Friday, January 29, 2010

Thoughts for 1/29/2010

In an effort to regain his popularity with the college-aged crowd, President Obama has renamed the revered Situation Room the "As Far As I Know Everyone Loves The Situation Room, And If You Don't Love The Situation Room, I'm Gonna Make You Love The Situation Room."

Reports that Brad Pitt has gone out and bought a "bachelor pad" are completely false. Now, I know what you're thinking...it really is hard to imagine there might strain on a family with about eight kids running around and constant media scrutiny that might send a guy running for the hills.

John and Elizabeth Edwards have legally separated. This frees up John's time to play the field.

A school district in California has banned the Dictionary - that's right, the entire Dictionary - from its schools because it includes the definition of "oral sex." This now paves the way for innovative ways for students to "Show & Tell."

An alleged mistress of Tiger Woods has come forth to say that his sexual fantasies are not "normal" and is very much into role-play. The woman explained he has a fetish where he likes the bedroom situation to be a sexually-glorified major golf tournament - which explains all the ball washing.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Thoughts for 1/28/2010

Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner said that the AIG rescue prevented a national economic depression akin to the "Great Depression." Upon making that statement to the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform he turned to his aide and asked, "Think they bought it?"

President Obama has admitted to some missteps in his first year in office. As a matter of fact, in the official transcript of his State of the Union speech he struck the language of that entire section and inserted a picture of Rahm Emmanuel stabbing a steak knife through Martha Coakley's dining room table.

Mel Gibson is making a comeback with the new movie Edge of Darkness. In the film he plays a detective searching for his daughter's killer. I hear he really got bogged down in research for the film, and in order to understand the stress that police officers are subject to on a regular basis he decided to go on an anti-Semitic, drunken bender behind the wheel of his own car and stop starring in movies for almost a decade because everyone thought he was a creep.

Expectedly, Brett Favre is on the fence about coming back for another season of professional football. Unexpectedly, he was joined by a tearful Tim Tebow at the post-game press conference.

A new study shows that, at the same time a great deal of money was being inserted into abstinence-only education, the rate of teen pregnancies and abortions actually rose. In a strange move, abstinence-only advocates have hired Snooki to unveil their new slogan: "Pickles is my thing."

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Thoughts for 1/27/2010

This thing in Haiti is just awful, and it's not getting any better any time soon. Just today, former President George W. Bush left his weekly briefing and announced the world hasn't seen a disaster this big since David Hasselhoff tried to eat a Wendy's hamburger.

Today Kevin Federline released a statement that said he has gotten fat because he's depressed. That, and he figured out how to read Billboard music charts.

A lot of controversy is brewing over whether or not the American Idol contestant stole "Pants on the Ground." This all stems from an earlier announcement that Osama bin Laden took credit for it.

Tiger Woods' wife is reportedly putting the brakes on going through with the divorce for the moment. She'll change her mind when his latest skeleton is dragged out of the closet. I understand it involves a double eagle, a scorecard, and one of those little divot fixers.

Richard Nixon's grandson, Chris Cox, is running for Congress in New York. He's going to have a hard time explaining his nickname, "Tricky Cox."

Monday, January 25, 2010

Thoughts for 1/25/2010

Scott Brown is the first prominent politician to have posed nude in a magazine since Janet Reno's spread in Guns & Ammo

Jerry Lewis called George Clooney before the telethon for Haiti and gave him pointers on proper "spit take" etiquette.

After his briefing on the escalating devastation as a result of the aftershocks in Haiti, former President George W. Bush asked Laura, "Think they have a good brush-clearing photo-op?"

Oprah decided to weigh-in on the whole Jay/Conan fiasco. She's up to 225.

I'm happy to announce that the Pitt-Jolie split rumors are false. To demonstrate his continued commitment to Angelina, Brad gave Billy Bob Thornton a vial of his blood to wear around his neck.

Scott.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Jay's Side of the Story

Last night on The Jay Leno Show, Jay gave his side of the story. Watch it here.

He discusses being forced out by NBC executives while he was still #1 and also says he never thought the 10 pm experiment would work. He expresses no ill will towards Conan.

Jay is about two weeks late on this one. He should've given his side of the story immediately. Had he done this he probably wouldn't be viewed as one of the villains in this debacle. Jay also suffers from this (in my opinion, faux) "gentleman's agreement" lifestyle where he walks around without an agent and a lawyer shaking hands based on principle. It ain't show-friends, it's show-business.

Jay may have been #1 in latenight, and he may return to that plateau when he reclaims 11:35, but he'll never be accused of being a savvy businessman again.

Or a stand-up stand-up. It's easy to look in the rearview mirror and try to explain things from your perspective.

Scott.

Monday, January 18, 2010

The Tonight Show with _____________

In 9th grade - back in good old Westlake, Ohio - I had 9th period (last class of the day) pre-Algebra with Mrs. Sidlowski. The 9th grade was without question the worst year for me. I didn't know what the hell was going on. I was a lost, bumbling high school soul. Like millions of others, I was walking through the halls scared of bullies, girls, and the lunch line. (Okay, maybe I'm one of the few that is severely intimidated by the school lunch line).

Monday through Friday I would work on equations or whatever hell else Mrs. Sidlowski had us doing, but I'd also be writing all over the back of my notebook or on the brown paper cover of my text book. It was always something like, "Show a little faith - there's magic in the night" or my favorite movie at the moment or - what it was more often than not - "The Late Show with David Letterman."

It was also in the 9th grade that I started one of the worst sleep habits imaginable. I would go to bed right after school and not wake up until dinner time. Then I'd stay up until about 2 am. I'd watch Letterman and Conan. Then I'd think about getting to sleep.

