23 MINUTES TO TUNE

With the above headline, one would get the idea that this article is about the art of “Christmas Caroling”, the seasonal activity where a group of folks gather to belt out traditional songs of Christmas (not “the holidays”) going either door to door, or standing in one place such as a street corner or near a Salvation Army pot. Since this is the current holiday season, we’ll step aside to those activities and focus upon something else that is more important for the moment.

According to a recent stat reported by an online guide to those streaming services in existance, it stated that it takes an average time of some twenty three minutes for the standard video viewer to decide what program they desire to see through their video device. This method of scrolling through listings consist of picking what kind of program (TV series, feature film, short form video, etc.) is available out there. With the choices of media ranging from Disney+, HBO Max, Hulu, Apple TV+, YouTube, and of course the service that “broke the mold” Netflix, it would take time to choose what programs to bindge upon, and what programs to look at for ninety seconds only to be bored with it by the time the opening credits comes off the screen.

It’s no surprise that it would take that long to pick a show. Of course, some folks know what exactly to choose, while others are rather clueless or just overly picky. However, it is the notion where there are a lot of choices to glance at, even if that glancing takes the same amount of time to go through an episode of a recent “half hour” series. (23 minutes is the average running time for a sitcom episode of late, minus the TV spots, promos, and other non-related programming that are normally imbedded within the program segment.)

This way of looking for programming is how this method of viewing time results in this current day and age. It’s a very far cry (and we do mean “very far”) from the days when one would have to look at a copy of TV Guide, or through a local newspaper’s listing, to see what is worth its watch.

Of course, TV Guide, the publication that’s been around since 1953, was the be-all-to-end-all choice to know what is available on the tube in terms of programming and the related aspects that are part of the domestic television landscape. For the price that one would have to pay for an individual issue (from its starting cost at fifteen cents to the current cover price of $4.99), one would see not only the “laundry list” of shows, but everything the articles that covered the entertainment aspects of a show (the biggest chunk of television) to the coverage of news, sports, as well as trends in television. For the same amount of time it takes in this day and age to look for what is worth their moments to view, one could read an entire issue of TV Guide nearly cover to cover, minus any advertising that would be found within its pages.

But that was during the era when there were only three TV networks to pick through. Unless over would add the networks from past such as The Dumont Network, The WB, UPN, and even the currently active Public Broadcasting System, (although PBS isn’t a traditional network per se, just a collection of program titles local affiliates would schedule on their own terms), there wasn’t much to choose from! And there were the local stations as well that offered syndicated shows, local programs unique to its region, and the bevy of old movies and reruns that filled the time slots every day of the week.

However, this is the era of now, and right now, one has a dizzying aspect to slosh through. Sometimes it would even take an hour’s time just to see what is idea to watch. Then again, after an hour, one would say “phooey” and turn off the device, or to fling the phone and/or electronic pad aside and to do something else–such as reading a real book!

So as one picks through the virtual “57 channels”, take the time to bindge through what you want and where! After all, it’s your 23 minutes!
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NEWS AND REVIEWS

Continuing its run at the Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts in Beverly Hills is LOVE ACTUALLY LIVE, a musical based upon a romantic film comedy about a collection of people from various places in life who are all falling within love.

Taking its premise of the feature film released by Universal Pictures written by Richard Curtis and originally starred Hugh Grant, Alan Rickman, Emma Thompson, and a host of others, the story is the same. During the Christmas season in London and around the U.K., a collection of folks discover the human emotion called love. Starting from the young couple that just got married, to the aging rock star attempting to make a comeback with his recording of a new tune for the season, toward the recent widowed man with the task of raising his adolescent son on his own, the writer taking a retreat to compose his murder mystery on an isolated farm in France, the Prime Minister who has the most political power of all the land with the exception of the Queen, and the energetic restaurant worker who discovers that American women are more to his liking. Their episodes are loosely linked together all in the name of fulfilling the art of love with lots of holly and mistletoe added for flavor.

