Sunday, December 30, 2012

Jeffrey Katzenberg, Dec. 4, 1992

Standard·Examiner staff

Somehow, this fits: Walt Disney Studios Chairman Jeffrey Katzenberg is squeezing in a phone interview view while tooling through Los Angeles morning traffic, on his way to do more satellite interviews for and TV stations around the country. It serves to reinforce the popular image of Katzenberg, the mogul who is said to complete some 200 phone calls each morning -- after reading several newspapers during his daily rise-and-shine physical workout.

No time to waste. Literally.

And from a business standpoint, who could argue? Katzenberg and Team Disney, transplanted from Paramount Pictures in 1984, took the studio that Uncle Walt built from a dead-last 3 percent market share that year to a first-place 20 percent in 1988. And since then, his motion picture division – including movies released under the Walt Disney Pictures, Touchstone Pictures and Hollywood Pictures banners -- has been hanging tough, never out of the race.

"Aladdin," Disney's newest release, is sure to keep the company's stockholders smiling; it grossed $25.8 million over the Thanksgiving holiday, about 2-1/2 times what "Beauty and the Beast" did during the same time period last year. And critics have lavished so much praise on the film, there's already talk Robin Williams may be nominated for an Oscar in an acting category -- for his voice performance.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Brains and eggs at Bill and Nada'sYeah, Oct. 30, 1992

Yeah, that's my plate of brains and eggs.
One of the features I wrote in 1992 was a food story. I had some fun with it.

Standard-Examiner staff

SALT LAKE CITY -- If you know anything at all about Bill and Nada's, the landmark eatery north of Trolley Square in Salt Lake City, it's probably that the establishment serves brains and eggs.

That's right -- brains and eggs.

A local radio station, KLZX-FM, has fun with the dish in one of its promotions: "Jon and Dan in the morning," an authoritative voice intones. "A Utah institution -- like brains and eggs at Bill and Nada's."

Bill McHenry has been running the eatery since 1946, and brains have been on the menu since he opened the doors. Which means, of course, people have always eaten enough of his brains -- well, not his, exactly, but you know what we mean -- to make them a profitable dish.

"During initiation time at the university," McHenry says with a grin, "we go through a lot of 'em."

And that brings us to the obvious question: Why would anyone, of their own volition, eat the brains of any animal?

Bugs Bunny at 50, April 15, 1990

On the occasion of Bugs Bunny's 50th anniversary, I wrote a feature page cover appreciation of my favorite cartoon character. One of our staff artists, Larry Stephens, drew a great Bugs in a trenchcoat, looking very much like Humphrey Bogart -- cool. We decided to run it by Warner Bros. since Bugs is trademarked and the studio warned us against using it -- because Warren Beatty's "Dick Tracy" was coming out and they thought it looked like something from that film. So we used some WB stock art instead. After the thing was published, I sent a clip to the WB press people as a courtesy, and they were so thrilled with it they had it cleaned up from the newsprint version on beautiful white Velox paper and sent me back a rolled copy suitable for framing.

Standard-Examiner staff

They say Bugs Bunny turns 50 this year. Which is like saying the Bible is a thick book -- it simply doesn't begin to tell the story. Bugs Bunny is ageless, so his being 50 years old is irrelevant -- except that it gives us one helluva good excuse to think about him.

So, on Easter Sunday as bunnies come to mind, let's do just that: Picture ol' Bugs in your mind. What do you see? Maybe he's casually nibbling a carrot and asking, "What's up, Doc?" while Elmer Fudd's double-barreled shotgun rests on the bridge of his nose. Or he has Yosemite Sam in such a snit that the mustachioed hothead is bouncing up and down on the heels of his boots like a superball on concrete. Or perhaps Daffy Duck is trying -- in eternal futility -- to outwit that wascally wabbit.

Whatever image springs to your mind, one thing's certain: You are smiling. It's impossible to ponder the Bugster and not smile. Einstein proved that; look it up.

Nobody ever gets the best of Bugs, because even in defeat -- which is rare -- Bugs has the last word. He is the coolest. The hippest. The best that's ever been.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Michael Moore, "TV Nation," Aug. 11, 1995

Standard-Examiner staff

PASADENA, Calif. -- Professional nose-tweaker Michael Moore is a man with a mission: to inform, irritate and stimulate the American TV-viewing public.

The creator of
"TV Nation," Moore met with TV writers at the Summer Press Tour here to promote the late-summer run of his show on the Fox network, which played a year ago on NBC.

"This is satire," Moore explained. "It's not a stunt, it's satire, and the purpose of it is to expose a system that somehow has drifted away from the bulk of the American people. People don't care about politics anymore and they don't vote and in some cases for good reason."

Mandy Patinkin interview, July 24, 1995

He won an Emmy in 1995 for "Chicago Hope"
Two days after it was announced that Mandy Patinkin was out of full-time work on "Chicago Hope," he showed up -- along with CBS' roster of series stars -- at the Ritz for a big lawn party. I sat down with Patinkin at one point and he told me why he was stepping away.


Standard-Examiner staff

PASADENA, Calif. -- Mandy Patinkin says he was ready to lose everything: his job, his house, his bank account. Everything but his family, that is, which was the point to begin with.

