In Case You Missed It (ICYMI)

Saturday, March 30, 2019

The Highwaymen
A Modern Day Screen Classic

Like the characters in The Highwaymen, I'm old enough to avoid making absolute statements, knowing I'll likely need to reverse myself in the next few days.

Recently Steven Spielberg made a statement that films produced for Netflix should not be considered for Academy Awards. After all, Academy Awards are for films that have appeared in theaters, and many Netflix films are viewed on tv or device screens, which directors like Mr. Spielberg feel are something much less than the movie theater experience.

Seems reasonable, and I think I'll avoid disagreeing with Mr. Spielberg for today, since I've never stood behind a camera, and been responsible for completing a major film project.

I have however, been a big film fan for all of my adult life, and "I may not know art, but I know what I like."

That love began with Bonny and Clyde. In 1967 there was no home video industry, you had to "go to the movies" or wait a few years for the sanitized version be broadcast on one of the three television networks.

Bonny and Clyde was instant, hypnotic, cinematic magic. Likable characters, beautiful costumes, catchy music, cool old cars, a palpable sexual undertone (obvious even to a seventh grade viewer) all presented in a tight, fast-moving, highly emotional script. When the lights went down in the theater, we were instantly swept away.

Audiences agreed, IMDb estimates it cost $2.5 million to produce, and as of January 1973, generated a cumulative world gross of $70 million, earning six Academy Awards, including Best Picture and Best Actor in a Leading Role for Warren Beatty, Best Actress in a Leading Role for Faye Dunaway, and Best Actor in a Supporting Role for Gene Hackman.

So it's basically now a screen classic, which has stood the test of time for over fifty years! A very hard act to follow!

Would you try to remake this story, in today's competitive theater and streaming market?

I'm glad Kevin Costner, Woody Harrelson, and everyone at Casey Silver Productions were up to the task.

Faye Dunaway as Bonnie
Denver Pyle
as Frank Hamer

Photo: Warner Brothers

In the original, the great actor Denver Pyle plays the role of Texas Ranger Frank Hamer.

In this production, we learn more about Frank Hamer, played by Kevin Costner, who has retired from law enforcement, and done well in providing private security. He has a beautiful home, and a loving, socially active wife.

He clearly doesn't need the work, and age has caught up with him. The Texas governor's office offers him the task of capturing Bonnie and Clyde, which he accepts. He looks into drafting his former partner Maney Gault to help him, played brilliantly by Woody Harrelson. Maney has descended into the life of a former hero, and is up to the challenge of joining Frank on the chase.

The next act is how they arm themselves, how they track Bonnie and Clyde, their competition with the FBI (a good deal of their chase is outside of their jurisdiction of Texas) and all of the resistance they meet from their prey's families, neighbors, and the public who have made them into folk heroes.

But we see the trail of violence and death they leave behind, which motivate Hamer and Gault.

From here we all know how the story ends, but director John Lee Hancock assumes that, and keeps us rivoted anyway.

The Highwaymen is a deeply rewarding cinematic experience: Great cast, fast-paced story, lots of surprises, great costumes, beautifully shot, hypnotic soundtrack, even lots of old car action.

Which brings us back to my original point, Steven Spielburg's suggestion that Netfilx films not be considered for Academy Awards. If you see him before I do, tell him I'd like to know what he thinks of The Highwaymen.

Years ago an interesting film entitled Donnie Darko was released just before 9/11. The plot included an intentional plane crash, so it was pulled because of 9/11. But the film became such a home video sensation, that Picturehouse mounted a second limited theatrical release. Great! My wife and I went to a small NYC theatre to see it on the big screen, we were joined by dozens of other enthusiasts, but the run only lasted a few weeks.

If Netflix mounts a theatrical release of The Highwaymen, we'll be there, make it iMax!


A few fun facts about the original





Thursday October 25, 2018

Who was Peter Wooley?
(Just ask Mel Brooks!)

Several years ago producer Tony Schweikel contacted me about promoting a documentary he had produced with his partner Peter Wooley. The documentary Barbarossa and the Towers of Italy, was about ancient mariners of the Mediterranean Sea attacking the southern coasts of Italy, and the towers the towns built to protect themselves from those pirates. (Towers that still stand today!)

Somewhere along the way Tony said: "You should check out my partner Peter Wooley, he has quite a track record."

I had never heard of Peter, and when I did check him out, Tony was right, I was totally astounded!

