Monthly Archives: December 2007

Scab Kitty New Year’s!

OK, I promise this will be the last post about our cats for a while…but believe it or not, while Christine, my Mom and I were ringing in the new year with my new WGA “strike buddies” at a swinging party thrown by the Slackmistress herself, our cats, Diego and Nigella were engaged in some serious soul searching about the writer’s strike.

Mike, Patty, Me & Christine on New Year’s Eve 2007!

The problem is that they both have very different takes on things. Diego is a real “pencils down, all around” union cat, while Nigella, well, not so much. In her defense, she is a very young 8 months and still learning the cold hard facts of life down here in Hollywood.

Nigella, the “scab kitty” at work! (December 31, 2007)

So when Nigella read recently in the L.A. Times that a few struggling daytime writers have begun quietly scabbing themselves out to keep long-running soaps like “General Hospital” on the air, well, she simply couldn’t restrain herself…

And quicker than you can say “Carson Daly Joke Hotline”, our cat was scab writing soaps for ABC!

Father Diego praying hard for Nigella’s soul (December 31, 2007)

Bad, scab kitty! Bad! Luckily for us, Diego donned his old priest collar and put her to shame pretty quickly and what could have ended in tears and bloodshed, ended peacefully with Nigella softly lowering her pencil, and her little furry black head, in shame.

“Scab Kitty” lowers her pencil in shame… (December 31, 2007)

Way to “pray it out”, Padre Diego! Here’s hoping the new year is good to us all and that the strike ends soon!

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Merry Christmas Cats!

In honor of the many holiday photo cards we received this year, we wanted to add some pics of our beloved four-legged “children” to the mix. So, happy holidays from Diego and Nigella.

As you can see, Diego is the real fashion plate in the family. His hat actually lights up when Santa is near. And just in case his hat is on the fritz, Nigella kept her eagle eyes — and massive six-toed paw! — on the back door peephole all night long in search of Santa and his reindeer.

And guess what? It worked! Santa was awesome to us all…so, thanks, kitties!

Diego Romero as Santa Claws! (Christmas Eve, 2007)
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Nigella watches the night skies for Santa! (Christmas Eve, 2007)

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AMPTP Movie Mosaics

Though the building itself is pretty ordinary and kind of dentist-office-y, the AMPTP headquarters (when not wrapped in bright yellow CRIME SCENE tape) are surrounded by a massive wall that is actually very beautiful.

“Ten Commandments” mosaic @ the AMPTP (Dec. 18, 2007)

Not the wall, mind you, but the movie-themed mosaics on it. Of course we totally defiled them with our pithy post-its during our rally there on Tuesday, but the vivid, Technicolor beauty of the tiles remains.

So, here for all to enjoy is a visual essay (love that term) on the art of the AMPTP mosaic wall…enjoy! Oh, and by the way, still totally hate them for prolonging the strike and everything, but wow…nice walls!

“Bambi” mosaic @ the AMPTP (Dec. 18, 2007)

“Spartacus” mosaic @ the AMPTP (Dec. 18, 2007)
“Robin Hood” mosaic @ the AMPTP (Dec. 18, 2007)

“My Fair Lady” mosaic @ the AMPTP (Dec. 18, 2007)

“King Kong” mosaic @ the AMPTP (Dec. 18, 2007)
“The Virgin Queen” mosaic @ the AMPTP (Dec. 18, 2007)
“E.T.” mosaic @ the AMPTP (Dec. 18, 2007)
“North by Northwest” mosaic @ the AMPTP (Dec. 18, 2007)
“Anna Christie” mosaic @ the AMPTP (Dec. 18, 2007)

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AMPTP “Scene of the Crime” Rally

One of our last great rallies before the Christmas break was held last week outside the Death Star-ish home office of the AMPTP in Encino.

AMPTP “Death Star” in Encino (Dec. 18, 2007)

Organized by some of the Guild’s top-ranking crime show writers — people from the various “CSI” incarnations, “The Shield”, “Numbers”, you name it — the event was called the “Scene of the Crime Rally” and kicked off with “CSI” star (and wife of SAG President, Alan Rosenberg) Marg Helgenberg reading a “criminal indictment” against the AMPTP aloud from the back of a truck.

“CSI” star Marge Helgenberger @ the AMPTP (Dec. 18, 2007)

“Numbers” star Rob Morrow @ the AMPTP (Dec. 18, 2007)

Accusing the Studios and Networks of “hijacking the internet” and a number of other hilariously worded (but sadly, mostly true) crimes against writer-kind, the indictment was only the beginining. For immediately following the reading, members of the WGA wrapped the entire perimeter of the AMPTP headquarters in bright yellow CRIME SCENE tape. Kick ass!

Despite the rain, we had an impressive turnout as we spent the next two-plus hours walking the make-shift picket line just beyond the crime scene tape.

Me & “Bones” star Emily Deschanel @ the AMPTP (Dec. 18, 2007)

Aside from Helgenberger, “Numbers” star Rob Morrow, and “Bones” super cute leading lady, Emily Deschanel (above), there were also dozens of supporting actors from any number of high-profile crime shows.

But I think my favorite folks out there were “My So-Called Life” creator Winnie Holzman, my new best friend, “Terminator 2″ and “The Unit” star, Robert Patrick, and the hilariously attired cast of “RENO 911″.

