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The "Room"-Akron connection

By Rich Heldenfels Published: January 29, 2016


I have been working my way through the Oscar-nominated films I had not seen before, and today's selection was "Room," whose nominations include best picture, best actress (Brie Larson), best director (Lenny Abrahamson) and best adapted screenplay (Emma Donoghue, from her novel). 

It is a remarkable film, more than Oscar-worthy. I have seen all the best-picture nominess except "Brooklyn" and "Room" had the greatest effect on my emotions. I was shaken from about midway all the way until the end. And Brie Larson's unadorned, deep performance is perfect. 

But there was a second reason I wanted to see the film, which is its connection to Akron. I first saw it pointed out in the Devil Strip that several cues indicated the movie was set in Akron and there they were: the "Akron Police" cars, the Ohio license plates on the vehicles; with that in mind, I even thought some of the exteriors -- particularly the view from a high-rise hospital room -- looked Akron-ish.

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Rhino announces new Cars retrospectives

By Rich Heldenfels Published: January 26, 2016

A megabox and another greatest-hits collection celebrate the Cleveland-connected band. I'm still pretty happy with the 2002 greatest hits, which you can compare here. But if you are late to the Cars party, here's the official word on the new sets:

In 1978, the Cars had a Top 40 hit with the band's very first single, "Just What I Needed." That streak continued over the next 10 years, as the band revisited the Top 40 a dozen more times with radio hits "Let's Go" and "Shake It Up" along with iconic videos like "Magic" and "You Might Think," which won MTV's first-ever "Video Of The Year" award in 1984.

The five original members - Ric Ocasek, the late Benjamin Orr, Greg Hawkes, Elliot Easton and David Robinson - recorded six studio albums together - all of them with Elektra Records - and have sold more than 23 million albums in the U.S. alone.

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When did someone decide "Grease" was family entertainment?

By Rich Heldenfels Published: January 20, 2016


Notes regarding Fox's "Grease Live!" coming Jan. 31 -- and not just because the network is calling this America's favorite musical: 

Years ago, I went to a road-company production of "Grease" with all the original vulgarity intact (and, it appeared, a little more added to the performance). Parents complained loudly because somehow -- possibly through the John Travolta/Olivia Newton-John movie -- they had the idea that "Grease" was fun, family entertainment instead of what it was: a musical about getting laid. (What does Sandy learn at the end? You can get your man by acting slutty? What do the guys discuss in "Summer Nights" -- including the creepy question "did she put up a fight"?)

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Another Oscars issue (expanded)

By Rich Heldenfels Published: January 15, 2016

Below you can see some general thoughts about the Oscars. Here's another one:

Every year around this time, once the Oscar noms are out, I wish that they would go back to the old acting system where you honored the performer for all his/her work in a single year, instead of just for a single movie. Throw out the lead/supporting breakdown (which, as has been pointed out, is bogus anyway when Rooney Mara can claim to be in a supporting role in "Carol") in favor of a single, all-encompassing acting category.

I just saw "The Danish Girl" and Alicia Vikander is wonderful in it -- that's THE performance of the movie -- but consider her chances if her nomination also factored in "Ex Machina" and "The Man From UNCLE."

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7 things that the Oscar nominations told us

By Rich Heldenfels Published: January 14, 2016

You can play along at home with the complete list of nominees here. Some things the Oscars told us, and more's the pity:

1. There are no people of color giving good performances in movies.  Once again the acting nominations are a whiter shade of pale even though there was work that at various times was talked about in Oscar terms, including Will Smith in "Concussion," which by the way received no nominations, and Idris Elba in "Beasts of No Nation." Nor is that the only place where race is again an Oscars issue: "Straight Outa Compton," on a lot of speculative lists of best-picture nominees, ended up with just a nod for best original screenplay."Creed," a film about the son of Apollo Creed, received one nomination -- for Sylvester Stallone as supporting actor.

2. The big-tent best picture category isn't really that big. The idea behind the expansion of best-picture nominees was to let acclaimed films that were also commercial fare into a category that often leaned on arthouse movies. There are some smashes in this year's best-picture contenders, including "The Martian" (7 nominations overall, $597 million worldwide revenues) and "Mad Max: Fury Road" (10 nominations overall, $375 million worldwide). "The Revenant," tops with 12 total nominations, is also off to an excellent start with moviegoers. See Box Office Mojo's breakdown of the nominees. But the biggest hit overall, "Star Wars: The Force Awakens," even with a 93 on Rotten Tomatoes, was overlooked for best picture and confined to technical categories for its five nominations (editing, score, sound editing, sound mixing, visual effects). And winners still tend to come from the artier side.

3. The voters may be ready for new acting blood ... Eight of the acting nominees are first-timers, including Bryan Cranston, Tom Hardy, Brie Larson, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Rachel McAdams, Charlotte Rampling, Mark Rylance and Alicia Vikander.

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Alan Rickman, RIP

By Rich Heldenfels Published: January 14, 2016

You had a character people loved.


Another shocker this week. Much the way David Bowie's passing seemed to come out of nowhere, so now there's the news that Alan Rickman has passed away. One obit is here. In so many movies Rickman was, simply put, The Man. He could play horrible human beings and you still just loved to watch him, even when there were bigger movie stars around. 

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"Bachelor" notes

By Rich Heldenfels Published: January 11, 2016

Caila Quinn's still in. From my Twitter feed, in reverse chronological order

"It doesn't make sense" to have to ask women to leave, says , apparently confusing the show with real life. More rose ceremony : LB -- but asks to talk to . then leaves the show.

High-exploding volcanoes and a contestant "not great with her mouth." But there's nothing suggestive here. Naw.

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ICYMI: "Sunday Morning" and Goodyear blimps

By Rich Heldenfels Published: January 11, 2016

David Bowie, RIP

By Rich Heldenfels Published: January 11, 2016


I’ve been scrolling through the David Bowie selections on my iPod and thinking, not for the first time, what a ridiculous range the guy had. He was an early art-rocker, and the rare white artist to play “Soul Train" (and worked with a then-little-known Luther Vandross). He was a man of many images: a provocateur in drag on late-night TV and slickly handsome as the thin white Duke. He could be a great mocker of Ricky Gervais on “Extras” (in keeping with a sharp sense of humor generally), a more than decent actor in “The Man Who Fell to Earth” and, at times, an arena god.

No matter what was going on in the world over the last 40-plus years, it seemed that Bowie had a place. Besides “Changes,” he had “Space Oddity,” “Ashes to Ashes,” “Young Americans,” “Let’s Dance, plus” “Under Pressure” and other collaborations. He covered Springsteen and “Knock on Wood,” and still they were Bowie songs. He made a Christmas perennial with Bing Crosby. He was a musical hero for far more than one day.

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More notes on 'The Bachelor' and Hudson native Caila Quinn's appearance on the ABC show

By Published: January 5, 2016

Caila Quinn, the daughter of a Step2 chief executive officer and a Hudson native, made her debut on ABC's The Bachelor on Monday night. Reporter Betty Lin-Fisher has a whole story on Quinn here.

Here are some thoughts from pop culture reporter Rich Heldenfels, who has been on a self-imposed break from "The Bachelor" but came back for Quinn -- and has plenty of thoughts on her appearance:


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