Jersey Boys

Jersey Boys started as a trio and would later end up as four guys standing under a street lamp, and from there, they went on to become the Four Seasons, or the American Beatles. If you came of age in the 60’s, the 70’s, or even the 80’s, The Four Seasons, and their iconic lead singer Frankie Valli, probably figured in your life.

lookin' good and not getting any younger

lookin’ good and not getting any younger

Whether you were with your best girl parked in a car, submarine race watching (a term coined by NY radio personality Murray the K), or driving to work, or just stuck at home on a rainy day, it is entirely likely that you listened to these guys sing.

Jersey Boys is a film that’s just opened. Directed by Clint Eastwood, the film is an adaption of the long running Broadway hit musical Jersey Boys. Rather than me writing a solo review of the film, we are going to have a discussion about the impact of The Four Seasons, Frankie Valli, the merits of the film, and some personal remembrances.

My guests are Mike Pandolfino (DJ Mike) of Sarasota, Florida, and Guy Breen (The Ghost) of College Point, New York. While none of us were Jersey born and raised, DJ Mike and I both lived in New Jersey for a while. The Ghost is a Brooklyn born guy who nows lives in College Point.

I’ve asked these gentlemen to join me because we all came of age when the The Four Seasons were in their heyday, and their music was being played on every radio station in the country. So this will be three guys from New York talking about four guys from New Jersey.

These days, DJ Mike does the music for everything from Graduations, Sweet-Sixteens, Weddings, Engagement Parties, Proms, Anniversaries, Birthdays, and School Reunions.

The Ghost hosts his weekly 2 hour radio show, called The Ghost, on the internet’s All Noise Radio, every Monday night from 8:00 PM to 10:00 PM. As for me, as JustMeMike, this post is my 700th on this website.

I’ll start things off with a question for both DJ Mike and The Ghost.

JustMeMike: While I truly like the Four Seasons, I’ll admit to having none of their CD’s. Nor do I have any cassettes, 8-tracks, or vinyl discs of them in a box somewhere. But that’s because, these days,  I write about film, tv, art, travel, and sports. But you guys have a far greater connection to music than I do. How much a part of your DJ work involves the Jersey Boys aka The Four Seasons and Frankie Valli? Let’s start with DJ Mike –

DJ Mike: As a DJ I have not had a lot requests for the Four Seasons, but I always play December 1963 and Can’t Take My Eyes Off Of You to great responses, but I’m sure that with the success of this movie I will be getting a few requests for their music. My favorite song is Working My Way Back To You but the remake by The Spinners.

The Ghost: The great thing about my show, and All Noise Radio as well, is there are no boundaries. I’m not pigeon holed in what I can play. So I play everything  from Classic Rock to Funk, Disco, Punk Oldies, you name it. Oldies and Disco is where the Four Seasons fall in, especially Oldies. I have played their music. The song “Dawn” is my personal favorite.

JustMeMike: I’ll have to say that My favorite song is Can’t Take My Eyes Off Of You. Let’s switch over to the film. When you first heard about the film, what was your reaction to Clint Eastwood as Director?

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Fargo: Morton’s Fork – the Final Episode

Fargo aired its 10th and final episode tonight. According to the IBTimes otherwise known as the International Business Times (Australia), who reported a one word quote as originally reported on E-Online, Fargo’s writer, Noah Hawley described the finale in one word, “bloody“. The IBT also, this time quoting TV Guide’s Mega Buzz, reported that the last episode would be a final chess match between Lester Nygaard and Lorne Malvo, and TV Guide also hinted at a high body count.

Of course none of that was news in the truest sense. It was just a good way of getting people to read that page, and of course notice the advertisements.

I watched the finale myself, and can say that all of the above is true. What is also true, according to the IBT is that writer Hawley, speaking to E-Online at the ATX Television Festival in Austin, cleared away all doubts by stating that despite each episode opening with a claim that it is a ‘true story’, and “we’re saying it is a true story, which it isn’t, but it’s following a certain true story logic.”

Really? Thanks Noah. Saying nothing in that case would have been preferable.

