There was a time when Thursday night belonged to NBC. For a portion of the Eighties all four of the network's sitcoms that aired on the night (The Cosby Show, Family Ties, Cheers, and Night Court) ranked in the top ten shows for the year according to ACNielsen. In the Nineties NBC continued to dominate the night with such hits as Friends and Seinfeld. Sadly, the 21st Century has not been kind to NBC on Thursday nights. For much of the Naughts and the entirely of the Teens the network has regularly found itself beaten on the night it once owned.
Sadly for NBC, their losing streak on Thursday nights has continued this season. Their comedy scheduled at 8:30PM Eastern/7:30PM Central this fall, Welcome to the Family, was more or less dead on arrival. It did so poorly in the ratings that the network cancelled it after three episodes. Their shows at 9:00PM Eastern/8:00 PM Central and 9:30PM Eastern/8:30PM Central didn't do much better. Sean Saves the World and The Michael J. Fox Show both consistently did poorly in the ratings. Sean Saves the World was cancelled on 28 February 2014. Things aren't much better for The Michael J. Fox Show. In February NBC announced The Michael J. Fox Show would not return after the Winter Olympics and would not air again until April. What must make all of this even more depressing for NBC is that they faced weaker competition on CBS than they had in previous years. Both The Crazy Ones and Two and a Half Men have been drawing lower ratings than Person of Interest had in the same time slot.
Sadly for the Peacock Network, the failures of Welcome to the Family, Sean Saves the World, and The Michael J. Fox Show have been typical of their shows on Thursday night of late. Since 2009 only two shows on NBC's Thursday night line up have lasted more than two seasons: Community and Parks and Recreation. Indeed, the lifespan of some of NBC's Thursday night comedies can be numbered in mere weeks. During the 2010-2011 season Perfect Couples only lasted for eleven episodes (with two more made available on Hulu). Its replacement, The Paul Reiser Show, did even worse. It was cancelled after only two episodes. Other shows that NBC has aired on Thursday night have only done a little better. Outsourced lasted one season. Both Up All Night and Whitney lasted only a little over a season.
Of course, the question is "Why has NBC done so badly of late on a night they once dominated?" Part of the reason may be that since 2009 the network has consistently debuted weak shows on the night. Up All Night had a good cast (Christina Applegate, Will Arnett, and Maya Rudolph), but its scripts were consistently poorly written and extremely unfunny. Whitney had two strong leads (Whitney Cummings and Chris D'Elia), but its feeble supporting characters dragged the show down. The Paul Reiser Show amounted to little more than a very poorly done imitation of Curb Your Enthusiasm. Despite a good cast Perfect Couples simply wasn't funny. With shows that were not particularly funny and, in some cases, not even particularly original, it should be little wonder that NBC would do poorly in the ratings.
To make matters worse the past several years NBC has consistently treated its few strong shows on Thursday night as odd men out. In its third season NBC did not debut Parks and Recreation until mid-season. NBC did the same thing with Community in both its fourth and its current fifth seasons. Both Parks and Recreation and Community have consistently performed better than the new shows NBC has debuted in their wakes. They also have fiercely loyal followings who are guaranteed to watch them each week (indeed, there was an uproar when fans found out Community would begin its fourth season until mid-season). It is then curious that the network has at times scheduled them so strangely. One has to wonder if NBC would not do better on Thursday nights if they would only debut both shows at the start of the season in September.
Of course, Community and Parks and Recreation aren't the only strong shows that NBC has scheduled wrongly. Unlike many of the sitcoms that have aired on NBC on Thursday mights, The Michael J. Fox Show has a particularly strong cast (including Michael J. Fox and Wendell Pierce). It is also a very funny, well written show. Unfortunately, NBC decided to schedule it at 9:30PM Eastern/8:30PM Central following the much weaker Sean Saves the World. While Sean Saves the World was not necessarily a bad show (it was much better than either Up All Night or The Paul Reiser Show at any rate), it wasn't a particularly good show either. I have to suspect many viewers opted to watch The Crazy Ones on CBS instead and did not bother to switch the channel back to NBC to watch The Michael J. Fox Show. Had The Micahel J. Fox Show been scheduled at 9:00PM Eastern/8:00PM Central, it might have done much better in the ratings.
In the end the path NBC should take with its Thursday night comedies seems fairly clear to me. The network has already renewed Parks and Recreation. They should also renew Community and The Michael J. Fox Show. What is more they should also debut all three shows in September for the 2014-2015 season. As to the fourth, new sitcom they air on Thursday nights in the 2014-2015 season, they should make sure that it not only has a strong cast, but that it also has strong scripts. It takes more than actors to make a successful sitcom. It takes good writing as well. Now I can't say that NBC will once more dominate Thursday nights with that line up. In fact, I suspect they could still well lose the night to CBS and at least part of it to ABC. That having been said, I think NBC would do better than they have the past few years.
Watching the Oscar ceremony is a bit of a tradition for me. I watched it as a child with my parents when I was growing up. When I got older I watched it with my late best friend or, if we could not watch it together, my best friend and I would talk about the ceremony on the phone afterwards. Even though I didn't see any of the nominated films this year, I then watched the 86th Academy Awards ceremony as I always do.
Of course, not having seen any of the nominated films this year I really do not have an opinion on who won or who should have won. And from the buzz I heard from various web sites, news outlets, and my fellow film buffs I cannot say that there were very many surprises with regards to the Oscars. In fact, I can only think of one. Given all the talk about 12 Years a Slave, I fully expected Steve McQueen to walk away with the Oscar for Best Director. I was then a bit surprised to see Alfonso Cuarón win.
