2016 Golden Globes Reaction

To borrow a phrase that will surely be used many times over this evening and tomorrow, the Hollywood Foreign Press went ga ga for La La Land at the Golden Globes and made some history in the meantime. The Damien Chazelle musical won 7 trophies and was victorious in every category it was nominated for: Picture (Musical/Comedy), Director (Chazelle), Screenplay (Chazelle), Actor in Musical/Comedy (Ryan Gosling), Actress in Musical/Comedy (Emma Stone), Score, and Original Song (“City of Stars”). And ladies and gents – that’s a record number of wins in Globes history, topping the six received by One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest and Midnight Express.

The biggest shocker of the night happened right away when Aaron Taylor-Johnson’s work in Nocturnal Animals took Supporting Actor. It was a big surprise when he was nominated and far more so that he won. There’s a pretty decent possibility he could be the extremely rare GG winner to not receive an Oscar nod (though he certainly just upped his chances).

Overall – this blogger went 9 for 14 in his picks. The La La Express was responsible for a couple of those misses. I predicted Hugh Grant in Florence Foster Jenkins over Gosling and Moonlight over La La for screenplay.

A slightly less surprising miss – Isabelle Huppert in Elle taking Best Actress (Drama). I predicted Natalie Portman in Jackie. Elle also took Foreign Language Film over my pick Toni Erdmann, yet that wasn’t totally unexpected.

So… what does this all mean for the big dog, the Academy Awards? Well, La La Land is unquestionably the favorite with the runner-up being Moonlight, which I correctly predicted for Best Drama.

In acting races, Best Actor (Drama) recipient Casey Affleck in Manchester by the Sea maintains an edge over Denzel Washington for Fences. Emma Stone is beginning to look more solid by the day for Actress. Supporting Actor is more of a question mark to be sure, though Mahershala Ali in Moonlight is what we’ll call a soft front runner. I correctly predicted Viola Davis for Supporting Actress in Fences and she remains the Academy fave.

Animated Feature went to Disney’s Zootopia and it holds as the mostly likely Oscar winner.

As for the show itself, it felt a little long and rushed at the same time. Steve Carell and Kristin Wiig provided the biggest laughs while host Jimmy Fallon was moderately successful in the short time he was given (he did seem to disappear pretty quickly).

That’s my recap, folks! Updated Oscar predictions coming Thursday…

2016 Golden Globe Nominations Reaction

Well, the Golden Globe nominations are out and there are some genuine surprises to be had.

Not surprising? Damien Chazelle’s La La Land (the current front runner in the Oscar Best Picture derby) leading all nominees with seven with Barry Jenkins’s Moonlight close behind with six.

Surprising? A total shut-out for Martin Scorsese’s Silence and a better than expected showing for Tom Ford’s Nocturnal Animals. 

All in all, my performance guessing the nominees was pretty weak. 64% total in the ten major categories predicted.

Let’s break them down one by one, shall we?

Best Picture (Drama)

My Performance 2/5

Analysis: Ouch. This race threw me for a loop as only Manchester by the Sea and Moonlight were nominated among my five. The three that weren’t: the aforementioned Silence, Arrival, and Fences. In their place: Mel Gibson’s Hacksaw Ridge, Garth Davis’s Lion, and David Mackenzie’s Hell or High Water. Truthfully, none of their inclusions are entirely surprising. Having said that, if I thought I’d get three picks wrong, I probably would have thought Pablo Larrain’s Jackie would get in. This race now appears to be between Manchester and Moonlight.

Best Picture (Musical or Comedy)

My Performance: 3/5

Well… a little better. The three I correctly predicted were La La Land, Florence Foster Jenkins, and 20th Century Women. Warren Beatty’s Rules Don’t Apply and The Lobster didn’t make it in in favor of Deadpool (!) and Sing Street. Bottom line here? La La is going to win this category.

Best Director

My Performance: 3/5

Chazelle, Jenkins, and Lonergan were got in as I said they would, but Martin Scorsese and Denis Villeneuve (Arrival) did not. In their place are Mel Gibson for Hacksaw and the rather surprising inclusion of Tom Ford for Nocturnal Animals, especially considering the movie wasn’t nominated in Drama.