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Remembering Paul Newman

In 2005 Paul Newman was up in Maine shooting a film called Empire Falls which became an HBO mini-series. In a radio interview with Terry Gross of NPR, Newman was asked if, given his experience in performing in Thornton Wilder’s play, Our Town, and this film, did he relate to the small town experience. Gross pointed out that Newman was born and grew up in Shaker Heights – a Cleveland suburb. Newman replied that Shaker Heights was not a small town. Rather it was an affluent and prosperous suburb. So his background did not relate to the small town experience.

Gross: Your father owned a sporting goods store.
Newman: Yes.
Gross: Did you have to work in the store when you were growing up?
Newman: Oh yes. I started working in the store when I was about 10. On the weekends, my brother and I used to work in the stock room.
Gross: Did you resent having to do that?
Newman: Of course not. I also sold Fuller Brushes.
Gross: Door to door?
Newman: Door to door.
Gross: Were you a good salesman?
Newman: You betcha!

You betcha! Isn’t that so typical of Newman. With his smile, his athleticism, and those blue eyes, Paul Newman was the man who men wanted to emulate, and the man who women wanted to embrace. He was a movie star, and long ago, as an ordinary guy,  he sold brushes door to door as well as selling illegal liquor in Seattle. But he came East and studied at the Actors Studio in New York, and by the time he was gone, we all had loved most of his film work, so it isn’t a surprise that he was known all over the world. Nor is it a surprise that his business venture into foods, called Newman’s Own was a success too.

You can listen to the full interview here:
http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=1452985

The interview was just three years before he would die. And his voice is not the same as I remembered from many of his films. But it is recognizable. After all, Newman is the kind of indelible actor, that one can never forget.

Newman died on September 27th, 2008, so it has been almost six years since he passed.

Yet I can close my eyes and see Newman and Robert Redford sitting in the railroad station. This was in The Sting, a classic film, which was made in 1973. Newman played Henry Gondorff, a con man. and Redford’s character was called Johnny Hooker, a grifter.

They were waiting for Doyle Lonnegan, the gangster played by Robert Shaw, to arrive at the station and board the Century Limited train back to Chicago.

Gondorff was going to plant a big time hook into Lonnegan by out-cheating him in a poker game on the train. And that was to set him up for a big con where they would take him for a half million.

Lonnegan and his goons walked by as Gondorff and Hooker watched.

Johnny Hooker: He’s not as tough as he thinks.
Henry Gondorff: Neither are we.

That was but one of the many memorable moments in that film. But the impact of those two lines connected us to Newman. He knew his limitations and as  Gondorff, despite his skills as a con man, beneath it all, he was a regular guy, just like the rest of us. One of my readers asked that I do a post on Paul Newman. So I am going to take a look at a few of my favorite Paul Newman movies. Hope you enjoy them. Check out this clip of the poker game from The Sting:

As Newman as Gondorff walked away with Lonnegan’s money, The Sting walked off with 7 Oscars including Best Picture. While Robert Redford received a nomination for Best Actor in The Sting, Newman was not nominated for his performance in this film.

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Spurs Crush Heat to Take the NBA Championship

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I don’t think a lot of words from me are necessary. When the Miami Heat raced out to a 22-6 lead with a bit more than five minutes left in the opening quarter, the game situation had a flavor that seemed so very different, and almost foreign when compared to the taste of the previous two games when the San Antonio Spurs had dominated from the jump.

But it would all change. With a bit more than five minutes left in the third period, which was actually two full quarters from that moment in the 1st stanza, the Spurs had demolished the Heat to the tune of 59-22 over that span. The game and the series was all but over.

Yes, by the time the final buzzer sounded, words weren’t necessary. The faces of the victors were filled with joy. And for the Heat, their summer vacations began far earlier than expected. But some folks did have some things to say.

Adam Silver – NBA Commissioner

You showed the world how beautiful this game is.

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Kings Win The Cup

It wasn’t supposed to end the way it did. With Henrik Lundqvist laying face down on the ice while the LA Kings leaped and danced and jumped around in joyous, Cup-winning ecstasy. But it did.

