Monday, February 21, 2011

Another Opening For The Academy Awards

                                                                                                        Julie Pick

Now that the Academy Awards are approaching, I'm reminiscent of the grand openings Billy Crystal performed when he was host. Magically, he was able to combine all of the best picture nominees into one comedic, musical extravaganza; often placing himself directly into the center of the films.  Unfortunately, last year the academy increased the list of best films from five to ten, making the task more tedious. Although it would be nearly impossible to rise to Billy Crystal's level or even Jimmy Fallon's excellent turn at the Emmys, I'm willing to try a bargain basement version incorporating all ten nominees into one story. Since Anne Hathaway and James Franco are the hosts for this year's telecast, hopefully they won't mind coming along for the ride.

Our story begins 127 Hours before the Oscars when Anne is stuck in a snowstorm in Chicago, while James is having a great time at a beautiful beach resort in Mexico. As Anne is trudging through the snow in her high heels she decides to call James to go over some details for the show. She is cursing under her breath that it's cold as Winter's Bone, when best actress nominee Jennifer Lawrence runs into her and pushes her down. Meanwhile James is not answering his phone as he is in the middle of a beach boxing match with The Fighter. After Mark Wahlberg knocks him out, he returns Anne's call, but now she is too busy to answer as Jeff Bridges comes riding in to save her from the snowstorm and whisks her away on his horse showing his True Grit.

The next scene shows Anne Hathaway rehearsing her opening number at an O'Hare Airport piano bar as an announcement comes over the loud speaker that all flights are delayed due to the blizzard. Frantic that she won't make it to the ceremony on time, she tries calling James Franco again. She can barely understand him as he is having difficulty forming words and finds it strange that he is suddenly speaking with a British accent. When she jokes about him sounding like Colin Firth in The King's Speech, he tells her that he lost a couple teeth in the boxing ring, so she insists that he get them fixed before he's on live TV.

At the dental office, James Franco knows that the man in the white coat looks familiar, but he can't place his face. Finally he sees his name on the wall, Mark Zuckerberg DDS. Instead of showing where he studied dentistry, the certificate lists his 37 friends. While he's sterilizing his instruments, Jesse Eisenberg storms into the room and grabs him. As he is being dragged out, he asks James if he'll "friend" him, but he tells him that he's a pretty private guy and he isn't a fan of The Social Network. Then Steve Martin takes over as he is a permanent fixture at awards shows and already has the wardrobe from playing a dentist in two films. Before he can object, he places the ether chamber over his face, and drifts off to sleep as we hear Steve Martin's mad laughter in the background.

In the dream sequence, we see Anne Hathaway dressed as The Black Swan performing Swan Lake while she is dancing around a group of children in a ballet class. The young teacher is trying to tell her that she is interrupting her class and scaring her students, but she is off in her own world. Meanwhile, James is stuck in Inception walking upside down with Joseph  Gordon Leavitt searching for Anne Hathaway. Back at the ballet studio, the camera zooms in on a massacre of tutus, blood and feathers as Ms. Hathaway is still obliviously dancing to the sounds of screaming children. Suddenly, Annette Bening rushes into the studio with her medical bag and declares, "I'm a doctor, I'll make sure The Kids Are All Right!"

In the final scene, James Franco and Anne Hathaway walk down the red carpet eyeing their competition as they enter the Kodak Theatre. They are joined on stage by the animated characters of Toy Story 3, as they sing Randy Newman's nominated song, We Belong Together. Grateful that they've gotten the show off to a smooth start, the hosts smile and turn to each other as a giant boom falls from the ceiling severing Franco's arm.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

What If Your Teenage Son Wanted To Work At A Bank As A Donor?

                                                    Julie Kemp Pick

Over the weekend we were trying to find a good movie, and came across a review for The Kids Are All Right, a story about a lesbian couple's teenage children who decide to find their biological father. Though one of the leads, Annette Bening is up for an Oscar for best actress, the movie wasn't playing in any theaters, but a slightly different version started playing in my imagination. My story takes place before the children in the movie were conceived. Think of it as a prequel to The Kids Are All Right from a mother's perspective.

