Cocoa and Caffeine Hollywood Travels

This is an ever-evolving story of a girl writer and her two greatest loves, the movies and travel. As she hikes the trenches of Hollywood, you're brought along for the ride.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

The Lovely Bones: A Hauntingly Beautiful Soundtrack

I don't cry often at movies, but Peter Jackson's The Lovely Bones, based on the novel by Alice Sebold gets me every time.  The film's story, visuals, and incredible performances become even more powerful with its hauntingly beautiful soundtrack.  I can't think of any music that would be more fitting for the film.

Here is Alice by The Cocteau Twins, a song that appears in the film during a scene that brings tears to my eyes every single time and Song To The Sirens by This Mortal Coil ...

Monday, April 14, 2014

The Problems of Exotic Animals Becoming Common Pets

What I like about documentaries is that they facilitate social change while shedding light on topics that otherwise could've gone unseen.  Recently at work, someone mentioned how "The Elephant In The Living Room" had truly affected them.  I was aware of the film, but like many others, it had gotten buried in my Netflix queue.  This weekend, I finally gave the film the attention it deserves.

"The Elephant In The Living Room" is a documentary that shows the complications and ramifications of regular people owning exotic pets.  I vaguely knew there were people, mostly in Las Vegas I imagined, that owned tigers or monkeys or the occasional boa constrictor.  However, I had no idea how widespread the problem was until I saw this documentary.  It's not just Las Vegas residents or wealthy people owning these wild animals as pets, it's regular people like the guy next door or your co-worker or your kid's science teacher. You never know.

I always had pets as a kid.  We had cats and dogs and little "garden" snakes and newts and fish and turtles. Then, there was the chinchilla and the hamsters and a brief period where we had a few ducks that lived in a play pen in our garage.  When I was in kindergarten, I even had a pet fruit bat for a couple weeks.  Don't ask.  Anyhow, I understand the connection people can have toward their pets.  How pets can truly become members of the family.  I get that.  However, none of our pets ever posed a threat to our neighbors.  We didn't have venomous snakes slithering around or a jaguar traipsing around our backyard.

 "The Elephant..." presents the vast array of problems that arise when people bring wild animals into their homes as pets.  Ironically, my viewing of the documentary coincided with an article in this month's National Geographic (April 2014) entitled,  "Wild Obsession: The perilous attraction of owning exotic pets."  It's mind boggling to me that you need to license your dog, but in several U.S.
States, there is no license or permit required to own, say,  an African lion or a spider monkey. What?

"The Elephant In The Living Room" presents not only the question of safety in owning exotic pets, but also the dangers it can have on the animals overall well-being.  Even in witnessing how much someone loves their chimp or tiger, I'd somehow feel that the very act of owning such an animal is selfish in many ways.  Lions should be with their own kind, their pride. " Doing what lions do..." as a guy in the documentary says.

Of course, there's an allure to owning an exotic pet, but it's also cruel to take wild animals from their natural habitat, the wild.  And until I saw this documentary, I had no idea how easy it actually is to obtain an exotic pet.  You can nab a tiger cub from a newspaper ad. You can purchase one of the most deadly African snakes at a local reptile show. You can buy your toddler his very own baby alligator.  It's insane!

As Adam Roberts of Born Free USA states in the National Geographic article, "When we keep wild animals as pets, we turn them into something for which nature has no place."

Even for the most responsible exotic pet owner, I think that is something to ponder.

Cocoa and Caffeine Hollywood Travels
Copyright 2014 by KLiedle

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Letterman Spells It Out: "I'm Retiring"

Don't act like you're the least bit surprised.  We all knew this day was coming.  With Jay Leno gone from The Tonight Show and David Letterman announcing his impending retirement in 2015, it's official: 

The Titans of late night are passing the Olympic torch to the younger gods of comedy.

At the current moment, it's hard to imagine late night without Leno and Letterman.  For so long, they've had the comedic rivalry of Coke vs Pepsi.  But, so much has changed in the last few years.  For one, there are a helluva lot more beverage options on supermarket shelves than there used to be.  Coke and Pepsi are competing less with each other and more for survival.  Similarly, the world of late night has gotten considerably more crowded and competitive in the last decade or so.  