He's leaving "Chicago Hope," his hit series, to spend more time with his family. The star must live in Los Angeles to film the show, while his wife and two sons, age 9 and 13, live in New York City.

Patinkin, seated at a table on the expansive, carefully manicured lawn in the early evening shade of the Ritz-Carlton Huntington Hotel, leaned forward to emphasize a point to his interviewer. He said after nine months away from his family last season, the recent three-month hiatus was a blissfully happy time.

"Boy," Patinkin said, "that made my tough decision for me."

Mandy Patinkin out of "Chicaho Hope," July 22, 1995

Mandy Patinkin in "Chicago Hope"
One of the bombshells of the Summer Press Tour in 1995 was Mandy Patinkin's decision to leave "Chicago Hope," a hit series, one year into its run. Earlier that year, in January, the actor and his fellow cast members had been quite defensive at the Winter Press Tour when questioned by TV critics about the ratings war between "ER" and "Chicago Hope." ("ER" was winning.) Years later, Patinkin -- currently in the hit "Homeland" -- would make headlines again when he departed "Criminal Minds" after only a couple of years.

Standard-Examiner staff

PASADENA, Calif. -- It looks as though Mandy Patinkin, star of the CBS hospital drama "Chicago Hope," will joining the short list of stars who have left hit shows early in the run.

Entertainment industry trade papers Variety and The Hollywood Reporter were abuzz with the news of Patinkin's imminent departure.

Other actors to leave high-profile shows early in the game include McLean Stevenson ("M*A*S*H") and David Caruso ("NYPD Blue").

Saturday, December 22, 2012

David Letterman, July 1995

PASADENA, Calif. -- David Letterman trekked to the West Coast Saturday to speak with assembled TV critics at the Summer Press Tour, once again proving he can play a room like no one else in show business.

Over the course of his 45 minutes with the media, he artfully dodged the hot topics of his "Late Show" 's first-ever ratings loss to Jay Leno's "The Tonight Show" last week in favor of laughs. Lots of laughs.

Of his much-criticized hosting of the Academy Awards telecast earlier this year: "I was so traumatized by that Oscar experience that I couldn't watch 'The Odd Couple' for a month," Letterman said, making a borderline obscure Oscar Madison joke. "At first when it happened, I thought, 'I'm out here in Hollywood and I've screwed up the Academy Awards,' and I'm thinking, 'I'll be arrested.' Or, 'What if they stop making films altogether? Oh, no!'

“Pasadena press tour no vacation for critic Don Porter,” July 30, 1995

The pool at the Ritz.
This is an editor's column written by the Standard's Managing Editor Ron Thornburg. He used to write one each week or two to help readers peer behind the curtain at the S-E.

By Ron Thornburg
Managing Editor


After attending the Summer Press Tour of the Television Critics Association in Pasadena, Calif., Don Porter returned to the office last week to some not so subtle kidding:

"How was your vacation, Don?" "Bet you spent it by the pool, didn't you?"

Some vacation.

For two weeks, Don started his days around 6 a.m. by viewing pilots of the programs that the major networks plan to air as part of the fall television season. Then he and the approximately 160 members of the critics association attended four, 45-minute press conferences.

Ed O'Neill, July 1995

Very often, as I'm digitizing my past, I come across pieces that I completely forgot about. This interview with Ed O'Neill, who right now is so great on "Modern Family," is one of them. I interviewed him at a Fox Network party one evening around the pool of the Ritz-Carlton in Pasadena. He were there to meet with the press, and now that my memory has been  bumped, I recall talking with him and Michael Moore that night. This is ironic for me, because I just watched an immensely entertaining interview with O'Neill on "Kevin Pollak's Chat Show."

By Donald Porter
Standard-Examiner staff

PASADENA, Calif. -- A couple of years back, Ed O'Neill was cut out of a movie because a test audience laughed when he was on screen. It was a drama, you see -- a war film -- and he was playing a character who wasn't supposed to be laughed at.

Actors can be typecast, and O'Neill, after playing Al Bundy for eight years on "Married ... with Children," knows all about it. He's so identifiable as Al Bundy that, in the case of the aforementioned movie, "Flight of the Intruder," it meant his work was left on the cutting room floor.

O'Neill, however, is sanguine about his being Al Bundy.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Lawrence Bender, January 1993

Lawrence Bender
EDITOR'S NOTE: This interview was conducted at the 1992 Sundance Film Festival.
Standard-Examiner staff

PARK CITY -- Lawrence Bender sits at a table in the hospitality suite of Z Place, where press and filmmakers come to mingle, do business and escape the crush of humanity on Main Street during the Sundance Film Festival. Bender has a broad smile fixed on his face, conveying his feelings of wonder and excitement to all who see him.

He's been that way for a couple of days, since "Reservoir Dogs," a gritty crime film he produced, began getting most of the ink and much-coveted buzz at the 1992 edition of the premiere festival for American independent filmmakers.

"This is a really great time for me," Bender says ,with barely contained enthusiasm. "I'm like a kid in a candy shop. I've made a couple of other movies, but I was a production assistant on a TV commercial two months before we went into production on 'Reservoir Dogs' because I had no money."

