowing that Tom Cruise put in a phone call to his friend/spiritual accomplice to offer condolences. Phew. Without that little sidebar I might have begun to wonder why I was otherwise going blind in an attempt to decode all the procedural mumbo jumbo around this story and have sought out harmless blog items on the Rock Of Love Bus premiere instead. That was a close one.
They say Levi Johnston, soon-to-be-husband of Bristol Palin, son of recent drug-ring arrestee Sherry Johnston and future-son-in law of Alaskan Governor/never-would-have-been-VP candidate Sarah Palin, is an apprentice electrician. Sounds more to me like the only apprenticeship he'll never graduate from is being indentured in the Palin family for all the rest of his eternally damned days.
As you likely heard through the apple-blossom-vine, the Palin/Johnston child-bearing tandem gave birth this past Sunday to Tripp Easton Mitchell Johnston. Which means their son has two options: Become a stately senator who spawns generations of same-named kin, or a racecar driver. But the only one behind the wheel of poor Levi's life is his socially Satanic (er, I mean conservative) surrogate mom, Sarah, especially now that Levi's matriarch somehow trumps her in hypocritical irresponsibility.
In a s statement, Sarah and her husband Todd referred to Levi rather coldly as "the young man," and remarked that he and Bristol are "going to realize very quickly the difficulties of raising a child."
Which is code for, "You fucked up and impregnated our underage daughter with your demon dick, and because of our puritanical value system and misguided run for major governmental candidacy, you're stuck owning up to that decision by raising this kid when you're barely old enough to have voted for me and John McCain, and then marrying Bristol and sacrificing all your individual hopes and dreams."
Sucks to be you kid. Well, both Levi and Tripp that is.
Just to update information that we, along with every other outlet in the world, were led to erroneously report, Mark Ruffalo's 39-year-old brother, Scott, was not shot in the head by 26-year-old Shaha Adham. Forensic evidence uncovered that the wound was self-inflicted, and reports now indicate Scott's passing was a likely result of wreckless gun behavior.
While I jokingly alluded to Plaxico Burress' recent firearm incident in yesterday's post, the news that Scott's death may have resulted from some variation on Russian Roulette-style risk-taking actually ties the two cryptically closer together. And reinforces that perhaps the Second Amendment could use a bit more revising 200 hundred-plus years into its indoctrination. But, ya know, just sayin...
It wasn't incredibly well-publicized (after all, we were all very busy contributing to the calculated Britney Spears comeback), but in very sad news, Mark Ruffalo's 39-year-old brother Scott, who was a hairstylist, died from a gunshot wound to the head he sustained on December 1.
A chief suspect has been taken into custody in attempted murder charges for the shooting, and Mark, not surprisingly, has made no public comment.
You can't help but feel like you know a guy (or at least have some indication of his character by the roles he chooses and how he inhabits them) a bit better than if you just passed him on the street after you've seen him in intimate human dramas like You Can Count On Me and We Don't Live Here Anymore. (The latter of which I happened to watch and become incredibly moved by in the past few days.)
Good to see gun control's not out of hand or anything in this country. At least Plaxico Burress had the decency to only cause peril to himself.
There's nothing I love more than sitting around with my morning latte, a copy of my prized Ayn Rand autobiography to my left and my gossip-perusing laptop to my right. And as I poured over the backstory behind Atlas Shrugged while enjoying another steamy sip o' Starbucks, I was simultaneously appalling at the news of someone hacking into the Miley Cyrus' YouTube account and suggesting she had been killed in a drunk-driving incident.
Of course, the news turned out to be false, and Cyrus even went so far as to post a photo on her Facebook revealing a green bra adorned with the words, "I'm stayin' alive like Frank Stallone" over its lacy exterior. OK, that also is less than truthful.
But what truly made me spill my caffeinated intoxicant across my thighs was the photo that accompanied the story on this particular site (if you didn't click the above link the first time, now might be a good moment to do so). It featured an alive-and-swell Cyrus on Nov. 10, at a Stephen Baldwin book signing, pointing to a Hannah Montana tattoo he inscribed into his arm on a dare.
We generally use this space to lightheartedly berate celebrities for their great variety of always amusing, sometimes charming and (hopefully) harmless peccadilloes. Actors and musicians are too-often seen as impervious to the great tragedies of life, so it's easy to titter into our tea about their ill-chosen movie roles and freewheeling games of musical beds and totally ignore the fact no, they're not merely wind-up circus monkeys put here to tickle our fancy ("dance, monkeys, dance!!"). They're human beings who sometimes encounter real catastrophes.
