Just a Quick Thought: Remembering Kobe Bryant

Sunday, January 26, 2020 has proven to be an extraordinarily difficult and surreal day for hoops and sports fans in general. I’d like to pause my movie reviewing for a second to remember basketball player Kobe Bean Bryant, who passed away a day after Lebron James, currently of the Los Angeles Lakers, passed him for 3rd place on the NBA all-time scoring list. As Saturday night turned to Sunday, we went from historic highs to tragic lows. To say this weekend has been an emotional rollercoaster would be an understatement. 

TMZ first reported the news that the former Los Angeles Lakers superstar and five-time world champion died in Calabasas, CA Sunday morning in a helicopter crash that left no survivors. He was 41. The total number of victims and their identities are, as of this writing, still unknown. [UPDATE: one of the nine victims has been identified as Bryant’s 13-year-old daughter, Gianna.] The cause of the accident is currently under investigation. Reportedly the private chopper was en route to a basketball practice in the Thousand Oaks area.

The loss is felt far beyond the NBA courts and even the sporting world.

Bryant leaves behind a legacy of brutal competitiveness and inimitable determination on the hardwood. One of the first players to go straight from high school to the pros, the prolific scorer racked up an astonishing number of accolades and achievements over a career that spanned 20 years, five NBA Championships (three consecutive) and two Olympic Games (where he won Gold with the Americans, 2008 and ’12).

Notable Mamba Moments include being named back-to-back NBA Finals MVP (2009, ’10) and making 11 All-NBA First Teams, nine NBA All-Defensive First Teams and 18 NBA All-Star Game appearances. He’s responsible for the second-most points ever scored in a single game, dropping 81 on the Toronto Raptors back in 2006 (sorry Jalen). In April 2016, during his final competitive game, a home stand against the Utah Jazz, Bryant peaced out by cashing in 60 in a hair-raising display of just what he is capable of. It was the kind of end to an odyssey that not even Hollywood screenwriters could have concocted.

The accolades didn’t stop when he unlaced his sneakers for the final time; in 2018 he won an Academy Award for Best Animated Film for Dear Basketball, a heartfelt tribute to the game he loved, lived, breathed and slept.

It’s a surreal day, even for someone like me whose relationship with Kobe was more described by admiration than passionate fandom. It’s sickening to think we’re in an era without the Black Mamba. That’s plain wrong. Not since the loss of flamboyant sideline reporter Craig Sager in 2016 have I felt a celebrity death so palpably, and it’s really kind of silly to even say I’ve been affected considering I’ve never had the chance to even be in the same zip code as these famous people. It’s just another stark reminder — not that I needed one four days removed from the four-year anniversary of my own mother’s passing — of the true fragility of life.


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In Memoriam: Stephen Hawking


It is a heavy beyond leadened heart that has moved me to create this post. One of the brightest lights in our universe has eked out its final flicker. The iconic physicist Stephen William Hawking died today at the age of 76. His family says that he passed away peacefully in his home in Cambridge, England. He leaves behind a daughter, Lucy, and two sons, Robert and Tim.

The enigmatic Mr. Hawking will be remembered for so much more than enduring over half a century with a form of Lou Gehrig’s Disease that over the course of decades slowly denied him physical movement, and for his tireless efforts in and stunningly resourceful methods for working around the many obstacles the results of a progressively devastating neurological disease threw his way.

Mr. Hawking was a man whose intellectual capacity was only matched by a boundless ability to inspire and excite. Who honestly would not get giddy whenever they came across a headline stating something about his theories about the future of mankind — or its possible origins? The prospect of going on without him, living life without Stephen Hawking guiding the way, flagging up signs of potential trouble with increased intelligence in human-engineered A.I. — that kind of loss has an impact not unlike that of the strange and (potentially terrifying) cosmic phenomenon known as the Black Hole.

supermassive blackhole Dave as ‘Gargantua’ in Christopher Nolan’s 2014 sci fi epic Interstellar

It is immature of me to say, but this just isn’t fair. The inevitability of his succumbing to an ailment that he lived with far longer than any doctor might have expected is, I suppose, an easier pill to swallow than the sheer shock created by the randomness of John Forbes Nash and his wife or Princess Diana being involved in fatal car accidents. But life does and has to go on. And so does the work of the scientific community, and the millions upon millions whom he has inspired and instilled a thirst for knowledge and truth. The question is, to what corner in the cosmos do we point in our backyards at night whenever we want to have little private sounding boards with one of the great minds of our time?