Winnie Holzman & Me at the AMPTP Rally (Dec. 18, 2007)

Me & “T2″ star Robert Patrick at the AMPTP (Dec. 18, 2007)

Trust me, even with that big ass jacket, Lt. Dangle must have been freezing in those little brown hot pants. So, kudos to you, Thomas Lennon (seen practically humping my friend Patty, below) for keeping it all too real on the picket line!

“Reno 991″ star Lt. Dangle & Patty on the picket line (Dec. 18, 2007)
All in all, it was a criminally good time (sorry, I couldn’t resist) and we manged to seriously piss off the building manager with all that yellow crime scene tape, so hey, that’s something! Go, union!
Me, Patty, Aaron & Tanja behind the CRIME SCENE tape (Dec. 18, 2007)

And for the record, we totally cleaned up the tape before we left…

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Speechless #21: The Bateman’s

While there have been several more additions to United Hollywood’s “Speechless Without Writers” video series since I first blogged about it a while back — including a strangely unnerving Woody Allen clip that gave me a serious case of the willies — none have been as cool as “Speechless # 21″.

Featuring real-life siblings, Jason and my new BFF, über strike supporter, Justine Bateman, the clip is short, simple and funny. And best of all, it’s for a good cause. So, thanks, guys! And go, Mallory Keaton!

 

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“In Rainbows” Album Art!

With the upcoming release of the CD version of Radiohead’s previously download-only album — the staggeringly beautiful “In Rainbows” — I was thrilled to see that the band has finally released pictures of the actual album cover art. Yeah!

True to form, the bold cover art was designed by frequent Radiohead collaborator, Stanley Donwood. Wow…all those crazy cool colors on the outside kinda makes me wanna buy the album (again!) just to see the artwork inside.

Radiohead’s “In Rainbows” cover art! (Dec. 20, 2007)

Still no new pictures of the more expensive Radiohead Discbox version of “In Rainbows”, but I did find this rocking pic of the contents (and coolly futuristic container!) of the brand new, limited edition Radiohead Box Set.

Containing all seven of the band’s full-length EMI-era albums — Pablo Honey (1993), The Bends (1995), OK Computer (1997), Kid A (2000), Amnesiac (2001), I Might Be Wrong (Live/2001) and Hail To The Thief (2003) — the Box Set also features new packaging for the albums but retains the original album artwork and liner notes for each CD. Very cool.

Radiohead’s new Limited Edition BOX SET (Dec. 20, 2007)

Available on Amazon.com for a limited time at the super low price of $71.99 (that’s like, $10.28 per album!), the set is a must have for any new Radiohead fan. I say new, because any true fan has all those albums already (that’s right!) and probably doesn’t need the box set. Or do they?

I mean, seriously, that white “Star Wars” box they come in is pretty damn cool…

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Chicago Tribune Article

When the news broke last week that Jay and Conan would be returning to their talk shows on January 2nd without their writers, our usually sleepy picket line at NBC was kinda swarming with reporters.

Most of them wanted to speak to the striking Tonight Show folks (as well they should, since they no doubt had much to say on the subject) but one lucky gal, Maureen Ryan, from the Chicago Tribune’s TV blog “The Watcher” got me and Nina (aka The Slackmistress) instead.

Nina & I @ the Hollywood Solidaritary Rally (Nov. 20, 2007)

Hilariously enough, a few of our pearls of wisdom actually found their way into Ryan’s article. Nina talked about how some online haters accused her of “ruining Christmas” for all the below the line workers in town and then went on to talk about the fact that many of us in this business (even before the strike) have day jobs to help make ends meet. Good stuff, right?

So, then I read my quote, reprinted below as it appears on Ryan’s blog:

Writers are getting a lot of exercise on the picket line (they are required to picket for 12 hours per week, though there is a vacation break that starts Wednesday). But they’re also getting a lot of treats. “I thought I’d lose more weight,” film scribe Tomas Romero said. But with members of the public and strike supporters bringing by doughnuts, smoothies, sandwiches, cookies and other treats, it’s hard to slim down.

How nice. Lovely to know that in the midst of this unending turmoil and economic hardship, I’m worried about not losing more weight. Urgh…what a loser. Guess I should stick to chanting on Fox…

If you wanna check out the entire article, which, my lame quote aside, is very entertaining, please visit: TheWatcher/ChicagoTribune.com

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Tim Burton’s “Sweeney Todd”

Finally saw Tim Burton’s rocking version of “Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street” over the weekend and let me tell ya, it’s bloody good…emphasis on the bloody. Seriously, I haven’t seen this much spraying, operatic bloodletting since the first volume of “Kill Bill”, and that time, the bloodiest scenes were in black and white.

Well, not so here, amigos. Tim Burton’s bright, comic-book-red blood flows freely and often…and it couldn’t be cooler!

Johnny Depp as “Sweeney Todd” (Dec. 19, 2007)

Save for the standards “Pretty Women” and “Not While I’m Around” — which are way darker in the context of the show than they are as stand-alone songs — I wasn’t that familiar with the original musical, but wow, it’s good. Christine found some of the numbers a bit stagey and claustrophobic, but I really dug the musty intimacy of it all.

Set in and around a gloomy, beautifully dank Victorian London, the movie and the songs are as dark as can be. And while the ads make it look like quirky, Tim Burton-lite, this movie is one of the darkest things he’s done in a while.

I found the songs and humor to be funny as hell, but I should warn the uninitiated that this “Sweeney Todd” is not for the feint of heart.

