Saturday, June 19, 2010

Blake retires, but I'm the one who's officially old

This is how a hockey fan knows they're officially old: A guy you watched break into the league as a rookie with a huge future calls it a career.

Rob Blake retires after twenty years.

One of the most bone-headed moves ever made by the Kings in their long, bone-headed history was trading Blake in 2001 instead of just biting the bullet and paying him a superstar's salary.  He had earned it.  For some reason - and I've never understood this - a lot of Kings Nation turned on Blake after the Colorado trade.  Their perception was that he was greedy (he was a free agent at the end of the season and wanted the Kings to either discuss a big contract or let him try the FA market) and forced the trade.  It only added insult to injury that Blake and the Avalanche won the Cup that year, and the Avs then awarded Blake the payday the Kings hadn't wanted to give him. 

I've always felt the Kings handled that situation badly.  They did the same thing a few years ago during Blake's second stint with the Kings, reported failing to return calls about re-signing him until his agent, acting in Rob's best interest, pointed out that he needed to consider other offers while he had still had them.  The result was Blake signing with the San Jose Sharks, with whom he almost won another Cup this year.

Look at it this way: Blake and Luc Robitaille, two guys who should never have worn anything but a Kings jersey throughout their entire careers, both had to play elsewhere to win their Stanley Cups (Blake with Colorado and Lucky with Detroit).  In over forty years of existence the Kings have yet to win a championship, and in fact have only made it to in the finals once (with both Blake and Robitaille, as well as Wayne Gretzky, in the lineup), losing to Montreal in 1993.  I think that reflects more on the team's management over the years than it does about the players.

I was always a fan of Blake's.  Thanks for the memories, Rob, and enjoy your retirement!


Links and info:
Official L.A. Kings - Los Angeles Daily News - Blake career timeline from and - Puck Daddy pays tribute to Blake's physical style of play - Official San Jose Sharks - Blake retirement discussion at HF Boards (Kings fans)Blake retirement discussion at HF Boards (Sharks fans)

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

A car chase that was unusual even by Los Angeles standard

Via L.A. Observed: Relive one of the wildest days' in L.A. history.

Like so much about the O.J. Simpson/Nicole Brown Simpson/Ron Goldman case, it was a bizarro world moment, something you couldn't make up.

Like many Southern Californians I was at home (which at the time was an apartment in San Dimas) watching in shock as local news broadcast the spectacle that starred a fugitive celebrity and a speed limit abiding white Ford Bronco.

I wonder how the Simpson kids are doing these days.

Show airs tonight on ESPN at 7pm PDT.

Footage and commentary from that bizarre evening:

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Screening: Double Indemnity at the Samuel Goldwyn

As part of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences Oscar Noir Screening Series, the classic Double Indemnity was presented on the big screen Monday night.

Double Indemnity (Paramount, 1944)
Starring Fred MacMurray, Barbara Stanwyck and Edward G. Robinson
Directed by Billy Wilder
Screenplay by Billy Wilder and Raymond Chandler (based on the novel by James M. Cain)
Nominated for seven Academy Awards: Best Picture, Director, Actress, Screenplay, B&W Cinematography, Musical Score and Sound Recording

Double Indemnity is the story of insurance salesman Walter Neff (Fred MacMurray) and sexy Phyllis Dietrichson (Barbara Stanwyck), the wife of a client of Neff's, and their seemingly airtight plot to kill Phyllis's husband and collect on the life insurance the pair has taken out on him without his knowledge.  They pull it off, but are eventually foiled by Neff's insurance company cohort and friend, dedicated Claims Manager Barton Keyes (Edward G. Robinson).

Double Indemnity is widely regarded as one of the finest examples of American film noir.  It takes sunny Los Angeles and plunges it into a shadowy, paranoid darkness as Neff and Phyllis go from attractive - and attracted - strangers to partners in a death penalty crime.  

Early on in the writing process, Wilder and Chandler realized that the dialogue from Cain's novel read badly when spoken aloud.  Their Oscar-nominated screenplay gave the characters clever and entertaining rapid-fire dialogue that veers into double entrendre when Neff and Phyllis first meet, both of which are staples of film noir.

Some Double Indemnity trivia:
  • Novelist James M. Cain had two other classic noir films made from his books: Mildred Pierce and The Postman Always Rings Twice.
  • Earlier attempts to turn Cain's story into a film were squashed by the Hays Office, partly because the protagonists were murderers and partly because the murder of Mr. Dietrichson could be easily recreated in real life.
  • Raymond Chandler makes a cameo early in the film, sitting outside an office at the insurance company and glancing up as MacMurray passes by.  His appearance prompted applause from the audience.
  • Double Indemnity is one of the classic films George Raft famously turned down (he also rejected The Maltese Falcon and Casablanca).
  • Although his character is unmarried, MacMurray's wedding ring makes several appearances throughout the film (oops!)
  • As a huge star, Edward G. Robinson was initially reluctant to accept a supporting role, but was persuaded that he had reached an age where he needed to start considering character roles.  He didn't regret it.
  • An alternate ending that showed Neff going to the gas chamber while Keyes looked on was filmed but discarded.
  • AFI put Double Indemnity at #38 on its list of the 100 Greatest American Films of All Time.
Besides the novelty of seeing a classic film in a theater and on the big screen, the addition of seeing it with a large, enthusiastic audience really enhances the viewing experience.  A lot of lines of dialogue that would prompt a snort or smirk when viewed alone at home produced huge laughs from the crowd.  I had noticed this a few months ago when I saw Psycho at the Alex.  This is making me look forward to the rest of the series even more than I already was, which was plenty.