Where is our fascination with artificial intelligence leading us? Will our future really look like it does in Blade Runner 2049? Or will we revert back to tribal living, and worshipping shit like the sun and the clouds and the trees? What is the actual value of life? Is it measured scientifically, or is love all we are here to find and feel comforted by? I’m quite sure I don’t have answers to any of that, but I know that whenever Stephen Hawking said something either speculative or that held scientific weight, I listened. I am going to dearly miss that soothing voice of wisdom.

I think if Mr. Hawking were still here he’d urge us all to carry on these discussions ourselves. To never stop thinking about the possibilities. As long as we keep pushing for answers, not even the sky is the limit. And when you’ve lived like this wonderful, brilliant man has lived, you’re the kind of light that actually has a chance of surviving a black hole.

R.I.P. Stephen Hawking. 1942 – 2018


Click here to read my review of The Theory of Everything, a 2014 romantic drama which detailed the personal life and career achievements of Stephen Hawking.

Science-y/otherworldly films worth talking about: Under the Skin; Interstellar; The MartianEx Machina; Arrival; Blade Runner 2049; Annihilation


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Just a Quick Thought: Thank you, Craig

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Craig Sager, the long-time sideline reporter for the Turner broadcasting network, passed away today, December 15, 2016 at the age of 65 after a long and courageous battle with acute myeloid leukemia. He leaves behind a wife and five children, as well as a spot on the sidelines and a place in front of the TNT cameras that will likely never be filled again.

Perhaps the only thing that ever rivaled Sager’s enthusiasm for the events he covered or the number of iconic events with which he will forever be associated — Hank Aaron’s 715th home run in 1972 (which broke Babe Ruth’s record); the 2000 Sydney Olympics; the 2015 NBA Finals . . . while battling his illness — is his wardrobe. Over a 40+ year-long career Sager had shaped a public image as only he could; his colorful, outrageous suits have raised as many eyebrows as any NBA player sporting the latest en vogue fashion item. Or any Hollywood starlet trying to make a statement on the Red Carpet.

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The inimitability of Craig Sager runs far deeper than his outward flamboyance, a flamboyance that stood in a strange contrast to his direct, matter-of-fact line of questioning. If anyone needs evidence of the kind of influence he had around the league, they need look no further than the rapport he shared with San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich.

The way he continued to hone his craft even during the darkest periods of his life is a miracle. It, in all likelihood, will come to define the journalist as a figure we should all look up to. His stoicism (and his suits) were gems of the National Basketball Association. Two days before he passed he was inducted into the Sports Broadcasting Hall of Fame. He will be dearly missed. Rest in paradise, Craig.


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OCMC: Robin Williams, what a concept. . .

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I think in order to best encapsulate this week, and the range of emotions that have also been dealt with over the past couple, I will include this excellent montage of photos of Robin throughout his career that has been put together by a personal friend of Steve Oedekerk (the man responsible for one of my all-time favorite spoof-comedies, Kung Pow! Enter the Fist), and this clip I found via some snooping around on Facebook. (Yes, I am cool enough to be on Steve’s friend list. . .and his friend’s list isn’t even that big, you guys!!!!)

It may be a 7 minute clip but don’t let the time stamp fool you. Once you start it, this video flies by. Arguably too quickly. It also seems to be able to say more about the man than a bunch of pretty words that I could write. Some of you may have already seen this, but for those who haven’t I really hope you enjoy it and maybe even agree that this is one of the most beautiful and certainly one of the more comprehensive retrospectives of the life and career of a gifted man, entertainer, supporter, activist, son, cousin, brother, husband, father.