Johnny Depp singing in “Sweeney Todd” (Dec. 19, 2007)
Anchoring the movie and proving once again that he can do almost anything onscreen, the always-astonishing Johnny Depp rocks in his first full-blown musical. Ditto for “Borat’s” Sasha Baron Cohen (as Depp’s hysterically oily rival, Pirelli), Alan Rickman as the villainous Judge Turpin, and the incredible little boy who plays Toby (newcomer Ed Sanders).
Johnny Depp & Helena Bonham Carter in “Sweeney Todd” (Dec. 19, 2007)

But fans of the musical know that the dark heart of the show has always been that wily scene-stealer, Mrs. Lovett.

I read somewhere that Stephen Soundheim loved her character so much that he actually demanded (and got!) final approval for the casting of Mrs. Lovett. And though Helena Bonham Carter wasn’t the best singer he auditioned, she was by far the best actress. And lemme tell ya, Soundheim was right. Helena Bonham Carter is spectacular in the role.

I’ve been a huge fan since I first saw her in “A Room With A View” and Carter has continued to amaze me ever since. If you haven’t seen her in “Fight Club” you haven’t lived. Not only did she blow Brad Pitt and Ed Norton off the screen, but her twisted, manic performance as Marla Singer is one of the great screen characters of the 1990′s. Really amazing stuff!

Helena Bonham Carter in “Sweeney Todd” (Dec. 19, 2007)

Here again, Ms. Carter — who gave birth Saturday to her second child, a daughter, with Tim Burton — rips into a really juicy part with a vengeance. And like her co-stars, I’m happy to report that Carter’s singing here is top notch. More traditionally Broadway-ish than Johnny Depp’s rock-infused vocals, Carter’s scrappy, Cockney-accented singing really steals the show.

And though the content of her “meat pies” would turn even my hearty stomach, I gotta say if Carter’s saucy Mrs. Lovett was selling them…I’d be the first in line!

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Ashley Tisdale’s New Snout

Those of us who thought things in the “High School Musical” universe couldn’t get any less authentic were thrown for a huge loop recently by the unveiling of “HSM” star Ashley Tisdale’s new nose at a concert in New York over the weekend.

Yep, in the grand tradition of “Dirty Dancing” star Jennifer Grey and the lesser-talented half — and trust me, that’s really saying something — of the Simpson sisters, Ashley Simpson; Tisdale’s face has gone from cute, quirky and unique to totally generic.

Ashley Tisdale nose comparison from TMZ.com (Dec. 17, 2007)

While Ms. Tisdale was never the hottest filly in the Disney Channel corral (I mean, come on, she’s no “Cheetah Girl”), she did have something about her that was charming and fun. And unlike the rest of the “HSM” cast, she was actually kind of, you know…talented.

But now, yikes…she’s just another Stepford starlet with a reed thin snout. Denying that she had her schnoz snipped for cosmetic reasons, Tisdale claims that over the years there were times when she “literally almost could not breathe out of the right side of my nose” and that “if I laid down on my right side it was like somebody closed up the right side of my nose.”

OK, first off, please, stop saying “right side”. And secondly, wow, that’s like, Elephant Man scary, Ashley. And if it’s true, then, jeepers, you shoulda fixed that thing ages ago! I mean, breathing is kind of important.

Ashley’s new nose on parade! (Dec. 17, 2007)

But my guess is that the deviated septum bit is a convenient cover story for Tisdale’s desire to look more “Hollywood pretty”. Well, congrats, Ash, you did it. You now look just like everyone else…

I’m sure tween “HSM” fans everywhere will soon be un-deviating their septums in your honor. Hooray!

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SAG support unwavering

With the WGA strike entering it’s seventh week today, I was pleased to find a really rocking e-mail of support from Screen Actors Guild (SAG) President Alan Rosenberg (“L.A. Law”, “Chicago Hope”, “CSI”) in my inbox this weekend.

Me & Debra Messing @ Hollywood Rally (Nov. 20, 2007)

I shouldn’t be surprised by the e-mail, as SAG has been a huge supporter of the WGA since even before the strike began, but the fact that their membership continues to stand beside us during this difficult time is really impressive.

I’ve met slews of SAG actors on the picket line in the past few weeks, some famous, some less so, but all of them have been ready and willing to stand with us in our fight for a fair deal from the AMPTP.

“Passions” star James Hyde & Me @ NBC Burbank (Nov. 16, 2007)

So, in honor of our super cool allies in the Screen Actors Guild, I’ve decided to post some of my favorite pics of my new BFF’s — seriously, that one-legged dude who won the first season of “Big Brother” (Eddie, McGee, pictured below) and I are like peas and carrots these days! — accompanied by the full text of the rousing e-mail of support sent out by President Rosenberg tonight. Enjoy!

“Big Brother 1″ winner Eddie McGee & me @ NBC (Nov. 16, 2007)

Dear Writers Guild of America Members,

I am writing to you on behalf of 120,000 proud members of Screen Actors Guild who stand with you in solidarity as your strike continues. We believe that now more than ever, we must remain strong and even more committed to achieving our common objectives. We are proud to walk shoulder-to-shoulder with you and SAG will be there for as long as it takes.

