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.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Life Imitating Art: Transcending Grief

A quiet moment on the set of "Transcendence" last year.
"Transcendence" was a much-anticipated movie even before it was finished being made.  Wally Pfister,  Christopher Nolan's longtime DP took a leap of faith and chose the ambitious project for his directorial debut.  Johnny Depp took a risk by showing his face on screen without elaborate make-up or costuming.  It's sci-fi meets A.I. meets scary technological neuro-science shit of which I don't know much about.  It questions the ethics and warns of the dangers of technology in the not-so-distant future.  In other words, "Transcendence" had alot of big ideas to cover.  But so far the critics haven't been kind.  And that's a shame.  It's not nearly as terrible as they would have you believe.  It's not without issues, but it's certainly a valiant effort.  It's entertaining, has some truly exquisite visuals, and there are some good performances in it.  

That aside, I had some personal moments on "Transcendence" -- moments when life interrupted art in a massive way.  I spent some time on the film last year in Los Angeles.  I met some great new friends on-set-- people I spent a huge amount of time with and people who were supportive when I had some rough days I hadn't been anticipating.  The very first day of filming last year, I was on-set in Los Angeles when I got a voicemail from an unknown caller.  Then, came another call.  And another voicemail.  From my mom.  It was one of those phone calls I'd been dreading for years...  the call that informed me that Grandma (probably my most favorite person on the planet) had had a massive heart attack and had been immediately rushed to the hospital.  It didn't look good.

I was immobile.  I couldn't even think straight.  I didn't even know what to do.  Quit the film?  Leave immediately and jump on a plane?  Or would that be useless?  What can you do when something like that happens and your family is literally thousands of miles away? On a movie set of all places?  I didn't know.  All my grandma ever wanted to do was be in show business.  She was like Lucy Arnaz in I Love Lucy, always wanting to find some way to wiggle her way into a chorus line.  But she never did.  Never came close to living out that dream of hers.  But I'd succeeded in getting considerably closer to what she had dreamed for herself.  She was tickled pink that I ended up working in the entertainment business.  She lived vicariously through my stories about film and TVprojects.  

I decided the best thing I could do was to wait a day and hope for the very best.  As my mother reaffirmed to me, Grandma would've wanted me to keep working on this "Johnny Depp" film, as she called it.  She would've been disappointed if I'd missed that opportunity on her behalf.  It turned out to be the best decision.  The next day, while surrounded by a line of movie trailers outside, I was told that "Grandma was gone." I took a few moments alone, seeking solace wherever I could find it amidst the carnival atmosphere of everything going on around me.  But that carnival and the positive atmosphere of the people on that film crew is what prevented me from collapsing into despair that afternoon.  I was able to get through that day and that week. I was able to get through that movie.  And that summer.  And now a whole year without my grandma.  And although, I miss my grandma terribly, more and more each day, I will always remember her as I remember my experiences on "Transcendence."

Miss you Grandma!

© 2014 by KLiedle

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