AND THE WINNER IS…?

This is a line that was created and as inspired by many of those media-esque awards programs and presentations that is now part of the early calendar year landscape. The awards season were kicked off by the Golden Globe Awards that was held this year on January 10th–a Tuesday since its previous day slot of Sunday was taken over by Sunday Night Football, and after not taking place last year due to NBC’s non interest of coverage due to some backstage going ons at the The Hollywood Foreign Press Association, the group that organizes the said awards, and continues through the next few weeks concluding toward the biggest awards show of them all, the Academy Awards on Sunday, March 12th. Here, every group from those that only exists to pass off awards to the trade guilds that recognize their peers involved in the media they work within will present citations for the best in their industry.

Of course, movies seem to take the spotlight right now since television is an ongoing group (and the Emmy Awards won’t be taking place until September), and recorded music’s Grammy Awards stand as their own entity. So movies lie front and center right now.

The movie industry itself is still struggling to confirm with the results of the Pandemic, now approaching it’s third anniversary where theater had to shut down in order to prevent the spread of the virus. Many of these movie theaters did eventually open as before, while others were shut down for good. But seeing the results of such titles as Top Gun: Maverick, Avatar: The Way of Water, Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, as well as other features making bank at the box office, folks, especially those of a younger demographic, are flocking back to the real movie houses to see a movie in a physical place that can’t necessarily be duplicated in a home setting. Of course, one has to pay for the privilege with admission, the cost of popcorn and related snacks, and the notion of getting to the movie house via transportation. But for these folks, the effort is worth the time and money to do so.

That is great for the movie theaters. However, the movies that tend to become mentioned within these award programs tend to be more of the “art” movie variety, a dramatic film that has complex plots, characters that show their depth, and are very intriguing for what they are. They are usually based upon actual characters and/or events, rather that movies that are follow up to previous movies featuring the same cast and characters, a medium that is an Intellectual property (IP) that’s based upon a physical product and/or a service, or something else that is already familiar or “pre-sold” to the public at large.

However, when it comes to the movies that tend to be nominated for various awards, let alone winning a few, these are movies that are good and even great for what they are. However, when it comes to titles that are entertaining and even money making is another factor as it stands.

First, let’s look at the award winning movies. Many titles that may get an award for something or another are based upon actual people and/or events. These people/events tend to fall within the tragic side of things. They have conflict toward their issues, and do not necessarily mean that they will experience a so-called “happy ending”. They may die from their result or fall into some realm of ruin. This is where the drama comes in. They may struggle within their own terms, and they may experience joy and success later on that isn’t depicted or noted within the feature. That notion is either left for a sequel that may be created or not, or it’s left to the viewer’s imagination or assumption.

This writer has been stating on and off of why the movie industry exists and why people will pay to go to the movies. Here is the simple “log line” to answer these factors… 

Movies are created to make money. The movie industry is a business. The goal of a business is to be profitable i.e. make money. If a movie studio creates some product that people will want to see, then it will be profitable and thus, make money. It doesn’t have to be a so-called “good” movie, but if people are willing to pay for the privilege of seeing this title, give the theater attendees just what they want! Movie attendees will be entertained, and movie studios will make money. Everyone’s pleased and happy. The end!

Those same movie attendees go to the movies for escapism. They want to “travel” into a world that may or may not exist to see characters that may exist or not to perform in various places and doing things that reflect toward their caricature and where they are located, real or otherwise. And what better was to “escape” is to view a movie that holds these characteristics, especially in a big dark room shared by strangers that react to what is going on the big screen.

Of course, there are exceptions to these rules, assuming that they are even called “rules”. But this gives the basic idea to what movies are made and why people go to the movies that’ve been going on for over one hundred years.

So this writer will see and even participate in what movies get their awards. Granted, they may not be big money makers or even be entertaining for what they are. But that is not up to yours truly. I am just a micro speck in this wacky industry called Hollywood. I cherish this industry as much as I may despise it. Then again, I have lots of love/hate relationships with a lot of things. Some are dull and boring while others are important. But I am not the only one top speak out about this industry. So I will turn my podium over toward those others that have bigger and louder voices as myself. And you won’t have to go far to find ‘em either. Social media is packed with them. Visit your favorite portal and check ‘em out.