While I did not see any of the nominated films this year (the economy has forced me to cut back on how many times I visit the cinema), I did hear all but one of the songs nominated for Best Original Song. I was hoping that either "Ordinary Love" by U2 (from Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom) or "The Moon Song" by Karen O (from Her) would win. I was hoping that "Happy" by Pharrell Williams would not (in fact, I cannot understand how it was even nominated--I find the song incredibly annoying). As it turned out the one song I had not yet heard, "Let It Go" from Frozen, took the award. Having heard "Let It Go" for the first time last night, I have to say I was disappointed that neither "Ordinary Love" or "The Moon Song" won. "Let It Go" is not a bad song per se, but it seems terribly repetitive and not particularly original to me. In fact, I would class it with a number of other songs under the heading Generic Song from a Disney Animated Feature.
Of course, while I do not have an opinion on the various winners, I do have an opinion on the ceremony itself. Over all I thought the 86th Academy Awards ceremony was more entertaining than most. It was good to see Ellen DeGeneres back, and I thought she did a good job over all. Both the first time she hosted and this time Miss DeGeneres impressed me as something like the average person would be at the Oscars--a little bowled over by the stars and the spectacle of it all. At the same time, however, she seems very comfortable with the Hollywood elite to the point that she can joke around with them comfortably. Indeed, I think Ellen DeGeneres' selfie with everyone from Jennifer Lawrence to Brad Pitt was a stroke of genius. Not only was it very funny, but it strikes me as the sort of thing an average person would want to do in a room full of stars. As to the selfie itself, it became the most retweeted selfie of all time, with 871,000 in its first hour alone. Eventually Ellen's selfie even broke the Twitter website (although Twitter was still accessible from such clients as HootSutie and Tweetbot).
Over all I only have two criticisms with regards to Ellen DeGeners' hosting. The first is that I thought her joke about Liza Minnelli's expense was in poor taste. That having been said, Miss Minnelli's half-sister Lorna Luft seemed to think it was funny and Miss Minnelli herself seemed to take it all in stride. The second is that while Ellen DeGeneres was funny as usual, at times it did seem that she lacked focus. Of course, this is a criticism that could be directed at the vast majority of Oscar hosts over the past twenty years.
While I thought that over all Ellen DeGeneres did a good job as the host of the Oscars, I was a bit disappointed in the clips they showed this year. The theme of last night's ceremony was heroes, so the clips shown centred upon that. Sadly, as has been the case the past many years, it seemed as if most of the clips were from recent films rather than the classics. The only older films to appear in the clip for "animated heroes" were all from Disney. As strange as it sounds, they did not show even one clip from a Warner Brothers cartoon, despite the fact that Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, and the other Warner characters are probably still the most famous animated characters in the world. The clips for live-action heroes showed a similar bias. In fact, the only black and white films featured in the clips for live action heroes were from Casablanca and It's a Wonderful Life. I think I can speak for classic film buffs and film fans in general when I say that it would be nice if they featured more, older films in the clips than newer ones. Let's face it, The Prisoner of Zenda (1937) is much more deserving of a clip in the Oscars than any one of the "Transformers" movies!
I do have to say that I thought the tribute to The Wizard of Oz was fairly well done. I thought Pink did a fantastic rendition of "Over the Rainbow", far better than most I have heard. I also enjoyed the clips that they selected for the tribute. That having been said, I did have two problems with the tribute. The first is that since Judy Garland's children (Liza Minnelli, Lorna Luft, and Joseph Luft) were all there, it would have been nice if they had introduced the segment. The second is I don't quite understand why The Wizard of Oz was singled out and other films from 1939 were not honoured with tributes as well. Let's face it, 1939 is widely regarded as the greatest year for film ever, so that this year is also the 75th anniversary of Gone with the Wind, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, Gunga Din, The Women, and many other great films. While The Wizard of Oz may be the most popular film from 1939 (along with Gone with the Wind, of course) it was hardly the only great film released in 1939.
For the most part I thought the In Memoriam segment was much better handled than it has been the past several years. It was certainly much more inclusive than any in the past few years, especially last year when Andy Griffith, Larry Hagman Jack Klugman, and Ann Rutherford, among many others, were all left out of the segment. Last night's In Memoriam even included Tom Laughlin and Jim Kelly, actors whose careers were primarily in B movies. Sadly there were still some notable omissions, including Tom Clancy, Dennis Farina, Jean Stapleton, Audrey Totter, and Jonathan Winters. Beyond the omissions I did have two problems with this year's In Memoriam segment. The first is that they only listed one credit per individual. Would it have really hurt the Academy to have listed three or four for each person? The second is "Did we have to be subjected to "Wind Benath My Wings" sung by Bette Midler after the In Memoriam segment?" Don't get me wrong, I like Bette Midler, but I have always disliked the song "Wind Beneath My Wings". Indeed, if one listens to the lyrics it would appear to be a very ill fitting song for an In Memoriam segment! Next year I think the Academy should do the In Memoriam segment as they did this year, but include more credits per person, more of those who have died, and absolutely no song.
One segment I would like to see returned to the Oscars ceremony that was conspicuously absent is the handing out of honorary Oscars. Last night we only got to see clips of Dame Angela Lansbury, Steve Martin, and Piero Tosi accepting their awards, which are now given out separately from the Academy Awards ceremony itself. Personally, the awarding of honorary Oscars was always the thing to which I looked forward to the most and I have missed it ever since they stopped giving them out at the ceremony. I hope next year they will return the custom of handing out honorary Oscars to the ceremony. If they want to save time, they can always cut out a song or some of the clips.