Oh captain my captain, we thank you. For you have made all of our lives extraordinary just for being.

Here’s the films/performances I have covered over the last week for anyone who has missed them:

  1. Lance Clayton in World’s Greatest Dad
  2. Chris Nielsen in What Dreams May Come
  3. Seymour “Sy” Parrish in One Hour Photo
  4. TBT: Dead Poet’s Society
  5. Alan Parrish in Jumanji
  6. Daniel Hillard/Mrs. Doubtfire in Mrs. Doubtfire

OCMC: Alan Parrish in Jumanji

jumanji-1“AAAAHHHH!! AHHH!!! . . . . . . AH!”

Noises. Robin Williams came equipped with many of them, and in this outrageously fun film from the mid-90s, he’s provided an opportunity to tap into that part of him that was more. . . . shall we say, animalistic? As a child who got trapped inside the dangerous board game Jumanji, Alan Parrish has spent most of his “life” fighting for. . . well, a way out. An escape back to the real world.

And who can really blame him when he pops out of the middle of the game covered in vine and bramble, looking like George of the Jungle? I mean, my main man here is all hopped-up on some bath salts or something, dressed in foliage. Foliage dude. That style is SOOO 1960s. . .or whenever it was when he was rather unceremoniously consumed by a board game. When things were simple and dad made ends meet by pumping out shoes on a production line. Now (flash-forward roughly 20 years) it’s all complicated. Now kids are stumbling upon random board games in the loft of a mansion, getting into all kinds of trouble. . .like inviting random stampedes into the home or unleashing them upon the town. Bugs the size of Chihuahuas are the products of curious children snooping around where they perhaps shouldn’t.

But if there is one constant we always associate with the man when he’s up on the silver screen, it’s the adventure factor. Here is a film where that idea is exploited for the purpose of plot progression. In other words, comparatively Robin Williams is not the craziest thing about Jumanji; about a movie featuring kids battling flash floods and quick sand in their living rooms, and outlasting killer bees the size of, yes, small dogs. The environment is. Robin’s beard might be the craziest thing about his character. Well, that and the noises. Yes indeed, this is one of those performances that may not ultimately stand out from the crowd when comparing to his other creations but this is one that seamlessly blends in with the style and tone, this is Robin Williams basking in entertainment that, for once, has not been created wholly on his own.

When a new family moves into the Parrish’s gorgeous home twenty-six years after a strange occurrence involving the board game in the living room, history looks to repeat itself when two children — Judy (Kirsten Dunst) and Peter (Bradley Pierce) — discover the relic and begin playing, unaware that their first experience is merely a repetition of a vicious cycle that will bring to life some very real (and surreal) things. They dared roll the dice, now they must be prepared to face the consequences. . . .or at the very least, to face a very hairy Robin Williams.

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Quoted: “What happened to you, the Clampetts have a yard sale? What do you want, I never shaved before.”


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OCMC: Seymour “Sy” Parrish in One Hour Photo

one_hour_photoHere we have one of those roles where Robin Williams simultaneously truly impressed me and deeply concerned me. His ability to detach — as evidenced by this chilling character, a lonely one-hour-photo developer named Seymour “Sy” Parrish — seemed like a mere eject button he could push (“get me outta here”), an escape route so desperately needed yet so subtle we never stopped to think about the fact he might be saying something more than what the script is telling him to bring to the table.

Yeah, yeah. . .the whole ‘reading into things too much.’ It’s all too easy to do when he’s just so different in this role, and incidentally more convincing here than in any other role he’s ever played, if you ask me. From a completely objective standpoint, this is perhaps Robin Williams’ most technically impressive role, as he dials down his manic energy to a 1 out of 10. It’s the kind of taut, disciplined lead performance that should have earned him more than a Saturn Award.

In the course of 90 minutes, we go from meeting Sy, a painfully awkward man who works diligently to make sure all the photos he develops are as high quality as they can be; to empathizing with a true loner who uses his job as a way to socialize with the outside world (namely the Yorkin family, his favorite customers); to becoming excruciatingly uncomfortable around a sociopathic man desperate to make one family’s life experiences and memories his own, living vicariously through the prints he develops for them on a regular basis. His initial friendliness morphs into an extreme associative psychological disorder that is portrayed with brilliance and bravery by Robin Williams.

