Saturday, February 29, 2020


Check out my reviews, online at Phoenix Magazine, of the new Universal-Blumhouse version of The Invisible Man

…and the 1940 crime programmer Marked Men...

...filmed in Tempe, which shows this Wednesday, March 4, at Tempe History Museum.

The great Brazilian horror star Jose Mojica Marins—aka Ze do Caixao, aka, to his small but devoted cult of English-speaking fans of which I am a proud member, Coffin Joe—has departed this realm of reality, at the age of 83. 

Just recently I was delighted to meet a young Brazilian Lyft driver in Seattle who knew of Coffin Joe (and was astounded that I did). Here and here are some things I've written about him. RIP, you sick and twisted and perversely endearing genius.

On behalf of The Day Gig, I had the honor this week of addressing the Boulder City Sunrise Rotary of Boulder City, Nevada…

…after which I was given a behind-the-scenes tour of Hoover Dam Mercantile. I’m not great with heights, but it’s undeniably a majestic place...

Also, I saw bighorn sheep in the wild for the first time, if memory serves. And I made this pal at a Sinclair station in Boulder City…

Friday, February 21, 2020


Happy Friday everybody! Check out Phoenix Magazine online for my review of Carrie: The Musical at Brelby Theatre Company in Glendale...

...and my "Friday Flicks" preview of Sedona Film Festival.

Have a great weekend!

Friday, February 14, 2020


Harkins Theatres pays tribute to the great Kirk Douglas Saturday with 1 p.m. screenings of Spartacus at several multiplexes; check out my "Friday Flicks" column about it... at Phoenix Magazine. But the time has also come, I regret to say, to tell my one in-person Kirk Douglas story.

I've gotten out of the habit of using this blog to obsessively mention the passing of every pop-culture notable, but there have been some keenly-felt passings in recent months and weeks: singer/actor Jack Sheldon, for instance, of "I'm Just a Bill," and “Conjunction Junction” fame, also comedian Jack Burns, who I just recently saw in his one superb scene in The Night They Raided Minsky’s, and of course the great Terry Jones, in whose honor I had Spam at Oak’s Diner in Cave Creek...

And then, of course, there’s Kirk Douglas.

Kirk Douglas was, I think, my first movie star. If you had asked me, when I was a small child in the ‘60s and early ‘70s, to name a movie star, Kirk Douglas is probably the first, and for a while the only, name I could have given you. Even before John Wayne, I would have known that Kirk Douglas was both Spartacus in Spartacus and Ned Land in 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, and at some level I believe I would also have understood that he somehow had a public identity, as Kirk Douglas, that was greater than either of those roles.

Douglas, who passed on last week at 103, was a very good, surprisingly versatile actor, but far greater than any acting skill was his famed larger-than-life charisma, his electrifying, tightly-coiled intensity that was always on the verge of tipping over into self-parody, yet also had an edge of the glamorously tragic. He’s been a lifelong favorite of mine, which is part of why I hesitate to tell the story of my one real-world encounter with him. Before you read on, I must warn you that this story may constitute a textbook case of Too Much Information.

Because this, you see, is the story of how I once took a shit in front of Kirk Douglas.

Back in 1999, I was covering a film festival in Palm Springs, California. The fest’s big draw was an appearance by screen legend Kirk Douglas, who was there to introduce his new film Diamonds, in which he played a former boxer who had been afflicted with a stroke. It wasn’t a particularly good movie, but Douglas was in it, along with Dan Aykroyd, Jenny McCarthy and no less than Lauren Bacall.

The screening was in the auditorium of Palm Springs High School, and The Wife and I arrived early, quite excited at the chance to see, live and in person, this major Hollywood icon that we had enjoyed on TV and on the big screen all our lives. We got good seats, and then I excused myself, suddenly feeling the rather urgent need to use the boys’ lavatory.

When I walked in, by now in a bit of rush, I noticed two things immediately.

One was that Kirk Douglas himself was standing at one of the sinks, looking in the mirror, fixing himself up for his appearance in front of the crowd.

The other was that, this being a high school lavatory, there were no doors on the stalls.

There was really no choice at that point, however. I betook myself to a stall near the end of the row, dropped my trousers, took a seat, and began to do my business, praying it would be a relatively quiet affair. At the sink, the great man splashed a little water on his face, straightened his tie, and then…we made solemn eye contact in the mirror.

There he was, one of the last great leading men of Hollywood’s Golden Age. There was Van Gogh in Lust For Life, there was Doc Holliday in Gunfight at the OK Corral, there was Colonel Dax in Paths of Glory, "Jiggs" Casey in Seven Days in May and Chuck Tatum in Ace in the Hole. There was freakin’ Spartacus himself, looking at me in what I perceived as mild contempt for daring to exercise this particular bodily function in his presence.