IMDb Pro lists an amazing ninety-three film and television credits for Peter, including Summer Rental, Porky's Revenge, Under the Rainbow, Up the Academy, High Anxiety, Blazing Saddles, and many, many others.

And not only did Peter work in all of those films, but he wrote a highly entertaining book about his experiences: What! And Give Up Show Business? A View from the Hollywood Trenches.

Many of us who were fortunate enough to work in the film business in recent years were inspired by the many great films of the seventies, and the very talented performers and personalities of that era, projects Peter worked on, and people he worked with!

Peter describes working with Brian Keith, Robert Mitchum, Robert Redford, Katherine Hepburn, and many, many others.

And from the Amazon description: "And his memories are not just about stars, but also about the scores of creative, clever, zany, egotistical characters he's worked with in his demanding and creative profession. Full of fun and gossip and yarns, it's for everyone who wants to know what really goes on behind the scenes."

"Fraught with insight and mirth, just like Peter himself." adds Mel Brooks himself!

With holiday season on the way, Peter's book is the perfect gift for the film lovers on your list who are fascinated with inside stories on Hollywood.


And if all of that were not enough, Peter also wrote a novel: You Only Go ‘Round Once, a kind-hearted, sometimes shocking, and continually fascinating novel about three men's unique, fifty-year friendship.

In the fall of 1956 three guys who grew up along the same river in Northern Indiana had a chance meeting in the cafeteria of a small university in Southern Indiana.

Their stories begin as very young men in Hawaii and Germany, then proceed to Southern Indiana, Montana, Florida, Hollywood, and the Middle East. A chance meeting in a cafeteria of a small university in Southern Indiana begins a fifty- year friendship that goes as far as it can go. Three guys who saw something in each other they liked, stayed friends for life.

They went their separate ways after graduation, but kept in touch. Their lives often times were one in the same-as close as you could be one minute and spread to the winds the next.

For over fifty years, they realized their dreams and lived them to the fullest. They fought for and with each other, and played the games they wanted to play.

“After all”, they reasoned, “you only go ‘round once.” But if you do it right. . .

You Only Go Around Once is another riveting, emotional story told in Peter's unique, almost hypnotic style.

I couldn't put it down!

Most recently Peter and Tony produced The Hybrids Family, starring Paul Sorvino and Carolyn Hennesy.


Peter Wooley on IMDb

What! And Give Up Show Business? A View from the Hollywood Trenches on Amazon

You Only Go Around Once on Amazon



Sunday October 14, 2018

The Point of Harry Nilsson

I probably spend way too much time on my laptop in my dining room . . . one night a week or two ago my wife was watching tv in the living room, when what do I hear:

This is the town and these are the people
This is the town where the people all stay

Not a cover, but the original by Harry Nilsson himself!

That's the way they wanted it
And that's the way it's going to stay.

Of all people, who would be using this music in a tv spot? Facebook!

I laughed, then thought "Wow at sixty-four might I actually be cool again, even if just for a moment?"

In 1973 a friend convinced me to move to Southern California with him, and I ended up making some terrific new friends. No mortages, insurance, car repairs, just a job that barely paid to keep a small roof over my head and a couple of frozen pot pies in the freezer, with lots of free time to do what guys in their early twenties did back then.

It was the same time John Lennon was in LA on his "long weekend," many evenings spent with Harry Nilsson and others making tabloid news.

Peter Lawford, John Lennon, Mai Pang, and Harry Nilsson with hat, in the audience of a Smothers Brothers LA club appearance

Out of that time peroid came Harry Nilsson's The Point short animated film and album, a charming story about conformity. For me it was one of those albums that I listened to many, many times, so it became a symbol of that free and easy youthful time period. Me and my Arrow came from that project.

Fast forward to the 90s when somehow the subject of the film came up with my young grade school kids, they discovered it, and loved it!

So all of these things occurred to me from the soundtrack of that Facebook commercial.


(Coincidentially that's a '76 BMW 2002, I had a black one before my daughter was born.)

Here's a brief history on Harry Nilsson:



Think About Your Troubles, from The Point to get a flavor for the animation style.




Perennial Party Favorite from that time: You're Breaking My Heart, with George Harrison, Peter Frampton, and Ringo


So after seeing a little bit of Harry Nilsson's life and work I think you can understand why it brought a smile to me hearing him in a Facebook spot.