This theater production, adapted and directed for the stage by Anderson Davis, is a blend of stage musical and feature film screening all into one. Throughout the lavish stage set as designed by Matthew Steinbrenner that resembles a facade of vintage buildings seen as common place within the U.K., the actual movie is screened in selected parts that introduces the characters as they speak their lines. While on stage, performers that resemble those speaking characters recreate their counterparts as they sing a selection of tunes that express the scenes and how they feel at that moment. The show itself is a pseudo three dimension version of the title romcom, complete with a live orchestra performing the music score.

Jess Vargas provides the musical supervision, arrangements, and orchestration of the score as performed by a fifteen piece orchestra. Although there are a few original numbers performed as part of the music repertory, most of the other tunes are taken from established sources from top-40 (Bye Bye (Baby Goodbye), Puppy Love, Jump (For My Love, All You Need Is Love, etc.) to Christmas tunes such as White Christmas as extracted from “The Great American Songbook”, to even The Star Spangled Banner that is performed as music score only! There are also cuts played as taken from the film’s insedential music score as presented to just keep the continuity in check via its connection to the film.

The show itself hosts a robust cast that sing, dance (thanks to Sumie Maeda’s choreography) and overall keep up the pace to its content. The ensemble group consists of (as listed in their named alphabetical order), Tomasina Abate, John Battagliese, Declan Bennett, James Byous, Gabriela Carrillo, Nayah Damasen, Rogelio Douglas, Jr.,Jon Robert Hall, Carson Higgins, DougKreeger, Ruby Lewis, Emily Lopez, Chris Mann, Carrie Manolakos, Molly Rogers, Aubrie Sellers, Levi Smith, and Rex Smith.

For a musical show as this one, its running time is rather long, clocking in at two hours, forty five minutes, including the fifteen minute intermission. Granted, the feature film this show takes its premise from runs a little over two hours–a rather long running time for a romcom, especially for one that has its British flavor. And unlike its American counterparts, the term “Christmas” is freely used as British tradition and standards usually allow. (In the USA, “The Holidays” is the term used to describe the event that falls on December 25th!) But this show isn’t about the war on Christmas. It’s about falling in love!

The theater group For The Record Live conceived the idea of taking a movie and mashing it together with a stage musical. It’s a very interesting and amusing concept. And since it’s the time of the season to promote peace on earth and good will to all, LOVE ACTUALLY LIVE is the place to be, and it’s what all you need!

LOVE ACTUALLY LIVE, presented by The Wallis Annenberg Center and For The Record Live, performs at The Wallis Anneberg Center for the Performing Arts’ Bram Goldsmith Theater, 9390 North Santa Monica Blvd. (at Canon and Crescent Drives) Beverly Hills, until December 29th. Showtimes are weekdays at 7:30 PM, Saturdays at 2:00 and 7:30 PM, and Sundays at 2:00 and 7:00 PM. Special matinee performance on December 27th at 2:00 PM. No performances on December 24th and 25th.

For ticket reservations or for further information, call (310) 746-4000, or via online at http://www.TheWallis.org/Love
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The Santa Monica Playhouse will present their annual NEW YEAR’S EVE MUSICAL REVIEW, the self titled event that will celebrate the changing from the old into the new through music, song, dance, with doses of comedy.

Featured in this production are a selection of songs and skits extracted from the vast repertory of past shows that have appeared at the SM Playhouse over its many years. Much of this assemblage of these stage pieces are original for this theater, or those that made its first appearance on their floorboards. So one will witness highlights of those one-of-a-kind shows that are charming, witty, and most of all, very family friendly! They will put a smile on your face and a pleasant skip within one’s souls. A great way to enter a new year on its right track!

And what makes a New Year’s celebration complete are all of the goodies that go along with it! Your evening includes a buffet supper, champagne/sparkling cider, and party favors that will guide everyone in attendance to slide from the end of the old “teens” decade into the new decade–the Roarin’ 20s!

The SMP’s NEW YEAR’S EVE MUSICAL REVIEW will have two performances: 6:00 and 9:30 PM. The early show (6:00 PM) is more family oriented, presenting on opportunity for kids of all ages to spend a real “grown-up” New Year’s celebration! The later show (9:30 PM) will feature on-stage dancing with champagne toasts! Of course, there will be sparking cider for those that desire a sip of the bubbly minus the “kick”!