Over all I do think the 86th Academy Awards had better presenters than usual. I thought Kevin Spacey was particularly funny when he introduced the honorary Oscars winners. I also thought Jim Carrey was funny when he introduced the clips of animated heroes--Mr. Carrey does a very good imitation of Bruce Dern! Of course, what I liked best about the presenters on last night's Oscars is that the Academy actually included older stars for a change, some of which can quite rightfully be considered Film Royalty. Sally Field, Goldie Hawn, and Bill Murray numbered among the presenters, as well as movie legends Kim Novak and Sir Sidney Poitier. Indeed, Sir Sidney Poitier may have been the best presenter of the night. He was as one would expect Mr. Poitier to be: dignified, elegant, charming, and commanding.
Of course, this brings me to a situation that absolutely disgusted me last night. No sooner had Kim Novak taken to the stage did Twitter light up with tweets insulting the legendary actress because of the way her face looked. Fortunately, there were also many (perhaps more, for all I know) individuals who jumped to Miss Novak's defence. The plain fact is that Kim Novak is 81 years old and has not had a particularly easy life. Her career as an actress was not particularly enjoyable or easy. She suffers from bipolar disorder and has battled breast cancer. She also had a horse riding accident a few years ago. Even if Miss Novak's life had been easier than it has been, it would be unfair to expect her to look as she did in Bell, Book, and Candle, Boys' Night Out, or Vertigo. I might point out that other legendary beauties of Kim Novak's era, such as Brigitte Bardot and Sophia Loren, also look far different now than they did at the height of their stardom. I think the loathsome tweets directed at Kim Novak said much more about those making the tweets than they did about Miss Novak herself. Sadly, there are many out there who do not want to accept that women age as they get older. Of course, as I said earlier, there were many (perhaps more) tweets in her defence, a fact of which I am proud. Indeed, Farrah Nehme wrote a blog post on the subject at her blog Self-Styled Siren.
Getting back to the subject at hand, the Oscars are an awards ceremony so, quite naturally, there are acceptance speeches. And I must admit that I was impressed by a few. By far my favourite acceptance speech came from legendary singer Darlene Love, one of the subjects of the Best Documentary Feature winner 20 Feet from Stardom. Darlene Love did something I don't think I've ever seen at an Oscars ceremony before--she belted out a song as part of the acceptance speech. It is to be noted that she was not cut off, despite the tendency of the Oscars producers to cut off any documentary winner who runs too long! I also loved Jared Leto's acceptance speech for Best Supporting Actor as well, as he was one of the few actors who not only thanked his mother and brother, but one of the few to actually bring them to the ceremony His speech was eloquent and touching. I also loved Lupita Nyong'o's speech for Best Supporting Actress. She was charming and gracious in a way that only a few stars can be.
Over all I have to say that I am happy with last night's Oscars and if I were the producers I would only change a few things next year. First, I would make the awarding of honorary Oscars back to the ceremony. Second, I would try to include more people in the In Memoriam segment and eliminate any kind of song in proximity to it. Third, I would include clips from older films in the various clips shown. With the proper host I think that could well make for my ideal Oscars ceremony.
There are perhaps only a few subjects that classic film buffs enjoy debating more than the Oscars. We can spend hours debating which films should not have won Best Picture, which directors and actors were snubbed, and so on. When it comes to the Academy Awards, often it seems classic film buffs tend to focus on those times when the Academy "got it wrong". Indeed, last night I started thinking about the lead actor and actress categories and instances in which the most deserving actor either was not nominated or did not win. I narrowed this down to what I think could be the some of the gravest "miscarriages of justice" with regards to the Best Actor and Best Actress categories on the part of the Academy. These are three instances in which an actress lost an Oscar for what was the greatest performance of her career, an actress was nominated for entirely for the wrong role one year, and an actor who was not nominated for his best known role.
Of course, the instance that came to my mind in which an actress did not receive an Oscar for what was her greatest role is also one of the most notorious cases of what many consider the best performance of the year losing an Academy Award. As all classic film buffs know, at the 27th Academy Awards Judy Garland, who had been nominated for her role as Vicki Lester in A Star is Born (1954), lost the award for Best Actress in a Leading Role to Grace Kelly in The Country Girl (1954). Even then there was a good deal of controversy over Grace Kelly's win, with many maintaining that it was Judy Garland who truly deserved the award. Indeed, no less than Groucho Marx would call Judy Garland's loss of the Academy Award for Best Actress, "the biggest robbery since Brink's."
Reportedly the vote for Best Actress was very close that year. According to Hedda Hopper at the time it was the closest Oscar vote to not end in a tie, with only six votes separating Miss Garfield and Miss Kelly. As surprising as Judy Garland losing the Oscar for Best Actress is, it is perhaps even more surprising that A Star is Born won no Oscars, even though it was nominated for six awards (including Best Actor in a Leading Role for James Mason; Best Art Direction-Set Decoration, Colour; Best Costume Design, Colour; Best Music, Original Song for "The Man That Got Away"; and Best Music, Scoring of a Musical Picture).
Today for many, perhaps most classic film fans, it seems incredible that Judy Garland lost the Oscar for Best Actress in a Leading Role for her part in A Star is Born. While it is not Miss Garland's most famous role (that would be Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz), I rather suspect that the vast majority of film buffs consider Judy Garland's performance as Vicki Lester in A Star is Born as the greatest performance of her career. Indeed, I rather suspect some might well regard it as one of the greatest performances of all time. It is then difficult to understand how she lost the Oscar to Grace Kelly.