"Spike Lee maintains controversial image," April 29, 1993

Standard-Examiner staff

SALT LAKE CITY -- "Uncle Tom." "Shuck and jive.” "Nigger."

When Spike Lee opens his mouth, these words tend to tumble out. They are not the words of pretense, of artifice. Nor are they the words of confrontation. Rather, they are the language of truth when discussing cultural bias and racism, he says.

Lee, the foremost African-American filmmaker in America, was at the University of Utah Wednesday night, doing the Spike Lee Thing in a sold-out Kingsbury Hall. His audience consisted primarily of disciples, in one form or another, who gave him a standing ovation when he appeared on stage and again, 90 minutes later, when he left.

In between ovations, they listened to him relate anecdotes from the making of his many films, including "She's Gotta Have It," "School Daze," "Do the Right Thing," "Jungle Fever," "Mo' Better Blues" and "Malcolm X."

Sunday, December 9, 2012

The Making of a Christmas Grinch, Dec. 24, 1992

Standard-Examiner staff

This is a story about a Christmas grinch. It's a story about me, and about how I got that way.

I wasn't always a grinch. I used to look forward to Christmas: the colors, the music, the giving, the receiving, the time spent with family and the expressions of joy on the faces of my children.

But three, maybe four years ago, I began noticing that not only was I less enthusiastic about Christmas, but I had grown cynical about the holiday. For me, it became less about celebrating a miraculous birth and more about money -- spending it and, most troubling of all, earning it. Instead of making me happy, Christmas was making me sick.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Denzel Washington, Jan. 24, 1993

Standard-Examiner staff

PARK CITY -- Denzel Washington said he was tired. And he had reason: He worked until 5:30 a.m. Saturday on an all-night shoot in Philadelphia, then he hopped a plane to Utah for a full-day's slate of activities at the Sundance Film Festival.

Washington was at the festival to receive the second annual Piper-Heidsieck Tribute to Independent Vision award. Last year's recipient was actor John Turturro.

"I'm not really an award person," Washington said. "But I wanted to come up here and see what it's like. And I wanted to talk to Robert (Redford, the Sundance Institute's founder) about some ideas I have."

Washington spent the evening in Park City when he could have attended the Golden Globe Awards ceremony in Los Angeles. He had been nominated as best actor for his work in "Malcolm X." Washington is a familiar face at the movies, having been seen in films such as "A Soldier's Story," "The Mighty Quinn," "Mo' Better Blues" and "Mississippi Masala." He's received Oscar nominations for "Cry Freedom" and "Glory," and won an Academy Award as Best Supporting Actor for the latter.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Robert Rodriguez, "El Mariachi," Jan. 29, 1993

“The great hope is now (with) these little 8mm video recorders and stuff coming out, some people who normally wouldn't make movies are going to be making them. And suddenly one day some little fat girl in Ohio is going to be the new Mozart, you know, and make a beautiful film with her father's little camcorder. And for once the so-called professionalism about movies will be destroyed forever and it will really become an art form."

-- Francis Ford Coppola, "Hearts of Darkness"

Robert Rodriguez
Standard-Examiner staff

It's the stuff dreams are made of: Robert Rodriguez, a film student on break from studies at the University of Texas in Austin, borrowed a silent film camera and some sound gear, took along his writing partner/lead actor, $9,000 and a few props, and in two weeks' time made a quickie action film, "El Mariachi," in the border town of Ciudad Acuna, Mexico.

Now, however, Rodriguez jokes that his movie is "The Little Film That Could." In an unprecedented move, Columbia Pictures is giving the $7,000 film -- yes, Rodriguez came in $2,000 under budget -- a limited national release in 52 theaters in late February. The film is currently playing in competition at the Sundance Film Festival in Park City, and was a hit at festivals in Telluride, Colo., and Toronto.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Steven Bochco, "Murder One," 1995


PASADENA, Calif. -- Tonight's the night ABC executives finally find out whether they'll be taking credit or laying blame.

At issue: their plan to schedule "Murder One" against NBC's hit "ER." Will anyone watch the legal serial? Or is the "ER" habit too hard to break? Having aired it for three weeks in "NYPD Blue" 's 9 p.m. Tuesday slot, ABC is hoping those who tuned in on that night will follow the show to Thursdays at 9 p.m., where it's going head-to-head with "ER." ("Murder One" airs locally on KTVX Channel 4.)

The network apparently has a deep commitment to the show, having ordered a full season's worth of episodes: 23. That's an unusual step, since a network typically orders between six and 13 episodes, on the theory that if the show fails, the network isn't out a full season's expense.

Mary Tyler Moore, "New York News, 1995

Mary Tyler Moore was making no bones about why she's co-starring on the new CBS drama "New York News" -- admitting that her decision had as much to do with location as love for the project.

"It's going to be shot in New York City," Moore said at the Television Critics Association Summer Press Tour in Pasadena, Calif. "I live in the city ... and I was not interested in interrupting my life any more than that.

"It's wonderful to be part of a huge ensemble. It's not going to be falling on my shoulders, the responsibility for this show. I'll be one of many who are happily going to be doing our very best."

