Monday, March 06, 2006

Hollywood Nation

"...the 'Hollywood doesn't reflect mainstream America' argument is one of the oldest and phoniest in the playbook."

Read a great piece by James Wolcott

A Real Man

And finally, I would say that, you know, we are a little bit out of touch in Hollywood every once in a while. I think it's probably a good thing.

We're the ones who talk about AIDS when it was just being whispered, and we talked about civil rights when it wasn't really popular. And we, you know, we bring up subjects. This Academy, this group of people gave Hattie McDaniel an Oscar in 1939 when blacks were still sitting in the backs of theaters. I'm proud to be a part of this Academy. Proud to be part of this community, and proud to be out of touch. And I thank you so much for this.

A Real Woman

And I want to say that, my grandmother was one of the biggest inspirations in my life. She taught me how to be a real woman, to have strength and self respect, and to never give those things away. And those are a lot of qualities I saw in June Carter.

People used to ask June how she was doing, and she used to say -- "I'm just trying to matter." And I know what she means. You know, I'm just trying to matter, and live a good life and make work that means something to somebody. And you have all made me feel that I might have accomplished that tonight. So thank you so much for this honor.


Those tasteful arbiters of Oscar style -- Joan and Melissa Rivers -- told Al Roker this morning on "The Today Show" that everyone at Sunday's Academy Awards looked "too perfect."

"The stylists have taken all the fun out of the Oscars," Joan said.


Did they SEE Helena Bonham Carter? Or does she get a pass because she looks WAAAAY better than her husband, Tim Burton?

And what kind of "fun" are they missing? They don't get to make hysterical fun of anyone who looks LESS than perfect?


You might have to find a new hobby, ladies.

Sunday, March 05, 2006

My Oscar Stuff

  • Awesome set.
  • Jon Stewart was good -- not great, but good.
  • LOVED the "gay cowboy" clips!
  • "Campaign ads" were hilarious.
  • Ben Stiller in green unitard? Priceless!
  • Reese Witherspoon? For "Election" maybe. Felicity Huffman was robbed.
  • "Crash"? Are you serious?
  • Kudos to Philip Seymour Hoffman honoring his mom.
  • Make-up gag with Steve Carell & Will Ferrell was too funny!
  • George Clooney -- so damned handsome. Great speech. He's bringing a social conscience back to his little corner of Hollywood.
  • Montage this! Sheesh! If this years' show was intended to demonstrate the greatness of film shown in its original glory of theatrical release (rather than a personal DVD player, a Blackberry, or cell phone), it failed. But it probably convinced viewers how boring those fucking montages can be!
  • Best dresses: Charlize Theron, Michelle Williams, Salma Hayek, Jennifer Lopez, Reese Witherspoon, Uma Thurman.
  • Second Oscar for Costumer Colleen Atwood! Woo Hoo! She's just a girl from Quincy, Washington for God's sake! How cool is that?
  • What's the whole Jessica Alba thing about?
  • My beloved compared the Academy's recognition of "It's Hard Out Here For a Pimp" to them finally honoring rock 'n' roll in the early 1980s. Ooooh... cutting edge.
  • Where the hell were Don Knotts and Darren McGavin in the "In Memorian" roll call?
  • Sharon Stone is on her way to becoming the Sally Kirkland of her generation

Grab the Crown

Oscar nominee Terrence Howard made an enlightening appearance on "Sunday Morning Shootout" with the two Peters (Guber and Bart). First, he made eight films in 2004 and he was paid a whopping 12 grand to play the role of a pimp in "Hustle and Flow." For "Crash," he flew himself out to L.A. and paid for his own hotel room during the audition process. And he only got a shot at it after Forest Whitaker and Don Cheadle passed.

When he said it was a "happy accident" that he got the role, Peter Guber said there are no accidents, only "coincidences that are meant to be." He told Howard that his diligence and preparation made it possible for him to play the role. "Put yourself in a place to say 'I deserve this'. It's your birthright," Guber told Howard, who quickly agreed.

Turns out Howard studied biology and engineering and while in school, it occurred to him that being born is an accomplishment in itself: a half a billion sperm race toward one egg in a blind marathon; the boys have only 24 hours to get there and the girls have 72. Whoever wins the initial competition should be considered a champion. "If we can just get to life, then everything else is just kudos. This is what we deserve," he said.