Best Actor (Drama)

My Performance: 4/5

The only incorrect estimate here is that Viggo Mortensen got in for Captain Fantastic instead of Tom Hanks for Sully. Ironically, I did predict Viggo would be nominated in Musical/Comedy here (I thought Fantastic would fall under that genre). The other nominees that I did get: Casey Affleck (Manchester by the Sea), Joel Edgerton (Loving), Andrew Garfield (Hacksaw Ridge), and Denzel Washington (Fences).

Best Actress (Drama)

My Performance: 5/5

Hey, the one and only race where I went 100%! The nominees: Amy Adams (Arrival), Jessica Chastain (Miss Sloane), Isabelle Huppert (Elle), Ruth Negga (Loving), and Natalie Portman (Jackie).

Best Actor (Musical or Comedy)

My Performance: 3/5

To me, the surprise is that the Hollywood Foreign Press didn’t nominate the legendary Warren Beatty for Rules Don’t Apply. As mentioned before, I put Mortensen in here, but he ended up getting nominated for Drama. The three I got right: Colin Farrell (The Lobster), Ryan Gosling (La La Land), and Hugh Grant (Florence Foster Jenkins). The two I didn’t: the pretty shocking nod for Jonah Hill in War Dogs and much deserved love for Ryan Reynolds in Deadpool.

Best Actress (Musical or Comedy)

My Performance: 3/5

Annette Bening (20th Century Women), Emma Stone (La La Land), and Meryl Streep (Florence Foster Jenkins) were all very easy picks to make and they got in. The other two were tougher. I went with Kate Beckinsale in Love & Friendship and Susan Sarandon in The Meddler, but it was Lily Collins (Rules Don’t Apply) and Hailee Steinfeld (The Edge of Seventeen) who made the cut.

Best Supporting Actor

My Performance: 2/5

Ouch again. When it comes to Oscar predictin’, this has been the most unpredictable category of them all and that showed with my GG’s performance here. I correctly named Mahershala Ali (Moonlight) and Dev Patel in Lion. My picks of Lucas Hedges (Manchester), Issey Ogata (the totally ignored Silence), and Michael Shannon (Nocturnal Animals) didn’t come to fruition. Instead, we got the surprise nod for Shannon’s Nocturnal costar Aaron Taylor-Johnson along with Jeff Bridges (Hell or High Water) and Simon Helberg (Florence Foster Jenkins).

Best Supporting Actress

My Performance: 4/5

Correct picks were Viola Davis in Fences, Naomie Harris for Moonlight, Nicole Kidman in Lion, and Michelle Williams for Manchester. It was Octavia Spencer in Hidden Figures that I didn’t get (I said Greta Gerwig in 20th Century Women instead). Spencer’s inclusion is a small surprise, as some of the Oscar chatter has had Janelle Monae more likely to get in for Figures than her costar.

Best Screenplay

My Performance: 3/5

La La Land, Manchester, and Moonlight are in as predicted. No love for Arrival and Silence. In their place? Hell or High Water and Nocturnal Animals.

And there you have it! I’ll have a post up with final predictions on the winners shortly before Jimmy Fallon hosts the proceedings in January…

Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping Movie Review

In the humorously titled Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping, there’s a gag involving the terrific Will Arnett that only takes up maybe three minutes of screen time. He plays the host of “CMZ” (think TMZ) as he hilariously chats with his staff of gossip reporters and furiously downs big gulps and other assorted beverages. It struck my funny bone so much that I found myself wondering how good a movie would be if it were just about them. Then I remembered that taking memorable three minute bits and stretching them into feature length comedies usually doesn’t work.