Jerry Seinfeld, "Seinfeld," 1995


PASADENA, Calif. -- At the Winter Press Tour, it's sometimes easier to gauge stardom by who shows up, and who doesn't: Those who do make an appearance need the press to bang the drum for their show, and those who don't make an appearance are doing just fine without the nation's TV critics.

Well, make an exception for Jerry Seinfeld, sort of, who showed up just long enough to announce that, indeed, the phenomenally popular "Seinfeld" will be returning for yet another season in the fall. It's a bit of a surprise, since rumors have been rampant for months that this season was likely the show's last.

"This year we have suddenly been having a lot more fun than I think we thought we were going to have," Seinfeld said. "And, as a result, we've decided to continue the show into next season."

Lea Thompson, "Caroline in the City," 1995


PASADENA, Calif. -- Lea Thompson is not a professional cartoonist, but she plays one on TV.

In "Caroline in the City" (Thursdays at 8:30 p.m. on KSL Channel 5), as a matter of fact, the NBC sitcom about a successful cartoonist who can't seem to find any matching prosperity in the romance department.

"I do like to draw, yeah," Thompson said at the Summer Press Tour in Pasadena, Calif. "I do cat cartoons. I always did, since I was a little girl." But, she explained, her cat doodles will never be available for public scrutiny.

Thompson, best known as a movie actress from films like "Back to the Future" and "Howard the Duck," is but one of a few female film stars who has taken TV work over the past year; the others include Cybill Shepherd ("Cybill"), Nancy Travis ("Almost Perfect") and Elizabeth McGovern ("If Not for You," rest in peace). Thompson attracted the attention of NBC programming chief Warren Littlefield after appearing in "The Substitute Wife," a made-for-TV movie co-starring Farrah Fawcett. After toying with several ideas, Thompson and Littlefield settled on "Caroline in the City." Thompson said her reasons for migrating to the small screen are many.

Andrew Dice Clay, "Bless This House," 1995


PASADENA, Calif. -- Andrew Clay is the first to admit his career was in the commode.

"I couldn't get a dog-food commercial three years ago," the comedian-turned-actor said. "Maybe it was something I said, I don't know."

Of course it was something he said. His unemployment was due to a lot of things he said: about women and about non-whites, mostly. Andrew "Dice" Clay was a pariah in the entertainment business -- probably the first, and surely the most prominent -- entertainer to suffer significantly from the wrath of the so-called Political Correctness movement.

(It should be noted, however, that even without a p.c. movement, Clay's stand-up routines were so outrageous, so offensive, that there would have been a loud and sustained outcry.)

Christine Lahti, "Chicago Hope," 1995

Standard-Examiner staff

PASADENA, Calif. -- "Chicago Hope," arguably CBS' finest new show last season, survived its bruising loss to NBC's "ER" on Thursdays last fall by moving to Mondays, where it finally found that elusive audience. As this season begins, "Chicago Hope" (tonight at 9 on KUTV Channel 2) takes another one on the chin with the departure of its nominal star, Mandy Patinkin (Dr. Jeffrey Geiger), who will exit the show after eight episodes.

Some creative teams might panic, and go hunting for an actor to pick up where Patinkin left off. Not executive producer David E. Kelley, who appears to be headed down an altogether different highway by hiring Christine Lahti to replace Patinkin.

"I heard Mandy was quitting," Lahti said, during a cocktail party on the lawn of the Ritz-Carlton Huntington Hotel during the Television Critics Association Summer Press Tour. "And a girlfriend called and said, 'Why don't you replace Mandy in "Chicago Hope"?' They were thinking of replacing him with a man. I called my agent, my agent made some calls and suddenly they took the ball and ran with it."

Jeff Foxworthy, "The Jeff Foxworthy Show," 1995

Standard-Examiner staff

Previewing tonight at 7 p.m. on KTVX Channel 4 is "The Jeff Foxworthy Show," starring comedian Jeff Foxworthy -- guess that's where they got the title -- who's most famous for his redneck-themed stand-up act.

In the series, which was not made available for yours truly to preview, Foxworthy plays Jeff Foxworthy (that way you won't get confused), a Southern-born heating and air conditioning contractor who lives with his wife and son in Bloomington, Ind.

The show's executive producer, Tom Anderson, said at the Summer Press Tour that he equates Foxworthy's brand of humor with Jerry Seinfeld's.

"Seinfeld does what he does in New York," Anderson said. "And he kind of makes fun of people. And we like him because he's so nice. But Jeff really is kind of like the Seinfeld for the rest of the country." Thus, he said, the Midwest was chosen for the setting of the sitcom.

William Devane, "The Monroes," 1995

William Devane
Standard-Examiner staff

The Monroe family of Maryland in ABC's "The Monroes," one of three new dramas the network is throwing against NBC's mega-successful Thursday night lineup, sure seems like it's been patterned after the Kennedy clan of Massachusetts. (The show previews tonight at 8 on KTVX Channel 4, then moves to its regular 8 p.m. time slot on Thursday.)

