Thursday, January 29, 2009

Everyone Is Stupid : Episode FIVE

Spray the Champagne! Episode FIVE of Everybody's Stupid has arrived! After the super-sized Holiday Spectacular, we took a brief hiatus to spend time with friends, family and ourselves. It was a much needed break, and we're already looking forward to the next one. Life is like that, ain't it?

As always, thanks for watching! So - sit back, relax, micro some popcorn [but for the love of all that's holy, if you're at the office: DON'T BURN IT!] pour yourself a Jarritos and enjoy EPISODE THREE of Everybody's Stupid!

Everything in Moderation...

[© MMIX MD TOTAL all rights reserved.]

Monday, January 26, 2009

Checks and Balances

We just got news today that SAG’s National Exec Director/Chief Negotiator, Doug Allen, has “stepped down” from his position. For those who don’t know, SAG is an acronym for the Screen Actors Guild – the union that represents actors in movies and television (including commercials). As an actor, I’ve been a member of unions since 1997, first with Actor’s Equity Association (the union for stage actors) then less than a year later I joined SAG. I only mention that to be fair and honest about whom I am in this debate.

The big debate lately is whether SAG should strike or not. As an actor, I agree with everything we’ve been asking for. There are so many new forms of media for which we are not being compensated fairly. And by new media I mean cable TV and home video. Well, that’s not exactly the focus of our efforts, but it is something we are still fighting for because actors, writers and directors have been getting screwed since cable and home video were still nascent. And now that the internet has been around for well over a decade we’re keen on awareness. Hell – Marlene Dietrich knew it before everybody else did. She put a clause in her contract to protect her payment for all media known and heretofore unknown, anywhere in the known universe. DAG. Now that’s what I’m talking about!

As a person with a brain, I also fully understand that this is not the time to strike. We all just barely survived the writer’s strike of 2007-2008, and this town cannot take another work stoppage. You see, when writers strike, producers can make the scripts that they’ve already purchased. But when actors strike, nobody works. Including catering, makeup, wardrobe, grips, cinematographers, gaffers, people who build sets, people who design sets, producers, writers and directors. EVERYONE. And most of these people are not getting rich to begin with – they’re struggling with how to keep their houses and pay all their bills as well.

When I realize that SAG was offered a similar contract to the one that writers and directors were offered [and took] a year ago – and that was during far better economic times – I have to put my foot down. No strike, not now. And if it comes down to the one person who was leading us in what I consider to be the wrong direction, then I’m okay with him being removed from that position. Hopefully he’ll find a place with a better fit because SAG is mostly not made up of movie stars, it’s made up of working actors.

He was not alone in his thinking - there were many boldfaced names who made it known that they supported the idea of a strike. Hell, even SAG president Alan Rosenberg was with him all the way. In fact he was quoted today as saying "This is the darkest day within my memory. It kills democracy at SAG."

WHAT? It kills democracy? Apparently Rosenberg has forgotten everything he learned in eighth grade Civics. This would be a good time to remind everyone that democracy in America is made up of three distinct branches: judicial, executive, and legislative. And this situation is an example of the judicial branch [the board members] taking steps to remove the executive branch [National Exec Director/Chief Negotiator] because it became clear he was no longer acting in everyone’s best interests. It’s tough to take, but it sounds exactly like democracy to me.

I’m an actor and even I know that.

[© MMIX MD TOTAL all rights reserved]

Thursday, January 22, 2009

It’s ON!

The past seven days have been a flurry of activity. It really was the best Black Weekend ever! Apparently, Black is the new black. But then again – black has always been the new black, now hasn’t it? The inauguration was easily the biggest event in the history of Washington D.C! I love how the president’s inaugural address immediately got down to business, but it also reminded me that he has been getting down to business since November Fourth! Now that Barack Obama is President Obama we can finally get to what’s really important.


That’s right, Oscar nominations came out today, and boy are they interesting. A lot of it is exactly what we expected [Slumdog Millionaire] and some were unexpected [Benji Buttons getting 13 nominations! Huzzah!] while others were completely omitted. The best thing about this year in movies is there were so many good movies that the omissions seem… tough to take.

What’s great about the Golden Globes is that they give a lot of room for different types of movies and performances. The fact that performances are separated into comedy/musical and dramatic areas is extremely kind. And that difference is what I notice the most on the day that the Oscar nominations are announced.