“Desperate Housewives” star Doug Savant hugs me & Wan @ NBC (Nov. 16, 2007)

Your fight is our fight. Our National Executive Director Doug Allen and I are working around the clock with Patric Verrone and David Young to coordinate our strike support efforts. I’m sure you have seen some of the thousands of Screen Actors Guild members who’ve been walking the picket lines in Los Angeles, New York and around the country for the last six weeks.

“Heroes” star Christine Rose, Wan & I @ NBC (Nov. 16, 2007)

I and other Screen Actors Guild representatives have attended your negotiations and your negotiators have been reasonable and professional. The AMPTP put draconian rollbacks on the table, wasting months of negotiating opportunity. The AMPTP walked out of negotiations twice…most recently after an unreasonable ultimatum that WGA withdraw six key bargaining proposals including several relating to new media compensation.

It is time for the AMPTP to return to the bargaining table.

“Lost” & “Tell Me That You Love Me” star Sonya Walger & me (Nov. 20, 2007)

I salute the cast members and rank-and-file SAG members who are so much a part of this struggle and have made their opinions known to the press, the public, and our employers. As most television shows and motion pictures have shut down, actors are not working. But we know that this fight is for the rights of all creative artists, and our collective future is at stake.

We share your sound and reasonable goals for fair compensation for new media formats and we believe you are doing the right thing by taking a stand.

“Desperate Housewives” stars Brenda Strong & James Denton @ NBC (Nov. 16, 2007)

As 2007 comes to an end please be assured, Screen Actors Guild will stand with you for as long as it takes. I wish you and your families peace, perseverance and patience during this difficult time.

In solidarity,

Alan Rosenberg
President, Screen Actors Guild

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Carson Daly Heckled…

Much to the delight of everyone here on the Carson Daly Taskforce, we were thrilled to hear the news that Carson Daly was heckled by “covert op” strike supporters at a taping of his show on Wednesday night. Heckle away amigos!

Apparently, the heckling began just after Carson introduced his first guest, former NFL great and “Dancing With The Stars” season two regular, Jerry Rice.

Carson picket signs @ NBC Burbank (Nov. 29, 2007)

After the applause died down and Daly started talking, someone in the crowd shouted out: “This isn’t that funny, where are the writers? Did a writer write that shit? Did you guys have a writer write that shit?” Stunned, Carson discontinued taping and the man was promptly ejected from the audience by security.

Clearly unsettled by the outburst, Carson asked Rice if he’d mind starting the interview over again from the top. Rice agreed and left the stage for Carson to reintroduce him to the crowd. Almost immediately after the second interview began, another writer in the crowd stood up and said: “I feel bad about the writer’s strike, can I go?” Nearby two others chimed in: “I feel bad too. Do you?” “Yeah, I feel bad. Can we go?”

Taping stopped again and security, who was still ushering the first heckler from the building, hurried back inside to whisk these three away as well.

Literally speechless, Daly stared out at the shocked audience as Rice reportedly asked him: “What’s going on?” Nodding, a troubled Daly replied: “I know what this is about.” Really, Carson? You do? Then why’d you go back, dude?

WGA picket signs @ NBC Burbank (Nov. 19, 2007)

At this point in the show, someone from security reportedly took the stage and warned that audience that: “Anyone else interrupting the show will be prosecuted.” This same person then went on to say that: “Any striking writers in the crowd should leave right now.”

According to sources, over twenty people in various seats in the audience stood up and exited the building as the audience gasped. Ironically, one of them had just moments before been awarded an El Pollo Loco gift certificate for “being such a great audience member”. Ha, spend it wisely dude, times are tough this holiday season.

Visibly rattled, a ghostly pale Daly — who probably only really paled to a lighter shade of orange — asked a shaken Rice is he’d mind starting the whole thing over again from the top. Rice agreed and taping resumed on what was to be the second to last show of the year for Daly. Wow, though, crazy stuff huh? Almost make you feel bad for Mr. Mystic Tan…almost…

To hear a very badly (we’re talking “Blair Witch” quality) recorded audio-only clip of the heckling captured via someone’s cell phone, check out: CarsonHeckled

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WGA files “unfair labor” charges!

Wow…just learned that earlier this evening the WGA filed “unfair labor” charges against the AMPTP with the National Labor Review Board.

According to the memo (pictured below in a screencap from Nikki Finke’s rocking blog) the WGA is claiming that the AMPTP’s usage of an ultimatum as a tactic to break off negotiations is a violation of federal law. Whoa! If that shit is enforceable in court, then hold onto your pants Nick Counter, because you’re about to get served, big time!

WGA memo filed with the NLRB (Dec. 13, 2007)

In an e-mail to our membership, WGA President Patric Verrone said that “the only legal way for the AMPTP to remedy the Unfair Labor Practice charge we have filed is to return to the bargaining table.”

Verrone went on to say that: “The WGA Negotiating Committee and leadership are working hard on many fronts to bring the AMPTP back to the table. The companies walked out of talks for the second time last Friday, and are using every possible tactic to attempt to divide our members and create ill will.”

“They have recently employed a team of highly-paid spin-doctors to take attention away from the fact that it was the companies who unilaterally and illegally broke off negotiations, and to make it seem as if the WGA was more interested in reality and animation than in new media compensation and jurisdiction. I can assure you that is not the case. The Writers Guild’s proposals remain reasonable and affordable.”

“The companies’ refusal to bargain in good faith is a callous and cynical act, denying paychecks to thousands of families this holiday season. The WGA strongly urges the AMPTP to return to the table and begin good-faith negotiations, so that our members and the rest of the community can get back to work as soon as possible.”