It seems likely that much of it might have had to do with the performance of A Star is Born at the box office. At the time A Star is Born was one of the costliest films ever made, its budget winding up over $5 million. Unfortunately, it only made $6,100,000 at the box office, hardly enough to pay for itself. The perception of A Star is Born as a box office failure may have had an impact upon Judy Garland's chances at winning the Best Actress award. At the same time it seems possible that Grace Kelly was not actually receiving the Oscar for her performance in The Country Girl, but for her performance in Rear Window from the prior year. Giving what some consider the best performance of her career in Rear Window, Grace Kelly was not even nominated for an Oscar for the film. It then seems possible that part of the reason Judy Garland lost the Oscar for Best Actress at the 27th Academy Awards was because the Academy felt guilty that Grace Kelly had not even been nominated for Rear Window!
At least Judy Garland was nominated for Best Actress in a Leading Role for her role in A Star is Born. In another instance an actress was nominated for Best Actress, but for entirely the wrong film. Ask anyone to name one of Ingrid Bergman's roles and odds are very good that they will name Ilsa Lund in Casablanca (1942). It is definitely her most famous role and I suspect even many classic film buffs would consider it one of her best performances. Indeed, there are many who believe Casablanca to be one of the greatest films of all time. It won the Oscars for Best Picture; Best Director, and Best Writing, Screenplay for the year 1943. It also received nominations in for Best Actor in a Leading Role for Humphrey Bogart and Best Actor in a Supporting Role for Claude Rains. Despite this, Ingrid Bergman would not receive a nomination for Best Actress in a Leading Role for Casablanca.
Of course, that did not mean that Ingrid Bergman was not nominated for an Oscar for Best Actress. She was nominated for an Academy Award that year, but for her role as Maria in For Whom the Bell Tolls (1943) instead. I am sure that I am not alone when I say that it seems preposterous that Ingrid Bergman was nominated for For Whom the Bell Tolls instead Casablanca. Indeed, it is not simply a case that Ilsa Lund in Casablanca is Miss Bergman's best known role, as identified with her as Scarlett O'Hara is with Vivien Leigh or the second Mrs. de Winter is with Joan Fontaine. It is more a case that Ingrid Bergman gave a truly fine performance in Casablanca while she gave what may have been one of the worst performances of her career in For Whom the Bell Tolls. Not only did Ingrid Bergman play the role of Maria in Whom the Bell Tolls much too broadly, she also endows the part with no depth or personality. While Ilsa Lund in Casablanca seems like a real, living, breathing woman, Maria seems more like an automaton. Worse yet, Ingrid Bergman was horribly miscast in For Whom the Bell Tolls. Maria is supposed to be a Spanish refugee, yet in the role Miss Bergman seems unmistakeably, inarguably Swedish.
I think most classic film buffs would agree with me that Ilsa Lund is not the greatest role of Ingrid Bergman's career. I also think most classic film buffs would agree with me that it wasn't even the best performance of the year (that would be Joan Fontaine in The Constant Nymph for me), but I think most classic film fans would also agree with me that her performance in Casablanca is far better than her one in For Whom the Bell Tolls. I also think that most classic film buffs would agree with me that Ingrid Bergman deserved a nomination for her role in Casablanca.
Given this, it is hard to explain why Ingrid Bergman was nominated for For Whom the Bell Tolls instead of Casablanca. I have to suspect part of it might have been a bit of snobbery on the part of the Academy. For Whom the Bell Tolls was based on the novel of the same name by Ernest Hemingway, who was already a highly regarded novelist. It might have also been due to the fact that For Whom the Bell Tolls simply made more money than Casablanca. Indeed, For Whom the Bell Tolls was the highest grossing film for the year. Regardless For Whom the Bell Tolls was nominated for nine Oscars, one more than Casablanca. In the end, however, it only won one Oscar, for Best Supporting Actress for Katina Paxinou. Sadly, it would seem Ingrid Bergman would have had a better chance at winning the Oscar for Best Leading Actress had she been nominated for Casablanca instead!
Of course, at least Ingrid Bergman was nominated for an Oscar for a performance in 1943, even if it wasn't for the one she should have been. Alongside Mr. Thackeray in To Sir With Love (1967), Sir Sidney Poitier's most famous role may well be that of Detective Virgil Tibbs in In the Heat of the Night. In fact, Sir Sidney Poitier was so successful in the role that he played Virgil Tibbs in two more films, They Call Me MISTER Tibbs! (1970) and The Organisation (1971). There can be no doubt that Mr. Poitier's portrayal of Virgil Tibbs in In the Heat of the Night was responsible for much of the film's success. Indeed, In the Heat of the Night was nominated for seven Oscars. It won five, including the Best Actor in a Leading Role Oscar for Rod Steiger as Police Chief Bill Gillespie. Amazingly, among those nominations there was not one for Sir Sidney Poitier as Detective Virgil Tibbs.
The lack of a nomination for Sir Sidney Poitier as Virgil Tibbs that year seems especially curious given Mr. Poitier had previously been nominated for Best Actor in a Leading Role for The Defiant Ones (1959) and wonthe Oscar for Best Actor in a Leading Role for Lilies of the Field (1963). Indeed, his win for Lilies of the Field made him the first African American to win the Best Actor award. Given his previous nominations it would have seemed that Sir Sidney Poitier would have been a sure bet to be nominated for In the Heat of the Night. Sadly, it appears he was not.