The Santa Monica Playhouse is located at 1211 4th Street (at Wilshire Blvd.) Santa Monica. For more information on these shows, call (310) 394-9779 ext 1, or visit the SMP online at http://www.SantaMonicaPlayhouse.com
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On December 11th, The Library of Congress’ National Film Preservation Board announced the twenty five film titles that will be entered as part of the LOC’s National Film Registry.

Under the guise of the National Film Preservation Act, the LOC chooses twenty five titles that are “culturally, historically or aesthetically” significant. The films must be at least ten years old at the time of creation or public release, and must be an American production or co-production. Any motion picture can be chosen as long as it meets those guidelines, and do not necessarily have to be a commercial production. (Amateur and home movies can be selected.)

Each year, the LOC selects the titles are suggested by the LOC’s film preservation staff, moving image scholars, as well as the general public.

Listed below are the twenty five titles along with its year of release/creation. A “#” in front of the title indicates that it is a non-feature length film. (Short subject, amateur film, etc.) “D” indicates the title is a documentary/non-fiction selection.

Amadeus (1984)
Becky Sharp (1935)
(D)Before Stonewall (1984)
Body and Soul (1925)
Boys Don’t Cry (1999)
Clerks (1994)
Coal Miner’s Daughter (1980)
#Emigrants Landing at Ellis Island (1903)
Employees Entrance (1933)
(D)Fog of War (2003)
Gaslight (1944)
#George Washington Carver at Tuskegee Institute (1937)
Girlfriends (1978)
(D)I Am Somebody (1970)
(D)Last Waltz, The (1978)
#My Name Is Oona (1969)
A New Leaf (1971)
Old Yeller (1957)
The Phoenix City Story (1955)
Platoon (1986)
Purple Rain (1984)
Real Women Have Curves (2002)
She’s Gotta Have It (1986)
Sleeping Beauty (1959)
Zoot Suit (1981)

For more details on the above titles including titles of other films on the registry as well as how to vote for the 2020 selection, visit the LOC’s National Film Preservation Board web site at http://www.loc.gov/film
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RICHARD JEWEL (Warner Bros.) stars Paul Walter Hauser as the title character. As a young man living in northern Georgia specifically in the Atlanta area, he desired to get into law enforcement. He eventually did by becoming a security guard who did his job “by the book” with a no-nonsense approach. He lives a humble life with his mother Bobi (Kathy Bates) in their apartment unit in a suburban area. He received an assessment as a security guard during the 1996 summer Olympics taking place in Atlanta that year. While doing his beat at Centennial Park, he discovers a specious backpack left under a bench. Upon doing his job clearing the area after it was discovered it contained a bomb, it explodes. Since he did his part in warning those in the area reducing possible causalities, he becomes a local hero. However, something doesn’t seem to click at first as Richard was known to be an aggressive security guard. FBI agent Tom Shaw (Jon Hamm) who was assigned detail at the park, begins his investigation of Richard if he was involved in planting the bomb in order to become an “instant hero”. Reporting this event for the local newspaper is reporter Kathy Scruggs (Olivia Wilde) who was the first that received this scoop. As Richard was quickly turned from hero to suspect, he takes upon the legal services of Watson Bryant (Sam Rockwell), a person Richard knew from his early days. This episode begins a long struggle of clearing Richard’s name for a crime that he didn’t commit.

This movie is yet another film based upon a true story of the actual Richard Jewel who was a real suspect in the bomb attack that marred the Olympic events taking place in 1996. Using the magazine article that first appeared in Vanity Fair in 2007 written by Marie Brenner as its base, Billy Ray’s screenplay of this episode starts off rather well. Once the investigation begins, the pacing of this movie starts to slow down, almost to a crawl! In fact, it becomes rather dull in spite of its premise! If this title was let’s say, a TV feature or a movie created for video screen viewing verses a theatrical setting, the pokey movement may be forgiving. After all, when one is watching traditional television, one may be doing something else. (Paying bills, cooking a meal, clipping toenails, etc.) So whatever would be happening on screen wouldn’t necessarily be missed. But if one is inside of a movie theater, one can’t do anything else–or they should not be doing anything else anyway! (Playing with a phone, etc.)