Each presentation in the noir screening program includes an animated short.  In honor of the feature, there was the Oscar nominated Trouble Indemnity, a Mr. Magoo cartoon in which the myopic old man was scammed into buying an insurance policy so large that the agent who foisted it on Magoo goes bonkers trying to protect him when the Jim Backus voiced character inevitably bumbles into a life threatening situation. 

Also part of the program is the classic Republic serial Adventures of Captain Marvel.  I had missed the first two chapters, but it wasn't hard to catch up.  The Scorpion, a mysterious, hooded baddie is trying to obtain a lens that will unleash his evil scorpion powers upon an unsuspecting world.  Standing in his way is Captain Marvel, by day Billy Batson, an unimposing type whose entire persona (including his wardrobe) changes into superhero mode in a flash when he says the magic word, "Shazam!"  In an audience pleasing scene, Captain Marvel is knocked out cold and seems to be headed toward beheading by guillotine (what is it with bad guys and their elaborate executions? Just shoot the guy!).  When the blade finally drops, it shatters on impact with Captain Marvel's person.  Awesome.



Images from the screening program.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Somebody loves Tink

Taken at the corner of Hollywood and La Brea last night:


Friday, June 4, 2010

Attention writers: Starbucks to provide free WiFi!

Edward HopperStarbucks announces free WiFi beginning July 1.

Makes me miss the old nice, big Beverly Connection Starbucks even more than I already do.  It was wonderful.  The remodel robbed it not only of a lot of room, but of its cozy charm as well.  I started my feature script Catfight there and my two main characters in that story have their cute meet there.  Seriously, who wants to sit at outside tables at the intersection of La Cienega and the entrance to the parking structure?  If I wanted to inhale those kind of fumes I'd take up smoking.

However, I do think it's a good thing that Starbucks finally decided to jump on the free WiFi bandwagon.  I'm sure they'll make up the cost in increased business.  I know I'm more likely to go there now.

Goodnight, sweet Coach

John Wooden, the legendary UCLA basketball coach, has died at the age of 99.

Among his many accomplishments as coach was a legendary winning streak that was a part of my childhood.  From the linked article:
From the moment that center Bill Walton stepped on the court at the start of the 1971-72 season, the Bruins seemed untouchable. With the smooth-shooting Keith Wilkes at forward, the "Walton Gang" stormed through consecutive 30-0 seasons, winning their sixth and seventh straight titles.

It was during this era that the Bruins won 88 consecutive games, a streak that ended with a loss at Notre Dame on Jan. 19, 1974.
My Dad had attended UCLA for a couple of years and followed the Bruins as a fan.  As a kid, I remember him watching Bruins basketball on TV, and they never lost.  Never, that's just how it was, until Notre Dame finally brought that insane winning streak to an end.  I remember my Dad telling me that some of the players on the Bruins squad had almost made it through their entire college career without ever losing a single game.  That is just astounding.

I bought Wooden's book Wooden: A Lifetime of Observations and Reflections On and Off the Court a few years ago.  I already knew about his amazing accomplishments with the Bruins, and had always heard great things about him as a person, but in reading this book I was astonished at the caliber of his personal character.  This was a man with a pristine moral code, a man who practiced what he preached and didn't fall back on excuses.  He was a man of an era that ceased to exist a long time ago, and that's our loss.  If the world was ruled by men like John Wooden, it would be a significantly better place.

Keep in mind that this man with his extremely old-fashioned ways coached in Los Angeles in the sixties and seventies, and found wild success without abandoning his values or morals.  And while his young players may have chafed under rules that were throwbacks to a different generation (no facial hair, no profanity), they also thrived and excelled under them.  They may not have always liked Wooden's rules, but they made history by adhering to them.

Coach Wooden's official website (make sure your sound is on to hear Coach)

UCLA pays tribute

This is a tough loss for Angelenos.  Sure, 99 years is a good run, but that doesn't change the fact that the world is a poorer place losing a man like John Wooden.

Godspeed Coach.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Words of wisdom on writing

Some personal favorites (and why):

Whenever you write, whatever you write, never make the mistake of assuming the audience is any less intelligent than you are.  (Rod Serling) - So sayeth the master storyteller.  Good enough for me.  And besides, who wouldn't rather write for an intelligent audience?

It’s none of their business that you have to learn to write.  Let them think you were born that way.  (Ernest Hemingway) - It's the same for actors and painters.  They study for years to learn and perfect their craft.  Why should writers be any different? 

Make movies that make people laugh, cry, or keep them on the edge of their seats.  (Carl Laemmle, founder of Universal Studios) - Something to keep in mind.  We're not just writing to amuse ourselves, we've got an audience to entertain.  Do not bore them.  Keep them emotionally enmeshed in the story and with the characters.

Writing is easy.  You just sit down at the typewriter and open a vein.  (Red Smith) - An old chestnut that may sound melodramatic, but it's true.  In a way writing is easy, because we love it, but there's also a lot of hard work involved.

If my books had been any worse I should not have been invited to Hollywood and if they had been any better I should not have come.  (Raymond Chandler) - I think Chandler had a love/hate relationship with Hollywood, as he also said: Hollywood is wonderful.  Anyone who doesn't think so is either crazy or sober.  Either that or he was being totally sarcastic with that last one and I choose to be blind to it because I love this town and it's such a cool quote.