It is difficult to say why Sir Sidney Poitier was not nominated for In the Heat of the Night. I very seriously doubt it was because it was one of those rare films with two lead actors. The Academy could have easily have nominated both Rod Steiger and Sir Sidney Poitier. Indeed, it must be pointed out that The Defiant Ones also featured two lead actors and both (Sir Sidney Poitier and Tony Curtis) were nominated for the award for Best Actor in a Leading Role. Instead it seems quite possible that Sir Sidney Poitier may have lost out on an Oscar nomination for In the Heat of the Night simply due to his own success. If ever there was a year for Mr. Poitier, it was 1967. Not only did the year see the release of In the Heat of the Night, but To Sir with Love (1967) and Guess Who's Coming to Dinner (1967) as well. It seems possible that any votes for Mr. Poitier in the category of Best Actor in a Leading Role might have been divided between In the Heat of the Night and To Sir with Love. In other words, Sir Sidney Poitier lost out on a nomination for Best Actor in a Leading Role simply because he was too good.
While I don't think anyone can complain that Rod Steiger won the Academy Award for Best Actor for his role as Chief Gillespie (he was amazing in the role), it seems to me that Sir Sidney Poitier should have been nominated in the category as well. In fact, I would go so far as to say that year the Best Actor category should have ended in a tie, with both Rod Steiger and Sir Sidney Poitier receiving the award. It is impossible for me to say whose performance is better and, in fact, I would say that the two roles play off each other so much that one really can't have one without the other. Of course, here I must point out that for the year 1967 Sir Sidney Poitier was not the only actor to lose out on an Oscar for what would be his signature role. Nominated for her role as Mrs. Robinson in The Graduate (1967), Anne Bancroft lost the Oscar for Best Actress to Katharine Hepburn in Guess Who's Coming to Dinner...
Of course, Anne Bancroft's loss to Katharine Hepburn points to the fact that there are many more instances in which actors lost Oscars for what was their quintessential roles. While the the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences often awards those actors most of us would agree are most deserving, they also often fail to award those most of us agree who are most deserving. While in theory a truly great performance should be considered with regards to the acting awards, it is a sad fact that other factors can come into play as well. And it is when other factors come into play that situations such as Judy Garland losing the Oscar for A Star is Born occur.
I have always had a bit of a love/hate relationship with Klout. On the one hand I am not sure that influence on the web can truly be quantified. Even if I accepted that it could be, over the years I have come to doubt the accuracy of Klout scores (there are people I consider influential on the web who have rather low Klout scores). On the other hand, Klout can be useful insofar as one can view his or her posts from several social media sites across the web in one place, which can be helpful in determining those subjects in which one's followers are most interested. I must also admit that I have received several nice Perks through Klout.
Given my conflicting feelings about Klout, it is then perhaps natural that I had my doubts when I heard that Klout was moving into the arena of recommending content for one to share on his or her social media sites. Now when one logs into his or her Klout account, the first thing he or she will see is a stream of news stories relevant to those topics in which one is an expert. For instance, if one is an expert in classic film, then he or she will see articles relevant to classic film in his or her stream. With regards to these various articles, Klout will let one know if it is "Hot Off the Press" (that is, published very recently), a "Hidden Gem" (an article that there is only a small chance one's followers have seen it), or "On the Rise" (an article that is trending higher than normal). Klout also allows the user to mark articles as "Show me less content like this" or "Show me more content like this", thus letting Klout know what sort of articles one finds most appealing.
While I had my doubts that Klout could provide interesting content, I have to admit that I have found quite a few interesting stories in the content stream on my account. I also have to say that I rather doubt that I would have run onto some of these articles on my own. What is more, I have to confess that knowing if an article is "Hot Off the Press", a "Hidden Gem", or "On the Rise" has proven useful. Indeed, articles that are "Hot Off the Press" or a "Hidden Gem" actually seem to do better than those that are supposedly "On the Rise" (which generally don't do was well at all). Now I have to point out that the content I find on Klout does not perform as well as content I create myself or content I find on my own, but it does prove useful as, for lack of better term, "filler material".
Of course, there are some problems with Klout's content sharing service. One is determining the relevance of any given article to a topic. For instance in my stream tonight there was an article on video apps that Klout claimed was relevant to the topic of "Cats", despite the fact that felines were mentioned nowhere in the article. Tonight Klout also claimed that an article on President Obama wanting to raise the minimum wage was somehow relevant to "The Beatles". These are not isolated cases. Indeed, it happens often enough that at any given time there will be quite a few articles that simply aren't to relevant to certain topics at any given time. I think Klout should really give users some means of alerting them that a particular article is not relevant to the topic to which they have assigned it.
Another problem with Klout's content sharing service is that even when an article is relevant to a particular topic, it might not be of interest to one's followers. One of my topics on Klout is "music". This is pretty much because I post a good deal about classic rock and rhythm and blues on Google+ and Twitter. Unfortunately, Klout often fills my stream with articles on rap What is more, most of these articles are from a specific web site devoted to the genre. Now I would think Klout could tell by my posts across the web that I am not interested in rap as I have never posted about it on any social media site. It would then be nice if Klout would give users a means of blocking content from specific websites. If we had this ability, then I could block that rap website and thus keep its articles from appearing in my stream.
In the end I have to say that, for now at least, it appears that Klout has been more successful in providing interesting content than it has been in determining one's influence on the Web. Of course, there are some rough edges As I mentioned earlier, Klout needs to improve how it determines the relevance of an article to any given topic. They also need to give users a way to block content from sites that consistently publish articles that simply aren't of interest to them. Over all, however, I have to say I am actually impressed by Klout's content sharing. Given I've never been impressed by Klout before, that is a first.