For example, the phenomenal Kate Winslet won two Golden Globes: supporting actress for The Reader, and Lead Actress for Revolutionary Road. Yet she was only nominated for one Oscar, for leading actress. For The Reader. Until this morning, Ms. Winslet was the front-runner for the leading actress Oscar for Revolutionary Road. Now that her nomination is for what she won a Globe in the supporting category – all bets are off. As much as I love, love, love Kate Winslet, I much prefer not having a clear idea in my mind of who will ultimately win the award. Things just got fun! Meryl Streep is never to be ignored in any category, even though she hasn’t won in a long time. Anne Hathaway has been talked about since the day Rachel Getting Married opened in theaters back in the fall. Angelina Jolie gives an AMAZING and subtle performance in Changeling. That movie did not do as well as it should have. I think people thought it was going to be a kidnap thriller, and it simply wasn’t - it was much better that that. Ms. Jolie’s work in that movie is impeccable. And in a year where she also appeared in Wanted, it just goes to show you what she can do. I’ll admit the girl could stand to eat a few more pork chops, but her acting chops are out of this world. Yeah, I said it!

Robert Downey, Jr. gets a nod for Tropic Thunder! That performance is at once crazy and classic. Five months later, my mouth is still agape.

No Cate Blanchett this year. Huh?

Mr. Heath Ledger scored the nomination he deserves! Christopher Nolan said it best when he accepted Ledger’s posthumous Golden Globe: We can all see the giant hole left in the future of cinema. I’m not going to lie to you - Brokeback was the first thing I saw him in that mattered to me. But I had no idea of what he was capable of until The Dark Knight.

No Clint Eastwood. At all?

I have to say that I was surprised about Colin Farrell winning the Globe for In Bruges only because that movie did not get the attention it deserved. That movie is good, it’s the little movie that could. Rent it, and you’ll understand. I have to admit, if it won the Oscar for original screenplay, I wouldn’t complain…

Revolutionary Road was left to Art Direction and costume design. What?

This is exactly what I mean – the omissions are glaring, but at the end of the day there are no more than five nominees in each category. It’s a good list, and should make for an interesting ceremony. Good luck to Hugh Jackman, a lot rests on his shoulders!

Congratulations to all the nominees!!! Have some champagne – you all deserve it. But don’t get too relaxed, now the real work begins.

[© MMIX MD TOTAL all rights reserved.]

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Now Let's Get to Work.

Text of President Barack Obama's inaugural address on Tuesday, as delivered.

OBAMA: My fellow citizens:

I stand here today humbled by the task before us, grateful for the trust you have bestowed, mindful of the sacrifices borne by our ancestors. I thank President Bush for his service to our nation, as well as the generosity and cooperation he has shown throughout this transition.

Forty-four Americans have now taken the presidential oath. The words have been spoken during rising tides of prosperity and the still waters of peace. Yet, every so often the oath is taken amidst gathering clouds and raging storms. At these moments, America has carried on not simply because of the skill or vision of those in high office, but because we the people have remained faithful to the ideals of our forebears, and true to our founding documents.

So it has been. So it must be with this generation of Americans.

That we are in the midst of crisis is now well understood. Our nation is at war, against a far-reaching network of violence and hatred. Our economy is badly weakened, a consequence of greed and irresponsibility on the part of some, but also our collective failure to make hard choices and prepare the nation for a new age. Homes have been lost; jobs shed; businesses shuttered. Our health care is too costly; our schools fail too many; and each day brings further evidence that the ways we use energy strengthen our adversaries and threaten our planet.

These are the indicators of crisis, subject to data and statistics. Less measurable but no less profound is a sapping of confidence across our land — a nagging fear that America's decline is inevitable, and that the next generation must lower its sights.

Today I say to you that the challenges we face are real. They are serious and they are many. They will not be met easily or in a short span of time. But know this, America — they will be met.

On this day, we gather because we have chosen hope over fear, unity of purpose over conflict and discord.

On this day, we come to proclaim an end to the petty grievances and false promises, the recriminations and worn out dogmas, that for far too long have strangled our politics.

We remain a young nation, but in the words of Scripture, the time has come to set aside childish things. The time has come to reaffirm our enduring spirit; to choose our better history; to carry forward that precious gift, that noble idea, passed on from generation to generation: the God-given promise that all are equal, all are free and all deserve a chance to pursue their full measure of happiness.

In reaffirming the greatness of our nation, we understand that greatness is never a given. It must be earned. Our journey has never been one of shortcuts or settling for less. It has not been the path for the faint-hearted — for those who prefer leisure over work, or seek only the pleasures of riches and fame. Rather, it has been the risk-takers, the doers, the makers of things — some celebrated but more often men and women obscure in their labor, who have carried us up the long, rugged path towards prosperity and freedom.

For us, they packed up their few worldly possessions and traveled across oceans in search of a new life.

For us, they toiled in sweatshops and settled the West; endured the lash of the whip and plowed the hard earth.

For us, they fought and died, in places like Concord and Gettysburg; Normandy and Khe Sahn.

Time and again these men and women struggled and sacrificed and worked till their hands were raw so that we might live a better life. They saw America as bigger than the sum of our individual ambitions; greater than all the differences of birth or wealth or faction.