The evergreen Clint Eastwood, known for appearing in action packed movies from not so long ago, directs this film in the same fashion as to a feature created for the small(er) screen. There are a lot of close-ups during dialogue scenes between the characters, especially between Richard, his mom Bobi, and his attorney friend Watson. Again, this is ideal for a TV setting. But for a theatrical movie? Maybe…?

Granted, awards season is just around the corner. This is perhaps the only reason why movies such as this one is made and released. If one wanted to see an action movie that contains more fast paced thrills than talky people doing something for the good of another, wait until the late spring as those titles will become readily available for consumption. Yes, they may be pictures that are “tentpoled”, remakes, reboots, and/or sequels, but at least those titles will deliver their maximum entertainment value!

Since this movie is based upon a true story, would it be a spoiler alert to note that Richard didn’t do what he was suspected in committing? Anyone can always read the article that the premise to this film was extracted from. And so it goes!

This movie is rated “PG” for cussing and minor violence. Now appearing in multiplexes nationwide.
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1917 (Universal/Dreamworks) takes place during “The Great War” a.k.a. World War I in April of the title year. Stationed near the western front in central France, a pair of enlisted men fighting for Great Britain, Schofield (George MacKay) and Blake (Dean-Charles Chapman) are assigned a mission by their commanding officer. Their job is to deliver a message written on paper to a platoon planning to engage in an attack with the German troops. This battle is some distance away, enough where they must cross the German occupied region. This attack was set by the enemy as a trap where the platoon would become wiped out. Among those fighting within this platoon is Blake’s brother (Richard Madden) serving as a Lieutenant. It is up to Schofield and Black to complete the assignment as they travel on foot through dangerous regions to deliver the message that would save the British army in such a disastrous fate for their nation and for Blake’s elder sibling.

This latest entry in war movies, a genre that hasn’t hasn’t seen much action (no pun intended) in recent years, isn’t another battle picture that feature the usual scenes such as massive guns going off, bombs exploding all over the place, as well as the typical caricatures of the fighting men in action. (They were usually men, although women were added in wars taking place after 1990, but that’s besides the point!) This WWI feature written by Sam Mendes and Krysty Wilson-Cairns consists of the two leads George MacKay and Dean-Charles Chapman as Schofield and Blake, traveling from their platoon base to the other platoon location going through the usual war traps, from slogging through mud embedded battle grounds, encountering an abandon German outpost complete with booby traps, passing among bombed out villages, and keeping an eye out for the “Jerrys” that may be armed lurking in the brush. Their movement throughout most of the feature is set within a staging where there are limited breaks in the camera shots. That is, appearing where all of the action takes place in real time akin to a stage play where everyone and everything in moving through complete syncopation. (Thee are a few breaks within the camera as being “always on”, but it’s barley noticed!) Unlike a movie that attempted to use the same method of cinematography called Birdman or through its complete title Birdman or The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance that wound up as headache inducing, Roger Deakins’ method of cinematography doesn’t distract, yet somehow enhances this continuity non-breakage. This real reasons toward this form of visuals is because there is a lot of action going around for what it is. Granted, there are a few bombs going off, gunplay taking place, and even a German airplane crashing to the ground. (What kind of aircraft that crashed isn’t known to this writer.) But most of this form of “action” is between Schofield, Blake, and the elements around them!

Sam Mendes, who has directed a pair of James Bond flicks in recent years, directs this feature that does use the same techniques to what one would find in a Bond vehicle. However, unlike the JB flicks that feature weaponry that are overloaded with special effects that are over-the-top akin to a standard super hero title, this title uses EFX only when needed. After all, this is a war movie y’know!

Also appearing in this feature is Mark Strong, Andrew Scott, Claire Duburcq (the only on-camera female in the cast), with Colin Firth and Benedict Cumberbatch as Captain MacKenzie.

Is 1917 another “gimmie-an-Oscar” picture? This could become the case as there are lots of elements to this film that would work in becoming an award winner, such as the intense acting action between the two leads, the for noted cinematography, Thomas Newman’s music score, the fact that this is an all-British production, etc. There won’t be any nostalgia aspects factoring in as anyone that could remember The Great War is long dead and gone! And for the record, there are no period songs performed on its soundtrack. So don’t expect to hear any early jazz recordings being played out!