That’s right, you tell it, Patric Verrone! I’m sorry, but we’ve tried dealing with the AMPTP fairly and have been disrespected, manipulated and cast aside time and time again. I say, calling in the Federal Government is a stroke of genius. They might own the media in this country, but I’ll be willing to bet that even those greedy bastards at the AMPTP are afraid of the Feds.

So, rock on WGA!

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2008 Golden Globe Nominees

This morning in Beverly Hills, the unholy trio of “Heroes” cheerleader Hayden Panettiere, Ryan Reynolds and Quentin Tarantino (huh?) announced the nominees for this years Golden Globes. Don’t know how they picked that group of presenters, but either way, the awards season has officially begun! Yeah!

Kiera Knightley in “Atonement”

I should be glad that so many of our favorites made the cut this year — “There Will Be Blood”, “No Country For Old Men”, “Eastern Promises”, “Persepolis” and “Michael Clayton” — but I can’t help wondering how the Hollywood Foreign Press overlooked what was probably one of the freshest, most original movie musicals ever, “Once”, in favor of the guady, overcooked “Hairspray”.

I mean, did they see the same movie I did? Yikes. I haven’t seen a John Travolta picture this bad since…oh, wait, they usually suck don’t they? He is so over-the-top hammy in this role that I’m sure the original Edna Turnblat, the late, great Divine, could smell the burning bacon from beyond the grave. Really, I just hated him in this movie. Yikes…

Emile Hirsch and Hal Holbrook in Sean Penn’s “Into The Wild”

And to totally ignore “Into The Wild” (save for a song nomination for Eddie Vedder’s rocking “Guaranteed”) and the truly amazing performances of Emile Hirsch and an Oscar-worthy Hal Holbrook really is just madness. The raw power of this movie is really something to behold, and though it was overlooked here, I guarantee it will make a huge impact on Oscar voters next year.

Ellen Page as the very pregnant “Juno”

OK, so what about the nominees I’m rooting for? Loved Ellen Page in “Juno”, Viggo Mortensen rocked in “Eastern Promises” as a conflicted Russian mobster, Tilda Swinton dazzled in “Michael Clayton”, Amy Adams was luminous and downright magical in “Enchanted”, Cate Blanchett was fantastic in both her nominated roles “Elizabeth: The Golden Age” and “I’m Not There” and as you know, loved “No Country For Old Men” big time. But where’s the Globe love for Kelly MacDonald and Tommy Lee Jones? Jeez, man…

Viggo Mortensen in “Eastern Promises”

Also, while “Atonement” swept all the major categories, I can’t tell you how bored we were by this empty jewelry box of a movie. Beautiful cast at the top of their games? Check. Great period clothes? Check. Lush music and cinematography? Check. Any trace of real, earned emotion? Uncheck. I’m not saying the movie totally sucked, but, snooze…

Also overlooked by Globe voters was the hilarious Israeli film “The Band’s Visit”, the Spanish-language fright fest “The Orphanage” and Wes Anderson’s masterful “The Darjeeling Limited”.

Amy Adams in “Enchanted”

On the TV front, I was really jazzed to see ABC’s “Pushing Daisies” snag a few nods. We added this show to our Season Pass list late in the season and have been hooked ever since. A really great little show that can only be helped by the awards heat. So, congrats!

Anyway, could go on forever, but if you wanna check out the complete list of nominees for yourself, please visit the Euro-tastic homesite of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association at: http://www.goldenglobes.org/nominations/

 

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Closes Early “R” Us!

Just came back from a harrowing visit to the ghetto-ass Toys “R” Us in Burbank and all I can say is…wow, crazytown! I was in search of one particular item — NOT the vintage Boba Fett Underoos pictured below, but close — that was hugely discounted for yesterday’s whopping one day sale.

And since the store had extended hours, I figured we’d have plenty of time to get there. But, well…we didn’t.

NOT what I was shopping for tonight, but cool nonetheless!

Toys “R” Us closed last night at midnight and despite our best efforts to the contrary, my brother Ryan and I arrived at their door at 11:55pm.

Dropping me off out front, Ryan parked the car while I ran to the door to at least squeeze inside before they closed…and guess what? The door was locked! LOCKED! At 11:55pm! Five whole minutes early!

So I softly knocked and waved at the sour-faced woman inside. “Hi. I just need one thing, I’ll be really fast. Can I please come in?”

“No. We’re closed”

“But, it’s only 11:55…”

“No, it’s not. It’s midnight.”

Popping open my cellphone, I shook my head. “Um, no, it’s not…it’s 11:55.”

“Sir, we’re closed. All of our registers are closed.”

“Oh, so I guess you closed early?” I sassed.

Glaring at me through the sticky, fingerprint-smeared glass doors, I swear that chick snarled at me. “No, we closed at midnight.”

Giving up, I stormed away from the door just as Ryan appeared behind me from the car.

“What happened?” He asked, winded from his sprint from the car.

“That chick said they’re closed…”

“But it’s only 11:56!” Ryan gasped, checking his cellphone to make sure.

“I know. But she won’t let me in…whatever. Let’s just go.”

As Ryan gasped at the injustice of it all, another sour-faced woman appeared from the shadows of the parking lot behind us. “Sir, we’re closed. It’s midnight.”

“No, it’s not!” Ryan yelled back. Yes, he was yelling now. Scary!