PS..Thanks for stopping by here. I’m honored to be worth your time. And say “hi” to everyone else for me! It will save me the trouble of doing it myself!!

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The Sierra Madre Playhouse kicks off their annual Solo Shows Festival, consisting of four solo performances that comprises four real life characters that speak upon themselves and what they went through to where they stood in their lives, either in the long run or just for that particular moment.

The first of the four starts off with BILLIE! BACKSTAGE WITH LADY DAY, where the performance focuses upon legionary blues and jazz singer Billie Holiday.

Synthia L. Hardy portrays Billie. The opening scene takes place backstage at an unnamed cabaret club. She’s scheduled to speak to a reporter that wants some insight into her life and career. She barely remembered her appointment to talk to this reporter. But just as she is, she speaks to this journalist. In reality, she addresses the audience in her own flamboyant style. The only one in the room is her piano man (Lanny Hartley, alternating with Woody Woods) who’s seated in front of an old upright piano, ready to play a song where Billie sets the mood.

She speaks about her life growing up in Philadelphia where she faced being assaulted as a ten year old, and later sent to a “reform school”. She was later arrested at the age of thirteen accused for prostitution as well for narcotic use and abuse. What made things rather uneasy for her was the fact that she was “colored”, bringing her to an even lower status. But Billie knew the challenges she faced, and it was her jazz and blues vocalizations that made her what she became to be. She was full of talent as well as patience, never giving up even if the odds were not in her favor.

The second act consists of Billie at her finest. With a quartet of musicians backing her up consisting of Bobby Wilkerson on drums, David “D Wake” Wakefield (alternating with Mark Allen Felton) on sax, Michael Saucier on bass, along with Hartley/Woods on piano, Billie presents a number of tunes both as well known standards as well as some new “old” discoveries that not only brings her style up front and center, but proves that this lady can indeed sing the blues!

Synthia L. Hardy created this showcase that tells a bit of Billie and where she arrived musically. Her ability to play Billie is done with style and grace, even if Billie herself can become a bit rough around the edges. Under the stage direction of Bryan Rasmussen, this program is one part solo performance, and other part concert that services as a fine bookend to what Billie was in her lifetime and how others of her ilk used her abilities to bring the legacy of blues and jazz music up toward the musical standards of here and now.

Billie Holiday was a performer that became great when she was active in her time, and became greater long after her career (and life) was long completed. It’s always grand to see such performers as Synthia L. Hardy to show how music, especially in such genres as blues and jazz, never goes out of style. These types of harmonic sounds recall both the good and not-so-good things as part of a life as Billie experienced. After all, that is what makes the reason to live and to live with reason. And having a bit of soul in one’s musical step always helps in its long run!

BILLIE! BACKSTAGE WITH LADY DAY, presented by and performs at The Sierra Madre Playhouse, 87 West Sierra Madre Blvd., Sierra Madre, until January 22nd. Showtimes are Friday and Saturday nights at 8:00 PM, and Sunday afternoons at 2:00 PM. 

For ticket reservations, call (626) 355-4318, or online at  http://SierreMadrePlayhouse.org

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Burbank’s Victory Theatre opens their 2023 season with the west coast premier of Warren Leight’s HOME FRONT, a drama about a triangle of three people that stood in different landscapes within their lives and how it all meshed together not by choice, but through circumstance that domestic society found as acceptable.