If I didn't stay up to watch Dave, I taped it. I remember literally wrecking VHS tapes I rerecorded over them so many times.

One of my fantastical goals/aspirations back in the 9th grade was to move out to L.A. and make it as a movie writer. Another was to be on stage with Bruce Springsteen night after night.

Along with those pipe dreams was one that had me succeeding David Letterman as host of The Late Show. When I wasn't watching movies or listening to Springsteen I was listening to comedy. The craft of it, the pleasure it gives others, everything about it...I love comedy.

There was a kid named Sean in my class that was a year older than me, but he and I bonded throughout high school. He and I were very different. He quite literally would've been one of the "geeks" in the great tv show Freaks & Geeks. But we had rock n' roll in common. He turned me onto the band Kiss - which, despite the many jokes people make about them - they are a true rock band. They're just great, and I have had great times at their concerts.

Sean was great at encouraging people to strive for their goals, and I remember us bouncing our dream futures/careers off each other. One day, in Mrs. Sidlowksi's class, she overheard me talking about how one of my goals in life would be to succeed David Letterman as host of The Late Show. I'll never forget her immediate, bitchy response: "That will never happen." Now, being 14 years old it would of course be a punishable offense for me to respond: "No shit, Sherlock." The other thing about hearing that at the age of 14 is that it really, really stung. I didn't need any help in realizing none of my wildest dreams would come to fruition. I was a freshman in high school. Life sucked anyways, you don't need to flash me a sign from the grandstands as I get pummeled in the boxing ring of adolescence.

I am not a fan of Mrs. Sidlowski.

Flash forward to present day.

I have amassed an incredible nerdy general understanding of how late night television works. I'd also like to point out that despite my allegiance to David Letterman, I have spend a lot of time watching Jay Leno (and continue to). Jay used to guest on Dave's 12:35 show all the time, and I know Jay from the Carson clips I've seen and also happen to love Jay's movie Collision Course and know a little about his stand-up comedy prior to guest-hosting for Carson etc...

At first I wanted to write a multi-piece story about the latest late night war, and it would've included a backstory, Jay Leno's failed primetime experiment, Conan's missteps with his show, NBC's mistakes, etc... Instead, I decided to keep this piece true to what I feel like this blog (and all 1 or 2 of you that may read this) has become: a way for me to be me.

A lot has already been documented proving that NBC has really screwed the pooch on this one. I don't want to elaborate too much, but they botched this real good. Okay, so Jay didn't work out at 10 - there is no reason to strong arm a mega valuable commodity like Conan and unite everyone under 40 against your once-great-now-fleeting-in-relevance network.

For me, a lot of this boils down to the desecration of The Tonight Show. My favorite childhood memories (and probably the only real memory of happiness with my parents/grandparents that will forever be unblemished) are watching the The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson cassettes. My dad had gotten them for Christmas and I remember laughing hysterically at them...just writing about this reminds me of my grandfather's cackle.

It just can't be myself and Conan O'Brien basing our thoughts on this on the quasi-holiness of this institution. I know there are others out there. My immediate frustration with NBC was that they would actually consider starting The Tonight Show tomorrow. That is literally pissing on the graves of the legends that made that show what it became (not mention, they also would be pissing on Jay Leno, who hosted the show for 17 years).

Conan immediately refused. His appreciation for the craft shined through. Conan got the offer from NBC to move to 12:05 and acted swiftly. Jay got the word his show was cancelled and given a half hour starting at 11:35 and sat quietly reading to a classroom of Florida students. (How many people did I piss off with that analogy???). Conan and his people went to work on an exit strategy immediately...and then Jay not only agreed to 11:35 but actually agreed to take The Tonight Show over again.

Only five years ago, this is what Jay had to say to Conan: It's all yours, pal.

Knowing what we know now, Jay has committed a major sin for many people. It really is an act of showbiz betrayal.

Since Dave went to CBS, late night has been Jay and Dave. Jay at #1, Dave...sometimes at #2 haha...but I think it's been pretty clear that Dave is the one that is holding Johnny's torch (no pun intended...gross!). But Jay is certainly the elder statesman. He still wants to become everyone's friend. His show was a safe haven. Guaranteed big ratings and classy on-air and off-air treatment (unless you're Howard Stern...but that's another story). Jay is heralded in the biggest comedy circles (Jerry Seinfeld is very close with Jay, for instance - there's a great scene in Jerry's documentary, Comedian, with Jay).

Patton Oswalt (a terrific comedian - and a guy I think could excel in a talk show format) summed up the current generation's dislike for Jay (listen here). Patton talks about Jay turning off the comedy "switch" when he took The Tonight Show and stopped being a great comedian with a limitless ability to write great jokes and kill onstage. He went for the mass appeal and stopped taking chances.

So...all this dislike for Jay over the sanctity of a television show??? Well, yes and no. Jay is one of the biggest names out there still, and I still think he should've taken a deal with ABC for an 11:30 or 11:35 show when he could've five years ago. For some reason he's got this unnatural affinity for NBC - a network that literally forced him to step down from The Tonight Show in the first place.

Writing all this makes a lot less sense now that we have a general idea of how late night will look like in just a few weeks/months: Jay at 11:35, Fallon at 12:35 on NBC. Dave at 11:35, Ferguson at 12:35 on CBS. Kimmel at 12:05 on ABC.