There are late night hosts on networks I've never heard of.  I can't tell one Jimmy from the next.  And while I rarely watch late night talk shows myself, I read their official Twitter feeds.  

I regularly tune into Netflix, Youtube, and sometimes Hulu.  I haven't subscribed to cable in nearly a decade.  I feel I'm not missing much.  These days, everywhere I look, there's something else to look at. 

The genius of technology is deceiving people like me into believing they've "discovered" something new when it was planted there for us to find.  It's not that late night has changed that much.  The truth is, the entire landscape of television has undergone significant change in the digital age.  

The shake-up at late night signifies changes in viewership habits as well as a generational shift in who these viewers are (and what gets their eyeballs on the screen, whatever screen that might be.) 

Like Jimmy Fallon, as a kid I'd regularly sneak downstairs and watch The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson.  I never remember getting into trouble over this.  After all, it was Johnny Carson.  And who would blame me for wanting to watch his show?  I was a smart kid.  There was a more personal connection too:  Not only did Johnny Carson grow up in Nebraska (where I'm originally from) but in the early 1950s, both my grandfather and Carson had shows on WOW radio and television based in Omaha, Nebraska.  And so, it was almost expected that we'd watch Johnny Carson in our household on a daily basis.  

Some of my earliest and best memories of childhood were of watching Johnny Carson on the "boob tube," my grandfather's affectionate term for television. When Jay Leno replaced Carson in 1992, it just wasn't the same.  Of course, being creatures of habit, my family still watched The Tonight Show regularly.  Leno was a big personality and he was talented no doubt, but he didn't capture my imagination and attention-- not in the way Carson had.  

By the time I went away to college, I wanted to break away from Leno's Tonight Show.  I wanted something different, something edgier.  Leno was safe.  He was exactly what NBC needed: a conservative that could bring in laughs within boundaries and hold onto the established audiences that Johnny Carson and Jack Paar had built into an empire.

In a twist of events, David Letterman's failure to get The Tonight Show post paved the way for his own empire in what was to become The Late Show With David Letterman.  By establishing his own late night show at CBS, Letterman wasn't subject to the same rules as Leno.  Untethered to an established late night show, Letterman had the freedom to be himself, no holds barred.  

The Late Show With David Letterman premiered on CBS in 1993, shortly after Leno's takeover of The Tonight Show over at NBC.  Nearly immediately after I started college, I jumped ship, abandoned Leno, and became a regular viewer of Letterman's irreverent take on late night.  Letterman was edgy, a little unpredictable, and famously razor-edged when it came to interviewing celebrities.  My mother hated him.  Several even called him an "asshole" in those early days. In a word: he was fun.  I enjoyed his quirky skits and character incarnations.  Dave's Top Ten List, as simple as it was, proved to become a fixed element akin to Leno's Headlines on The Tonight Show.  It was also because of David Letterman that I was introduced to Conan O'Brien, then the quirkier oddball of even later, late night.  Letterman and Conan kept me laughing through many late night study sessions during my college years and really informed my sardonic sense of humor as it is today.

The best entertainers know when it's time to exit.  And when Letterman leaves the stage in 2015, he'll leave being known as the longest-running host in the the history of late night television.  Remember how people reacted when Jerry Seinfeld decided to end Seinfeld in 1998 after nine fabulous seasons?  People didn't want to see the end of the era.  They wanted more Seinfeld, but rule number one is to leave the stage while they're still laughing.  

Copyright ©2014 by KLiedle

Monday, March 10, 2014

The Oddity Of Posthumous Celebrity Endorsements

About a year ago, I was driving North on Laurel Canyon Boulevard here in Los Angeles when I spotted a billboard depicting the likes of Marilyn Monroe, Fred Astaire, and Clark Gable... iconic stars of Hollywood's past.  Of course, this is not all that unheard of-- especially in Los Angeles.  The twist?  It was a public service ad for condoms.  A number of questions came to mind as I drove away.  Is this legal?  Did they honestly get permission from the estates of these dead celebrities to push condom use?  And if so, how f***in expensive was that?  For a public service announcement.  Not to mention the fact that, let's be honest, the audience most likely to notice that billboard have not used condoms in quite some time.  Just sayin.