There are other moments in Popstar that work. Yet it didn’t quite change my theory above. Fans of “Saturday Night Live” are familiar with The Lonely Island, Andy Samberg’s music group responsible for several YouTube friendly videos packed with catchy lyrics and musical icon cameos. Here, Samberg and his colleagues Akiva Schaffer and Jorma Taccone (that pair share directing duties) make up The Style Boyz – a hip hop pop trio that hit it big. Yet it’s Kid Connor (Samberg) that was the Justin Timberlake (who cameos), Beyoncé or Method Man of the group and branches out on the solo tip. Taccone’s Kid Contact becomes his DJ and Schaffer’s Kid Brain leaves the business to become a farmer in Colorado (wonder where that development will lead to??).

We pick up as solo act Connor4Real is set to debut his sophomore album, which is a disaster looming. Along the way, Popstar parodies the extreme narcissism of its industry while throwing in plenty of ridiculous songs. None of them really hold a candle to the brilliance displayed in the granddaddy of music doc spoofs, This is Spinal Tap.  As mentioned, there’s just not enough solid material to totally justify the 90 minutes here.

One mistake is that the Lonely team who wrote the screenplay seem to believe that cameos count as jokes. There are tons and tons of cameos. Admittedly some work (Seal’s bit is a trip and Timberlake gets to flex his comedic chops), but many others leave no impression. For the performers not playing themselves, a little of Samberg’s Connor goes a long way. Sarah Silverman and Tim Meadows are mostly background players as his publicist and manager. And the versatile Joan Cusack pops up so briefly as Connor’s hard partying mom that I can only think her part was left on the cutting room floor.

While there are laughs to be had here, you’re probably better off looking up the trio’s SNL work. They’re shorter and more consistently funny. See if you can find Arnett’s scenes too…

**1/2 (out of four)

David Letterman’s Goodbye Begins

This evening brings the beginning of the end for the longest tenured late night host in the history of the television medium. After 33 legendary years, David Letterman’s final run of programs kicks off tonight with five and a half weeks and 28 shows left.

A CBS press release confirmed what many suspected: the final Dave shows will be a very star studded affair. Many Letterman regulars will make their pilgrimage over the next month and change (his swan song is Wednesday, May 20).

That impressive list includes Bill Murray, Oprah Winfrey, Tom Hanks, Julia Roberts, Howard Stern, Steve Martin, Jerry Seinfeld, Robert Downey Jr., Sarah Jessica Parker, Martin Short, Don Rickles, Ray Romano, George Clooney, Scarlett Johannson, Will Ferrell, Alec Baldwin, Michael Keaton, Jack Hanna, John Travolta, Bruce Willis, Tina Fey and Billy Crystal, among others. Not too shabby. Musical guests include Elvis Costello, Mumford and Sons, and Dave Matthews Band.

The press release promises more names not yet revealed over the last 28 hours of Letterman’s TV existence. Who could that be? Let’s start with the easy. Foo Fighters are Dave’s favorite band and it is likely they could be the final musical performance. I also wouldn’t be surprised to see Dave’s late night brothers come to pay their respects. That list includes Jimmy Fallon, Jimmy Kimmel, Jon Stewart and Letterman’s successor Stephen Colbert. I also anticipate an appearance by Jay Leno – something that would truly be an event after their over 20 year history of being rivals and their battle for The Tonight Show after Dave’s idol Johnny Carson retired in 1992.

Furthermore, it wouldn’t surprise me to see politicos such as Hillary or Bill Clinton or even President Obama appear. I will have one more post timed to Letterman’s departure to pontificate on what his show has meant to me and, frankly, my sense of humor. It’s not insignificant.

Until then, it’s going to be an interesting few weeks of Dave bidding America farewell.

The Late Night Carousel and Jon Stewart

For longtime followers of my blog, you may know that I’m endlessly fascinated by the nowadays seemingly constant shifts taking place on late night comedy TV. This evening, we were informed of yet another seismic shift in the medium.

Some context: when I was very young, there was essentially only one late night talk show in town and it belonged to The King of Late Night, Johnny Carson – who hosted The Tonight Show for 30 years. Competitors such as Joan Rivers and Alan Thicke, among others, tried and failed to take him on. Only Arsenio Hall managed some success against him in the waning years of Johnny’s run.