What next for Conan? I'm of the mindset that going to Fox would be a mistake. Conan is too smart to be limited by a big dumb network. Going to a place like Comedy Central would be perfect...He would be great at either 10 or 12 there. Cable is great because the time slot matters a lot less with rebroadcasting. And a Stewart/Colbert/O'Brien lineup is an automatic comedic erection right there. Alright, lets be honest - what erection isn't comedic?

So, to NBC executives like Jerry Zucker and pre-Algebra teachers like Mrs. Sidlowski, I say you're all fools. Zucker, because Conan is going to be huge wherever he goes.

And Mrs. Sidlowski, because the title of my blog proves that I haven't given up the dream.

Scott.

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Dear Mr. Ebert

Dear Mr. Ebert:

I was scouring the VCRs at Best Buy with my mom and dad. It was the mid-1990s (making me about 10 years old). A day prior my parents had purchased a brand new red Ford conversion van.

It came with a television.

The console that housed the television had a (very slim – hence the necessary scouring) slot for a VCR.

We found the perfect one.

The sales associate gladly handed us a free gift for purchasing a VCR at Best Buy on that day (who knows how long the promotion lasted? A week? A month? As long as supplies last?). The gift was the 1994 edition of your Video Companion.

That very night I literally began to read every review in that massive volume and make annotations of what I had already seen, wanted to see, etc… This was an ongoing process that I engaged in all the way through most of high school. Half the appendix is missing (it started to deteriorate with the excessive use) and there is a lot of my scribbling over half the pages (at one point I even kept a tally of how many “Scott Awards” films you reviewed had earned or been nominated for…yes, the “Scott Awards” were my version of the Academy Awards – I still dutifully do my own awards list every year).

It wasn’t until I eventually read your review of the movie Fargo that I realized I had learned most of what I know about movies from you. Maybe you didn’t write out all the answers to the questions that I had or will have in the future, but you provided the crux of what was necessary for me to answer my ponderings. You ended your review of Fargo with this sentence:

“Films like Fargo are why I love the movies.”

How long had you already been in the business? How many thousands of crap movies had you endured? That tiny moment of self-actualization made me feel like I was justified in my burgeoning obsession with the cinema.

Over the many years since I’ve followed your career quite closely (most of the time). I’ve always needed to know your opinion – and the times where we disagree are at times (ironically?) the most gratifying. You’re not out to please anyone; you call it like you see it. The most recent incident is with the 2009’s Bad Lieutenant: The Port of Call New Orleans. I found your acclaim for it puzzling. Then I went to see it – making me more bewildered at your love for it. But it’s not about agreeing - it’s about understanding. We understand we all have our own thoughts on cinematic excellence. We’ve all got the movies that make us argue or agree about – the shouting matches and the laughter from quoting favorite lines.

Films like Bad Lieutenant: The Port of Call New Orleans are why I love the movies.

I just happened to dislike it.

We took the newly purchased VCR for a test drive. It was defective…didn’t work. We needed to return it for another model. I was fearful my parents would have to return the Video Companion gift since we were getting a whole different VCR.

I hid it in my room. No sense in taking a chance.

Scott

Ebert's review of Fargo

Monday, December 28, 2009

Favorite Movies of the Decade

I wanted to expand on what my favorite movies of the past decade have been (my goal was 3 movies from each year - some have more). Please note I am leaving off 2009, as I will have a separate for it entry towards Oscar time. Comment away, if you like!

***

2000:

Almost Famous
The Contender
Erin Brokovich
Traffic
Unbreakable

2001:

Amelie
In the Bedroom
Moulin Rouge!
The Royal Tenenbaums

2002:

Changing Lanes
Igby Goes Down
Road to Perdition
The Pianist
Y Tu Mama Tambien

2003:

American Splendor
City of God
In America
Lost in Translation
Mystic River

2004:

Before Sunset
The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou
Maria Full of Grace
Million Dollar Baby
Sideways

2005:

Good Night, and Good Luck
Match Point
The New World
Syriana

2006:

Children of Men
The Departed
Little Children
The Prestige
The Queen
Volver

2007:

The Darjeeling Limited
Michael Clayton
No Country for Old Men
There Will Be Blood

2008:

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
The Reader
Revolutionary Road
The Wrestler

Scott.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

The Best Medicine

I think I am situationally very funny. I'm that guy that is trying desperately to get laughs at parties and in social occasions and can generally get laughs. But none of it is planned, it's organic.

Just about everyone is organically funny in some way. They can drop a movie quote, a current event reference, or something along those lines that gets a chuckle.

To plan out "funny" is damn near impossible. Joke writing is just as difficult as prose, poetry, or any sort of legitimate journalism. It's a craft. I can't really do it. I want to do it - because so many of my idols are so good at it - but I just can't really do it.

In tough times, you've got to turn to what gets you going. I've just caught up on It's Garry Shandling's Show and The Larry Sanders Show. What a world of good that does to the soul.

For those unfamiliar with it, The Larry Sanders Show is one of the most heralded sitcoms of all time. It wasn't on tv - it was on HBO (har har har). The premise was pretty groundbreaking. Larry Sanders was the host of a nightly talk show (cleverly titled: "The Larry Sanders Show"), but the The Larry Sanders Show interlaced footage of the fictional talk show with the behind-the-scenes and personal stories of the cast of characters. Garry Shandling portrayed Larry Sanders as a vain, neurotic, comedy legend.

In one of my favorite moments on the show (it was actually the series finale), Sean Penn played himself as a guest on the fictional Larry Sanders Show. He was promoting his new movie, Hurlyburly, which starred - among many people - Garry Shandling. Larry asks curiously which actor was on the "low end of the acting ability spectrum" and Penn said that it was Shandling and commenced to talk a large amount of crap about him.