Like the real-life Kennedys, the fictional Monroe family is overflowing with politicians and power brokers. But don't point that out to William Devane. The actor and nominal star of "The Monroes" played John F. Kennedy 21 years ago in "The Missiles of October." And still, two decades later, the role remains closely linked to the former "Knots Landing" actor. So much so that when someone mentions that he's played a Kennedy, his mood seems to darken.

"I'm not the politician in this one," a cranky Devane told assembled TV critics at the Summer Press Tour in Pasadena, Calif. "I'm the gangster, you know. So I would think he's more like Joe Kennedy, you know, than John Kennedy or anyone like that."

"The Late Show with David Letterman," 1995


PASADENA, Calif. -- Robert Morton, producer of "The Late Show with David Letterman," was standing on the Ritz-Carlton hotel's lawn in the setting sun, wearing shades and a very expensive sport jacket over a black T-shirt, fielding questions from a gaggle of journalists. And what he was saying was odd.

It's a good thing, Morton said, that Jay Leno got "The Tonight Show" job and David Letterman didn't.

Really? Even given that Letterman was clearly the retiring Johnny Carson's choice, and that he fled the network (NBC) where he had become a star to start anew at another network (CBS)?

"I absolutely think it worked out for the best," Morton explained, "because I think Letterman, in having such respect for Johnny Carson, would never have toyed with the format of 'The Tonight Show.' "

Morton was saying, in essence, that Letterman may well have bellyflopped just like Leno did during the first year or two, looking uncomfortable in Johnny's old digs, trying unsuccessfully to be Johnny Carson II: The Sequel.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Katt Shea, June 1992

I interviewed B-movie writer-director and actress Katt Shea in a hotel room during the 1992 Sundance Film Festival.

Standard-Examiner staff

PARK CITY - Katt Shea opens the door to her hotel room, just far enough to reveal her head.

"Hi," she says, smiling. "Wait just a minute, while I put on my pants."

Once clothed, she ushers her guest inside, sits cross-legged on one of the two beds, petting a rather large canine she insists is a puppy, and chats about her new film, "Poison Ivy." Shea directed and co-wrote the $3 million psychological thriller with her husband, Andy Ruben. It stars Drew Barrymore, Sara Gilbert ("Roseanne"), Cheryl Ladd and Tom Skerritt, and deals with a scheming teenager (Barrymore) who hastens the demise of a dysfunctional Los Angeles family.

After a Sundance Film Festival screening the night before, which was in January, Shea and Ruben took to the front of the auditorium and fielded questions: Does the film constitute male-bashing? Why is the poor girl depicted as the evil character? Is the sex between the older man and the under-aged teen proper? Is the film politically correct?

"Outtakes" movie column, Crispin Glover, June 1992

Glover in "Rubin and Ed"
For a few years in the early 1990s, I did movie reviews twice a week at Salt Lake City radio station KALL 910, one of the last of the full-service format AM stations. Most of that time I was on the air with midday host Peter Boam ("Peter B" on the air, great guy off the air), but remained after Peter was unable to renew his contract and spent some time with host Hans Petersen.


SALT LAKE CITY -- The news was both exciting and ominous: Crispin Glover would be joining me in the KALL radio studios for a live interview.

Exciting because Glover is one of those rare, genuinely original actors who delivers unexpected performances in films on a consistent basis -- Marty McFly's geeky dad in "Back to the Future," a teen speed freak covering up a murder in "River's Edge," Andy Warhol in "The Doors," a cockroach-obsessed wacko in "Wild at Heart," to name a few.

With Glover, you never know what you're going to get.

Which brings us to ominous: He has an unsettling reputation for giving interviews that turn ugly and stay that way. Glover frightened David Letterman sufficiently enough to get himself ejected from "Late Night with David Letterman" after nearly kicking the host's face (Glover returned, somewhat calmer, a week later). He stuttered and giggled his way through the "Tonight Show" a time or two and has transformed the occasional radio interview, conducted by ignorant and unsuspecting hosts, into Painful Radio Listening.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

The films of Alfred Hitchcock, Oct. 28, 1994


Steven Spielberg, Alfred Hitchcock and Charles Chaplin form what is perhaps the cinema's most exclusive club: film directors who enjoy wide name recognition with the moviegoing public.

Spielberg -- the director of "E.T., The Extra-Terrestrial," "Jurassic Park," "Jaws" and "Raiders of the Lost Ark" -- is certainly the most famous director of the past two decades. Prior to that time, however, it had to be Alfred Hitchcock.

People went to see "'the new Hitchcock movie." It was the filmmaker's name, as much or more than his stars, that sold the movies. He was billed as the Master of Suspense and the Minister of Fear, and the titles were truth in advertising.

"Hints on how to enjoy the Sundance United States Film Festival," Jan. 12, 1990

One of the illustrations for this piece by Cal Grondahl

The people who run film festivals struggle with this question constantly: Is the festival for the general public or those in the business?

The suspicion on John Q. Public's part is that film festivals are for cineastes -- nose-in-the-air film buffs and glitter people. But that's not the case, at least in Utah. The 30,000 or so people who flock to the Sundance United States Film Festival in Park City every year are mostly regular folks looking for different film fare than that offered at their neighborhood malls.