Director Gabriel Axel died on 9 February 2014 at the age of 95.
Gabriel Axel was born Gabriel Axel Moerch on 18 April 1918 in Aarhus, Denmark. Much of his childhood was spent in Paris, where his father operated a factory. Upon turning 18 he returned to Denmark to pursue a career as a furniture carpenter. He became interested in acting and studied the craft at the Danish Royal Theatre. He later joined Louis Javet's acting troupe in Paris, at which time he dropped his last name and simply became "Gabriel Axel". It was in 1951 that he began directing programmes for Denmark's public television broadcaster, Danmarks Radio. From 1951 to 1958 he directed several programmes for Danish television. He also continued acting, appearing in such films as Vi som går køkkenvejen (1953), Karen, Maren og Mette (1954), Bruden fra Dragstrup (1955), and Styrmand Karlsen (1958). The first feature film he directed was Altid ballade in 1955. In the Fifties Mr. Axel followed it with the films En kvinde er overflødig (1957), Guld og grønne skove (1958--English title The Girls are Willing), Helle for Helene (1959), and Flemming og Kvik (1960).
In the Sixties he directed the films Det tossede paradis (1962--in English, Crazy for Paradise), Oskar (1962), Vi har det jo dejligt (1963--English title We're Doing Alright), Tre piger i Paris (1963--English title Three Girls in Paris), Paradis retur (1964, in English Paradise ad Back), Den røde kappe (1967, English title Hagbard and Signe), Det kære legetøj (1968, English title Sex and the Law), and Amour (1970, English title The Ways of Women). He also continued to act, appearing in such films as Peters baby (1961), Han, Hun, Dirch og Dario (1962), En ven i bolignøden (1965), and Jeg - en marki (1967).
In the Seventies Gabriel Axel directed the films Med kærlig hilsen (1971), Die Auto-Nummer - Sex auf Rädern (1972), Familien Gyldenkål (1975--the English title The Goldcabbage Family), Familien Gyldenkål sprænger banken (1976, English title--The Goldcabbage Family Breaks the Bank), and Alt på et bræt (1977--English title Going for Broke). In the late Seventies and early Eighties he returned to directing television. As an actor he appeared in Med kærlig hilsen (1971) and Nu går den på Dagmar (1972).
It was in 1987 that his film Babettes gæstebud (English title, Babette's Feast) was released. The film was based on a story by Isak Dinesen (the pen name of Karen Blixen) and took Mr. Axel 14 years to complete. It received widespread acclaim, and won the Oscar for Best Foreign Film, the BAFTA Award for Best Film not in the English Language, the Cannes Film Festival Prize of the Ecumenical Jury - Special Mention, and many others. From the late Eighties to the Naughts he directed the films Christian (1989), Amled, prinsen af Jylland (1994--released in the States as Royal Deceit), and Leïla (2001).
Gabriel Axel was no small talent as a director. While many focus upon his masterpiece Babette's Feast, the fact is that he made a large array of various types of films. My personal favourites tend to be those based on Danish legends, such as Hagbard and Signe and Royal Deceit. Not only was he one of the few directors to ever develop films based on Danish legends, but the films themselves were very well done and fairly faithful to their source material. He also had a gift for comedy, as shown by the two "Gyldenkål" films. Although best known for Babette's Feast, his career consisted of so much more.
Bob Casale, guitarist for the band Devo, died on 17 February 2014 at the age of 61. The cause was heart failure.
Bob Casale was born on 14 July 1952 in Kent, Ohio. His older brother was Gerald Casale, who would found Devo with Bob Lewis and Mark Mothersbaugh. He was a medical radiation technologist when his brother recruited him into Devo. The band Devo had grown out of Gerald Casale and Bob Lewis' idea of de-volution (the idea of a species regressing towards a more primitive form), which they developed as a joke while at Kent State University in the late Sixties. Their idea of devolution took on a more serious tone following the 4 May 1970 Kent State shootings, in which unarmed college students were gunned down by the Ohio National Guard.
Devo began to take shape around 1973, with Bob Casale on guitar alongside Gerald Casale, Mark Mothersbaugh, Bob Lewis, and others. In 1976 they filmed the video In The Beginning Was The End: The Truth About De-Evolution, which featured two songs: "Secret Agent Man" (their cover of the Johnny Rivers song) and "Jocko Homo". It won a a prize at the Ann Arbor Film Festival in 1977. It was in 1977 that Devo released their first single, "Mongoloid", backed with "Jocko Homo". That same year would see the release of their first EP, Be Stiff. By this time Devo had come to the attention of such artists as David Bowie and Iggy Pop. As a result they were signed to Warner Bros. Records.
Devo's first long play album, Q: Are We Not Men? A: We Are Devo!, was released in July 1978. The album performed well, peaking at #78 on the Billboard albums chart and #12 on the UK albums chart. It was followed in Duty Now for the Future in 1979, did not do quite as well as Q: Are We Not Men? A: We Are Devo!. Fortunately their next album, Freedom of Choice (released in 1980), would prove to be their breakthrough. The album went to #22 on the Billboard albums chart and to #47 on the UK albums chart. The album also produced the singles "Girl U Want", which received a good deal of FM airplay, as well as "Whip It", which went all the way to #14 on the Billboard Hot 100.