It is a fantastic moment of comedy gold. So here we have Garry Shandling playing along with a diatribe against...Garry Shandling.

I always find it interesting to get to know the comedian more as a person. Jerry Seinfeld (one of my idols) released a documentary earlier in the decade called Comedian, and it follows himself and a struggling stand-up through the comedy circuit.

They are all vain and neurotic. Every single comedian that makes an appearance in the documentary. They all are.

It appears to be a nearly thankless medium (stand-up). But not to the listeners.

The listeners are blessed with hearing words, when put in a sentence and in a certain creative way, elicit such a response that we laugh so hard we are danger of cardiac arrest.

Of course, it's not the laughter that kills us. It's not the hilarity of a finely crafted joke.

It's the ensuing reality we are faced with.

Reality is a harsh mistress, and only one thing can save us.

Scott.

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Some Misty Years Ago

Back when I started updating the blog with periodic regularity several months ago I was trying to find a niche - well, not find so much as carve one for myself. I already feel like I can write incessantly about whatever the hell I want to without any problem - that's my niche. Carving that niche into something notable, well, that's just a different story altogether.

This post is certainly not going to appeal to the masses - but it's going to serve a cathartic purpose that I know I have mentioned in previous posts.

There's a couple things I've been involved with or witnessed or seen that I just never thought I'd ever see in my entire life - and I'm only 24 years old! Right at the top of that list was being the best man in my buddy's wedding. I'm sure that Max and Katie's wedding day was the best day of their lives, and I can share that sentiment!!!

Somewhere, floating in, "Wow - that really happened to me?" land is the fact that I actually have a Bachelor's Degree. For most of my pre-college days I was pretty much 100% sure I was never going to get a degree. I was going to be a famous writer/filmmaker blah blah blah - lots of fantastical notions running 'round my head. And here I am now a graduate student.

I don't want to call this the "breaking through adversity" portion of my life, but in a way it was: getting out of community college. It's actually quite simple - sitting in Parma, Ohio, at Cuyahoga Community College, it wasn't the degree that seemed elusive to me...it was happiness that seemed unattainable.

Happiness came in small, sporadic instances at Tri-C. It was the car ride with to and fro with Max and his sister, it was the little Max-isms in English class ("The doctor is in..." on the first day of class when Dr. Surace strolls into the room), it was the ribbing from Dr. Rokicky for sleeping through her entire class in the previous semester, it was skipping out of the second to last class of summer Spanish to smoke a cigar with a classmate that was getting married the next day and he was going to miss the last class of the semester.

Several different things happened that convinced me to snap the hell out of my, "I was supposed to be a screenwriter/rock star/Cleveland Cavalier" mentality and here I sit...happy.

*Warning* *Warning* *Springsteen Stuff Ahead*

There's plenty of poignancy in Springsteen's extensive catalog. A lot of it has helped me make sense of things I'm feeling and things that are happening in society etc... A lot of what I have learned about him is that he and I have similar influences (one example of this is that a few years ago I discovered that before I ever heard a single cut of a Springsteen album I was obsessing about movies that would inspire him to write some of the songs that I would come to greatly identify with many years later).

Bruce's stuff has always been rather autobiographical, and that has helped facilitate the intense connection all us crazy fans have to him and the music. That's always been apparent to me and many, many others even before I ever figured it out.

I mentioned some things I never thought I'd be able to say I did or be a part of. Well, in less than 24 hours I get to add another one to that list.

I'm going to see Bruce Springsteen & the E-Street Band play in Giants Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey. This will be the last concert played at Giants Stadium before it's torn down after the football season is over. They will also be playing the Born in the USA album in its entirety. (Did I mention he is playing 5 consecutive shows there to send that place out in style?)

Giants Stadium (the venue) and the Born in the USA (the album) made Bruce "The Boss."

Getting to see Bruce play in Jersey is one of those little fairy tale myths that circulates amongst Boss fanatics. The snobs all say Philly and Boston are the best places to see him - the really snobby ones claim that nowadays the only place to see Bruce is in Europe. But the purists all agree: it's all about Jersey. Bruce always pulls out the wild cards in Jersey. It's home for him. He feels at home on the stage no matter where he is, but when he's in Jersey he's literally in his backyard.

Bruce overcame his own adversity - much like I did in community college, haha! - and there's plenty of great coming-of-age stories to be found on his bootlegs. One of my favorites is the story he told throughout "Growing Up" at the 9/8/78 Agora, Cleveland show.

The story goes like this:

His mom and dad had a heart-to-heart with him and demanded that he put the guitar down and get a real job...his dad wanted him to be a lawyer and his mom suggested he be an author. So Bruce has to go talk to a priest to help assist in this search - and his dad tells him, "Don't you tell him nothing about the God damned guitar!" After he and the priest talk for a while the priest tells Bruce he needs to speak directly to God. He left Bruce with one more piece of advice: "Don't tell HIM nothing about that God damned guitar!" So Bruce goes to talk to God. It's just a dark hill next to a cemetery. Bruce is unsure this is where he's supposed to go, but he goes up the hill anyway. So he goes to the top and there's tons of people everywhere. He kneels down to talk to God and explains that everyone is telling him to do these things he doesn't want to - all he wants is to play that guitar.

Then there's thunder and lightning.

After a silence there are three words that Bruce hears...

LET IT ROCK!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

You see it's a silly fabricated exaggeration, but it's the code that Bruce formed for himself. It's what he's been telling us all along. People telling you not to do what you love? Well, that is unacceptable - it's up to you!

In what I may just consider to be the most beautiful way he's ever done it, Bruce reminded all of us of this very sentiment with his new song, "Wrecking Ball."