I particularly like this scene, not only because it was the most readily-available clip I could find. . .like, anywhere, but because it. . .well, it freaks me out. This is so unlike Robin Williams, but goes to exemplify the actor’s depth. Granted, a great deal of what makes those ten seconds eeky-creeky is the stylistic flourishes applied by cinematographic genius Jeff Cronenworth, who bathes the entire affair in a haunting, listless monotone, but it’s still Williams dead-center, and wow. The first time I watched this film was immediately before going to bed. That was. . .kind of a mistake. . .

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Quoted: “What the hell is wrong with these people?”


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OCMC: Chris Nielsen in What Dreams May Come

wdmc-1Despite What Dreams May Come possessing a healthy amount of material that tends to bring tears to the eye, here’s an ultimately uplifting and sweeping drama that appeals on a more universal level than Bobcat Goldthwait’s darkly comic rumination on the nature of the living memorializing those who have passed.

For anyone concerned about “what happens after death,” this film could be looked at as more than just powerful suggestion. Snagging the Academy Award for Best Visual Effects in 1998, Vincent Ward’s epic love story tells of a man wandering the afterlife in search of his wife after she kills herself when she finds it impossible to cope with the loss of her entire family in two separate car accidents.

In another one of my favorite dramatic overhauls, Robin Williams is at once vulnerable and desperate as Chris Nielsen. Once in heaven he does everything in his power to understand what is going on and how he can reconnect with his fragmented family. But when he learns an act of suicide means a direct ticket to Hell, Chris finds an entirely new purpose in the afterlife: rescuing his dear beloved from eternal agony.

To be completely honest I’m still reeling in the wake of the news but it’s getting easier each day. I miss the man dearly. I like to think he’s soaking up some nice shade underneath that beautiful blue Jacaranda.

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Quoted: “A whole human life is just a heartbeat here in Heaven. Then we’ll all be together forever.”


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O Captain, My Captain: A Tribute to Robin Williams

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Beginning next Monday, I will kick off my week-long tribute to Robin Williams, a man whom the title ‘genius’ or any other lofty descriptions most certainly apply but still somehow don’t seem to do justice. The news of his passing on Monday, August 11 hit me like a tidal wave. Not an entirely unpredictable reaction either, given how dramatic I tend to get sometimes. But this news, man this news wasn’t to be swallowed with any relative ease. Not at all.

There often trends a fine line between actual/normal and pretentious grieving. How does one pretentiously grieve, you might ask? I actually don’t really know, that sounds kind of stupid when I read back on it. But if Robin Williams wasn’t family (and he wasn’t, to many many millions of us), I tell you what, the loss of his talent in the industry and his face around. . .wherever the hell else he goes in his spare time (whatever modicum of time that may be) — sure feels like a family member suddenly removed from our presence.

That we are tasked with facing a future without Robin McLaurin Williams is an ugly proposition. One that I don’t look forward to acknowledging when I finally awaken from this stupor, not one bit. But in order to begin moving on, I feel like the coming week (that is, Monday August 18 through Friday the 24th) will be a great opportunity to highlight some of my favorite moments of his career, the time I’ve spent with him and to also gauge everyone else’s thoughts and responses to the legacy of our most beloved Genie, our most precious Jack, our silliest (but still endearing) President Tom Dobbs (there’s an obscure one).

So in the next several days things will be as normal on here but starting Monday it will be a Robin Williams Tribute Week, something that I am thinking as of right now will supplement regular blog content, if only for the time being. Please feel free to share your thoughts and favorite memories of this wonderful and exceedingly popular man, talented comedian and exemplary human being.

Also, in an effort to minimize the heaviness of such a post (one of my many regrettable In Memoriams, I’m afraid), here’s this:

cbs-greenlights-robin-williams-pilot-two-new-dramas

The 86th Academy Awards Afterparty: Will there be pizza?

