Monday, May 18, 2020

Fred Willard: Master of Comedy

I am feeling sad about the passing of Fred Willard. He was one of our favorite guests on Movie Addict Headquarters. But prior to that, I had the pleasure to interview Fred on the phone – and he kept me in stitches. Below is my article about that interview.

"The world needs comedy," funnyman Fred Willard declared in our spirited telephone interview. That’s why this acclaimed comedian plans to keep playing such roles as the hilarious real estate agent in Waiting for Guffman and the ignorant commentator in Best in Show, two outrageous mockumentaries by filmmaker Christopher Guest. "I’d like to try action-adventure, but that’s too much work," he quipped.

Well-known for his improvisational talent, Willard explained how he approached his Best in Show character. "I was told Buck Laughlin was a former athlete who had done some sports casting but didn’t know anything about dogs and was too lazy to find out. Then I just came up with things I thought a man like that would say."

Willard’s interpretation of Laughlin certainly hit pay dirt. His amusing comments about how someone should do a calendar of "women bathing their dogs" and the need for a bloodhound owner "to wear a Sherlock Holmes cap" had critics attending a Denver press screening howling with delight. The veteran Second City sketch artist seemed pleased about how much of his work remained in the final cut of Best in Show. "I was surprised, especially since many of my Guffman scenes didn’t make it to the finished movie," he admitted.

Born in Cleveland, Willard confessed to causing minor disturbances with his comic antics while in school there. "When the kids laughed at me, I always asked the teacher why I was in trouble when the others were the ones making the noise."

Like many comics, Willard found laughter the best way to cope with pain as a child. "When I was 11 years old, my father died just four days before Christmas," he stated. "That had quite an impact on me and my attitude toward life. I’m a lot like Dick Cavet who says, ‘Whenever I go to a restaurant, I expect it to be closed.’"

Turning back to his childhood days, Willard recalled wanting a B.B. gun as a youngster. His mother wouldn’t allow it. "You’ll never be completely happy until you put someone’s eye out," she warned him. "Well, she was right," he said. "I’ve never put someone’s eye out, and I’ve never been completely happy."

Commenting on his own child-rearing techniques, Willard explained, "We gave our daughter everything she wanted. We nurtured her and never made her suffer. Now she’s all grown up and a mom herself. But she doesn’t want to work at being an actress or do comedy. Where did we go wrong?"

Although Willard really wanted to be a baseball player, choosing acting as a career has brought him success in films, live theatre, and television. Highlights of his work include being a founding member of a classic improv group (Ace Trucking Company) and performing recurring television roles on Mad About You, The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, and Roseanne (for which he received an Emmy nomination). He has appeared in such diverse movies as Idle Hands, This Is Spinal Tap, and Roxanne.

If the report of this interview seems a bit jumbled, it’s because Willard kept me laughing too much to take good notes. But he’s absolutely right. The world does need comedy. And comedy needs talented comedians like Fred Willard.

R.I.P. Fred Willard. Thanks for all the happy memories you’ve left us. We will miss you!

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Wednesday, May 06, 2020

A Book for Corona Virus Blues

I am always happy to learn that Confessions of a Movie Addict, my amusing life-at-the-movies memoir, is still attracting attention. Although published way back in 2001, film fans of today seem to enjoy this award-winning book.

Thanks to Carolyn Howard-Johnson for her timely comments about the book and to Denise Fitzgerald Cassino for presenting them with her wizardly flair in the image below.   

On Facebook, Carolyn also posted a picture of herself pointing to the book’s "stylish index" and accompanied with the following quote:

“This book by my favorite movie addict is amazing for #CoronaReading. We love the stylish index for movies from another era, suggestion for sheltering and from a time when I didn’t watch movies much. Busy with our kids and our stores. Remember Chocolat and Erin Brokovich?

For more information about the great Carolyn Howard-Johnson and her help for authors, please go to Http://   

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Tuesday, April 07, 2020

Easter Parade Tribute Poem

“Easter Parade,” MGM’s glorious 1948 musical starring Judy Garland and Fred Astaire, is sheer entertainment from beginning to end. It’s one of the films I enjoy watching over and over again. Humor, star power, fabulous music, incredible dance routines, and a clever show-biz plot combine to make this offering a favorite for fans of movie musicals. Below is my tribute poem for this memorable motion picture from days of yore. 

Top of their game, Fred and Judy
sing and dance in perfect movie.
Easter Parade charms and delights
Lots of fun and other highlights.

Fred picks Judy for new duo,
teaching her what she ought to know
to replace Ann Miller. Oh yikes!
That’s not what Judy thought or likes.

But they work hard on their new act.
Dazzling viewers, and that’s a fact.
What will the great Ann Miller say?
Will she get in poor Judy’s way?

Terrific tunes engulf the screen.
Top performances in each scene.
Easter Parade evokes such joy.
It’s like a stunning shiny toy!

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Thursday, April 02, 2020

Chasing Your Dream

Neflix's movie Uncorked motivated me to write the film poem below.

Elijah tries to chase his dream
despite his father’s silent scream.
His mom supports him to the max
with no regrets and never lax.

Elijah wants to study wine
and helping people while they dine.
But his father has different plans.
So wine studies he quickly bans.

Uncorked offers this simple plot.
Happily, actors add a lot
to this drama film’s viewing time.
A good place here to end this rhyme.

(Released by Netflix and rated TV-MA. Read my entire review by clicking on this link:

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Thursday, March 19, 2020

Birthday Poem from Across the Pond

Thanks to British film critic and poet Richard Jack Smith for this lovely birthday poem he sent to me today. 

A message from the heart.

Singing, dancing and taking part.

It's the best of days

in so many ways.

A Birthday wish all year round

The magic tap dancing sound.

A poet and dear friend anew.

The world is richer because of you.


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Wednesday, March 18, 2020

A Screenwriter's Notebook Review

In The Screenwriter’s Notebook: Reflections, Analyses and Chalk Talks on the Craft and Business of Writing for the Movies, Bill Mesce Jr. shares his unique personal experiences and intriguing insights as a screenwriter and teacher of this subject. While extremely helpful to wannabe screenwriters and people already working in this field, the book boasts considerable appeal for film critics and for avid movie fans like me.

It’s highly entertaining and packed with details about all kinds of movies. I want to read it again!

Mesce’s fascinating new book motivated me to write the poem below.

This “Screenwriter’s Notebook” – what a treat!

For true insight it can’t be beat.

Not just for wannabe script scribes.

It can enrich movie fans lives.

Packed with humor and lots of facts.

There’s nothing that this Notebook lacks.

Published by Serving House Books 2020, A Screenwriter’s Notebook is now available on Amazon.

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Monday, March 09, 2020

Cinematic Poetry

After watching “In the Moon’s Shadow,” a lovely independent film starring Debra Lord Cooke and Elissa Piszel, I was motivated to write the poem below.

Two sisters try to take a start

at being together, not apart.

One a widow struggling with grief.

The other works hard, no relief.

A Great Eclipse takes center stage

and puts sisters on the same page.

The acting here reaches new heights.

Location shots showcase delights.

“In the Moon’s Shadow” makes us feel

that love and joy can truly heal.

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