Bruce wrote this song specifically to commemorate the final shows at Giants Stadium. Lots of memories for him and the band there - and for the fans as well.

But this song goes far beyond simply being a love story for a football stadium.

So if you got the guts, mister

Yeah if you got the balls

If you think it’s your time

Then step to the line and

Bring on your wrecking ball

Bruce is telling us if we are met with a challenge, meet it face to face. It's our life and we are the ones that determine if we sink without a fight.

We know that come tomorrow

None of this will be here

So hold tight to your anger

Hold tight to your anger

Hold tight to your anger

And don’t fall to your fear

We can fade away into oblivion if we let go of our passions and succumb to the easily attainable and allow ourselves to do what is simple.

When your best hope and desires

Are scattered into the wind

And hard times come

And hard times go

And hard times come

And hard times go

And hard times come

And hard times go

And hard times come

And hard times go

And hard times come

And hard times go just to come again

The forces working against us will never seize. They may lessen, they may even hide. Nothing is easy. Nothing is handed to us. We will be challenged.

How can we possibly know what to do?

There's only one thing you can do - confront your adversaries, no matter how big or small.

You look at them and say:

Bring on your wrecking ball

Bring on your wrecking ball

C’mon and take your best shot

Let me see what you got

Bring on your wrecking ball

I'll be thinking and living this as I watch Bruce and the band take the stage for the last time ever at Giants Stadium tomorrow.

Now that I can cross seeing The Boss in Jersey off my list, I just have to go about continuing to be happy and those pesky little things like staying true to my passions.

I dare you to make me waver in this endeavor. Bring on your wrecking ball.

Scott.

"Wrecking Ball" by Bruce Springsteen - Video from October 2, 2009, performance at Giants Stadium.

*"Some misty years ago" is from the opening verse of "Wrecking Ball"

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button - A Review

Directed by David Fincher

Written by Eric Roth (story by Robin Swicord and Roth)

Starring Brad Pitt, Cate Blanchett, Tilda Swinton, and Taraji P. Henson

Running time 166 minutes

2008

Do you learn more about yourself when you’re alone or when others surround you? Is it how you act in a crowd, or how you act when it’s all up to you?

I’d say the answer is neither…and both.

Introspection is something I do extremely often. The hours spent staring at the darkness before sleep is fraught with wide-ranging emotions. The nights out with friends where you second-guess life directions subconsciously as you tear into a case of cheap beer and laugh about growing up.

I suppose it’s a constant, evolving process.

Benjamin Button did both – but he did most of his learning alone.

This is an appropriate comparison: I thought a lot about Forrest Gump when I watched David Fincher’s The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. Forrest did most of his learning alone, too.

Forrest and Benjamin are tragic characters in many ways, but lovely, wonderful ones in more. Forrest perhaps lived the most American tale ever told; Benjamin lived the most unique.

Benjamin’s mother dies in childbirth, and his father sees his son for the first time and is horrified. The baby is a miniature, frail, and crippled being. In a truly horrifying act of fright and confusion, the father nearly murders poor Benjamin. In a slightly less horrifying act, he ultimately abandons the baby on the front steps of what would turn out to be a home full of visitors full of love (also reminiscent of Gump).

The gist of the story is simple: Benjamin ages from old to young. It’s (literally?) a coming of age story.

I never read the F. Scott Fitzgerald story that this is adapted from, but I may seek it out. The script (written by Eric Roth – one of the finest screenwriters of this generation and also penned the adaptation for Gump) is multi-dimensional in that it is telling a quirky story with plenty of drama and humor and even some suspense while encompassing love, morality, and mortality.

It’s important to note that Benjamin never sheds a tear in this film. I view this as a testament to the solitude he found himself in so many times. Being alone hardens you overtime. Benjamin is a hopeless romantic, is driven by his dreams to explore, but was given a full deck of cards (with respect to life). Forrest Gump, on the other hand, was wholly innocent. He was pure. Benjamin goes to a brothel, readily admits to courtships with beautiful women when he is the prime physical condition of his life, and understands the hardened human condition (he makes one of the hardest decisions a human could probably ever make towards the end of the film – though perhaps the most responsible).

What Pitt brings to this picture is innumerable. He perfected the patented Tom Hanks staring-into-the-distance-in-deep-contemplation expression. He can emote with subtle eye movements and minor nods of the head. I’d be remiss to not acknowledge that – like a Clint Eastwood or a Paul Newman or now a Tom Hanks or even a George Clooney – Pitt gets to add his own seal to the performance. His charm, his laugh, his persona is being sold. Only the greats can get away with that. He does.

He has two major counterparts, however. Tilda Swinton – in another small, biting role – plays a once-ambitious woman he first experiences love with and Cate Blanchett – his true love. Swinton and Blanchett are both stunningly able and attractive and are engrained in the small community of Hollywood females that I would say Kate Winslet leads that are smart, extremely talented forces of acting brilliance.

Fincher presents this tale to us in such a reasonable and responsible manner it’s hard to believe he gave us the great-but-gritty Fight Club and Se7en. F. Scott Fitzgerald is certainly not known for wholesome tales, and this story has sex, war, booze, and foul language. Fincher and Roth present a PG-13 film that, I’d imagine, will help many teens find some understanding in their confusing lives (which is what Gump would do for me when I was in high school).

Button deserved all the Oscar nominations it got (all 13 of them) and none were more deserving than for editing and cinematography. The tale weaves modern-day with the past seamlessly and, as the top-notch films of every year do, are able to add a layer or even another dimension through only light or shadows or a different film lens or a set placement or a frame cut. It’s pristine in presentation.