Of course, for many years, it was the man who followed Carson that was seen as his obvious heir apparent upon retirement: David Letterman, whose innovative Late Night show followed Tonight. When Jay Leno (one of Dave’s favorite guests) began filling in for Johnny as he began to vacation more, the paradigm shifted. It was Leno who would succeed Johnny in 1992 amid much controversy. It prompted Letterman to move to CBS the following year. For two years, Dave would reign supreme as the new King of Late Night until Leno (with an assist from Hugh Grant who appeared immediately following his shocking arrest with a prostitute) became #1 for nearly two decades.

Oh… There’s more! The Letterman departure to CBS as Leno’s competitor left a void at the 12:30 Late Night slot that’d be filled with an unknown SNL writer named Conan O’Brien. And in yet another highly controversial media frenzy some sixteen years later, Leno would reluctantly “retire” and hand Conan the Cadillac that is 11:30 on NBC. It didn’t go as planned. Jay would end up with a 10pm nightly program that failed badly. Conan’s ratings couldn’t match what Leno brought in and NBC let him go with a reported $40 million payout. He would eventually end up at TBS where he remains today and Leno would return to The Tonight Show.

Oh… There’s more! When Conan did first jump to 11:30, it once again left a hole at 12:30am and SNL vet Jimmy Fallon was named. By 2014, Leno would once again depart (for good this time) and Fallon was moved up. In the year since Jimmy has taken over, it’s gone considerably better for him than Conan. Fallon has kept The Tonight Show at #1 over Letterman and ABC’s Jimmy Kimmel.

And of course Letterman announced his retirement that will take place in May after 33 years at Late Night and Late Show. His successor will be Stephen Colbert in September. Colbert, along with Steve Carell, Ed Helms, Rob Corddry, John Oliver and many others, owe their careers to one program and one man…

Jon Stewart. You knew I’d get there eventually, right? Of course that would be the news of the day. The man who’s hosted The Daily Show for 17 years announced he is stepping down this year as host. There is no doubt that Mr. Stewart, like Dave and Johnny before him, has forever changed American comedy and late night. It changed the way people thought about news and received it (especially among the coveted 18-49 audience demographic).

What some younger viewers might not know is The Daily Show existed before Jon Stewart. The first host was former ESPN anchor Craig Kilborn. He left to host The Late Late Show, the talk show airing after Letterman. Kilborn’s eventual departure paved the way for Craig Ferguson, who also announced he’s stepping down this year and that has set up James Corden to be the new host who will follow Letterman successor Colbert.

Most importantly, Kilborn’s Daily Show exit led to Stewart in 1999. You also may not be aware that this wasn’t Stewart’s first talk show. It was his second. His first aired on MTV and then in syndication and was canceled after two seasons. On his final show on that program, he nabbed his biggest guest: his comedy idol. A man named David Letterman.

Conan and Kimmel and Stewart were all Dave disciples, in the same way Letterman was a Johnny disciple. Yet Stewart brought something new to his iteration of “The Daily”. He turned it into must see TV very often. His political satire could shape people’s views on stories and politicians. As mentioned before, it provided his correspondents a platform to big things whether on film or the small screen.

There will be breathless speculation as to who will take over The Daily Show. Had Stewart made the announcement last year, my guess is John Oliver would be the easy choice. After all, he filled in for an extended period of weeks when Stewart took a sabbatical to make his directorial movie debut with Rosewater. Oliver did such a great job as guest host that HBO quickly snatched him for his acclaimed weekly Sunday evening program. He’s likely to stay put. So is Seth Meyers at Late Night, who succeeded Fallon.

My hunch is that Comedy Central will look to their current crop of Daily contributors which includes Jason Jones and Aasif Mandvi. And I wouldn’t be at all surprised if they go with their current longest tenured correspondent Samantha Bee, giving a much needed late night female face among the two Jimmy’s, Stephen’s, Seth’s, etc…

One thing is nearly certain: while Johnny Carson was not the first host of The Tonight Show and Jon Stewart was not the first Daily Show hosts, these two landmark television programs will always be linked to them, even as the Late Night carousel keeps spinning.