Despite my fascination with film, I consistently have never really cared for the awards ceremonies as I’ve always seen them as rather trifling procedures. The night of Sunday, March 2 barely amounts to more than a shallow beauty pageant. The proceedings inside L.A.’s famed Dolby Theater are in effect an incredibly expensive circus in which wealthy people converge on a single venue to watch their extremely well-off colleagues accepting gold statues as a way of validating that their work was actually experienced by more than just the people in that stuffy little room.

And don’t even get me started on the actual reporting on the event beforehand. Christ, the quality of the news on the Red Carpet makes a mockery of journalism to the highest degree. There isn’t an apology to be found or heard. Ever. Cameras (and conversations) prefer to be aimed towards fashion trends, intentionally converting performers into walking billboards for the young and impressionable. People aren’t really people in these moments. But that’s okay. . . .I guess. After all, these centers of attention are the same folks who gave us those great moments in the films we liked over the past year. Now it’s fun seeing Jennifer Lawrence stumble all over her real-life awkwardness. Or how about seeing sworn on-screen enemies pal-ing around together over a drink? That’s the stuff that causes the warm, fuzzy feeling in your tummy to grow intensely, apparently.

In spite of my ranting, the end-of-the-film-year presentation is actually greatly entertaining to watch. Why is that, you ask, understandably now confused.

Perhaps its partly because of the phenomenon of the fourth wall still protecting these successful and talented individuals from the claws of the public. We have a right to see our favorite action hero star stripped of his/her dramatic veil so we can get a better look into that person’s mind and see how they do what they do so well. Harrison Ford struggling to look sober during this year’s Oscars is one such insight that might well cause an obsession-fueled Twitter thread. Then there was Ellen Degeneres doing something as mundane as delivering pizza to certain members in the first few rows of the audience while Brad Pitt humbled himself by serving plates and napkins that caused us to nearly soil our pants from laughter.

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They aren’t on the silver screen at the moment, yet the likes of Amy Adams, Chris Hemsworth, the aforementioned Lawrence who can’t seem to catch a break from intentional or unintentional public embarrassment as Degeneres appeared to roast her before kicking off the ceremony this year, or a legend like Robert DeNiro — they all still possess a mystique we can never hope to chip away completely because they are in some way, shape or form still performing for us, the humble viewers. They give possibly the most honest performances of their lives before these particular cameras, but we will never get to be at the Oscar afterparty with them when they all shed the burden of the pretense and of the pomp and circumstance. And, possibly their clothes, too.

As a person who loves film I have been notorious for either accidentally or purposefully avoiding these sorts of events because a great majority of the time I either vehemently disagree with the ultimate selections or I just have no comment on what is going on at the time. There’s also that little issue I have with the false emotion surrounding it all. But nevermind that for a bit. This year I watched the Oscars from start to finish, even tapping into the Red Carpet action (which I will probably never do again, based on the intro paragraphs above). But with a few staggeringly honest acceptance speeches delivered by gold statue recipients, my faith in what these people are doing with their lives has been reinvigorated.

There were obviously the requisite number of speeches that dragged on for far too long, some that became dangerously close to sounding arrogant, and some that were borderline unintelligible. But thanks to highlights in Jared Leto (who took the stage for his snagging of the Best Supporting Actor Oscar), Lupita Nyong’o (with her remarkable work in 12 Years a Slave garnering her a Best Supporting Actress Oscar) and the potentially crowd favorite Matthew McConaughey (the McConaissance can now be officially acknowledged following his Best Actor prize) this year’s Oscars offered up strong doses of humanity and humility, a display of appreciation that extends to those who have spent any amount of time paying attention to them — that includes us bloggers! There comes that warm, fuzzy feeling again. . .

Dedicating three hours to watching the awards ceremony proves that this movie-watching business is indeed an addiction. It is equal parts exciting and frustrating knowing that famous names are to receive even greater plaudits than they have already earned in being cast into money-making machines. Such is the nature of their jobs. Everyone should save themselves a pat on the back for me. Especially Mr. McConaughey. I say good for him.


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