The story begins when 19 year old  Paul arrives home from college for spring break. He is filled with angst as he is dreading spending his vacation with his family instead of being crammed in a crummy hotel room with 8 of his buddies at a rundown beach resort. Though he is incredibly angry, he is blessed with thick, wavy brown hair and looks like a young Mark Ruffalo (the biological father in the movie). Then his mother, brilliantly portrayed by Susan Sarandon (only because she must be kicking herself for not getting the award winning role of the mother in The Fighter) walks into his room and tells him to stop sulking and start looking for a summer job before all the good ones are snatched up. After a series of failed interviews at various establishments around town, he decides to embark on another career. 

The next day young Paul sees an ad that offers a way to earn easy money while still being able to stay out all night and sleep until the middle of the afternoon. After filling out a detailed family history, going on an extensive interview, and submitting samples of his work, he would find out if he was a candidate for the job.  His mother was quite excited that her lazy son was suddenly so enthusiastic about finding employment until she comes across one of his work samples in the refrigerator. When she asks him what's in the container, he explains that the bank does drug tests on all of their employees. Then she smiles at the thought of her son working at a bank, but realizes that he has no experience and wouldn't be working bankers' hours. When she asks him about it, he tells her that he is applying for a special internship where he would be working from home and would just drop off deposits every once in a while. After he leaves for his interview, she starts rummaging through his things when she sees the ad for the sperm bank buried under a huge pile of dirty laundry.

The next scene is Black Swan meets Diary of a Mad Housewife when the mother is screaming madly, yet dancing divinely around the house looking for clues to why her son would do this to her. She is dancing on her tippy toes to avoid stepping in any remnants of work samples. Flashbacks of Paul's innocent childhood appear on the screen. All the years she spent yelling at him for forgetting his homework and spilling food all over the kitchen floor; reminding him to wash his hands after he went to the bathroom a week before he graduated from high school. His mother remembers that even as a little boy, Paul loved to take over the house scattering little pieces everywhere he went. Suddenly, she springs up on the table like a cat, wondering if there was any safe surface in the house that wasn't turned into a science lab.

Later when Paul returns home from his physical/interview, his mom takes another swig of cooking sherry and calmly asks him to sit down. She unties her apron, gently wipes the kitchen chair off with a rag before she tosses it into the fireplace and joins him for a meaningful discussion. Careful to mind her tone, she inquires if they mentioned anything about providing a company car as her chassis is prone to bumps. She also tells him that she found out that several of the bank employees were coming down with carpal tunnel syndrome and it would behoove him to find something less debilitating that he could put on his resume.

Then he smiles and says that they told him to apply again after he graduates from college. Tears of joy stream down his mother's face as she asks, "Why don't you seem disappointed?"  Then he replies, "I decided I wasn't interested after they told me I'd have to give up alcohol." With that his mother puts her dishwashing gloves back on and gives her boy a big, warm hug.  Fade to black.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

When Your Heart's Just Not Into Valentine's Day

                                                                                                       Julie Pick

I decided to do a little research on the history of St. Valentine's Day, when I came across a website that offered the secrets to successful relationships. Rori Raye "trained relationship coach," was about to unveil everything we ever needed to know about having an ideal marriage. I couldn't wait to find out what the author of The Modern Siren, the tell -all for how "You can be a magnet for a man," had to say.

Rori Raye explained how she's been married for 20 years, and how early on she came to the realization that in order to make her relationship work, she would have to change. She started out as a "Crumb-Taking Queen when it came to men." This meant that she tried to "control and manipulate everyone in a very sweet and smiling way." Instead she found a better approach: "Be the girl in the not do anything. You just smile. You're're there."