And here it is. Your Moment of Zen:


Top 25 SNL Cast Members of All Time: Nos. 15-11

And now we move to part three in my five part series covering my personal Top 25 Saturday Night Live Cast Members of All Time. Numbers 25-16 have already been revealed and can be found here:



Tonight, numbers 15-11 before moving to the Top Ten tomorrow:

15. Jimmy Fallon


14. Martin Short


13. Mike Myers


12. Bill Murray


11. Bill Hader

Top Ten and numbers 10-6 tomorrow folks!

The Rise of Jimmy Fallon

If you’ve followed my blog regularly over the last near year and a half, you may have noticed that I’ve got quite a keen interest in the “late night wars”. Recently, I wrote a post speculating about who may be in line to replace David Letterman on CBS when the day comes. You can read that here:


In the past week, Jimmy Fallon has taken over “The Tonight Show” following Jay Leno’s second retirement from the program. Fallon has moved into the role without the controversy that involved Conan O’Brien’s brief ascension to hosting duties a few years back. Of course, it was the Conan fiasco that allowed Jimmy to take over “Late Night” five years ago.

Truth be told, when Fallon was announced as host of that program – my reaction wasn’t all that positive. While I admired a good deal of his work on “SNL”, I didn’t consider myself a big fan of his. I had my serious doubts as to whether he’d be a decent fit for the late night talk show format.

Well, folks, I was wrong. Very wrong. As evidenced by his tenure on “Late Night” and his first week hosting “Tonight” – Fallon has mastered the art form. What’s even more astonishing is he’s done it in a way that seems to appeal to the widest audience possible. He has started out of the gate at #1 beating Letterman and Kimmel and I’ll predict that crown will not be relinquished.

Why is Fallon so good? There are several reasons, as I see it. He’s a master impressionist and his sketches playing musical artists are genius… Google Fallon-Jim Morrison-Reading Rainbow if you don’t believe me (or watch it in the link I provided below).

He has an easy rapport with his guests. Leno came off (to me) as robotic during celebrity interviews. Letterman is much better, but sometimes he appears disinterested when the new starlet is plugging her latest mediocre project. Frankly, Dave probably is disinterested. Jimmy succeeds at actually seeming genuinely interested with his guests.

Fallon’s skits (whether musical or playing around with Justin Timberlake, his best guest) have become the stuff of YouTube legend. More than anyone, he has honed the art of web based comedy gold that is watched and re-watched over and over.

Most of all, it’s Fallon’s enthusiasm that shines through. This is kind of harder to explain. Every time I watch him, I come away with the notion that Jimmy is extraordinarily grateful for the opportunities given to him. He seems to love hosting the show. While Dave Letterman has earned his reputation as a somewhat grumpy curmudgeon – Jimmy Fallon is almost always positive.

Don’t get me wrong – I firmly believe Letterman is a genius. And his 30 years of work has influenced comedy more than anyone else – from Stewart to Conan to Colbert to Kimmel and so on. While Dave’s show can still be great – I must admit that there’s a feeling of autopilot from time to time.

Over on ABC, Jimmy Kimmel has carved a nice niche for himself. His show has the loosest feel of them all, he’s a solid interviewer, and many of the comedy pieces score.

Nowadays, though, Fallon’s getting it done the best. And I never would have expected that. I fall into the category of thought that Leno more or less botched his tenure as host of “Tonight”. Jay seemed to try way too hard to appeal to the widest audience possible and what we were left with was a show that usually felt empty and bland and too middle of the road. And I must admit that the whole “Nice Guy Jay” routine felt forced to me, especially when knowing this is the same man who hid in a closet at NBC to spy on his bosses discussions on him and Letterman.

Ironically, Jimmy is in the similar position as most accessible to viewers compared to his rivals. With Jimmy – it doesn’t feel forced. It feels natural. That’s because Fallon is a natural. And for the first time in 22 years, I’m left with the feeling that someone is hosting “The Tonight Show” who is truly an heir to the throne that Johnny perfected.