Blogs > In The Mix

Reporter Shaun Byron and Video Editor Andrew DuPont sound-off on whatever is on their minds, from politics to pop-culture, from movies to the main stream media. Local, national, world-wide? If it's in the media mix, these two are sure to have an opinion on it.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Fred Travalena dies! Who is he?

I wouldn't want to be the C-list celebrity that dies the same day as someone famous.
But in the case of master impressionist and late night talk show comedian Fred Travalena, he got upstaged by the bearded, shouting pitchman for household cleaners.
Pitchman Billy Mays, 50, seems to have stole the spotlight from the 66-year-old comedian.
It's unfortunate that either man is no longer around.
But, it has to stink a little when you've been on television for four decades and worked as a headliner at Atlantic City and Las Vegas to be upstaged by the shouting OxiClean guy.
However, I admit I didn't know who Fred Travalena was until I looked him up on Google.
Then I remembered seeing him on David Letterman a couple times.
Guess if you're low on the celebrity totem pole, hope you die on a slow news day.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Academy Awards changes are of the wrong kind

Too bad that when the Academy Awards finally get revamped, the changes that have been made are unnecessary.
A few days ago, the Academy Awards organizers made three major announcements about next year's show: there would be 10 (instead of five) Best Picture nominations, no pieces would be nominated for Best Song if they did not match certain criteria and the honorary Oscars would be announced outside the main broadcast.
These changes could possibly help the Oscars' TV ratings, decreasing time for the least popular segments while increasing focus on the more anticipated parts. Also, this could bring about an increase in ticket sales as movie studios will be marketing more movies during the pre-award season.
However, these organizers missed some huge opportunities to honor people in fields they have previously overlooked.
For instance, why not finally add an Academy Award for Best Stunts? These people risk their lives every day in the name of art - and sometimes pay the ultimate price. How about Best Special Effects - different from visual effects - for all the pyrotechnicians or honoring the minor actors with a Best Ensemble Cast award?
While the Academy Awards organizers try to increase their TV viewership, they've forgotten to try to increase their validity and significance. Let's just hope the right changes aren't too far along.
What about you, dear readers? Which Oscars do you think should be added - or subtracted - from the repertoire?

Friday, June 26, 2009

King of pop achieves infamy in death

It's almost fitting that a celebrity who became tabloid fodder and embroiled in scandal dies far too young.
The last two decades of Michael Jackson's life were light years from his rise as the talented singer/performer.
Since the announcement of his death, people are continuing to argue whether he truly was a pedophile, with fans coming to his defense.
And I'm sure every media outlet will squeeze every word they can out of his life, including the accusations and the often bizarre moments he was involved in.
Regardless of the accusations, I can't believe there is anyone who will say the man wasn't troubled.
The celebrity that brought Jackson to such heights of fame and personal wealth had, in my opinion, as much to do with his crumbling mental state.
The man was barely in his 20s when "Thriller" was released. That album helped cement his status as pop culture icon.
It's hard to know how many people were leaching on to him, building his image and stroking his ego.
By the 1990s, plastic surgery and medical problems resulted in a far different person than what I remembered growing up in the 1980s.
Maybe some people are able to ground themselves in family, able to keep some semblance of normalcy.
Perhaps that was something he didn't have with people because of his fame and fortune.
Or perhaps the fame was only just a small part of an individual stuck yearning for the normal life, but unable to tell between reality and celebrity.
It's often been said Joe Jackson didn't give his children much of a childhood and was abusive.
All one has to do is see the train wreck Britney Spears became.
Perhaps if any good can come of Jackson's death it will be another cautionary tale of the personal pain that fame and fortune can bring.
Like Elvis before him, perhaps Jackson destined to become a real life Norman Maine from the movie "A Star is Born" — always trying to grab hold of the fame and fortune they had once held at the height of their career.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Vino Vidi Vici!