So, in the interest of destroying the myth that film festivals are the exclusive domain of filmmakers, actors, producers, journalists and the rich, here's a thumbnail instruction manual on how to enjoy yourself at the Sundance United States Film Festival, which runs Jan. 19-28 in Park City.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Ken King, Oct. 27, 1995

Ken King is on the left
Standard-Examiner staff

Ken King is a cop who spends his vacations starring in movies. Or, at least he did this year.

King, a detective on the San Francisco Police Department, snagged himself a co-starring role in the film "Jade." But it was purely by accident. King had made an arrest on a computer fraud case and had phoned an assistant district attorney because he needed the prosecutor to come by his office -- in a hurry. The D.A. said he'd be over in a while, but he was "with some people."

An hour later, an anxious King called him back. King told him it was OK, bring the people along; he just needed him.

"And so he comes here with Billy Friedkin and David Caruso," King recalls during a phone interview from his squad room desk in San Francisco, referring to William Friedkin, director of "Jade" and the Oscar-winning "The French Connection," and former "NYPD Blue" star Caruso.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Stephen Furst, Dec. 16, 1988

"St. Elsewhere" cast, with Furst at center
Standard-Examiner staff

OGDEN -- Stephen Furst had just finished co-starring in "Animal House," and was talking with an agent about the possibility of working in commercials.

"The agent told me I was too fat," Furst said with a smile, "and that nobody would want an overweight spokesman for their products." He didn't believe the agent, and in the ensuing years has appeared in about 50 commercials.

Furst, who plays , Dr. Elliot Axelrod on the TV series "St. Elsewhere," spoke at Weber State College convocation lecture Thursday. But it wasn't really a speech or lecture in the traditional sense; it was more of a mix between stand-up comedy and question-and-answer session with the student audience.

"I'm not famous -- I hate that word 'famous'," he told the crowd as he paced back and forth across the stage. "The thing now is that people don't know my name. They're mistaking me for other people. They think I'm Oprah Winfrey."

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Jeffrey Boam interview, Oct. 12, 1990

Jeffrey Boam
Standard-Examiner staff

BURBANK. Calif. -- Mel Gibson and Danny Glover are standing in the corner, alongside Dennis Quaid. A set of still photos chronicling the demolition of a house in the movie "Lethal Weapon 2" is framed on the wall next to the actors, and bears the handwritten inscription: "Jeff, we did it. Next time, go easy. Love ya, Donner."

Jeffrey Boam sits in the opposite corner of the room, which happens to be his office, ignoring Mel, Danny and Dennis because they are made out of cardboard; the life-size figures are theater lobby advertisements for two of the movies he's written. And the set of framed stills is a gift from "Lethal Weapon 2" director Richard Donner.

You wouldn't be alone if you admjtted Jeffrey Boam's name doesn't ring a bell. But if you go to movies. you've probably seen it on the screen. Boam's job is done behind the camera, off the set, in an office at his home. It's where the 41-year-old screenwriter has penned such familiar movies as "The Dead Zone," "lnnerspace," "Funny Farm," "The Lost Boys," "Lethal Weapon 2" and "Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade."

"Outtakes" movie column, Feb. 23, 1990


A decade or so ago, a documentary titled "The Kids are Alright" debuted in theaters across America. I don't recall whether it earned a dime or if anyone besides me went to see it, but I'll never forget the feeling I had when I emerged from the theater afterward.

The film chronicled the history of The Who, a British rock band I quite liked. And the film -- for me, anyway -- was transcendent. Directed by a guy who had also been a fan for some 15 years, the movie was like a love letter. As a Rolling Stone magazine writer quipped at the time, and I'm paraphrasing here: "The Kids are Alright" will not only leave you feeling as if The Who did it best, but first. That's precisely how that movie made me feel.

But, frankly, I'm a sucker for rock 'n' roll documentaries -- or rockumentaries, if you prefer. When they're done well, they're a blast because they blend the two entertainments I love most: movies and rock 'n' roll.

So it was with great expectations that I rented "25 x 5: The Continuing Adventures of the Rolling Stones" last weekend. Essentially, "25 , x 5" is the product of what originally had been intended as a broadcast TV documentary to coincide with the Stones' "Steel Wheels" tour. And, like so many documentaries on The Rolling Stones, this film is a mixed bag. Great music and rare performance footage is undercut by wimpy interviews and an odd fascination with the financial history of the band.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

'Life of movie critic isn't always boffo,' Sept. 15, 1989

"The Critic"
"Outtakes" movie column


"You must enjoy the trash of so many movies you can't recognize wholesome entertainment when you see it. ... I don't place much value on your reviews."

That letter arrived after I panned a relentlessly bad film aimed at family audiences called "On Our Own." These kinds of letters come in the mail every so often. The other kind, the ones in which people say they appreciate what you write, pass my way about as often as Halley's comet. It comes with the territory, I suppose. When you write opinions in a business concerned primarily with facts, you're bound to take lumps.

Misconceptions abound concerning the business of journalism -- a broad enough word, I think, to cover movie criticism. No matter what, people will always believe reporters are biased, left-wing Commie sympathizers. They also assume we'll go for the sensational over the mundane at every opportunity.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Jim Sheridan, Feb. 23, 1990


It's the day before the Oscar nominations are to be announced, and director Jim Sheridan is on the phone from Dublin, Ireland, wondering aloud if his film, "My Left Foot," will get a nod or two.