Poor, nauseating Nancy. Last month marked the 30th anniversary of her death and the soon-after implosion of the punk scene she formed an equally symbiotic and exploitive relationship. Her murder (or was it a suicide?), oft-believed at the hands of lover Sid Vicious (who overdosed a few months later), like her life, looked like a particularly noisy blip on the cacophonous music scene. But looking back, the vicious backlash against the already calumniated punk world directly resulted from a self-consciously bourgeois display of horror at her bloody, crusty demise in the crumbling Chelsea Hotel. From the get-go, Nancy seemed to think the whole world had it out for her, and the one little pocket she thought accepted her as a runaway, prostitute and junkie eventually spurned her too. In the end, she won though. The scene didn't want her, even openly mocked her, in the end killed her, and then her death symbolically killed it.
7. The Saga Of Christian Brando
Just ask the Crawfords and the Barrymores (and someday, the Jacksons and the Spears): when Mommie or Daddy dearest is in the spotlight and perhaps just a tad batshit, your childhood's gonna be a bitch. Chances are, humiliating debacles that could be swept under the rug in a "normal" family will become front-page news, compounding their significance and making the possibility of future stability inversely proportional to the amount of coverage the incidents receive. For no one does this truism hold as steady as with Christian Brando, Marlon Brando's understandably unhappy progeny. From an early age, Christian was shuffled between his sexpot/wacky activist/violent father and his boozehound/pill-popping/violent mother, the actress and hippie Anna Kashfi. Finally, after a protracted custody battle that the media and public followed with a degree of interest generally reserved for world wars and cataclysmic natural disasters, Marlon won custody. That's when things really started to unravel for the 13-year-old. Mom's friends kidnapped him; they hightailed it to Mexico; Marlon hired a P.I. and nabbed him back; Christian developed a disturbing affinity for the bottle; he drunkenly shot and killed his pregnant half-sister Cheyenne's abusive lover, Dag Drollet; Cheyenne commited suicide; he was accused of being involved in the murder of Bonnie Lee Bakley, Robert Blake's wife and Christian's lover; and he got married and divorced. On January 26 of this year, he died of pneumonia at 49 years old, giving every cheesy rag on the planet yet one more excuse to drag out the old chestnuts and befoul his name and character while his family and friends mourned his passing.
6. The Manson/Sharon Tate Murders
Life seemed to imitate art for Sharon Marie Tate, or at least according to the bloodthirsty media and willfully gullible public after her brutal murder at the hands of Charles Manson's gang of thugs in 1969. The model/actress' rise to stardom with her kitschy, insta-cult status turn in the deliciously drug-addled Valley Of The Dolls and relationship with troubled arthouse auteur Roman Polanski fueled speculation about their "untraditional" and "modern" (read: a slut-tastic drug-fest and dirty thumb in the eye to respectable folk everywhere) marriage. Tate was eight months pregnant when she was stabbed to death, but that didn't stop the media from spreading scurrilous, laughable rumors that she worshiped Beelzebub, participated in orgies and shot/smoked/snorted drugs. By the time Manson and his followers were arrested with charges that stuck, months had gone by, and the damage to Tate's reputation was done.
5. The Slaying Of Jennifer Hudson's Family
The shameless, exploitative, almost prurient coverage of the string of murders in Hudson's family epitomize the problems the media face and create when writing about a celebrity's misfortune. When her mother, brother and nephew were murdered, the press swooped in with all of the transparently phony sympathy, demands for justice and the latent but palpable "she didn't deserve an Oscar" snipes. Every aspect of the funeral was covered, no matter how grim and morbid, fom the colors of the coffins, to details which casket she turned to first, to the design of the funeral "tickets" (it was a private event). Like every other aspect of celebrity life (from underwear choices to gas problems) that's breathlessly covered by even the most old-school broadsheets, death in Hollywoodland seems to be as much (more?) fun for us as watching a gaggle of schnookered starlets weave their way out of the S Bar to their waiting limos on TMZ.
