Saturday, April 21, 2012


- Discovery Channel's Auction Kings returns next Wednesday, April 25 at 10:00 PM EST. Great show.
- Discovery cancelled Cash Cab. Bad channel. I am in mourning.
- It's that time of year again. TVLand's 10th Anniversary Awards Show will air on -- where else? -- TVLand on Sunday, April 29 at 9 PM EST. Look forward to seeing all your favorites, including reunions of Laverne And Shirley and One Day At A Time, as well as appearances by Pee-Wee Herman and Aretha Franklin. Murphy Brown and In Living Color will be honored. No word on whether Dan Quayle will be presenting the cast of Murphy Brown with their award. This year's host is Kelly Ripa, despite the fact that she lacks a sort of... je ne sais Reege.
- One of my few cable obsessions, Syfy's Hollywood Treasure, returns May 22 (Morrissey's birthday) with a look at Sean Astin's Lord of the Rings memorabilia collection! I can't WAIT until this show starts up again. [via the show's official Facebook page]
- Can you believe it's officially been 25 years since the Simpsons first appeared as a short on the Tracy Ullman show? I wasn't an instant fan, but it sure is hard to remember a time before the Simpsons. Sadly, no one is celebrating any such anniversaries for Herman's Head.
- A new documentary, Plastic Galaxy: The Story of Star Wars Toys, is about, arguably, the best part of the Star Wars universe: THE TOYS! I'm going to watch the newly released trailer with my two favorite fellas, Bib Fortuna and Squidhead. And perhaps Salacious Crumb. I wonder if director Brian Stillman can track down my beloved (and missing) Return of the Jedi cup with the chocolate milk stain.

- Morrissey's official Facebook page announced a handful of US tour dates coming up (two in Hawaii and his birthday, May 22, in San Diego)! Will he next turn his lovely head to the east? I say yes. He says no, but he might change his mind.
- Blur is celebrating 21 years since the release of their debut album, Leisure, with an incredible box set and expanded remastered albums. It's a 21 disc box set with all seven of their albums receiving the expanded two-disc treatment. Plus four discs of exclusive rarities (claiming 3 1/2 hours of 'unreleased' material). Plus three DVDs (claiming over 2 hours of 'unreleased' footage) with two live shows and an exclusive disc of video rarities. Plus a collectible 7" of a very early (Seymour-era) live track. Plus a deluxe hard-bound book with new interviews, extensive liner notes, and unseen photos. There's no way that such an incredible sounding bit of loot won't boast an equally incredible price tag [note: £158?! YIKES. NO WAY.]. It's worth noting that the remastered two-disc albums will be available separately and will also be available on vinyl. Apparently, you can pre-order through Blur's official site or If only they would throw in every single b-side plus the various EPs like Bustin' + Dronin'.. AND the new post-reunion tracks (that were mostly for the independent Record Store Day), as well as the live albums that stemmed from their recent reunion concerts. Despite the completeness of the Blur box set, I figure if I refused to shell out the big bucks for The Smiths' comparable box set, (which, to be fair, had none of the earth-shattering rarities), I won't do it for Blur.
- Since Pulp's 2011 live reunion of the classic Different Class-era line-up [Jarvis Cocker, Russell Senior, Steve Mackey, Candida Doyle, Mark Weber, and Nick Banks], they have continued to headline some major festivals and concerts. Recently they made it to America, most tragically for two sold-out shows at New York's Radio City Music Hall. They also headlined Coachella (along with those crazy kids from Madness)! Last week, Pulp made their first appearance on American television in fourteen years on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon (they performed 'Common People' and one other song that is exclusively on Jimmy Fallon's website). The performance was fantastic, though it was soured somewhat by the lack of Russell Senior (note that two people had to take his place). I don't know if that means that he didn't make it to America with the rest of the group. Here's a clip of Pulp making their American televison debut in 1995 on David Letterman. By the time I saw this performance, I had heard Pulp but didn't have any of their albums. I was immediately hooked and bought the album by the end of the month. They've been a favorite ever since!