“It is by my clock…” she shrugged.

“Oh really? And is your cell phone clock calibrated by a satellite from above like mine is?!” Ryan roared, hoisting his cellphone into the air to illustrate his point.

Stunned, the woman stared at us for a beat and then headed towards the front door with her keys. “Fine. But I’m only letting one of you in.” And believe it or not, she did!

So I grabbed what I came for, paid as quickly as possible and hurried back outside under the watchful, murderous glares of the workers inside. And when I got to the car, I checked my receipt and guess what the time stamp said…11:58pm!

Ha! Sweet vindication…suck it Toys “R” Us. Satellite calibrated cell phones “from above” win the day again!

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Quote of the day: Paul Hagis

The rumor mill seemed to be working overtime today, with that paragon of journalistic integrity, Daily Variety — who reap untold millions off the AMPTP’s pricey “For Your Consideration” ads each year — reporting that “…a letter directed to WGA leaders has been circulating among top-level screenwriters in recent days with the message that while the scribes remain committed to the strike, they also believe the guild toppers need to narrow the thrust of their efforts at negotiations to hammering out terms for Internet pay.”

While that may be true, the notion that WGA jurisdiction over reality and animation is a new addition to the negotiations is patently false. Both issues have been on the table from the get-go, and while I’m sure they are not deal breakers for most writers on the lines, they remain important.

Paul Hagis wowing the crowd @ the Fremantle Rally in Burbank (Dec. 7, 2007)

It’s carefully planted stories like these that, true or not, are designed to divide our membership by scaring us into believing that support for our leaders is eroding quicker than the hillside behind Eddie Van Halen’s house. This is just not true…well, not the part about the WGA at least. Sorry, Eddie.

And to illustrate that fact, two-time Oscar winner Paul Hagis (“Crash”) issued a statement of his own that was so cool, I had to pass it along. So, enjoy!

“In my 25-odd years in the guild, I have honestly never seen it more united,” Hagis said. “That is our great strength, and we all know it. Now if we want to get a fair deal, we need to use it. We need to be smart enough to act dumb: Shut up and keep walking. We need to stop inspecting every move and wondering why our negotiators aren’t doing this or are doing that. They are doing a great job. We put our trust in them; we need to support them. If they tell us the best thing we can do is walk in circles, that is what I will be doing, every day. Until we win. And we will. See you on the sidewalk.”

Even though I kinda hated “Crash”, I gotta give Paul credit for his mad sound bite skills. So, rock on Paul Hagis! See you on the sidewalk indeed, amigo…

And in case you’re wondering, I snapped the picture above on Friday during Paul’s speech at the Reality & Game Show Rally outside Fremantle Heaquarters in Burbank. That’s my rocking Strike Captain Aaron Solomon (who gave a rousing speech of his own after Paul finished) on the left behind the lectern. Go, Aaron!

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We Write, They Wrong…

As you probably know by now, the AMPTP once again broke off talks with the WGA on Friday after issuing us a rather puzzling ultimatum. Remove every meaningful issue to writers from the table (the bulk of our internet proposals, coverage for reality and animation writers, etc.) and then, and only then, would the AMPTP consider resuming talks.

Patty’s “Force Majeuer This” picket sign (Dec. 5, 2007)

Um, last time I checked, negotiating was a two way street. You give us an offer, we give you one back and it goes on from there.

Telling us to totally gut everything that matters to us most from our discussions before we can even resume discussions seems a bit contrary to the process. Doing that would be like negotiating with ourselves, and once we negotiated ourselves low enough, and revealed our bottom, bottom line to the AMPTP, they’d offer us half of that and call it a day.

Wan, WGA Prez Patric Verrone & Me as photographed by the Slackmistress (Dec. 4, 2007)

I’m not making this up, this is how they have always done business and honestly, it’s like, union busting 101.

We’ve seen this crap from major corporations before and if it didn’t work with other unions in this country, what makes you think a union of motion picture and television writers — who are more galvanized than ever behind the kick-ass leadership of WGA President Patric Verrone (pictured above with Wan and myself) and Vice-President, David Weiss (below) — would fall for what is essentially a weak storyline?

WGA Vice-President David Weiss @ NBC (Dec. 10, 2007)

No one is buying your bit about not making money off the internet, guys. You can paint it any way you like, but it just doesn’t hold water, and like those sprawling Manhattan apartments on sitcoms, your arguments here are fictional in the extreme. The internet is a gold mine, and you know it. If you didn’t, then why on earth would you be fighting so hard to deny us any part of it?

WGA VP David Weiss rallying the “troops” @ NBC (Dec. 10, 2007)

We’re not asking for the keys to the kingdom here, we just want our fair share of the profits from the content we write for you. To paraphrase my fellow striking writer, the Slackmistress, “If you make money off the internet, we make money off the internet, if you don’t make money off the internet, we don’t either.” It’s that simple. Or at least it should be.

So please, AMPTP, save the drama for the dramas and come back to the table with a real offer this time. It’s not just fair, it’s the right thing to do…

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WGA Strike: Week Six

Don’t know what it’s like by you, but down here, the network news — which is pretty much owned and operated by, you guessed it, the AMPTP — has been flooding the airwaves with sob stories about the Writers Guild ruining the holidays for several thousand unemployed “below the line” workers in other unions around town.