As a result of the success of Freedom of Choice the early Eighties would see Devo at the peak of their popularity. Their follow up, New Traditionalists was released in 1981 and performed fairly well. While its singles did not crack the Billboard Hot 100, they did receive a good deal of FM airplay. Unfortunately, Devo's success would be short lived. Their next album, Oh, No! It's Devo (1982), sold more poorly than Freedom of Choice, and did not even chart in the UK. Their next album, Shout (1984), sold even more poorly despite their cover of Jimi Hendrix's "Are You Experienced" ("R U Experienced") receiving some airplay. Bob Casale served as the sound engineer on Shout and would continue to do so for the rest of Devo's albums.
As a result of the failure of Shout Warner Bros.dropped Devo from the label. Bob Casale began working as a sound engineer, serving in that capacity on the first solo album of Andy Summers of The Police in 1986. Devo eventually reformed and released the album Total Devo on Enigma Records in 1988. It was followed by Smooth Noodle Maps in 1990. Devo broke not long after the release of Smooth Noodle Maps in the wake of poor ticket sales for a European tour and dissension in the band.
In 1992 with the TV special Frosty Returns, Bob Casale started working a music engineer and music mixer for various films and TV shows. He worked on such films as Four Rooms (1995), Happy Gilmore (1996), Rushmore (1998), Drop Dead Gorgeous (1999), The Adventures of Rocky & Bullwinkle (2000), The Royal Tenenbaums (2001), Rugrats Go Wild (2003), Herbie Fully Loaded (2005), and Mama's Boy (2007).
In 1995 Devo regrouped. They appeared as part of the 1996 Lollapalooza tour and returned for the 1997 Lollapalooza tour. They recorded songs for various films. Bob Casale would be a part of his brother Gerald's solo project Jihad Jerry & the Evildoers and performed on the albums Army Girls Gone Wild (2005) and Mine Is Not a Holy War (2006). In 2010 Devo released their first studio album in years, Something for Everybody.
Bob Casale was with Devo for the entirety of it history, playing with the band from their earliest gigs to their final album. And while he stayed out of the spotlight centred upon his brother Gerald and band mate Mark Mothersbaugh, there can be little doubt he was central to the band's success. Bob Casale not only played guitar in the band, but also did much of the band's production. It was in part due to Bob Casale that Devo did not sound like any other band. Indeed, it seems likely that Bob Casale gone that Devo will not continue. Indeed, it seems inconceivable for there to be Devo without him.
Director, writer, and actor Harold Ramis died today at the age of 69. The cause was complications from autoimmune inflammatory vasculitis. He left behind a body of work that included Animal House, Ghostbusters, and Groundhog Day.
Harold Ramis was born on 21 November 1944 in Chicago. His parents, Ruth and Nathan Ramis, owned and operated Ace Food & Liquor Mart on Chicago's West Side. He graduated from Nicholas Senn High School in Chicago. He earned a Bachelor of Arts degree from Washington University in St. Louis. Following his graduation he worked for a time as a mental health orderly at Jewish Hospital in St. Louis. It was in Chicago that he first emerged as a freelance writer, contributing articles to the now defunct Chicago Daily News. He went onto edit and write the "party jokes" section of Playboy magazine. It was while he was with Playboy that he made his television debut, on the programme Playboy After Dark.
It was in 1969 that he became part of the legendary improvisational comedy troupe Second City. He would leave Second City for a time before returning in 1972. In 1973 Mr. Ramis would join John Belushi and Bill Murray (both Second City alumni) to work on the radio show The National Lampoon Hour. He also appeared in the stage revue The National Lampoon Show, which also featured John Belushi, Bill Murray, Christopher Guest, and Gilda Radner among others. During the Seventies he also participated in the video collective known as TVTV.
It was in 1976 that the television show spin off of Second City, SCTV, debuted. Harold Ramis served as both the head writer and a performer on SCTV. SCTV ran for three years and while SCTV would not see the lasting success of its contemporary, Saturday Night Live, it developed a cult following that has lasted to this day. Harold Ramis also wrote the TVTV specials TVTV Looks at the Academy Awards, The TVTV Show, and TVTV Goes to the Superbowl, all in 1976. It was in 1978 that he made what could be considered his breakthrough, as one of the writers on Animal House (with Douglas Kenney and Chris Miller). While Animal House received mixed reviews upon its release, it proved to be a hit at the box office. It has since then become regarded as one of the best comedies of its era.
Harold Ramis followed the success of Animal House with two more screenplays, Meatballs in 1979 (co-written by Len Blum, Daniel Goldberg, and Janis Allen) and Caddyshack in 1980 (co-written by Brian Doyle-Murray and Douglas Kenney). Caddyshack also marked Harold Ramis' directorial debut. Like Animal House before it, Caddyshack received mixed reviews upon its release but is more highly regarded now.
The Eighties would see Harold Ramis continue his success. He co-wrote Stripes (1981) with Len Blum and Daniel Goldberg, and starred in the film alongside Bill Murray. He also wrote episodes of the short lived SCTV Network as well as appearing in several episodes. He directed National Lampoon's Vacation (1983). What may have been his biggest success came in 1984. Ghostbusters was co-written by Harold Ramis and Dan Akroyd. It starred Bill Murray, Dan Akroyd, and Harold Ramis. The film would prove incredibly successful, becoming a franchise that would produce two separate animated cartoon series, video games, comic books, and a great deal of merchandise. Mr. Ramis reprised his role as Egon in its sequel, Ghostbusters II (1989). He also wrote (with Brian Doyle-Murray) and directed Club Paradise (1986). He wrote the film Armed and Dangerous (1986) with Brian Grazer, James Keach, and Peter Torokvei. Mr. Ramis appeared in the films Baby Boom (1987) and Stealing Home (1988).