A film like Button serves an important function for a boob like me. It provides food for thought as I lay in bed trying to figure out if I’ve learned anything about myself or about life in my existence.

As Forrest Gump put it - I may not be a smart man…

But I know what love is.

Scott.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Don Juan Scott - Segment 2

I'm already changing the format of my Don Juan Scott series. It's going to be whatever in heckfire I want it to be. Today's is a sermon OF LOVE!!!

*Disclaimer: When I say things like "fellas" I'm not speaking only of males - I use words like "fella" and "handsome" in a unisex manner...and no, "unisex" is not something teenage boys do when the latest Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue arrives in the mail... ;)

***

WHAT TIME TO YOU ALL HAVE ON YOUR WATCHES???

I HAVE LOVIN' TIME ON MINE!!!!!

You see, you gotta recognize what time it is whenever and wherever you are! When you're out with your friends, when you're out with your family, when you're out with your co-workers, it's always LOVIN' TIME!

You gotta look around - see what is going on around...

Because...

THERE'S ALWAYS LOVE IN THE AIR!!!....

Love comes in many forms, mind you - it comes in the RED HOT passionate KKKIIINNNDDD where all you wanna do is get a ROOOOOOOMMMM!!!...

There's the LETS TALK UNTIL THE SUN COMES UP kind....

There's the LET ME BUY YOU A DRRIINNKK and then DDAANNCCEE THE NIGHT AWAY kind...

There's the I'M WITH SOMEONE BUT I LIKE THAT ONE ACROSS THE ROOM kind...

It's all out there to be had and experienced, fellas - all you gotta do is open up your eyes and your heart and your mind and SMILE and LAUGH...

You've got to understand the GLOSSARY OF LOVE (which DOES happen to include understanding simple words like, "PRUUUUUDE")!

You gotta know the right combination of LOVE COCKTAILS to get the party in your favor - and you gotta know what your bank account can handle!

BUT MOSTLY ALL YOU NEED IS A LITTLE BIT OF FAITH IN THE NIGHT!

You gotta be able to stand up straight and look people in the EYYYYYYYYYYYEEEEEE!!!!

You can bullshit the ladies if wanna but if takes a REAL MAN to be himself!!!!...

AND THAT IS WHY THE LADIES DON JUAN ANYTHING TO DO WITH ME ;)

Scott

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Don Juan Scott - Segment 1

This will be the first in a sporadically recurring series. Some of the stories are true. Some of them are made up. One phrase to keep in mind: when the legend becomes fact, print the legend.

I will honor that tradition.

***

Ahh - Christmas time! The bells are jingling, the egg nog is spiked, the women are loose, the men are mighty!!!!

Party time! It's Christmas time!

Run, Run Rudolphhhhh!!!!

When I was at the pinnacle of every young man's self-unawareness (right around 13 I'd say) I was very much aware of the fact that I liked the ladies, and that they absolutely didn't reciprocate that sentiment.

Anyhow - back to CHRISTMAS TIIIIIMMMMMEEEEEEE! Party time!

My next door neighbors always threw one heckuva Holiday Party. This might have actually been the inaugural bash, come to think of it.

So lets set the stage. A couple other neighbors were there (my parents obviously), a bunch of the neighbor's personal friends and family members of their own, and of course some young kids that belonged to this person or that person in attendance - and their were two girls near my age. They were both one year older than myself, I believe.

So, it's a packed house - and the young kids and the two teen girls were nowhere to be found. They were in the basement playing some games and watching TV or something of the sort. You see, at 13 I wasn't really all that different than I am right now (of course I didn't have a blog to keep me sane, but for the most part that me is the me before you now), so I'm upstairs yuckin' it up with the grown-ups making jokes and being generally quite silly.

After an hour or so, I kind of think to myself - "Should I go see if those cute girls my age are downstairs?" Insert "Captain Obvious" joke here: ______

So I head downstairs.

I swear to everything Holy they were just biding their time playing with the young kids to torment me. They probably got one look at me when I walked in the door and knew I was easy to mess around with - much like people still do!

Don't get me wrong, they were really sweet (and did I mention cute?) but they wasted very little time in ascertaining what kind of a 13 year old I was: the Freddie Prince Jr. kind or the Corey Feldman in The Goonies kind (more simply: dug by the ladies or ignored by the ladies).

Turns out I'm neither. I get attention, but not the Freddie Prince Jr. kind - more like the "make me laugh, Clown!!!" kind.

Note: I honestly cannot remember their names. The girl who did all the talking (and the one that this story is really about) was dark-haired and had a fuller body and the other girl was blonde and very skinny.

So the more verbose one is chatting me up about this and that and out came my admission that I was not only single but never had a "girlfriend" blah blah blah (part of me is like, "Can my voice get a little deeper before you bust my balls about all this?" - no pun intended ;) )

After we established my single-ness she discussed her older boyfriend - this dude was probably 15 or something like that - he was Hugh Hefner as far as I was concerned. Lucky guy.

So after we're done with the whole I'm-a-loser-you-have-an-older-boyfriend routine, she moves onto something I was absolutely not familiar with:

Flirting.

So now I'm getting all bothered with this arousing turn of events. We're sitting closer on the couch, laughing - I'm just sitting there like a psychiatry patient that doesn't have all that much to talk about during that first introductory appointment - and the conversation turns to, but of course, romance.

If I have no experience striking up a simple conversation with a lady at this point, I sure as shit don't have any experience making out or anything with a girl, so I've adopted the whole listen, nod, "umm-hmmm" approach.