This also brings me to the question of posthumous celebrity endorsements.  To me, there's something inherently troubling about it.  As someone with an advertising degree, I've struggled with the idea.  The ethics of it.  It's one thing if someone is approached to endorse a product while they're alive and that person agrees to do so in exchange for compensation of some kind.  However, it's quite another thing if someone approaches your estate long after you're dead.  Or puts in an offer to your primary beneficiary: "Hey... we'd like to give you "X" amount of money.  All you gotta do is let us put your great-grandfather's face on a condom ad.  Cool?"

When a celebrity endorsement works, it can really bring a product to life and get people to notice it.  Celebrities are used all the time to hawk products.  Of course, most of them are living-- at least at the time the ad airs.  But let's face it, posthumous celebrity endorsements are just strange.  It's not like the celebrity personally tried the product and decided, "You know what?  This is darn good stuff.  I'll be glad to attach my name to it."

We all know this.  We see a celebrity like Marilyn Monroe depicted in a contemporary lingerie ad-- fully knowing that the lingerie line probably didn't even exist in Monroe's era.  Let alone did she wear any of it.

Don't be mistaken.  I'm not entirely against posthumous celebrity endorsements.  I just think they have to be dealt with cautiously and respectfully.  I believe we should honor the memory of the dead no matter who they are.  To me, the only way a posthumous celebrity endorsement works is if the celebrity in question is a good fit for the product.  That is to say, does it honor the celebrity's essence?  Leave us a beautiful memory of who they once were?  Or is there some distinguishing feature or characteristic about a celebrity that naturally lends itself to a certain product. Bob Hope was an avid golfer, but would you put him in a modern ad for Twizzlers?  Probably not.  But golf balls or a PGA Tour?  That's more likely. Of course, the most ideal circumstances for a deceased celebrity product endorsement occur very rarely.  And a posthumous celebrity endorsement must be treated with particular care.

A number of years ago, Gap famously lifted a dance sequence featuring Audrey Hepburn from the movie, Funny Face for their "Back In Black" campaign to sell skinny black pants-- a look that Audrey Hepburn originated.  In the ad, Gap famously transported a dancing Audrey from the beatnik era of Funny Face into the contemporary world of Gap.  They added splashy music and a kaleidoscope effect and there's Audrey dancing like a maniac and clearly having a blast.  And you know what?  Even though Gap got some flack for the ad at the time, I truly think Audrey would've gotten a kick out of it.

Speaking of which: Galaxy Chocolates, a British chocolate brand has an ad out featuring a CGI Audrey Hepburn traipsing around a watercolor-washed landscape, circa 1950.  It's obviously not Audrey, but her essence?  In my opinion, it's there.  And the ad, while not perfect, works.  We can imagine Audrey in that world, unwrapping a sweet moment and savoring the flavor of quality dark chocolate.

 And anyone who's read up on Audrey Hepburn knows that the girl was a fan of high-quality dark chocolate, pasta, and Granny Smith apples.  [All things that I also happen to enjoy fondly.] Sure, you see Audrey's likeness all over Hollywood, but as far as endorsements, her son handles those sorts of things.  And by all accounts, he's very selective about what he agrees to on his mom's behalf.  In all likelihood, he asks himself: Does it honor Audrey's essence?  Does it highlight some memory of her?  Things she loved, activities she enjoyed, causes she believed in? If yes, then it's a good fit.

Copyright © 2014 by Kendra Liedle

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Motion Picture Costume Design And Other Treasures In Downtown Los Angeles

The author sports a cloche hat at the Bradbury Building in L.A.