Here's an example of the type of thinking that will keep independent filmmaking alive.
Iconic director and winemaker Francis Ford Coppola - who was once one of Hollywood's most popular auteurs, but is now struggling to regain the critical and financial power he once possessed - is using an unconventional method to fund his latest film "Tetro."
"Tetro" - about an Italian-American family in Buenos Aires - has been financed and, to some degree, distributed by Coppola. The movie has earned arguably more critical acclaim than any of his films since 1979's "Apocalypse Now."
Coppola wants this film to have a longer theatrical run, so he recently began producing more ads for his Claret Diamond Red Wine. If his plan is successful, the boost in win sales could result in more showings for "Tetro."
Here's the situation for the independent filmmakers who don't already know: you're on your own. This is an age where typical Americans facing uncertain times mostly want to watch big budget escapist fare, not inventive films usually found in indie theaters. And Hollywood producers know this.
If an old school filmmaker icon like Coppola is struggling to keep "Tetro" in theaters, the rest of you will have to be even more inventive to see your films released.
If there's one thing moving media cannot afford to lose, it's independent film. So, good luck and cheers.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Letterman steps in it

I was on my way into work this morning when, on the radio, a local morning show was talking about Letterman's comments about Sarah Palin's daughter at the Yankee's game and her getting knocked up by Alex Rodriguez.
I got to thinking, it wasn't that funny of a joke and didn't give me a chuckle.
But, obviously, it touched a nerve with Sarah Palin as she went on to make angry comments, especially since she was at the game with her 14-year-old daughter.
Her other daughter is famous for having a child out of wed lock with some moron she knew from high school.
The joke wasn't funny.
But, Sarah Palin really doesn't have a leg to stand on with this one.
When she decided to run for vice president and opened up her own family for scrutiny, this was bound to happen.
She has every right to call Letterman out for making a joke about her family.
But, the minute they decided to let the media into their family, invite People magazine to Bristol's high school graduation and agree to interviews long after the campaign ended, they should realize it's going to come at a price.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

George Lucas doesn't need anymore encouragement; others do

Come on, people!
It's time to stop worshipping George Lucas That Was and demand more from George Lucas That Is.
According to, Lucas received the Gene Siskel Film Visionary Award on June 13 in Chicago. This - or a similar type of - prestigious honor is about 20 years too late. The damage has already been done. Blame it on the bread.
Take a journey with me to the 1970s, a time in which Lucas was an auteur. This was the decade in which he made some of his best work: the sci-fi thriller "THX 1138," the joyfully nostalgic "American Graffiti" and the iconic "Star Wars." Filmgoers and Lucas were happy as his movies continued to be critically acclaimed and become blockbusters.
In the 1980s, Lucas even showed Indiana Jones fans he cared about what they thought by featuring Nazis once again in the third film of that franchise.
But then something happened in that same decade: Lucas began milking his franchises for every cent they were worth, regardless of how much that upset their fans. This began with small projects like "The Ewok Adventure" and "The Adventures of Young Indiana Jones." Eventually it spread to bug budget films like "Phantom Menace" and "Kingdom of the Crystal Skull."
After all these years and projects, Lucas doesn't care how his movies are perceived because he'll makes tons of money no matter what.
It's time for film organizations to start recognizing the achievements of young visionaries while they - unlike Lucas - still care about more than just making money.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Palin vs. Letterman... Palin cannot win.

For those who missed it, David Letterman made fun of Sarah Palin's family. Why is that news? Normally it wouldn't be, but Palin took offense at some jokes aimed at her daughter. Which daughter? Depends who you ask. Neither was named in the jokes, but the content seemed to imply it was 18-year-old Bristol. However, the Palins took it as attacks on 14-year-old Willow.

From the AP story on Letterman's 'apology:'

"Letterman said “an awkward moment” occurred for Palin when, “during the seventh inning, her daughter was knocked up by (Yankee third baseman) Alex Rodriguez.”

Without naming her, the joke seemed to refer to Palin’s 18-year-old daughter Bristol, an unwed mother.

But it was 14-year-old daughter Willow, not Bristol, who had been at the game."

Last night, after the Palin's released a statement attacking Letterman, Letterman made two things very clear on his show:

- He was not and would not joke about a 14-year-old being raped.

- He has no intention of going easy on the Palins.

In fact, it would seem his "apology" was a perfect opportunity to launch more attacks on the Palins.

Not that they'll listen, but my advice to the Palin's would be... accept his apology for what it is worth, and let it go. If you start a fued with a late night comic, you will lose. John McCain learned the hard way how much Letterman can hurt someone's public image if he wants to. Honestly, is it worth it? He's a comedian/entertainer, it's clear he doesn't mean any harm to the people he jokes about (which includes pretty much everyone) and trying to make a bigger and more serious situation out of it is only going to backfire.