- J.K. Rowling recently announced she will be publishing her first adult novel, The Casual Vacancy in September.
- J.K. Rowling will also be publishing an official Harry Potter encyclopedia.
- Noir scholar Robert Polito has compiled five novels by the cult Philadelphia noir writer David Goodis. Five Noir Novels of the 1940s & 50s received a rave review by the Philadelphia Inquirer. A panel discussion on David Goodis appeared to be the highlight of this year's abbreviated Philadelphia Book Festival.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Brando Birthday Bash

You can't have a party without Judy Garland, Beatrice Lillie, and James Dean! Here's what Marlon Brando's all-star birthday party would have looked like:

But, really, isn't it best when all the guests go home and you can just relax?

M-G-M: Hollywood's Greatest Backlot

California is known for its full range of geographical terrains inching up from dry desert heat and dangerously curving into palatial Pacific coasts, dense redwood forests, paradisal fields of flowers and orchards, and capped with snowy mountains. It seems quite fitting that this cinematic Shangri-la should be as ostentatious as the reputation of its southern hotspot, Hollywood. After all, one needn't leave Culver City to travel to the furthest reaches of the earth and from yesteryear to the glimmer of a far distant tomorrow. It is on the vast real estate called backlots where the reality of movie magic was truly invented, and no other movie studio encapsulated the true grandeur of Hollywood's potential as Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. Once boasting more stars than there are in the heavens, M-G-M's unrivaled star power was only outdone by its awe-inspiring backlot. While M-G-M's collection of backlots have officially followed the great movie moguls to their own demise, they are legends that the few survivors of the studio system continue to describe in astonishment.

M-G-M: Hollywood's Greatest Backlot (Santa Monica Press, 2011) is the best guidebook for a place that no longer exists. Writers Steven Bingen, Stephen X. Sylvester, and Michael Troyan take the reader on the ultimate tour of the ultimate backlot. This is a virtual tour of a Hollywood that no longer exists, and, some could argue, never did. It was on these unassuming backlots populated with mere facades of main streets, foreign villages, jungles, and cityscapes that the biggest M-G-M hits were born. As much as seeing the naked lots (or the multitude of photos showing the same lots being thinly veiled and dressed up for all manner of movie scenes) shatters the illusion of movie magic, it creates a whole other admiration -- a wonderment of how these dressed-down plots of muddy dilapidation could pass for Paris, Tarzan's jungle, and Main Street USA. The most striking aspect of the book is how lovingly and exquisitely detailed it is. The research compiled in the book is incredible, and it is filled with meticulous maps, photographs, and original documentation, as well as background information from the people who worked and walked the backlots themselves. The writers provide an unmatched glimpse behind the facades of each filming site and detail some of the movie magic that was made in each location from the lots' original formation to their ultimate dismantling. The writers manage to nestle the biography of this greatest backlot into a concise contextual history of the rise and fall of Hollywood's much ballyhooed studio system, so the reader can grasp the importance of M-G-M as a business model rather than merely an artistic one.

The book is as much an elegy to the end of an era as it is a celebration of what made movies great in the golden age. There is a lot of information regarding the collapse of the system and the razing of old Hollywood for a new generation of filmmakers. Sadly, the extensive locations that brought the elusive sparkle of movies to life became themselves faded relics. The book ends with the physical razing and liquidating of M-G-M's backlot and assets, the death knell for a Hollywood that can now only be read about or seen in old pictures. We have the writers of this book to thank for unearthing and preserving what little information remains of what was indeed Hollywood's greatest backlot. This is a must-read for all cinemaphiles and for those who want to understand the inner workings of a Hollywood studio at the height of its greatness.

M-G-M: Hollywood's Greatest Backlot - 'A lavish illustrated history of Hollywood's greatest movie studio' (official website)
Information about the book at Santa Monica Press