This goes on for quite a while - right up until it's finally time for me to walk back to my house to call it a night.

So I've said goodbye to the cute girls and everyone and am out the door (my parents had left quite a bit earlier).

I didn't make it very far before someone was right behind me outside standing in my front lawn.

The cute, verbose, older girl.

If there was a caption cloud over my head it would've read, "HOLY SNIKEES!"

Here's how the brief conversation went (keep in mind my only goal now is to come off as a cool, collected, good guy - I damn sure won't be caught dead being inappropriate to this nice girl):

"So I really liked meeting you, Scott."

"I liked meeting you too, [insert forgotten name]."

"So, I have a question for you..."

I thought, "Oh fudge..." (only I didn't think "fudge")...here's my time to look like an idiot with a question about "romance" or something that I clearly won't know anything about.

Turns out, I have excellent forethought. I accurately predicted my demise.

"Are you a prude?"

(With mock indignation) "NO!"

"Prove it..." she leans in close...

"No!" I turn away.

I had NO IDEA what "prude" meant!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I thought it meant "drug user" or something like that!

Kids - if you're out there - when a girl asks if you're a prude in a flirty manner, KISS THEM!

No wonder the ladies don juan anything to do with me... ;)

Scott.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

The Reader - A Review

Directed by Stephen Daldry
Written by David Hare
Starring Kate Winslet and Ralph Fiennes, and David Kross
124 minutes
2008

If you wanted a literal title for this movie, you'd only have to change one word. It would be The Shame. It's about shame in all its guises. The shame of our past. The shame of love. The shame of atrocities. The shame we have from others' shame.

Michael (played by Kross - the elder Michael is played by Fiennes), a 15 year old boy, falls ill while traveling home. He is helped to his destination by a resident of the building Michael has vomited in front of. Her name is Hanna (Winslet), and is 30ish. Months later, after Michael has fully recovered from his bout with scarlet fever, he returns to the building with flowers to thank Hanna. Teenage curiosity leads Michael to peek at her when she's changing clothes. She catches him, and his shame feeds his impulse to flee. He returns again - presumably to apologize - and sexual tension is quickly exposed. Michael, a boy, and Hanna, a woman, embark on whirlwind summer fling that will alter the course of both their lives.

I am going to divulge some spoilers in this review. You are warned.

First things first. Michael is a smart boy, and this intrigues Hanna. She asks him to read to her before they make love. We learn later - but suspect throughout - that she is actually illiterate. She hides this secret from all. She's ashamed by it. Michael hides the affair from all, as well. Surely he recognizes the inappropriateness of the situation. One can only imagine the outcry if his parents discovered this. He's ashamed in a way.

The secret takes on a whole new dimension some years after Hanna abruptly leaves her apartment and Michael. An impenetrable layer of shame is mixed in with it.

Michael, now a law student, is attending with fellow classmates and a professor trials against a handful of female SS workers (Nazis) from Auschwitz. Hanna is one of the defendants. She was a guard.

It's difficult to pinpoint anything more shameful than the atrocities of the Holocaust. If evil does exist, that's probably the best example of it.

The scope of the predicament is quite large at this point. Because Hanna has led a life of shame due to her illiteracy, she is unable to properly defend herself. And, quite possibly, because of her illiteracy she is unable to understand what she was a part of. She cannot grasp the inherent wrong of her actions as an SS guard.

Just like she couldn't grasp the wrongness of taking advantage of a teenaged boy.

This is a troubling film and story in so many ways. Here we deal with statutory rape, crimes against humanity, and choosing not to help someone.

Michael learns that Hanna is illiterate during the course of this trial. Hanna, in her stubbornness to defend her shameful secret of illiteracy, accepts far more blame than her co-defendants. Michael chose not to go forward with helping prove her illiteracy. He would be exposing his past affair with a Nazi.

He is ashamed of himself.

This is a fantastic film in every single way. Kate Winslet is absolutely captivating. There is a reason why she has a monopoly on roles like this. She's probably the best there ever will be onscreen. My theory on her is this: she is able to dominate the screen because she, as a person, understands the material she's working with. I would be willing to bet she is a legitimate intellectual mind that understands how she needs to play a role to assist in conveying the message that the script is giving us. I don't get that feeling with many of the leading actresses - including the perennial Oscar favorites.

Kross is a fantastic young actor that, in the middle of the film, I couldn't help but notice his resemblance to a brooding Heath Ledger. Fiennes is a quiet legend of the cinema. He never phones it in.

David Hare adopted Bernhard Schlink's novel of the same name. This really is an ode to literature, in a way - and it's delivered in a truly literary way. It's preachy, it's adult, and it's rather dry. Simultaneously it's one of the most captivating tales I've encountered dealing with the Holocaust. Gobs of films and stories attempt to make sense of the Holocaust - some are among the upper echelon of great movies. The Reader is in the upper echelon.

Director Daldry and Hare collaborated previously on The Hours, which was brilliant as well. They are an intellectual giant of a team. Difficult material, and exemplary results.

I am aware of many criticisms of this story. I believe some think it's a way to try to lessen the guilt of the lower-level guards of the SS in the concentration camps, and it's clearly not. Hanna is rightly punished with extreme severity.

It does pose the scenario that a professor of mine discussed in a public theory class I took as an undergraduate. He discussed a locomotive operator that drove the train that housed the prisoners to the death camps. The operator couldn't comprehend why he was held in such disregard and charged with crimes. His job was to ensure the train arrived on time. That was his job.

How can you explain the atrocity of the Holocaust to someone that intimately involved in it that simply has no comprehension of their actions?

