Robert Osborne, 1932-2017

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Robert Osborne, the knowledgeable and gracious host of Turner Classic Movies, died Monday. He was 84.

The Los Angeles Times has a wonderful obituary of Osborne, who had a career as an actor before he went into journalism and then television hosting. He had a number of small roles in the ’50s and ’60s, including a bit part as Mr. Drysdale’s assistant on “The Beverly Hillbillies” pilot.

He acquits himself fine, but I’m glad he went into journalism. Lucille Ball, a mentor, told him, “We have enough actors. We don’t have enough people writing about the industry.”

For more than 25 years he wrote a column for The Hollywood Reporter. He was absolutely trusted by many starts; THR has columns by several of them today, all of whom remember him fondly.

I met him just once, when I went over to Turner’s Midtown Atlanta complex to do a brief story on TCM’s “31 Days of Oscar.” He was, of course, charming and kind. He sent me on my way with one of his coffee-table Oscar books. Nobody knew more about the awards and the history behind them. (Not even my friend Tom O’Neil, and Tom knows everything.)

Osborne had been taking a smaller role on TCM, ceding the stage to Ben Mankiewicz and newcomer Tiffany Vazquez, but even when he wasn’t on screen, he was always there. He will be greatly missed.


That #Oscars thing

Of course I missed it.

For most of the last 16 years, I covered the Oscars — a few times from the ballroom of the Renaissance (now the Loews Hollywood) Hotel at Hollywood & Highland, more often from my desk at CNN Center. Inevitably, the show would end past midnight here on the East Coast — and then I’d be at work for another hour or two, putting the finishing touches on the wrap story and making sure all the galleries worked. Sleep came sometime between 2:30 and 3 a.m.

I’m no longer at CNN — some of my old tasks have long since fallen to the amazing Lisa Respers France, who has supervised Oscar Night for awhile and done an amazing job (especially with social media, which didn’t exist in the Old Days) — so last night I did something I haven’t done since 2000: I hosted my Team Trivia show at Manuel’s Tavern, came home, watched the Oscars for a bit … and went to sleep.

So I had no idea how things ended until this morning.

I thought I’d wake up to the news that “La La Land” had won handily, or that “Moonlight” had pulled off an upset. I didn’t think I’d see both.

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What I learned from going through my old college transcripts


I recently requested my undergraduate transcripts. I hadn’t seen them since I graduated in 1986, nor had I thought about them much. (After all, the diploma is on the wall.)

So seeing them brought back a whole host of memories — or, in some cases, empty spaces. Herewith some thoughts as I dig into my wanderings on the bucolic quad of Emory University:

Math 111 (Calculus I). I got a D in this class, taken the first semester of my freshman year — the only D and worst grade I got at Emory. (Hell, the rest of college I had only two C’s.) I took it because a) it was a logical step after Advanced Math in high school; b) it was part of a list of requirements (though I could have substituted something else). The professor, who had obviously dyed hair, had just returned from some time off and had no idea how to teach freshmen. I, in turn, had no idea how to calculate a derivative. Can I drop this course now?

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A tip of the turban to an old master

Image from Wikipedia.

Jon Stewart returned to old friend Stephen Colbert’s “Late Show” Tuesday night wearing an extra-long red tie and a small animal on his head — a nod, he said, to the fashion sense of our 45th president.

But there was another nod I detected, one that likely went over the heads of most of Colbert’s audience.

You’ll notice that, at about the 6:10 mark, Stewart and Colbert crack jokes about the folder Colbert holds being “the last executive order.” The way he says it is a reference to the great Carnac the Magnificent, one of Johnny Carson’s characters from his 30-year run as “Tonight Show” host.

Which got me thinking: Does anybody under 40 even remember Johnny Carson?

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The mourning of the #Oscarnominations

Image from Summit Entertainment via Indiewire.

The Oscar nominations were announced this morning. “La La Land” led all films. That wasn’t a surprise, though the number of nods it earned probably was: 14, tying it with “All About Eve” (an actors’ showcase) and “Titanic” (a massive blockbuster) for the most nominations by any film in history.