"Like Oprah says," Howard continued, "The crown is there, you just have to bend down, grab the crown, and put it on your head. It's waiting there for you. You've done it. You've done it."

No matter who won the Oscar, Terrence, you grabbed the crown. Long live the King.

Friday, March 03, 2006

Is it Gonna Kill Ya?

Many years ago, I got incensed about how a letter to the newspaper editor rebuked a buddy of mine. So, I looked up the writer's number and called him to tell him what I thought of his frigging letter.

But before I could call, I had to ask myself a question: "What's the worst thing that can happen here? Can he kill me?" Not unless he can find my house. " can survive anything short of that." I took a deep breath and made the call.

I think I was shaking all the way through the conversation, but he didn't know that. I don't think I was brilliant and I probably didn't make much sense, but the bottom line was, when I got off the phone, I felt great.

And I didn't die.

It's kind of amazing how small our world can get. Picture a bull's eye. This is your life. Now, envision a really wide center circle. That's where we spend most of our time doing routine, predictable stuff with a bit of room to try some new stuff while stakes are low.

There's a thinner outer circle on your bull's eye and that's your "risk" area. We don't go there very much. This would be like learning how to ski, sky diving, changing careers, falling in love, starting a business, going back to school, etc. It takes energy and courage but no real physical harm can come to you. And the remaining edges are "death" where we truly can lose everything (I'm thinkin' bungee jumping).

Notice a couple of things about the circle:

First, the rings are next to one another and although it appears that we can easily slip from one zone to the next, most of the time, the chasm feels impossible to cross. Risk is hard, scary, and usually comes with a cost. It's so much easier to turn on the Home Shopping Network and light up a fattie. Or...stay in the marriage for appearance's sake and get so busy you don't notice how unhappy you are.

Second, we may have no idea which ring we are in at a given time. Twice a day, I get on the freeway for a commute and, in theory, I am risking my life, but it seems routine to me. What might actually be "living on the edge" feels predictable. So, the whole concept of risk being separate from our daily routine might be an illusion. It might be closer than we think.

When the challenge looks scary, I have two good strategies that seem to work. The first is to breathe my way through it ("in" through the nose and "out" through the mouth). The second is the "can it kill me?" question. 99.9% of the time, I figure I'm not gonna die if I do it. When it's over, I feel brave and every time I do something scary, I become more convinced that I can depend on me. Hot dog!

It might all be in my head, but it beats getting stuck in the middle of the bulls eye forever.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Put Away the Mortarboard

Here's what I'm learning about teachers. We REALLY like to be smart. This makes sense, I guess. We chose teaching because we liked school, right? Surprisingly, many of us were TERRIBLE students. And some of us are trying to take another crack at the whole thing by going back to teach. One of my former "nightmare" students came back to teach at his old high school and became a talented, enthusiastic colleague.

But for the most part, we all have experience being smart, having answers, coming up with the right quip. And here's the unfortunate part of that. Since we tend to be learn-ed, we go into most situations wanting to share that TEACH, not to LEARN. But when we are trying to connect with people and strengthen relationships, it's best to LISTEN and LEARN. By staying in teaching mode, we ensure that the other person knows how SMART we are, but that doesn't mean they want to spend time with us.

Ever since I figured this out, I've become painfully aware of those times when I share absolutely RIVETING factoids like why cashews never have shells or what the Teapot Dome scandal was all about...How could anyone NOT want to know those things? And wouldn't they think I'm GREAT for sharing?

I think we see information as our currency and we like to show it off. When we can't, we can become paralyzed. It's tough for teachers to risk being ignorant or appear "stupid." Yet that's when people love us the most -- when we share our vulnerabilities and risk failure.

More than a decade ago at a teacher's union convention, I was walking down the long, long lobby of the New Orleans Convention Center and it seemed that everyone I saw was overweight. REALLY overweight. Stress. A sedentary lifestyle. No time for self-care. I know there are a lot of reasons for teachers to be overweight. But I came away with the feeling that their extra pounds were also a form of armor, protecting them from pain, risk, and, unfortunately, other people.

Hey! I've been there. As a fat kid, I used my intelligence and humor to fend off attacks and, later, teaching gave me an outlet for my passion for learning. It also gave me a sense of control, responsibility, and authority. Not bad ingredients for a career, but useless for building relationships.

Genuine connection means taking off the armor, getting close, being open, humble, and even foolish. That's no easy lesson to master.