Once again, I attended the Art Of Motion Picture Costume Design Exhibit at FIDM's Museum and Galleries in Downtown Los Angeles. Now in its 22nd year, the exhibit showcases outstanding costumes from the year's best films. In a year filled with period films, superheroes, sci-fi, action, and fairy-tales retold, costume designers had considerable opportunity to display their talents on the big screen.
While some may find it particularly mesmerizing to see costumes displayed from the likes of Man Of Steel, G.I. Joe, and Thor, my eyes wandered toward more classic costume design. I was far more fascinated by the detailing of the more elaborately tailored and embellished costumes from The Hunger GamesOzAmerican Hustle and The Great Gatsby.
The contributions of motion picture costume designers capture a world, an era, and a story on film. Costume designs come to define a character. Costume designer, Catherine Martin, nominated for The Great Gatsby, explains: "That's the job of a costume-the actor is the transformer. The actor with the script and the director really make the story, and the costume is there to support the process." (From FIDM exhibit notes) What would The Great Gatsby be without the lined suits of Tom Buchanan's Yale pedigree or Daisy's glittering headpieces and gorgeous Prada evening gowns? Also, on display are costumes from American Hustle including several of Rosalyn's frocks as well as some of those low-cut ensembles Amy Adams wore so well as Sydney. American Hustle's Costume Designer, Michael Wilkinson, is among those nominated for an Oscar this year.
Other Treasures Near FIDM (Downtown Los Angeles)
After you've completed your cultural excursion to FIDM's museum, take advantage of downtown L.A. While I was there, a friend and I walked from the Fashion Institute to     The Bradbury Building (304 S. Broadway.) Originally built in 1893, The Bradbury Building is known for both its architecture and its appearances in films such asBladerunner, 500 Days of Summer and The Artist.
The Bradbury's exterior is rather understated, but walk a few steps inside and you'll see what all the fuss is about. The building's interior houses a central court and atrium that beautifully allows natural light to illuminate the cascading staircases and highlight the ornate filigree ironwork that's seen throughout the building.

The Fashion Institute Of Design and Merchandising (FIDM) hosts the 22nd Annual Art Of Motion Picture Costume Design February 11 - April 26, 2014.
FIDM Museum & Galleries: 919 South Grand Avenue, Los Angeles CA 90015
Gallery hours are: 10:00a.m. - 5:00p.m. (Tues - Sat) 
** The exhibit is FREE and easily accessible from the Los Angeles Metro Red Line. 
Please note:Photography is not permitted inside the exhibit.
The Bradbury Building is located at 304 S. Broadway, Downtown Los Angeles.
The building is open to visitors from 9:00a.m. - 6:00p.m. (Mon -Fri) and
9:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m. (Sat/Sun)
Copyright © 2014 by KLiedle

Monday, February 3, 2014

American Hustle: A Dizzying Game Of Cat And Mouse

Amy Adams In American Hustle
If there's any message to American Hustle, it's the idea that we're all con men to some degree or another. Whether it's power, money, food, love, or the latest tech gadget, even the most innocent of us will manipulate others to get what we want. It's human nature. When we con someone, we deceive them. We play a part, act a certain way to get exactly what you want. Sometimes, we even con ourselves. A con at its worst is pure betrayal. With those heavy ideas in mind, the fact that David O' Russell was able to put together such a funny and entertaining film is quite an achievement.

His latest, American Hustle, may be splashy and flashy and all around effervescent. Yes, it's a comical drama, a farce, with little splashes of camp thrown in for good measure. It's a throwback to the screwball comedies no one makes anymore. Some have criticized that it's too flamboyant for its own good. That it's glitzy enough to fool even the most savvy audience member, the harshest critic, and the most knowledgeable Academy member. If that's the case then David O'Russell has conned us all.  

In my estimation, it's not a perfect film, but no film ever is. What American Hustle has going for it is that you are swept up in the con world the characters inhabit. Its sheer glamour seduces you because you're witnessing these larger-than-life characters acting screwy, making bad decisions, and one-upping each other with their cons. More than likely, you find yourself enjoying the experience and perhaps feeling a bit guilty about it because these characters are not good people. They're criminals when you get right down to it: white-collar criminals who rise to the top not because of talent, luck or hard work, but by cheating all along the way. American Hustle is about people you'd do anything to get away from in real life. Maybe that's one reason why they're so fun to watch on the big screen.American Hustle is nominated for 10 Academy Awards.


Copyright © 2014 by KLiedle

Monday, January 27, 2014

AMERICAN HUSTLE : Costume Design

Costume Designer Michael Wilkinson is nominated for an Oscar for work on American Hustle.

Amy Adam's Plunging Necklines

Jennifer Lawrence Gets Doritos On Her Dress