I know it’s been hard, and trust me, this strike sucks for everyone. But before you go blaming the writers for stealing presents out from under your tree, other union folks, you might want to consider the fact that the things the WGA are fighting for effect us all in very substantial ways.

So, in honor of the sixth week of the strike, I wanted to share with you a very cool WGA America clip from YouTube that addresses some of the concerns of our hermanos in other unions. I know it’s rough out there, guys, but trust me, we are all in this together…

Enjoy, and que viva la union!

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Strike Cookies!

I didn’t make these bad-ass WGA picket sign cookies, but I did eat them today on the picket line at NBC Burbank, and man, alive, what a treat! These sweet, buttery picket signs — which I just realized look a bit like WGA crucifixes — were positively union-tastic!

Michaela Meyers’ strike cookies! (Dec. 6, 2007)

Donated by a crazy-nice WGA supporter, aspiring writer/actor/comedian, Michaela Meyers — that’s her in the photo by fellow striker, the Slackmistress below — these cookies rocked!

Sure, the frosting got a bit messy at times — it was like, Degobah damp out there today — but the buttery goodness of these cookies could not be denied. Not only were they the most original baked goods I’ve seen on the line so far, they were also the tastiest!

Michaela Meyers & her WGA strike cookies! As photographed by the Slackmistress (Dec. 6, 2007)

And when coupled with the delicious tuna salad sandwiches donated by a supportive Teamster’s wife — not pictured, but trust me, they were better than anybody’s momma ever made, and wrapped in wax paper to boot! — today’s picket line offerings could not be beat!

Thank you Mrs. Teamster & Ms. Meyers…your “food support” is appreciated by us all. But, um…maybe a little more by me, if you know what I mean…

Getting ready to devour a WGA strike cookie! (Dec. 6, 2007)

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Tenacious D to rock Fremantle!

Just found out that the WGA’s Reality and Game Show rally planned for Friday afternoon here in Burbank will have a killer new headliner…

Earlier tonight, Jack Black and Kyle Gass of the kick-ass, two-man band, Tenacious D agreed to play a mini-set on the picket lines outside the Fremantle North America headquarters at 4400 West Alameda in Burbank. Rock on!

Rocking “Reality & Game Show Rally” poster planned for Dec. 7, 2007!

Producers of such hit shows as “American Idol”, “America’s Got Talent”, and “The Next Great American Band”, Fremantle is one of the most successful producers of reality and game show programming in the world.

Yet despite their phenomenal success, Fremantle has steadfastly refused to unionize their writers — yep, believe it or not, reality shows are written! — many of whom work without standard industry-wide benefits like health insurance, residuals, pension contributions and proper credits.

Designed to raise awareness of the plight of these often-overlooked members of our guild, our goal is to force to Fremantle to at least consider going guild. It’s a tall order, but hey, aren’t they all?

So, rain or shine — and right now, it’s looking like the former — the event kicks off with a rally at noon followed by speeches by WGA president Patric Verrone, my rocking Strike Captain Aaron — a former writer for Fremantle’s “Temptation” — and a number of other former reality and game show writers. Then, at one o’clock, Tenacious D will take the stage to rock the picket line.

This promises to be a pretty rousing event, so if you happen to be in Burbank/Toluca Lake on Friday afternoon, swing on by and D will rock you!

For more information on the event or to check out the WGA’s Fremantle petition online, please visit: www.wga.org

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“I’m Not There”

Lest you think all I do these days is walk the picket line with a megaphone, I decided to write about a rocking good movie we saw a couple weeks back. Yes, despite the chaos of the strike, Christine and I do still see movies — I think we’ve seen something like, twenty-four since October, which might be our record for this early in the season — and when one is as good as “I’m Not There”, I gotta share the wealth!

Probably not for all tastes, as it is a bit scattered and surreal at times, this insanely original tribute to the life and legend of Bob Dylan seriously rocks!

I’M NOT THERE promotional shot from LesFilms.com (Dec. 5, 2007)

Directed with jaw-dropping style by the mad genius Todd Haynes (“Far From Heaven”, “Safe” and my personal favorite, “Velvet Goldmine”) the movie features five different actors (Christian Bale, Ben Whishaw, Heath Ledger, Marcus Carl Franklin and Richard Gere) and a stunning, virtually unrecognizable Cate Blanchett (pictured above) as Dylan-esque characters in randomly intersecting stories based on pivotal moments in the singer’s life.

Christine and I were not huge Dylan-philes going into this, and we loved the movie. But hardcore fans, who will get all the veiled and not-so-veiled references to real incidents in Dylan’s life, might just find their heads literally exploding in the theatre. Yep, it’s that cool!

Promo shot of I’M NOT THERE’s Cate Blanchett in action (Dec. 5, 2007)

Trippy, experimental, and beautifully shot, this flick (like “Goldmine”) is a real mind-blower of a movie. My only major problem are the unbearably boring segments with Richard Gere. His scenes kill the messy, fluid momentum big time.

I read an interview with Haynes recently and he said the strangely languid pacing and visuals in Gere’s chunk of the movie are loosely based on Dylan’s 2003 film “Masked & Anyonmous”, which makes it a little bit cooler, but just barely.

So, grab some popcorn or something when Gere comes onscreen, but don’t miss a second of the electrifying Cate Blanchett and Marcus Carl Franklin (the young African-American kid pictured below) segments. They are both amazing, and if one, or both of them, are not nominated in supporting categories this year, the AMPTP hates writers, women and black people. Sorry, couldn’t resist. But seriously, these guys are both phenomenal!