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Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Why is 'Pregnant Man' controversial news?

Thomas Beatie has had another child, and while many mainstream media outlets, including Oprah, embrace the Beatie, others seems shocked and abhorred at the idea of a pregnant man, comparing Beatie to circus attraction. A pregnant man is so unnatural (unless we're talking about seahorses) to some people that Beatie is looked upon as some kind of freak of nature.

Let's get one things straight, Beatie, born Tracy, is not really a man, not in the biological sense. She takes male hormones (thus the facial hair and muscle mass) and had her breasts surgically removed, but that's it. She is still techincally a woman, so concieving and giving birth to a healthy child is not a medical marvel by any stretch of the imagination. People just got weirded out by seeing someone who looks like a man being pregnant.

State law may recognize Beatie as a man, but nature still classifies her as a woman. People may find her decision to alter her appearance strange, but that does not make anyone a freak of nature, and the only controversy I see here is people making way too big a deal out of someone's appearance.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Colbert's visit to Iraq

Stephen Colbert's "surprise" visit to Iraq finally happened. He made the troops laugh about the very war they are fighting, he had his head shaved by a four-star general, and the POTUS himself made a brief appearance, all inside a former palace of Saddam Hussein. Not bad for a late night comedy show.

This was a pretty big deal for everybody involved it would seem. For obvious security purposes, Colbert couldn't reveal when or where he was going. It's impressive how much clout the comedy show has.

Here's the first episode of the week.

I'll be interested to see what comes next.


Thursday, June 4, 2009

Who Better to Play a Hero Than a Hero?

Producers of the possible movie about Capt. Richard Phillips - the American freighter captain who surrendered himself to Somali pirates to protect his crew - would be wise to consider casting him in the starring role.
I'm glad they might make a movie about Phillips. A film centered on the skipper of U.S.-flagged Maersk Alabama and his rescue would resonate a lot with the public.
The story has everything that a great suspenseful movie needs: a hero, a volatile situation, nonstop tension and a violent climax in which the U.S.-of-A. wins.
The best choice the producers could make in a situation like this would be to seek out Phillips to be the film's star. This isn't such a radical idea. In 2004, an Argentinean movie called "Whisky Romeo Zulu" was released about a pilot who fought corruption in the civil aviation industry in 1999. The person who played the lead role was the actual whistle-blower himself. His performance - apart from being authentic - wasn't bad, showing that one doesn't need an acting background in movies; one only needs to know how to take direction.
Besides providing a layer of authenticity, casting Phillips as himself would also better ensure that his heroic story does not transform into a typical, loud and unrealistic popcorn flick. Phillips, more than anyone, would be best equipped to make sure that the sole purpose of this movie would not be to fatten up the producers' wallets.

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Tuesday, June 2, 2009

No rush to ban smoking

Well, today Bishop said he's going to take his time reviewing the proposed smoking ban before the Senate takes any action.

However, the hold-up doesn't seem to be over the debate whether or not smoking should be banned in the workplace, rather, it seems to be about whether or not there should be exceptions.

At this point, the ban seems inevitable. If it does pass, Michigan will be the 38th state to have some kind of smoking ban in place. That seems like the expected outcome anyway. Even though Republicans are typically more likely to oppose this type of measure than Democrats, the bill had bi-partisan support in congress and as I already mentioned, the discussion by senate Republicans seems to be who, if anyone, should be exempt, not whether or not the ban should be put in place.

You can read more about it here.

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I hate reality television

I'm sitting at my desk, so annoyed that I really can't think of another sentence to write than the title.
NBC has recently unveiled "I'm a Celebrity .... Get me Out of Here."
I didn't watch it, nor to I care to.
The commercials alone make me physically ill. You take a bunch of D-listers or has beens and toss them into a situation where they are pushed to their limits physically and mentally.
Crap TV at its best.
I'm so tired of people like Heidi and Spencer from "The Hills," John and Kate and their circus family they sold out for money and frumpy women from Scotland that have beautiful voices.
Can anyone explain to me the appeal of any of this?
I can kind of understanding "So You Think You Can Dance," and and "American Idol" (neither show I watch, but am aware of).
There is some actual entertainment value in seeing people that are excellent dancers or talented singers.
I just miss television when networks didn't realize they could get out of paying writers by creating garbage reality show premises.


