Showoffs

Only nine people have won an Emmy, a Grammy, an Oscar, and a Tony award:

  1. Mel Brooks
  2. John Gielgud
  3. Marvin Hamlisch
  4. Helen Hayes
  5. Audrey Hepburn
  6. Rita Moreno
  7. Mike Nichols
  8. Jonathan Tunick
  9. Richard Rodgers

If you count honorary awards, then Barbra Streisand and Liza Minnelli also qualify. If you count “daytime Emmys,” then so does Whoopi Goldberg.

Screen Gems

Great reviews of bad movies:

  • Freddy Got Fingered (2001): “This movie doesn’t scrape the bottom of the barrel. This movie isn’t the bottom of the barrel. This movie isn’t below the bottom of the barrel. This movie doesn’t deserve to be mentioned in the same sentence with barrels. … The day may come when Freddy Got Fingered is seen as a milestone of neo-surrealism. The day may never come when it is seen as funny.”
  • Frogs for Snakes (1999): “I was reminded of Mad Dog Time (1996), another movie in which well-known actors engaged in laughable dialogue while shooting one another. Of that one, I wrote: ‘Mad Dog Time is the first movie I have seen that does not improve on the sight of a blank screen viewed for the same length of time.’ Now comes Frogs for Snakes, the first movie I have seen that does not improve on the sight of Mad Dog Time.”
  • Batman & Robin (1997): “For those of you who were scared away by the abysmal reviews of Batman & Robin, let me lay to rest some of the prejudices you might have about the film. It’s not the worst movie ever. No, indeed. It’s the worst thing ever. Yes, it’s the single worst thing that we as human beings have ever produced in recorded history.”

Of North (1994), Roger Ebert wrote: “I hated this movie. Hated hated hated hated hated this movie. Hated it. Hated every simpering stupid vacant audience-insulting moment of it. Hated the sensibility that thought anyone would like it. Hated the implied insult to the audience by its belief that anyone would be entertained by it … one of the worst movies ever made.”

Bit Players

Short actors:

  • Sylvester Stallone: 5’7″
  • Tom Cruise: 5’7″
  • Al Pacino: 5’7″
  • Richard Dreyfus: 5’5″
  • Dustin Hoffman: 5’5″
  • Danny DeVito: 5’0″
  • Linda Hunt: 4’9″

Stature doesn’t equal talent. Asked for advice on acting, John Wayne (6’4″) said, “Talk low, talk slow, and don’t talk too much.”

A Player to Be Named Later

Some of the busiest people in show business don’t exist:

  • The name George Spelvin is traditionally used in American theater programs when an actor’s name would otherwise appear twice.
  • In the London theater, Walter Plinge gets the credit when a part has not been cast.
  • On BBC television dramas in the 1970s, David Agnew was credited when contractual reasons prevented a writer’s name from being used.
  • When a Hollywood director no longer wants credit for a film, the name Alan Smithee is used.

That last one is such an open secret — “Smithee” even directed a Whitney Houston video — that the Directors Guild finally abandoned it in favor of random pseudonyms, starting with the 2000 James Spader bomb Supernova, directed by “Thomas Lee” (Walter Hill).

Sand Castle

http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Sand_sculpture.jpg

One by one, the simple amusements of my youth are being co-opted by geeks and refined into punishing sciences.

Only purists, for example, still build sand castles with shovels and hand packing. The vanguard have recruited all the tools of modern engineering, including building forms and heavy machinery.

Guinness started recording the world’s longest sand sculptures in 1987, and that spawned even greater creativity — and competitiveness. In 1998 Dave Henderson built a 33-foot castle at the New York State Fairgrounds that weighed 412 tons. Not to be outdone, other artists started turning out likenesses of Einstein, life-size pickup trucks, and a rather creditable Eeyore.

Today, at a championship competition, you might find works inspired by Picasso and dream imagery.

Where will it end? With a giant bucket and enough water, we could build a giant ziggurat in the Sahara. And there’s no danger from high tide …

Wilhelm Scream

http://www.sxc.hu/index.phtml

The next time you see Star Wars, watch for the scene when a Death Star stormtrooper falls into a chasm before Luke and Leia swing across it. That stormtrooper’s scream is more than 50 years old — and a time-honored in-joke among Hollywood sound designers.

The “Wilhelm scream” was originally recorded for the feature Distant Drums in 1951. From there it went into the studio’s sound effects library, where it was rediscovered in 1977 by Star Wars sound editor Ben Burtt. Burtt adopted it as his personal signature, and he enlisted a group of like-minded Hollywood sound-effects people to keep it alive.

You can hear the scream in Raiders of the Lost Ark, Poltergeist, Beauty and the Beast, Reservoir Dogs, Titanic, Spider-Man … more than 100 features, including this summer’s Revenge of the Sith.

It’s called the “Wilhelm scream” because that’s the name of the original screamer, a man who’s dragged underwater by an alligator in Distant Drums. Remember that when Buzz Lightyear is knocked out of the bedroom window in Toy Story — it’s the same sound.