"I think Daniel (Day-Lewis) will be nominated, certainly," Sheridan says in reference to the film's star. "And the film? Maybe, it has a chance." But Sheridan puts the likelihood of himself snapping up a nomination in either the writing or directing slot as "nil."

The next day, of course, "My Left Foot" received five major nominations: for Best Picture, Best Actor, Best Supporting Actress, Best Director and in the adapted-screenplay category. Not bad for a movie made by a guy who had never directed a film before.

Richard Rich, Nov. 19, 1994

Standard-Examiner staff

As you read this, it is, perhaps, one of the most critical weekends in Richard Rich's life.

The Ogden native and former Walt Disney Studios director is going head to head with his onetime employer today, and many in the industry are watching with great interest. Today, two animated motion pictures -- Rich's "The Swan Princess" and Disney's "The Lion King," duke it out for big bucks at the nation's box offices.

"The Swan Princess," Rich's first feature-length animated film since departing Disney in 1985 -- and the debut animated feature from his own company, Rich Animation Studios -- is hoping to stay in the game alongside Disney's well-oiled marketing machine and the re-release of "The Lion King." Already the top-earning animated film in history, Disney yanked "The Lion King" from theaters two months ago in the hopes that its November re-release would reap a new round of profits.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Kenneth Branagh, January 1996 (Sundance Film Festival)

Standard-Examiner staff

SALT LAKE CITY – For 10 days every January, Utah is off-Hollywood, catering to Dream Factory players, actors, agents and a clot of energetic, enthusiastic young filmmakers hoping the Sundance Film Festival will launch their embryonic showbiz careers.

They were swarming like hungry locusts Thursday night at Sundance's opening night premiere of "A Midwinter's Tale," the latest from writer-director Kenneth Branagh ("Henry V," "Much Ado About Nothing"). The festival commandeered the whole Crossroads Cinemas and much of the adjoining Marriott Hotel's ballr00ms to celebrate the festival's 11th year under the direction of Robert Redford's Prov0 Canyon-based Sundance Institute.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Don't prejudge 'Christ' movie, Aug. 12, 1988

The Cal Grondahl cartoon that ran alongside the editorial.
This is the first editorial I wrote for the Standard-Examiner. The editorial page editor at the time asked me to write it, since I was the paper's film critic.

Book-burners and self-appointed censors are fanning the fires of fear and ignorance again. This time they're out to get "The Last Temptation of Christ," a new movie that supposedly takes an unorthodox view of the life of Jesus Christ.

Based on the 1955 novel by Greek author Nikos Kazantzakis, the film -- which has not been made available for preview in Utah, where currently there aren’t plans for its release -- reportedly takes a fictional "what if?" view of Christ's life, portraying him as a human being subject to temptation, lust and anger. The movie opens today in select cities in the United States and Canada.

Burt Reynolds, March 1987 ("Heat" review)

Burt Reynolds in "Heat"
Standard·Examiner staff

Dear Burt Reynolds,

I feel compelled to write this letter because I've been a fan of yours for about 20 years. And the past 10 years, Burt, haven't been very pleasant. But I'm hanging in there, hoping for a respite from the drudgery you've been releasing. And I realize I'll be waiting a little longer, because your new film, "Heat," isn't exactly a redemptive effort.

Still, it's good to see you back in front of the cameras. You've been gone from the screen for two years, ever since "Stick" bombed in 1985. It may have been smart to duck and cover for a while. After all, you've made only two marginally good films -- "Paternity" and "Best Friends" -- since the fantastic "Starting Over" in 1979.

"Heat" is a move in the right direction, yet it, too, has serious flaws. The Nick Escalante character you play is an interesting man, an ex-mercenary who hires himself out as a bodyguard for high-rolling gamblers on the Las Vegas strip. You give Nick some depth and a few foibles, but William Goldman's script is abysmally boring and always predictable. Once Nick runs afoul of a mobster's son, we can see the final confrontation and ensuing shoot-out coming from a mile away.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

"Outtakes" movie column, Dec. 25, 1987

There's a new game in town called "Who's Tom Grunick?" It was inspired by "Broadcast News," the new James L. Brooks film about TV news operations' nasty habit of rewarding simpleminded people with news-anchor jobs.

Tom Grunick is the character played by William Hurt. And there are no two ways about it, Tom is a dim bulb. A former sports anchor (not a reporter, since Tom only reads the news, thank you), Grunick anchors the network news on weekends out of the Washington bureau: His hair is neat, he has a friendly smile, he has the ability to read news copy smoothly in front of millions of people. But most importantly, and most dangerously, Tom feigns emotion in front of the camera to add emotional impact. He is a man without ethics.

So what I've been trying to figure out since seeing "Broadcast News" last week is this: Who are the Tom Grunicks of the Wasatch Front? It's great fun to play the game, sitting in front of the idiot box and flipping back and forth between the three local news shows on KUTV, KTVX and KSL.