This is the journey we continue today. We remain the most prosperous, powerful nation on Earth. Our workers are no less productive than when this crisis began. Our minds are no less inventive, our goods and services no less needed than they were last week or last month or last year. Our capacity remains undiminished. But our time of standing pat, of protecting narrow interests and putting off unpleasant decisions — that time has surely passed. Starting today, we must pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, and begin again the work of remaking America.

For everywhere we look, there is work to be done. The state of the economy calls for action, bold and swift, and we will act — not only to create new jobs, but to lay a new foundation for growth. We will build the roads and bridges, the electric grids and digital lines that feed our commerce and bind us together. We will restore science to its rightful place, and wield technology's wonders to raise health care's quality and lower its cost. We will harness the sun and the winds and the soil to fuel our cars and run our factories. And we will transform our schools and colleges and universities to meet the demands of a new age. All this we can do. All this we will do.

Now, there are some who question the scale of our ambitions — who suggest that our system cannot tolerate too many big plans. Their memories are short. For they have forgotten what this country has already done; what free men and women can achieve when imagination is joined to common purpose, and necessity to courage.

What the cynics fail to understand is that the ground has shifted beneath them — that the stale political arguments that have consumed us for so long no longer apply. The question we ask today is not whether our government is too big or too small, but whether it works — whether it helps families find jobs at a decent wage, care they can afford, a retirement that is dignified. Where the answer is yes, we intend to move forward. Where the answer is no, programs will end. Those of us who manage the public's dollars will be held to account — to spend wisely, reform bad habits, and do our business in the light of day — because only then can we restore the vital trust between a people and their government.

Nor is the question before us whether the market is a force for good or ill. Its power to generate wealth and expand freedom is unmatched, but this crisis has reminded us that without a watchful eye, the market can spin out of control — and that a nation cannot prosper long when it favors only the prosperous. The success of our economy has always depended not just on the size of our gross domestic product, but on the reach of our prosperity; on our ability to extend opportunity to every willing heart — not out of charity, but because it is the surest route to our common good.

As for our common defense, we reject as false the choice between our safety and our ideals. Our founding fathers ... our found fathers, faced with perils we can scarcely imagine, drafted a charter to assure the rule of law and the rights of man, a charter expanded by the blood of generations. Those ideals still light the world, and we will not give them up for expedience's sake. And so to all the other peoples and governments who are watching today, from the grandest capitals to the small village where my father was born: know that America is a friend of each nation and every man, woman, and child who seeks a future of peace and dignity, and that we are ready to lead once more.

Recall that earlier generations faced down fascism and communism not just with missiles and tanks, but with sturdy alliances and enduring convictions. They understood that our power alone cannot protect us, nor does it entitle us to do as we please. Instead, they knew that our power grows through its prudent use; our security emanates from the justness of our cause, the force of our example, the tempering qualities of humility and restraint.

We are the keepers of this legacy. Guided by these principles once more, we can meet those new threats that demand even greater effort — even greater cooperation and understanding between nations. We will begin to responsibly leave Iraq to its people, and forge a hard-earned peace in Afghanistan. With old friends and former foes, we will work tirelessly to lessen the nuclear threat, and roll back the specter of a warming planet. We will not apologize for our way of life, nor will we waver in its defense, and for those who seek to advance their aims by inducing terror and slaughtering innocents, we say to you now that our spirit is stronger and cannot be broken; you cannot outlast us, and we will defeat you.

For we know that our patchwork heritage is a strength, not a weakness. We are a nation of Christians and Muslims, Jews and Hindus — and non-believers. We are shaped by every language and culture, drawn from every end of this Earth; and because we have tasted the bitter swill of civil war and segregation, and emerged from that dark chapter stronger and more united, we cannot help but believe that the old hatreds shall someday pass; that the lines of tribe shall soon dissolve; that as the world grows smaller, our common humanity shall reveal itself; and that America must play its role in ushering in a new era of peace.

To the Muslim world, we seek a new way forward, based on mutual interest and mutual respect. To those leaders around the globe who seek to sow conflict, or blame their society's ills on the West — know that your people will judge you on what you can build, not what you destroy. To those who cling to power through corruption and deceit and the silencing of dissent, know that you are on the wrong side of history; but that we will extend a hand if you are willing to unclench your fist.

To the people of poor nations, we pledge to work alongside you to make your farms flourish and let clean waters flow; to nourish starved bodies and feed hungry minds. And to those nations like ours that enjoy relative plenty, we say we can no longer afford indifference to the suffering outside our borders; nor can we consume the world's resources without regard to effect. For the world has changed, and we must change with it.

