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Thursday, December 20, 2007

Kennedy Center Honors, Part 1

The Martin edition.

The Kennedy Center Honors took place on December 2. Increasingly, the honorees are very much familiar to me. This year is no exception, with four of the five artists. The show airs on CBS on Wednesday, December 26 at 9 pm EST, and I WILL watch (or more accurately, record to watch at a later time.)

The person with whom I am least familiar is also the oldest. Leon Fleisher was a fine pianist who lost the use of his right hand, but helped developed a left-hand repertoire. I recall seeing a television program on that phenomenon. Here's a recollection by a former neighbor.

I've seen a number of movies by Martin Scorcese, including
Cape Fear (1991)
The Color of Money (1986)
The King of Comedy (1983)
Raging Bull (1980)
The Last Waltz (1978)
Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore (1974)
and also
No Direction Home: Bob Dylan (2005)
"The Blues" - Feel Like Going Home (2003) TV episode
But I've managed to miss some of his best-known films:
The Departed (2006) - not a surprise lately
Gangs of New York (2002) - got a mixed feel from the reviews
Kundun (1997) - possibly one of a couple movies of that year I missed
Casino (1995)
Goodfellas (1990) - I actually saw a good chunk of this on TV, but not enough to count
The Last Temptation of Christ (1988) - and I really wanted to
Taxi Driver (1976) - have long been wary of it
Mean Streets (1973) - don't think it played where I went to college and it just didn't happen
This coming year, I'll promise to see at least one of these films.

Even before I really knew who he really was, I was enjoying the work of Steve Martin. As a writer on The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour - a show I watched religiously - he won an Emmy, along with the rest of the writing staff, in 1969. I recall seeing him in sketches, and playing banjo on skits on that show, and the shows of Glen Campbell, Sonny and Cher, and yes, Ken Berry.
Of course, like most of America, I really got to know him from his wild and crazy appearances on Saturday Night Live. He had a hit single, King Tut, which I have on one of those Dr. Demento albums. I even have one of his LPs
However, I know him best from the movies. Here's a list of the ones I've seen:
The Out-of-Towners (1999)
The Spanish Prisoner (1997) great role
Father of the Bride Part II (1995)
Leap of Faith (1992) I recall really liking his evangelist character
HouseSitter (1992)
Grand Canyon (1991) His character has one of the best lines about movies in film history: "That's part of your problem: you haven't seen enough movies. All of life's riddles are answered in the movies."
Father of the Bride (1991)
L.A. Story (1991)
Parenthood (1989)
Planes, Trains & Automobiles (1987) I have a peculiar affection for this movie
Roxanne (1987) I haven't seen it since, but I had a great affection for this movie at the time; wonder if it holds up?
All of Me (1984) I thought the scene in which the Lily Tomlin character takes over his body was hilarious; again, a movie I haven't seen since
The Muppet Movie (1979)
Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band (1978)
I've seen large chunks of The Jerk (1979)
Currently, the screenwriter and playwright - there was a play he wrote at Cap Rep, which I unfortunately missed - has his autobiography on the best seller list; here are reviews by Jaquandor and Gordon, which seem to be consistent with most observations that the book is NOT a laugh riot. My favorite book title of his, though, is one he did with fellow New Yorker magazine contributor, cartoonist Roz Chast: The Alphabet from A to Y With Bonus Letter Z! Sounds like a book I could enjoy while pretending to give it to my daughter.

I received a mixed Christmas CD recently, and the last cut is...strange. Reportedly, one night late in 1979, Steve Martin, Paul Simon, and Billy Joel all ran into one another while out on the town drinking, and spontaneously decided to go into a studio and record a holiday tune. So they did, with Steve adlibbing the monolog portion.
Then they all sobered up and decided not to release it--but undoubtedly some engineer slipped a bootleg copy out on the sly, and ended up on this disc. I'm assured this story is true. The tale is as much of a hoot as the tune.


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