-- Steve Thompson


Thursday, October 11, 2018

Combining a Passion for Color, Texture, and Symmetry, With a Feminist Awareness

Meet Jane Petersen, founder of Brass Egg Studio, Madison, Wisconsin. "Brass Egg came from my radical feminist days when I realized that there was insufficient language to express courage for women.

The Egg represents the feminine, and the Brass represents the strength and courage we women possess.

Years ago on a vacation in Gulf Shores, Alabama, my Mom and I found some shells with holes at the top. I took them home and made earrings out of them. Friends loved them, (and so did my Mom!) and Brass Egg Studio was born!"

Murano Italian Glass Peridot Green 24kt Gold Necklace - 19.5"

Using the fabulous colors of Murano Italian glass beads and semi-precious gemstones, Jane now creates unique, one-of-a kind handmade artisan jewelry, naturally designed to make women feel beautiful when wearing it.

Jane has always had a keen appreciation for colors, symmetry, and visual texture, and she loves the vibrant colors and patterns in quilt fabric. For years, Jane made quilts and quilted accessories for everyone in her family.

Today her love of color and texture carries over and is reflected in her colorful jewelry designs.


Brass Egg Studios on Etsy

Brass Egg Studios on Facebook



Wednesday October 10, 2018

When $200 Million isn't quite enough to make ends meet . -- ST

From The Wrap

Annapurna Upheaval: Megan Ellison Is ‘Reevaluating’ Film Division Amid Money Woes

"According to at least two individuals close to Annapurna, Ellison’s father, Oracle co-founder Larry Ellison, is balking at any further investment in the studio after an initial outlay by him and his daughter of more than $200 million."

Annapurna on IMDb


Monday October 8, 2018

From The Redford Center on Facebook

A message from our co-founder, Robert Redford:

"Tonight, for the first time I can remember, I feel out of place in the country I was born into and the citizenship I’ve loved my whole life. For weeks I’ve watched with sadness as our civil servants have failed us, turning toward bigotry, mean-spiritedness and mockery as the now-normal tools of the trade.

How can we expect the next generation to step up and serve, to be interested in public life, and to aspire to get involved when all we show them is how to spar, attack and destroy each other?

It’s hard to blame young people for calling us out, and pointing to our conflicts between the values we declare, and those we stand behind only when it’s convenient to partisanship. Many people are rightly calling it a damn mess.

But I want to encourage you to dig deep for hope and civility right now -- to try to make connections with people you disagree with, to be better than our politicians.

We don’t have to share the same motivations to want the same outcomes. Let’s focus on each other, and strengthening our communities, and reflecting on what’s happening. Let’s live in justice and respect and let others fight it out now to the bitter ends.

This is our country too. Every woman, man and child in it, our American future.

We’ve got work to do."



From The Hollywood Reporter

Hope Hicks Named Communications Chief for New Fox


In Case You Missed It (ICYMI)

Social media has turned us all into journalists, most without the benefit of any journalistic training. Musicians who spend years learning their craft, then spend countless hours practicing, generally sound pretty good to us, way better than those of us who might just pick up a guitar and start strumming away.

So I started this page for curious people who want to learn interesting, true, things, to help improve their own peronal journalism.

A journalist's most valuable asset is their credibility, and the foundation of credibility is reliable sources. Fake news never quotes recognizable sources, they use meaningless phrases like "people are saying" or "people have told me . . . " or "the result of a recent study was . . . "

Your questions are "Who is saying?" "Who told you?" "What study?"

So I'll be telling you about some of the interesting things that I see throughout my day, and about some of the people I know with ideas and accomplishments I think you should be aware of. Don't expect to agree with everything, and don't waste our time arguing. If you go out to dinner, and you see something on the menu you don't like, you don't argue with the waiter, do you? No, of course not, you just move on and find something you like.

I have always loved arts: visual, music, film, and now live community theatre. There is no greater thrill to me than watching a film with the cast in the audience, and last week I was priveledged to attended a Ritz Theatre original production, hosted by the playwright, which was every bit as memorable and enjoyable to me. So many of the stories I'll share will have an artistic theme.

So here are a few stories from today to help get the ball rolling. Let me know what you think, then tell me your story!

Steve Thompson

I'm the Community Outreach Director at The Ritz Theatre Co. in Haddon Township. I thought we'd have some fun discovering some interesting people and things, so contact me with your own interesting story!

Before working with The Ritz, I promoted over thirty-five films, worked with an Academy Award Winner for ten years, and promoted a variety of producers, directors, actors, and film technicians.