In the Nineties Harold Ramis developed the story for the animated film Rover Dangerfield with Rodney Dangerfield. He also directed and wrote (with Danny Rubin) one of the most successful films of his career, Groundhog Day (1993). The film would not only be a success at the box office, but would have a lasting impact on pop culture, with the film often referenced with regards to recurring situations. He directed the films Stuart Saves His Family (1995), Multiplicity (1996), Analyse This (1999), and Bedazzled (2000). He co-wrote Analyse This with Peter Toland and Kenneth Lonergan. Bedazzled was based on the 1967 Peter Cook and Dudley Moore comedy of the same name. Mr. Ramis co-wrote the screenplay with Larry Gelbart and Peter Tolan. He appeared in the films Airheads (1994), Love Affair (1994), and As Good as It Gets (1997).
In the Naughts Mr. Ramis directed the films Analyse That (2002), The Ice Harvest (2005), and Year One (2009). He also directed episodes of The Office. He co-wrote Analyse That with Peter Steinfeld and Peter Tolan, and co-wrote Year One with Gene Stupnitsky and Lee Eisenberg. He appeared in the films Orange County (2002), I'm with Lucy (2002), The Last Kiss (2006), Knocked Up (2007), Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story (2007) and Year One.
While Harold Ramis had his share of misses, I honestly believe that he was one of the very few consistently funny, modern day comedy writers and directors. Indeed, he either wrote or directed (sometimes both) some of the most popular and highly regarded comedies of the past forty years. Animal House, Caddyshack, Stripes, Ghostbusters, and Groundhog Day are still watched today and audiences still find them as funny today as audiences did when they were first released.
Harold Ramis' success as a writer and director of comedies may have been due to the fact that he made comedies like no one else. In many respects Harold Ramis' films were like live-action, Warner Brothers cartoons, with the humour often tending towards being wild and even outré. At the same time, however, his comedies usually had a very cerebral element to them. This is true even of his earliest comedies, from Animal House to Stripes. They could be nearly anarchic and often even downright gross, but they were also much more intellectual than some of their contemporaries.His films either portrayed the struggle of individuals with authority (Delta House with Faber College, Winger and Ziskey with the U.S. Army) or individuals struggling with themselves (Groundhog Day and Analyse This), and sometime both (Caddyshack is an example of this). In some respects one could say the theme of Harold Ramis' oeuvre was self actualisation.
Beyond being a true talent in the field of comedy, it is also to be noted that Harold Ramis was recognised by many as simply being a nice guy. Everyone who worked with him always had kind words to say about Harold Ramis. Those lucky enough to meet him always described him as a sweet, funny, and unassuming man. Indeed, it is not every man who would leave the bright lights of Hollywood to return to his hometown of Chicago. It is perhaps not enough to say that Harold Ramis made what were some of the last few truly funny comedies in film history. He was also a true gentleman.
Mary Grace Canfield, who played Ralph Monroe on Green Acres, died on 15 February at the age of 89. The cause was lung cancer.
Mary Grace Canfield was born on 3 September 1924 in Rochester, New York. She had wanted to act ever since she was a child and studied acting under Jasper Deeter in Rose Valley, Pennsylvania. She made her debut on Broadway in 1947 in the play Galileo. In the Fifties she appeared on Broadway in the productions The Grey-Eyed People, The Frogs of Spring, and The Waltz of the Toreadors. She made her television debut in 1954 in an episode of Goodyear Playhouse. In the Fifties she made appearances on the TV shows The Best of Broadway, Robert Montgomery Presents, and Play of the Week. She made her film debut in an uncredited role in That Kind of Woman (1959) and played Angelica in Pollyanna (1960).
In the Sixties she had a recurring role on the short lived sitcom The Hathaways. It was in 1965 that she first appeared as Ralph Monroe on Green Acres. With her brother Alf (Sid Melton), Ralph was one of the Monroe Brothers, carpenters who were continuously working on Oliver Wendell Douglas' (Eddie Albert) farmhouse. Miss Canfield remained with the show for its entire run. During the Sixties she also appeared on the shows Thriller, Alfred Hitchcock Presents, Hazel, The Joey Bishop Show, The Eleventh Hour, The Andy Griffith Show, The Farmer's Daughter, Bewitched, and Adam-12. She appeared in the films The Interns (1962), Come Blow Your Horn (1963), and Don't Make Waves (1967). She appeared on Broadway in Beekman Place.
From the Seventies to the Nineties she appeared in such shows as The New Doctors; Love, American Style; General Hospital; The Love Boat; Tabitha; Cagney & Lacey; and Alice. She appeared in the television reunion film Return to Green Acres in 1990. She appeared in the films Half a House (1975), Something Wicked This Way Comes (1983), South of Reno (1988), and Young Goodman Brown (1993).
If Mary Grace Canfield appeared frequently on television in the Sixties and Seventies, it was perhaps because she was rather versatile as an actress. On Green Acres Ralph Monroe was strong willed and self assertive, constantly quarrelling with her brother Alf. In contrast, in a guest appearancein The Andy Griifth Show episode "A Date for Gomer" she played a shy, laid-back, socially awkward young woman who is the equally shy, laid-back, socially awkward Gomer Pyle's date. On Bewitched she appeared in four episodes as Abner Kravitz's slightly clueless, overly suspicious sister Harriet. Over the years she played a variety of characters, from housekeepers to nurses, and performed all of them well.