I found this out the way most everybody else did — online, at home.

This is the first time in 16 years I haven’t been at CNN Center to actually watch the announcement. When I was there, the day (and day before) had a rhythm: put together a list of possibilities, write an advance story about the possibilities, wake up early on Tuesday morning (though not as early as the folks in Los Angeles, where the major nominations were announced at 5:38 a.m.), get ready, and then write as fast as I could.

I had two goals — to get it right and to beat The Associated Press. If my first story was out before 9 a.m. ET — which, dammit, it was — I felt pretty good … though I usually spent the rest of the morning updating it a couple times to add comments from nominees, notations on surprises and whatever colorful trivia I could shoehorn in there.

This year, away from CNN, I didn’t have to wake up early, nor did I have to handicap everything beforehand (with tons of help from Tom O’Neil’s terrific site). Still, it felt weird.

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Odds and ends: Baseball, awards, ‘Face’

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A few things that have crossed my brain …

  • Three cheers for Jeff Bagwell, Ivan “Pudge” Rodriguez and Tim “Rock” Raines for making the Baseball Hall of Fame yesterday. All three are deserved Hall of Famers, and I was particularly pleased to see Raines — much overlooked, even in his heyday, because of the truly amazing Rickey Henderson — finally get the necessary 75% of ballots. The guy could always steal a base, but unlike folks like Vince Coleman, he could also hit, hit for (some) power and play solid defense. The big problem for Raines was that he mainly played for the Montreal Expos, where he was never going to get any notice. Hell, I’d forgotten that he had some late-career years with the Yankees and actually picked up a World Series ring.

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Meryl Streep and ‘what that feels like’

Aside from her Cecil B. DeMille Award at the Golden Globes, Meryl Streep gets the Trending Award from the Internet this morning for her speech accepting the Cecil B. DeMille Award.

I couldn’t go anywhere on my Facebook feed without embedded videos of her speech and cheers for her in general. And most news sites I checked had the story above the fold or in a significant place on their phone apps.

She was, of course, eloquent.

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The witty, wise Carrie Fisher

54th New York Film Festival Screening of HBO's Documentary 'Bright Lights', USA - 10 Oct 2016
Image from TVLine.

(Update, 2:13 p.m.: Good for you, Brian Lowry.)

Carrie Fisher has died. She passed away today after reportedly suffering a massive heart attack Friday. She was 60.

The obituaries will focus on her portrayal of Princess Leia in the “Star Wars” films. That’s as it should be: the movie series reshaped ideas of box office success and even spawned a religion. In an interview with WebMD, Fisher herself acknowledged the inability to get out from Leia’s shadow:

Have I gotten past it? I wasn’t aware that I had! I am Princess Leia, no matter what. If I were trying to get a good table, I wouldn’t say I wrote Postcards [From the Edge, her best-selling first novel]. Or, if I’m trying to get someone to take my check and I don’t have ID, I wouldn’t say: “Have you seen Harry Met Sally?” Princess Leia will be on my tombstone.

But I hope the appreciations don’t skimp on Carrie Fisher, writer and wit. Not only was she a highly thought-of script doctor, said to have punched up “Sister Act” and “The Wedding Singer,” she was incredibly quick with a line. Even when it came to talking about script doctoring: because studios could steal her ideas before hiring her, she thought of the trade as “life-wasting events.”

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The genius of the opening credits

Saul Bass- Style is Substance from The Royal Ocean Film Society on Vimeo.

A few years ago, I wanted to do a story about movie opening credits. It never went anywhere for various reasons, but one of my ideas for the story was a gallery of Saul Bass credit sequences. You know them even if you don’t know him — he did a bunch of Hitchcock films, including “Vertigo,” “North by Northwest” and “Psycho,” as well as a handful of works by Otto Preminger and Martin Scorsese, among others.

Bass died in 1996, but every so often something new pops up online hailing his genius. I love when this happens — more people should know about Saul Bass. The latest is a piece from Slate, which highlights a short video put together by Andrew Saladino and the Royal Ocean Film Society.

Watch it above — and enjoy. The man’s work is still as fresh as tomorrow.