As we consider the road that unfolds before us, we remember with humble gratitude those brave Americans who, at this very hour, patrol far-off deserts and distant mountains. They have something to tell us, just as the fallen heroes who lie in Arlington whisper through the ages. We honor them not only because they are guardians of our liberty, but because they embody the spirit of service; a willingness to find meaning in something greater than themselves. And yet, at this moment — a moment that will define a generation — it is precisely this spirit that must inhabit us all.

For as much as government can do and must do, it is ultimately the faith and determination of the American people upon which this nation relies. It is the kindness to take in a stranger when the levees break, the selflessness of workers who would rather cut their hours than see a friend lose their job which sees us through our darkest hours. It is the firefighter's courage to storm a stairway filled with smoke, but also a parent's willingness to nurture a child, that finally decides our fate.

Our challenges may be new. The instruments with which we meet them may be new. But those values upon which our success depends — hard work and honesty, courage and fair play, tolerance and curiosity, loyalty and patriotism — these things are old. These things are true. They have been the quiet force of progress throughout our history. What is demanded then is a return to these truths. What is required of us now is a new era of responsibility — a recognition, on the part of every American, that we have duties to ourselves, our nation, and the world, duties that we do not grudgingly accept but rather seize gladly, firm in the knowledge that there is nothing so satisfying to the spirit, so defining of our character, than giving our all to a difficult task.

This is the price and the promise of citizenship.

This is the source of our confidence — the knowledge that God calls on us to shape an uncertain destiny.

This is the meaning of our liberty and our creed — why men and women and children of every race and every faith can join in celebration across this magnificent Mall, and why a man whose father less than sixty years ago might not have been served at a local restaurant can now stand before you to take a most sacred oath.

So let us mark this day with remembrance, of who we are and how far we have traveled. In the year of America's birth, in the coldest of months, a small band of patriots huddled by dying campfires on the shores of an icy river. The capital was abandoned. The enemy was advancing. The snow was stained with blood. At a moment when the outcome of our revolution was most in doubt, the father of our nation ordered these words be read to the people:

"Let it be told to the future world ... that in the depth of winter, when nothing but hope and virtue could survive...that the city and the country, alarmed at one common danger, came forth to meet (it)."

America, in the face of our common dangers, in this winter of our hardship, let us remember these timeless words. With hope and virtue, let us brave once more the icy currents, and endure what storms may come. Let it be said by our children's children that when we were tested we refused to let this journey end, that we did not turn back nor did we falter; and with eyes fixed on the horizon and God's grace upon us, we carried forth that great gift of freedom and delivered it safely to future generations.

Thank you. God bless you. And God bless the United States of America.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Cruise Season!

As you were prowling what’s left of department stores’ after-holiday sales, you must have noticed that bikinis and board shorts were starting to appear on the racks nestled between the gloves and acrylic sweaters. Why are they there, you ask – surely this is not the beginning of summer! And you would be correct, in the coming weeks stores such as Barney’s, Bendel’s, Bloomingdale’s, Nordstrom and (gasp!) Macy’s will rollout all that’s adorable for spring, but in the gap between Holiday and Spring seasons is an intermittent one: Cruise Season. And let me tell you, it’s easily my favorite. Cruise Season is the five weeks after New Year’s when it’s fashionable to jet off to a resort. If it’s 5 degrees in NYC, then what’s better than a week in the Maldives? Or the Seychelles! Frégate Island, anyone? [Don’t spread that secret around, or it’ll get ruined.]

I find it rather fantastic that a certain class of designers makes a miniature collection of clothing specifically for this mini-season. An entire line of clothes just for vacation! What’s most fascinating is that clothes designed for Cruise Season simply do not work for summer. How is that even possible, they’re hot weather clothes??? The way these collections are designed is specific to the feel of being away during the winter! The colors, the patterns, but most of all it’s about the magic of being away after the holidays have already passed. That, my friends, is honest luxury. Some people go skiing at this time of year; some have a hankering for the beach, others need both. Guess which group I belong to?

For most, this is seemingly a glimpse into a completely different way of living. But that is exactly what makes Cruise Season so great - this is something full-grown adults can aspire to. Even if you’re just regarding advertisements in magazines depicting glossy and fabulous versions of life, that is far more important than mere daydreams. These aspirations, thoughts and desires have the ability to change something in you. Thoughts can spark more creative ways of thinking that can help you achieve goals you previously thought unattainable. That’s what thought can do - it doesn’t have to be a silly waste of time. And let’s be honest, in these troubled economic times, how else are we supposed to pull ourselves up from our bootstraps without more creativity? So go to Frégate Island, even if it’s only in your dreams! [Seriously, don’t tell everybody about our place – can’t we keep it special?] Just pay attention to the way these thoughts make you feel, who knows where that may take you...

Happy New Year. Get yours!

[© MMIX MD TOTAL all rights reserved.]