Britt Leach, Oct. 30, 1987

Britt Leach in "Baby Boom"
Standard-Examiner staff

For people who go to the movies and watch prime time television; the name Britt Leach probably won't ring any bells. But if you saw the man's face, you'd recognize him.

Leach makes his living as a character actor in Hollywood, and he's finally scored a good part in a film that may make his face and name more recognizable -- and bankable. The movie is "Baby Boom," and Leach plays second banana to no less than Diane Keaton and Sam Shepard. And he even gets to sing in the film.

"Charles (Shyer, the film's co-writer and director) called me at home and said, 'Do you sing?' And I said, 'Yeah, I sing -- in the shower, and around the house, and I have for 40 years,' " Leach said during a phone interview from the United Artists offices in Los Angeles Thursday.

"Gore Galore" ("Outtakes" movie column), Oct. 30, 1987

Photo illustration taken at the Cinedome Theater in Riverdale.
Time was when a horror movie opened, people lined up at the box office -- then went back again the next week for more. They just couldn't get enough.

It all began in the 1930s, really, with "Frankenstein" and "Dracula." And it's continued right up to today. The latest love affair with shockers was kicked off by "The Exorcist" in 1973, but began to die out in 1985 with "Friday the 13th Part V: A New Beginning."

After all, a discerning public will take only so much.

The numbers of horror films being produced may have declined, but the fact remains that people love them. Or, rather, people love to be frightened by them. Horror movies present an undeniable attraction: If it's a good one, you'll be terrified -- the ultimate movie-going experience.

It's one thing to be moved by a love story, challenged to think by a whodunnit, or stirred to cheers by a sports movie. But to be scared out of your seat -- well, that's where it's at, man. It doesn't get any better than that.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Nancy Allen, July 17, 1987

Nancy Allen in "Robocop"
Standard-Examiner staff

When movie actors -- even successful ones -- take two years off work, they can't usually be too picky with roles on their return. Often, they are relegated to playing supporting characters in offbeat pictures until word gets around that they're back in circulation.

Nancy Allen, who took a couple years off recently, isn't a very good example of that out-of-sight-out-of-mind syndrome. The star of such films as "Dressed to Kill" and "Blow Out" has made a career out of playing in quirky and, sometimes, downright goofy movies. Her latest -- "Robocop" -- is no exception. Many national critics are doing back flips in praise of the uproariously funny and exceedingly violent motion picture, in which Allen plays a tough street cop who comes to the aid of a half-man, half-robot cop with an identity crisis.

"I love this movie," Allen said during a telephone interview from Denver. "It turned out even beyond my expectations of it. When I first read the script, I thought, 'Oh, my God, I've never read or seen anything like this before.' For me, it was a real page-turner and I thought this could be a terrific picture."

Van Summerill, Oct. 2, 1987

Van Summerill, 1987
Standard-Examiner staff

Moviegoers can be divided into two groups: those who enjoy movies, and those who love movies. Then there's Van Summerill, whose regard for movies transcends even love. For him, it's a passion, an obsession.

Walk into the living room of Summerill's modest home, and the pictures on the walls give an early hint of this devotion. Hanging behind a love seat are movie posters and placards trumpeting various movie theaters like Radio City Music Hall. And if that isn't enough to tip you off, he's wearing a tan T-shirt with a blue Paramount Pictures logo stenciled on the front.

Still, even that isn't adequate preparation for what's downstairs. At the bottom of the stairs and to the right there's a concession stand, a restroom and more movie posters on the walls. And straight ahead, through a draped doorway, is a movie theater.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Richard Lester, Jan. 26, 1990

Richard Lester

PARK CITY - Richard Lester has been directing feature films since 1961, including "A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum," "Robin and Marian," "The Three Musketeers" and two "Superman" films. But it seems like the only movies people ever want to talk about are two he made in the mid-'60s starring The Beatles: "A Hard Day's Night" and "Help!"

So Lester has learned to be philosophical about having achieved his most popular success so early in his career.

"They were wonderful times," he explained to a group of filmmakers, actors, journalists and fans at the Sundance United States Film Festival last Saturday. "I had three years at the center of the universe. … It was a privilege."

Lester was in Park City for a birthday tribute, and a screening that evening of "A Hard Day's Night." His quick trip to Utah came in the middle of making another film that will document Paul McCartney's current world tour. It seems he just can't shake the Beatle connection.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Clint Eastwood, Jan 25, 1990


PARK CITY -- It was impossible not to notice Clint Eastwood when he entered the room. Sure, he's a head taller than most people and, obviously, his face is one of the most recognized on the plane. But that doesn't explain it. Not exactly.

There's just an indefinable something about him that won't permit otherwise rational people to let him pass unnoticed. But he wasn't at the Sundance United States Film Festival to talk about himself or to promote a new film. Rather, the topic of discussion -- for a scant 15 minutes, anyway -- was the man who gave Eastwood his star in the Hollywood firmament: the late Sergio Leone, who died last year after suffering a heart attack.

"It was an odd year for me, my life in '63," Eastwood recalled as he sat before an audience of journalists and other assorted gawkers in the Yarrow Hotel. "I had an offer to go to Rome and make an Italian-German-Spanish co-production with an Italian director whom no one had ever heard of."