The train operator and Hanna are pretty much the same person. Did they do any killing themselves? No. But they may as well have.

You see, the only reason Hanna joined the SS was because she had been offered a promotion at her current job - but she would have to work in the office. Meaning her secret that she was illiterate would come to light. She heard the SS needed guards...

The train operator needs to operate trains in order to work. He took an available job...

Michael chose not to bring to the court's attention that Hanna was illiterate and couldn't have done some of the things she was ultimately convicted of. So, while Hanna grew old in prison, he sent her tapes of him reading the stories he read to her that one summer when he was just a love-struck teen.

It helped assuage his shame...

Scott.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

There Must Be Some Misunderstanding

A lot of my idols have dealt with either specific instances of misunderstanding or misinterpretation. What's the deal with that?

Exhibit A: Bruce Springsteen. When Born in the USA came out he was catapulted into mega stardom. Lots of people heard the chorus "I was born in USA" and didn't figure they needed to listen to the rest of the lyrics. Take the first two lines of the song: "Born down in a dead man's town/the first kick I took was when I hit the ground." This is clearly not the beginning to a happy tale.

His frustrations were misinterpreted as patriotic. Another twist of irony (and this was prevalent during the Bush/Cheney days): this type of frustration was easily and readily spun as unpatriotic. Go figure.

Another excellent example of a Springsteen song being misunderstood is the sappy "Secret Garden" piece from Jerry Maguire. Lets just take a quick look at the end of the last verse: "She'll let you come just far enough/so you know she's really there/She'll look at you and smile/And her eyes will say/She's got a secret garden/Where everything you want/Where everything you need/Will always stay/A million miles away."

And this is the song that girls swoon over. This is cock-blockery of epic quality. "She's got what I really, really, really want - and she'll never let me have it!" Sounds terrible! (...feels like a typical weekend for me ;) haha).

Recently, David Letterman had a joke misinterpreted in a way that ended with him apologizing (twice) to an inconsequential former VP candidate - only after she accused of being a pedophile. Wow.

Here are the facts: Sarah Palin's daughter (now 18) had sex, got knocked up, and was paraded stages around the country while her mother tried to get elected in a national campaign. Enter Letterman: Alex Rodriguez, the slimey, 'roided out dude that makes a lot of money to not hit well in the clutch, is the punchline for a joke about getting Sarah Palin's daughter knocked-up during the 7th inning of a Yankee game.

You get that? The joke is about A-Rod knocking up the daughter. In all of this - not a word from him.

It turns out the 14 year old daughter was at the game with Palin. Letterman is castigated for something he clearly didn't intend for - but whatever. That doesn't matter. The joke was misinterpreted by people all over the nation. My favorite critics of the joke were the people that clearly understand comedy better than a man that has had a late night talk show for thirty-plus years - talking heads on cable news channels. They had a field day (actually it was a field week) spinning the misinterpretation of the Letterman joke to make him out to be a man that couldn't possibly be trusted around a teen girl.

Now that's a heckuva misunderstanding.

Over the course of his career, Howard Stern has gotten bigger, better, and more famous because of the general public's misinterpretation of him.

Does he do sex jokes? Convince women to take their clothes off? Ask extremely personal questions of celebrities that are in poor taste? Does he feature guests that do gross things - involving bodily functions and shenanigans of that sort? Does he instigate fights amongst his staff purely for entertainment reasons?

You bet.

What people don't take into consideration is the fact that he does a daily four hour show. Four hours. As an avid listener for about ten years now, I can guarantee you that the most interesting parts of the show - and the most common - are when he and the main cast of stars (Howard, Artie, Robin, Fred, and Gary) are just riffing back and forth. Howard's favorite shows are American Idol and The Bachelor, and he loves talking about them incessantly. He and his wife are active animal activists. Howard speaks frequently of how much he supports the gay community. He tells gobs of stories about his parents, his kids, his nights out on the town with friends and family. There's only so many sex jokes and farting you can broadcast in a day. Let alone a week, a month, a year, or decades.

People see the foul-language and the naked girl and see him as evil person. He's just a dude doing a radio show that has a bunch of fans. You don't have to like him, you don't have to demonize or criminalize him, though.

And poor, poor Joey Belle (you may know him as former Cleveland Indians slugger Albert Belle...he hates being called "Joey," hehe!). Talk about a guy being misunderstood. Those kids that egged his house one Halloween deserved to be run over and brutally murdered by an SUV - it's just too bad Belle wasn't ultimately successful in that endeavor.

There's probably no person in this world more greatly misinterpreted/misunderstood than yours truly - Scott John Esterly. I can't tell you how many people - even people I know and work with everyday - have confused me for that dude in the Dos Equis commercials. I know I may seem like the most interesting man in the world, but I'm just trying to play the game like everyone else.

I'm just better at it than most.

Lots of misinterpretation, misunderstanding, and exaggeration out there these days. Springsteen, Letterman, Stern, Belle, me...we definitely got the worst of it. People just don't understand the difference between being literal and being figurative, being romantic and being realistic, being funny and being over the top, being crazy and being rational.

We exaggerated the image of this working class-type guy from Jersey and made him "The Boss." We exaggerated a persona to create a "shock jock," when he's just a guy with a family trying to get through the day - albeit he's mega famous and rich.

We take things way too literal.

Now, if you'll excuse me - I just had a brilliant idea. You see, there's this girl that I really dig, but she moved away. So now I've got like 500 miles to walk, but I'd happily walk 500 more, just so I can fall down at this girl's door - and in no way is that creepy.

Well, that's just my interpretation of what isn't creepy...

Scott.