But he didn’t flee in hasty revulsion. He sized himself up in the mirror, decided he was prepared to meet his public, and strolled calmly out of the lavatory, leaving me alone with my shame. When I returned to my seat and told The Wife what happened, she looked at me with a similar reproachful disdain. When Douglas was introduced, I had a momentary fear he might tell the audience what he had just witnessed and invite them to vent their scorn at me. But he just cheerfully introduced the movie.

RIP, sir, and thank you for all the wonderful performances. Sorry that that was the only performance of mine you ever got to see. I hope that it is among the earthly memories you’re able to discard as you head for eternity.

Sunday, February 9, 2020


A few weeks ago on Saturday Night Live, the comedienne Melissa Villasenor performed song summaries of several of this year’s Oscar nominated films. Each time, her summary closed by noting that the film in question was rooted in “white male rage.”

It’s arguable that, in some sense or another, white male rage is the single most pervasive theme in the history of American movies, maybe of movies worldwide. But Villasenor’s point is taken; from Joker to The Irishman to Jojo Rabbit to 1917 to Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, white male rage seems particularly well-represented among this year’s Academy Award nominees.

Anyway, here are a few notes on the 92nd annual awards, to be presented earlier than usual, tonight, Sunday, February 9:

Best Picture: My prediction to win—and that of Vegas, at this writing—would be the Sam Mendes WWI drama 1917. It’s an absorbing film, but my own favorite of the nominated pictures is Bong Joon Ho’s hilarious, horrifying, wildly original class satire Parasite, followed closely by Once Upon a Time in Hollywood and then by Scorsese’s The Irishman.

Best Actor: Probably the closest there is to a lock is Joaquin Phoenix as the title character in Joker, and it’s hard to argue with Phoenix’s achievement. But in a subtler way, Leonardo DiCaprio seemed just as good to me as the jittery cowboy star in Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. Snubbed Robert DeNiro did restrained, ultimately moving work in The Irishman, and Jonathan Pryce was great as one of the title characters in The Two Popes.

Best Actress: Renee Zellweger is heavily favored to take the award for her impressive turn as late-vintage Judy Garland in Judy. Again, I’d be hard pressed to dispute the greatness of her acting feat, whatever the shortcomings of the surrounding movie. But a word should also be said for Charlize Theron’s flawless impersonation of Megyn Kelly in the slightly underrated Bombshell.

Best Supporting Actress: I thought Florence Pugh’s Amy was the best thing about Greta Gerwig’s generally overrated version of Little Women. But Laura Dern is favored to win for her turn in Marriage Story, and I’ve always been a fan, so that’s what I’m rooting for.

Best Supporting Actor: The current favorite here is Brad Pitt as the unflappable stuntman in Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, and his easygoing performance was a delight. So was Anthony Hopkins as cranky, troubled Pope Benedict in The Two Popes, and Tom Hanks as a relentlessly compassionate Fred Rogers in A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood. But Al Pacino’s grandly clownish Jimmy Hoffa in The Irishman is his most memorable performance in years.

Best Director: Sam Mendes leads the pack for 1917, and will likely take home the Oscar unless the opinion takes hold that his one-continuous-shot approach on the film is a gimmick. I loved his quote dismissing this criticism, however: “We experience life as a single shot. We go through life with one unbroken take. It’s editing that’s the gimmick.”

The Show: Like last year, the show is scheduled to do without a host, opting instead for a procession of presenters. Presumably this was seen as the likeliest way to prevent controversy. It’s also the likeliest way to prevent entertainment.

Snubs: No doubt any number of omissions could be cited, but two leap to mind: First, how does Rami Malek win Best Actor last year for lip-synching Freddy Mercury in Bohemian Rhapsody, but the excellent Taron Edgerton, singing for himself, get overlooked for (the admittedly uneven) Rocketman? Second, Lulu Wang’s The Farewell was overlooked in general, but especially for Best Original Screenplay, for Best Supporting Actress for Zhao Shuzhen as the formidable Nai Nai, and for Awkwafina for Best Actress. No offense to anyone in that category, but I didn’t see five better performances than her’s this year.

Snack suggestions: Peaches and “Ram-don” (Ramen and Udon) in honor of Parasite. Pizza and Fanta pop in honor of The Two Popes.

One More Prediction: …also a boast; this past year, on this very blog, I predicted that the animated short film Hair Love, which showed before The Angry Birds Movie 2, would be nominated for an Oscar. I was right; now I’ll go out on a limb and predict that it will take the award. But I could be wrong, of course; the film is definitely, and refreshingly, not about white male rage.

Saturday, February 8, 2020


Hope everybody is having a great February. Check out this month's issue of Phoenix Magazine...

...for my story "Cooking Out of Bounds," about rogue chefs around the Valley, as well as my "Four Corners" column. Also check out my "Friday Flicks" column, with reviews of Birds of Prey (and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn), The Traitor and the Osgood Perkins-directed shocker Gretel and Hansel...

...and my review of the Filipino historical epic Quezon's Game.

Have a great Valentine's month everybody!