This week we mourn the death of science fiction heavyweight Michael Crichton. Unlike many of his peers, Crichton managed to pull off a coup by realizing his own written works on the big screen as a writer, producer and even director. Isn’t it time that, along with a couple of his obvious landmarks (like that one with the dinosaurs run amok), we took a look back at some of his lesser-known works, the ones ravaged by time? The kind that would otherwise fill up my Films From The Cable Afterlife lists each week.
That feature, by the way, is being pre-empted until Monday for this special tribute, although there's really nothing all that great on this weekend anyway, with the exception of the insane drugsploitation double feature of Roger Corman’s The Trip and Richard Rush’s Psych-Out, airing Saturday, November 8 at 2am on Turner Classic Movies. I could go on about these, and I should, but Crichton takes precedent, so watch those by any means necessary. You will see famous actors, legendary underground bands and cultural icons pretending to be on acid, STP, dust, you name it.
Anyway, onto the list:
7. Looker (1981)
Albert Finney, James Coburn and a naked Susan Dey star in this violent, confusing, bizarre sci-fi thriller involving models going in for plastic surgery and committing suicide shortly thereafter. Turns out they’re all being added to a “Digital Matrix” and, well, you get the picture. Featuring wavo theme songs by Sue Saad And The Next, this is very much of its time. It’s a conspiracy, it involves robots and hot women. (Guys, keep it in your pants, okay?) Crichton wrote and directed this one.
6. The Terminal Man (1974)
I caught this one on cable years ago, but it stuck with me, especially the image of George Segal in a jumpsuit, twitching like Elaine Benes in “dance” mode in his own grave. Segal plays a computer scientist who attempts to cure his seizures with an electronic brain implant, to sad and tragic ends. Crichton’s novel, adapted by director Mike Hodges (Get Carter), represents dystopian, humane sci-fi with the ‘70s downer ending you’d expect. This one’s not terribly easy to see anymore, but I’d strongly encourage you to check it out if you’re so inclined.
5. Runaway (1984)
An HBO staple of my youth, and perhaps yours as well, in which Tom Selleck plays a special cop on the “runaway” squad, tasked with preventing down malfunctioning robots that fulfill menial tasks in everyday life from injuring civilians. Gene Simmons, sans KISS makeup, plays the evil scientist bent on destroying the world. He’s got a love gun that shoots tiny guided missiles, builds menacing little spider robots filled with corrosive chemicals and he’s after call girl Kirstie Alley. Made at the peak of Selleck’s fame, his mustache is as big as ever, and he’s got Mauser from Police Academy breathing down his neck the whole time. Crichton wrote and directed this one, depicting a high-tech world of danger with no safety net.
4. Westworld (1973)
More robots going amok. Recognize a trend? Yul Brynner is famous as the cross-wired android cowboy Gunslinger with detachable face plate. Chumpy Richard Benjamin must fight for his life at the adults-only amusement park where all the attractions go haywire (notice a trend here as well?) Crichton was brilliant enough that he could reuse ideas like these in the Jurassic Park series of books and films without fear of reprisal. Look for a remake (ugh) in 2009.
Sometimes Michael Crichton, who passed away this Election Day from cancer at age 66, got a bad rap. He wrote novels that got spun into silly sci-fi flicks like the Sharon Stone/Dustin Hoffman vehicle Sphere (and in hindsight, underground spaceships, Hoffman and Stone were probably an ill-conceived cinematic concept), and his work as a screenwriter was often evidenced in absurd blockbusters like the Jan De Bont tornado thriller Twister.
But Crichton was also the brains behind deserved cult curiosities like Westworld and The Andromeda Strain, and of course the author and screenwriter for Jurassic Park and creator of ER. And while the latter may have ultimately been harmless primetime entertainment, it did help launch the career of George Clooney who, like him or not, has gone on to make some fairly important work in Hollywood (not including Leatherheads of course).
Through his work, Crichton permeated theatrical masses as an early and constant critic of technology, science and the unbridled, self-destructive pursuits of the human ego. And with some apparent exceptions, gave filmmakers a platform to spin it into hugely entertaining cinema. And in many ways, that's an intensely more subversive act than merely espousing your views like another self-righteous talking head.
It's just too bad he passed away on the very day that a man was sworn into office who might actually harness some of our modern-day advances toward the purposes of helping humanity, and not benefiting individuals at the expense of millions.
Come back tomorrow morning for a list of the best films written by Michael Crichton or inspired by one of his novels.