Okay she's still doing a lot of smiling, but now there's less manipulating? Maybe she's talking about a more seductive knowing smile instead of a ditsy pull your sweater over your head "do they feel real?" kind of smile. Like most things in life I was both confused and intrigued so I read further: "It's your job to be the tour guide of YOU -not of the relationship." Something tells me that Oprah would call this an "aha moment." What I think Ms. Raye is trying to convey is that boys like to be in charge and girls need to make them think they are, but they're really not so there. My mom tried to give me the very same advice when I was 12, but when it comes from a 'trained relationship coach' it suddenly has more merit.

According to Rori Raye if you follow these steps,"What you'll discover is that you like your man even more and you can genuinely RECEIVE the love he's giving, and revel in just BEING instead of struggling in all the DOING." Isn't that what Valentine's Day is all about? RECEIVING flowers, candy. jewelry etc., BEING loved, cherished, adored or simply left alone, and DOING nothing but complaining because none of those other things ever happened in the first place? I think she's on to something.

Just when I was getting ready to walk away from my computer, I got reeled in again. I came to a section that said, "Learn the 4 magic words that will help you take back your power and regain control of your love life...." Then I clicked on to the next page, "read the rest of this article when you become a member." What could those 4 magic words be? I think we already learned about the first 3 in the last paragraph and the 4th word could be teasing. Isn't teasing a form of manipulative behavior which she said to avoid?  Unfortunately, I won't find out unless I purchase Rori Raye's CD and video collection for 5 easy payments of $39.95. I think I'd rather use the money to buy myself flowers on Valentine's Day.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Why Betty White Has More Sex Appeal Than I Do

                                                                                                   Julie Pick

Growing up I always wanted to be able to sing like Barbra Streisand, laugh like Goldie Hawn and fill out a bikini like Raquel Welch. Now I would be thrilled to be able to walk in a pair of stylish shoes like Betty White. Sunday night we watched a Betty White double feature; the Screen Actors Guild Awards followed by the Hallmark movie The Lost Valentine. We laughed, we cried and all the while I couldn't stop thinking that this 89 year old woman has more energy than I do. Between her TV show, movies, talk show appearances and trips to the awards, she accomplishes more in one day than I do in about six months.

At the SAG Awards, not only was Betty a presenter, but she also won best actress in a comedy for Hot In Cleveland. When she received her award she had to embark on a very long journey to the stage. Her sitcom's theme song which is comprised of about four notes had to be played about 27 times until she climbed up to the stage to receive her award looking fresh as a daisy and perfectly composed during her witty acceptance speech. On the other hand, I would've limped up on stage, out of breath, as my make-up melted and pantyhose fell down to my ankles. That pretty much describes me after a day of grocery shopping at the Jewel.

After the awards show, we saw Betty as the dramatic lead in The Lost Valentine; a story about a pregnant woman who's heroic husband goes missing during WWII, and she returns to the train station where she last saw him, every Valentine's Day for 65 years. As heart-wrenching as her performance was, I couldn't keep my eyes off of her legs. Not one single vein, no outstretched sagging skin that swayed in the breeze. And the woman could wear a heel. No holding on for dear life and cursing under her breath from the pain. I avoid any heel that catapults me more than a 1/2 inch above ground. There was one particularly moving scene where Betty White is overcome with grief and she even cries sexier than I do. For all my stories I pride myself on the intense research that's involved, so I had my husband beat the hell out of me and watched myself cry in the mirror. My mascara and nose were running at close intervals, my mouth went into spasms, and I realized that I had waited too long between dental visits, so I tried closed mouth crying until I started to choke. Ms.White will definitely be nominated for an emmy for her performance; if anyone had seen mine, I  would've been carried out on a stretcher.

For all of our differences, Betty and I do share some similarities. We both were born in Illinois, have had the same hairdo since the 70's (1970's), and buy senior tickets at the movies. She is an extremely talented actress who steals the show in every part she's ever played. At 89 when most people have slowed down considerably, she still has impeccable timing and doesn't need orthopedic shoes to take her there. The fact that at this stage in her life she is at her height of popularity from teenagers to geriatrics is no small feat. Does it bother me that my mom noticed that Betty White wears a better bra than her 49 7/8 year old daughter? Nothing could be more uplifting.