Conan is back and as good as ever

Conan O'Brien returned to television last night as the new host of the Tonight Show and I think many fans breathed a sigh of relief when it was clear right from the start that Conan was not going to change his ways for the new time slot. Less than two minutes into the show he performed his oddball "string dance" followed by a brief monologue which took shots at NBC, LA, and GM.

Three video bits were featured as well, and Conan's first guest, Will Ferrell, was carried onto the stage by four men dressed as ancient Egyptian servants. There was no masturbating bear or Triumph the Insult Comic Dog, but there was no mistaking O'Brien brought his old tricks with him from New York.

Also making a return was drummer Max Weinberg and the Tonight Show Band (formally known as the Max Weinberg Seven) who opened the show with a variation on the familiar theme that has Conan has opened with for years.

Returning after the longest absence from the show was Andy Richter, O'Brien's former sidekick who left the show to pursue a career in film and TV. None of Richter's shows lasted very long and he never got more than a bit part in any major movie, so reuniting with O'Brien, even in a different capacity, seems like a return to where he fits best. Richter is now the announcer for the Tonight Show, and rather than sit next to O'Brien, Richter stands a podium off screen.

It's going to take some adjusting, but I think Conan O'Brien was the perfect choice to take over the Tonight Show and in a few weeks time it will be hard to imagine anyone else hosting it.
The only thing that felt awkward was Richter's role. He makes a fine announcer, but throughout the show it seemed he wasn't sure if and when he should chime in with his opinion. He'll have to get used to his new role and the fact that an announcer, unlike a sidekick, doesn't have to banter throughout the show.

Overall though, late night TV just got a lot better.

You can watch the full episode on Hulu


Monday, June 1, 2009

A Celebrity Trainwreck

If ever there was an example of vapid celebrities desperately clawing for attention, it is the perhaps purposefully bad concept "I'm a celebrity, get me out of here!" that starts tonight and runs for three weeks on NBC.

Contestants include Stephen Baldwin, American Idol finalist Sanjaya Malakar and wife of former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich, Patricia Blagovich. The last one might really surprise some, but she was only asked to be on the show after a judge prohibited the former governor from being on the show himself (he needs permisson to leave the country and the show is being filmed in Costa Rica). Janice Dickinson, who still has the attitude of a big shot celebrity despite bording on obscurity, appeared on an episode of Christina's Court earlier today (she was the defendant), so apparently she'll do anything to keep her face on TV.

So if you have any interest in watching, you can see these celebrities do "embarassing" things to stay on TV. I put embarassing in quotes because while these things might be embarassing for other people, these celebrities obviously have no shame. I was able to sit through an entire season of The Celebrity Apprentice, but this may be too much to stomach.

Something tells me NBC put this together just for the trainwreck potential.


A sacrifice for the next generation

President Obama spoke today about GM filing for bankruptcy, saying it would hopefully go as quickly as Chrysler's has.

One thing that Obama said stuck out in my mind. He said autoworkers are going to have to make a sacrifice, one that they didn't choose to make, but one they were called to make for the sake of the next generation. I wonder how many autoworkers see it that way.

While it's clear GM has a lot of problems it needs to resolve, it's always easier to call something a necessary sacrifice when you are not the one making the sacrifice. I'm hopeful about the plans set in place. GM will certainly be a smaller, but stronger, company when all is said and done, but when the that time comes, will those who had to make these sacrifices look back and say "it was worth it..." or will it be too much? The radical changes needed to save GM couldn't happen without sacrifices, but I'm sure many disagree on what is necessary.

I can't say if the ends will justify the means in this case, but I hope they do. As we all wait and see, I hope those making the sacrifices see the good that could come from it.

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Good Luck Conan

Tonight's the night. Conan O'Brien debuts as the new host of the Tonight Show. This has been the plan for nearly 5 years, and hopefully the transition goes smoothly. O'Brien definitely has a different style that Jay Leno, and some have said he will need to do some growing up before he can really take the helm. Here's hoping that's not true. If O'Brien changes his style to accommodate the critics, he'll lose what made him the man picked to replace Leno. I'll definitely be watching tonight to see how he does. A good litmus test for the tone of the new show will be first guest Will Ferrell, who has a history of stripping down to green tights on O'Briens previous show. I wouldn't be surprised to see it happen again tonight. It would definitely get the message across that Conan isn't going to change.