Promo shot of I’M NOT THERE’s Marcus Carl Franklin (Dec. 5, 2007)

On a final note, snagged these cool pics from a French film review site I found online, and though I think only one of my readers (Bonjour, Mel!) could actually read the text on the site, they do have some great pictures of new and upcoming releases. Check it out at: Les-Films.Fr

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Strike Beards!

Many of you have commented on my dashing new “strike beard” — my sister-in-law Laura even jokingly likened it to the beard of all beards belonging to Mr. Kenny “The Gambler” Rogers himself! — so I was thrilled to learn over the weekend, that I am not alone in my hirsute pursuits.

Me, a wench & Captain Jack rocking our strike beards @ Hooters in Hollywood! (Nov. 20, 2007)

Conan O’Brien and several members of his writing staff have begun growing strike beards as well. Hooray! Even in this, the growth of manly, protest facial hair, we are all in this together. Here’s to other striking writers taking up our cause and growing strike beards of their very own!

That oughta show those bastards at the AMPTP how we really feel! We will not shave till we have a fair deal on the table. Grrr…go grizzly!

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From the Horse’s Mouth…

Most of you have probably heard the news by now, but just wanted to let you know that negotiations between the AMPTP and our WGA leadership have not been going well. Both sides have agreed to continue talking again on Tuesday morning, but with the AMPTP continuing to float crappy deals our way (and painting them as a strong “economic partnership” in their press releases), the outlook is not so great.

The biggest news you probably have NOT heard is that the WGA leadership recently came into possession of an incendiary AMPTP memo leaked by a former employee friendly to our cause.

Cool WIZARD OF OZ picket sign @ NBC Burbank (Nov. 16, 2007)

Detailing the companies systematic plan to “divide and conquer” our members, the document is said to outline in VERY specific terms the AMPTP’s plan to crush our spirits by elevating our hopes (through phony positive leaks to Nikki Finke and even the fine folks at UnitedHollywood) and then dashing them again a few days later with bad news. Which, by the way, is totally what they did this week! I guess they figure enough of these ups and downs will eventually break our resolve and splinter our union.

I know it sounds kind of Emperor Palpatine-ish, but this shit is real…the AMPTP is waging war on our emotions and morale and we cannot let fear take hold. As Master Yoda wisely noted: “Powerful the dark side is” and with that in mind, we must slice through the fog of lies and rumors with our lightsabers at the ready!

Posted below is a copy of the e-mail sent out by our WGA Negotiating Committee earlier tonight. There is no mention of the leaked memo, but the finer points of the insulting deal presented to us on Thursday are laid out, AMPTP-spin-free, for all to see. Enjoy!

And remember, that’s no moon on the horizon, amigos…the AMPTP is building a Death Star, and I think it’s high time we blew it up! Go, rebel alliance!

A sign of the times @ NBC Studios, Burbank (Nov. 29, 2007)

Fellow members:

There are a lot of rumors and questions floating around, and we’d like to address them.

HAVE NEGOTIATIONS BROKEN DOWN? No.

DID OUR NEGOTIATING COMMITTEE ASK FOR A BREAK? No.

THEN WHY THE FOUR DAY BREAK? On Thursday, the studios and networks gave us some of their proposals, and said they needed more time to fashion the rest. Therefore talks were scheduled to resume on Tuesday.

THE COMPANIES SAY THEY ARE OFFERING US IS A $130 MILLION INCREASE. THE GUILD CALLS IT A ROLLBACK. WHY THE DISPARITY? The companies have still not explained how they arrived at their $130 million figure, but we can certainly explain how this is a rollback.

OKAY. SO HOW IS THEIR MADE-FOR-INTERNET PROPOSAL A ROLLBACK? Currently, the writer of a 30-minute prime-time TV show makes almost $21,000. The conglomerates are proposing that if that writer wrote the same show for the Internet, his or her initial compensation would be $2,600. That’s a rollback of 88%.

SO WHAT’S THEIR OFFER ON INTERNET RERUNS? Currently, the writer of a half-hour television episode makes about $11,600 when his or her episode is first re-run on TV. The companies are proposing that if that same episode is rerun instead on the Internet, they will pay the whopping total of $139 for unlimited reruns for one year–and nothing at all if it only streams for six weeks. About a third of all TV series are now being rerun only on the Internet. This amounts to an immediate 98.8% rollback. And it gets worse. If they decide to call a show “promotional,” they don’t have to pay us anything. It’s a “freepeat.”

WOW. AND WHAT ABOUT FEATURES? Are you sitting down? The companies want to be able to stream any and all feature films in their entirety, supported by advertising dollars, and pay the writers nothing. Zip. Nada. Bupkus. A 100% rollback.

GIVEN ALL THIS, HOW IN THE WORLD DID THE COMPANIES COME UP WITH THE 130 MILLION DOLLAR FIGURE? Our question exactly. It’s definitely not a three-year number. As near as we can figure, their proposal might net us that total around the year 2107.

YOU HAVEN’T SAID ANYTHING NEW ABOUT DOWNLOADS. Neither have they. We are hoping that they will address this essential issue by Tuesday. Stay tuned.

In solidarity,

Nick Kazan, Howard A. Rodman, Phil Robinson, Tom Schulman
(for the Board of Directors)

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