I had to scrap my earlier headline and post. The one that would have carried a different title along with totally different content.

Not in Your House Either would have been the title.

This is the shot by Alec Martinez that is on its edge, just inches from becoming the goal that ends the NHL Hockey season. Lundqvist

This is the shot by Alec Martinez that is on its edge, just inches from becoming the goal that ends the NHL Hockey season.

After coming back from the edge of the precipice on Wednesday night in a courageous and hard-fought victory led by Henrik Lunqvist’s great game, last night the New York Rangers ran out of real-estate at the end of the plank that the Kings had put them on.

With the Alec Martinez goal, in the second overtime session, the Ranger season came to an instantly stunning, painful, and abrupt end. As the Kings celebrate the thrill of their victory, NY Ranger Benoit Pouliot skates toward the beginning of his summer, in full knowledge that the coronation of the LA Kings, as Stanley Cup Champions, would begin moments later.

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LeBron James: “They Smashed Us”

If you were anywhere near Miami last night, you might have noticed the Big Chill that arrived and lowered the Miami Heat’s temperatures to near morgue levels. No, it wasn’t a big Nor’easter with cold temperatures and high winds that came roaring down the Atlantic coast and iced up the Heat. No, this was in fact, a sou’wester that blew across the Gulf of Mexico, then stayed high above Alligator Alley before settling down on the court at the American Airlines Arena in Miami. This ‘storm’ disguised as a basketball team possessed not only long legs, but also some very long arms, and a strong can’t stop us kind of can do desire.

Actually this storm of a team arrived on Tuesday and threw a damper on the Heat’s first home game in the 2014 NBA Championship Series. To say that the San Antonio Spurs put a whooping on the Heat was being kind. That was Tuesday night, and yeah sure, any home team can have a clunker of a game, as in take a beating. It happens. But the Heat hadn’t lost back-to-back playoff games this year. So most folks thought the Heat would recoup, recharge, and recover from that blowout of a contest.

That is until the San Antonio Spurs Coach Gregg ‘Pop’ Popovich with his legion of hoop doom known as Tim Duncan (above), Manu Ginobili, Tony Parker, Boris Diaw, Danny Green, and a couple of players called Kawhi Leonard and Patty Mills (below), all suited up for Game Four.

The result, The Heat’s flame was once more extinguished in another horrendous blowout of a game. The score was 107-86 Spurs, but really, it was worse than that. The Spurs lead went from nine, into the double digits, and then passed the 20 point marker, before cresting at 25 points on the Heat’s home court.

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Murder in the First – New TV Series on TNT

Murder in the First premiered last night on TNT. It is a San Francisco based drama with long-time super producer/creator/writer of many award-winning TV series Steven Bochco at the helm. In case you’ve forgotten Bochco created Hill Street Blues, Doogie Howser, L.A. Law, Murder One, Brooklyn South, and NYPD Blue. And that’s just some of his most notable credits.

TNT describes the show:

Murder in the First follows homicide detectives Terry English (Taye Diggs) and Hildy Mulligan (Kathleen Robertson) as they investigate two seemingly unrelated murders. The mystery deepens, however, when they find both murders have a common denominator in a Silicon Valley wunderkind Erich Blunt (Tom Felton).

Robertson was great as the sexy Kitty O’Neill in the series Boss. Taye Diggs was noted for his work as Dr. Sam Bennett in Grey’s Anatomy and the spin-off Private Practice. Tom Felton you will recall as Draco Malfoy in the Harry Potter’s, as well as being an early victim of Caesar and friends in Rise of the Planet of the Apes.

Okay the set up:

Mulligan is a single divorced Mom homicide detective. English is her partner and a man whose wife is about to die of a terminal illness. They work the streets solving homicides while dealing with personal issues. So there’s no news on that front. Name a detective TV series these days and then surely the personal issues that define each of them come to mind. Homicide detectives and issues? Don’t they go hand in hand more often than not?