This feature is rated “R” for war related violence and occasional cussing. Opens December 25th in limited release, and on January 10th, 2020 at most multiplexes nationwide.
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JUST MERSEY (Warner Bros.) stars Michael B. Jordan as Bryan Stevenson, an African American civil rights attorney based in Connecticut and fresh out of Harvard law school. He takes upon the case of Walter McMillian (Jamie Fox), who in 1987, was apprehended, accused, and committed to death at the state penitentiary in Alabama for the murder of an eighteen year old white woman. Walter claims his innocence as he states that he was nowhere near the site of the actual murder, as well as a witness, Ralph Myers (Tim Blake Nelson) a fellow criminal currently servicing time in prison on another charge, states he was present at the murder site yet he held a personal motive to lie. In addition, the rural Alabama community is run by a group of white leaders that doesn’t necessarily cater toward racial equality. This case intrigued Bryan enough to assist the doomed Walter to have a retrial that would prove his innocence. With the aid of a local civil justice advocate Eve Ansley (Brie Larson) that handles such cases, the two team up in their effort to work with Water on gaining his second chance in court to get his name cleared.

This story, taken from Bryan Stevenson’s memoir of the same name and thus “based on a true story”, is a very well crafted drama. Michael B. Jordan as attorney Bryan Stevenson holds well in his dramatic performance. Ditto for Jamie Foxx as Walter McMillian, who is always on the edge between facing death through execution, and becoming the free man he long desires. Destin Daniel Cretton (who also directs) and Andrew Lanham’s screenplay shows how the long process of starting this case lasted for years, long before with the access of technology later becamse part of this process. (The story itself takes place mostly in the early 1990’s, as much of the film’s look and feel reflects this period.)

The above paragraph states some of the higher notes that this theatrical film contains. What may work against it is the fact that this title plays out as a 1990’s-era feature, especially for a movie released toward the end of the calendar year. That is the season where the movie studios both large and small(er) would release their best movies in order to become candidates to win awards, better known as “gimme-an-Oscar” titles. That step may have worked out in the 1990’s when theatrically released movies held more clout, in spite of the presence of home video and cable TV. In today’s age, melodramatic movies (such as this one) would play better when viewed through a smaller screen (television) available for immediate streaming. In fact, the pacing of the film moves rather slow. This pacing is fine for a feature as seen through a video monitor set inside of a home domain as one can watch the film while doing something else, such as sorting out laundry, paying bills, or even playing with one’s smartphone while texing, tweeting, and social media posting! It’s rather tough to do those same functions while seated inside of a large darken room loaded with strangers at a movie house. Sure, you can use your phone as the film plays on the big screen. One just might irk the fellow patrons!

Again, JUST MERSEY holds plenty of merit for what it is. However, the studios must remember why movies are made and why people will trek out of of the house to a theater to see the film. The answer to that statement is movies are made to make money. People go to the movies to be entertained. This writer can’t express the box office take to what Warner Bros. et. al may earn for this title. As far as its entertainment value? That is why super hero action-based “tentpole” pictures exist, as well as CGI animation titles! Those films don’t preach or make some kind of a statement. This movie goes toward that route!

PS…would it be another spoiler alert to note that Bryan Stevenson succeeds in proving that Walter McMillian was indeed innocent from his charges and was released eventually from prison? It would have been a more interesting movie if Bryan did fail to spring his client. But this is all besides the point!

This movie is rated “PG-13” for cussing and TV-style violence. Opens December 25th in regional areas where industry voting members reside. Opens on January 10th, 2020 for the rest of the nation at selected multiplexes.
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This issue will be the final edition of Accessibly Live Off-Line for the 2019 calendar year. We will be taking the next two weeks off, and will return with Vol. 25-No. 1 starting on the week beginning January 6th, 2020.

On behalf of the staff and management of ALOL, we wish everyone a safe and progressive holiday season!

See you in 2020 vision!
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ACCESSIBLY LIVE OFF-LINE
is a presentation of Linear Cycle Productions

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ACCESSIBLY LIVE OFF-LINE (C) 2019 Linear Cycle Productions. All rights reserved. The views and opinions are those of the writers, and not necessarily of the staff and management. ‘Nuff said!

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