The opening scene takes place on August 15th, 1945 when the Japanese declared a surrender with the USA declaring the official end of World War II. Thousands of folks crowded places such as New York City’s Times Square to street celebrate the end of the long war. Within this celebration starts a meeting with Annie Overton (Austin Highsmith Garces), a young woman who recently became a war widow, and James Aureluis Walker (C.J. Lindsey), a Naval Lieutenant. They meet in a “cute meet” fashion and later have their sights among each other, However, they hold a difference. She’s white and he’s “colored”. Before long, they become a romantic couple and eventually rent out a small yet humble basement apartment. While getting the place in order, Annie meets one of her neighbors within the unit, Edward Glimmer (Jonathan Slaven). He, too, did his duty in the war as a medic. His difference is the fact that he is of the “homosexual” persuasion. He and Anne eventually become friends as fast as she fell for James. But things unravel from there when Annie conceives a child from James, and James himself becomes in a bind with the Navy that’s not of his making in spite of being an officer. It’s a story on how differences occurred during a time where because of America’s victory in a worldwide conflict, things should become for the better to and for all. Instead, it was deemed to fall further behind due to what society labeled as the so-called right thing to exist.

This play written by Warren Leight uses actual instances that occurred during WWII, including the James Walker’s character as part of the “Golden 13”, a baker’s dozen of Negro enlisted men who trained to become Naval officers within a shorter time span (eight weeks) instead of the sixteen weeks the Navy would give to those that were white. (It had something to do with an attempt to prove that Negros would not be suitable to serve as officers, but succeeded with high scores upon their training and testing.) As to the performances by the three cast members, C.J. Lindsey as James Walker presents himself as a strong lead. Austin Highsmith Garces as Annie Overton is the young woman, (or “girl” as she would be called during these wartime and post-war eras) who sees James as a war hero (even if he never saw actual combat), and didn’t consider race as an issue. Jonathan Slaven as Edward Glimmer has a lot of character within his style, but never shows his persuasion to be buried deep in a “closet”. In fact, he becomes the voice of reason to Annie, even willing to assist James in his Naval concerns. 

Besides the performances of this talented trio, there is the stage set as designed by Even Bartoletti that consists of a basement apartment that is sparse in decor with brick walls and industrial light fixtures (after all, it is a basement apartment), yet shows its coziness enough to make it as an ideal starter dwelling. 

Directed by one of the Victory Theater’s artistic director’s Maria Gobetti, this play presents the notion that war is hell not only on the battlefields, but on the home front as well. Long after this war is replaced by other conflicts the nation would become involved with, the attitudes of race and persuasion would change over time, but its changes would be slow where other may believe that the said changes never became completed. Yet as a play, this production holds its drama as solid with periods of light comedy added to the mix that blends itself out. The aggressive conflicts may have come to its ends, but the issues that set its pace still lingers. Perhaps that armistice was signed long ago. Then again, maybe not. But as theater, this play is recommended.

HOME FRONT, presented by and performs at The Victory Theatre, 3326 West Victory Blvd. (off Hollywood Way), Burbank, until February 12th. Showtimes are Friday and Saturday nights at 8:00 PM, and Sunday afternoons at 4:00 PM. For tickets and for further information, call (818) 841-5421, or via online at  http://www.TheVictoryTheatreCenter.org

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The 28th annual Critics Choice Awards ceremony was held on Sunday, January 15th from the The Fairmount Century Plaza Hotel in Century City, California. The CW Network aired the program live.

Chelsea Handler served as the masters of ceremonies where awards were presented by the choosing of Critics Choice Association, presenting the best in television programming and feature films. 

Among the many awards that were presented, ranging from Best Ensemble Cast (feature films), Best Actor/Actress in a Comedy/Drama (ilm/television), Best Supporting Actor/Actress in Feature/TV, etc., two special awards were presented. 

Janelle Monáe was awarded as part of the #SeeHer movement where females are presented in movies and TV shows in a positive and progressive light, and Jeff Bridges received a Lifetime Achievement Awards as awarded to Bridges by John Goodman.

Better Call Saul won Best Dramatic Television Program, Abbot Elementary was awarded Best Comedy Television Program, and Everything Everywhere All At Once was awarded for Best Feature Film. 

The Critics Choice Association consists of members who work as professional journalists that write and review films and TV shows in publications that exist through multimedia outlets. (Disclaimer: This writer is a member of the CCA.)

For a complete listing of all titles nominated and its associated winning categories, visit http://www.CriticsChoice.com

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