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Denzel Washington

With the American Theater Wing’s Tony Awards Show scheduled for broadcast on this Sunday night (June 8th – 8:00 PM on CBS), I happened upon the following on the radio just a few days ago.

Ruth: Walter, leave me alone. Eat your eggs. They’re going to get cold.

Walter Lee: Man say, I got me a dream. Woman say, eat your egg. Man say, I got to take hold of this here world baby. Woman say, eat your eggs and go to work. Man say, I got to change my life. I’m choking to death. Woman say, your eggs is getting cold.

Ruth: Walter, that ain’t none of our money.

Walter Lee: This morning I’m in the mirror, in the bathroom, I’m thinking – I’m 40 years old, I’ve been married 11 years and I’ve got a boy who sleeps on the living room couch. And all I got to give him is nothing, nothing but stories about how rich white people live.

Ruth: Eat your eggs, Walter.

Walter Lee: Damn my eggs. Damn all the eggs there ever was.

Recognize that?

raisin-in-the-sunIt is a scene from the American classic, A Raisin in the Sun which was written by Lorraine Hansbury and reached Broadway in 1959.

It was made into a film in 1961 and starred Sidney Poitier and Ruby Dee.

Currently, Raisin has been revived this spring on Broadway. This revival stars Denzel Washington as Walter Lee Younger, LaTanya Richardson Jackson as the family matriarch Lena, Anika Noni Rose as Walter’s sister Beneatha, and Sophie Okonedo as Walter’s wife Ruth.

I listened to that scene on the NPR Fresh Air radio show a few days ago. You can listen to it yourself at the following link:

http://www.npr.org/2014/06/02/318207683/raisin-in-the-sun-revival-a-uniquely-american-story-is-back-on-broadway

When the page opens, click where it says Listen to the Story. The scene’s intro actually comes on at the 3 minute 30 seconds mark.

This revival will run through June 15th, and has been nominated for some Tony Awards. Denzel Washington has not been nominated for his role as Walter, but he already had won a Tony for Best Actor for his role in the August Wilson play Fences in the revival in April 2010.

fences

All of which leads me to write this piece. Denzel Washington has been a movie star for a long time. But he didn’t start in movies. He started in Theater. Washington’s first film role was that of an alley mugger in the film Death Wish (1974). Washington’s role was uncredited. He was just 20 years old in 1974 and was unknown at the time.

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A Young Film Maker Talks with JMM

A bit more than a week ago, at the IIFA (International India Film Awards) in nearby Tampa, I watched 2 short films made by a brother and a sister, Arosh and Sabreena Sarkian. I think they went to a film school in LA. They were students and they wrote, produced, and directed two films that were shown at this important event.
That got me interested in more short films. I found an outfit called Meera Productions. Meera Darji is a second year student at Coventry University in the UK. She’s enrolled in the Media Production Honours course at the school. She writes, produces, directs, and edits her own films under the banner of Meera Productions. She also works as a cinematographer, and has manned the cameras for other folks. I’ve watched a number of her short films, and I like what I see. I like the way she frames a shot – a technique that can be taught but I believe is mostly instinctual. One isn’t born knowing how to use a camera, or frame a shot, but someone can be far better at it – even without training – than others.

There’s a second component to film making that is also invaluable, and that is the editing. Knowing when to cut, to change the perspective or angle, to choose a one shot then pull back for a two shot, is very important in keeping a viewer’s interest. A stationary camera conveys information that is endlessly repeated, but a moving camera, whether it be the camera that is in motion, or a series by edits, simply heightens the amount of information that is offered to a viewer. Each change edit offers a fresh perspective. New information is delivered, and the eyes are attracted again and again. I think Meera excels in camera positioning, locations, and the framing of the subjects. And when you factor in the editing – that’s where it really gets interesting.

To kick off this post, please have a look at Meera’s showreel:

So my subject for this post is the young film maker Meera Darji. I’ve asked some questions and I found her answers to be compelling, insightful, honest, and most worthy of your consideration. Some of the films in the showreel will be discussed. Wasn’t Meera’s showreel quite exciting? So without further preamble let’s get started. Continue reading