ALWAYS KEEPING AN EYE ON HOLLYWOOD!!!

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

JOHNNY CHAZZ' TURN: ACADEMY AWARDS 1995- 2005 R.I.P. !

JOHNNY CHAZZ: Just what is it that makes a film the “Best” of the year? On what basis does the Academy Award analyze and assess the quality of each film? It is doubtful that we will ever find out the answer, but there are some trends that we can examine to determine which film is most likely to take home the award.

We have learned on Cinema: Counterpoint that there are so many factors that determine the overall merits of a high-quality film. These include (but are not limited to): The genre, the sets, the camera work, the script, the political statement, the performances, the sound and the editing.
Dramas and historical epics tend to be the most successful probably accounting for winning nearly two (2) years out of every three (3). Comedies, war-based films and musicals most likely comprise the other winners. Thus, we can sort-of “nutshell” the films that are nominated each year (ten of them now…..ahem) by pigeonholing each one into one of these categories.

Starting in 1995 and ending in 2005 there was a strange period (and that strangeness still lingers) where the winners of the Academy Award for Best Motion Picture were questionable to say the least. As a matter of fact, these ten (10) years probably represent the worst cluster of “Best Films” ever to have won in the history of the awards. Off we go -

JER: An excellent topic… I will share my views and counterpoints after each of JC’s remarks.

JOHNNY CHAZZ: It will be fun to see what Jer’s thoughts are in terms of this 10-year span of awards in which I feel the Academy voted incorrectly 80% of the time.

FORREST GUMP
1995: “FORREST GUMP”: Possibly the most disappointing film to ever with the Best Picture award. The film was not unique, Hanks was a bore and all aspects of quality film-making were abandoned here. As outstanding a "Pulp Fiction" was, "The Shawshank Redemption" was the deserving winner this year - easily.

JER: This was a very strong year for films and the nominees proved that. With its contenders being PULP FICTION, THE SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION and QUIZ SHOW…(FOUR WEDDINGS AND A FUNERAL?) I think that I personally teetered between FORREST GUMP and PULP FICTION with a slight tilt towards the latter. SHAWSHANK was a strong probable winner as well. FICTION was considered too extreme and modern for the pallets of the refined Academy member. There was a magic to GUMP that was felt by many and agreed upon by both audiences and critics. The film has been overly played today on all premium and locally- operated television channels... but the film was innocent and engaging: just like Forrest himself.

BRAVEHEART
JOHNNY CHAZZ: 1996: “BRAVEHEART”: This film had no business winning the award. The performances were marginal and the story was plain dull. As a matter of fact, it never should have been nominated. Finally, please note that a film titled “Leaving Las Vegas” is considered by many to not only be the best film that year, but a top-100 on many all-time lists. The Academy chose incorrectly.

JER: Here is where I say the Academy chose correctly! Slim pickings in the other 4 nominees which were APOLLO 13, BABE, IL POSTINO: THE POSTMAN and SENSE AND SENSIBILITY. I think that BRAVEHEART had all the right elements: drama, a tragic love tale, action and taken right out of the pages of History. Mel Gibson’s portrayal and directorial double- duty roles were actually top- notch in my book! If it weren’t for this win, I would have gone with APOLLO 13 that year.

THE ENGLISH PATIENT
JOHNNY CHAZZ: 1997: “THE ENGLISH PATIENT”: An outstanding film that definitely deserved to be nominated, but should not have won. “Fargo” was not only deserving of top honors for 1997, but should be on every critic’s top-100 list and perhaps even higher than that. The Academy chose incorrectly yet again.

JER: JC, I disagree with your statement, “an outstanding film that definitely deserved to be nominated”… um, no it didn’t! My opinion of this movie rests on your review of BRAVEHEART: “This film had no business winning the award. The performances were marginal and the story was plain dull. As a matter of fact, it never should have been nominated.” Now there is a quote I would stand behind, it was referenced to the wrong film, that’s all. FARGO would have been my choice within the other forgettable nominees, which were: SHINE, SECRETS AND LIES and the overly- bloated JERRY MAGUIRE.

JOHNNY CHAZZ: 1998: “TITANIC”: This was simply ridiculous. Somehow “Titanic” makes people’s top-10 list of all-time and was a slam-dunk for the top honors during 1998. The box office revenues were the reason for this film’s success…..period. This critic has a hard time placing the film in my top 1,000 and always felt that the performances, the soundtrack and the length of the film were simply unbearable. Two films stood out this year: “L.A. Confidential” and “Eve’s Bayou” (which was not even nominated for some bizarre reason). One could also make a case for “Good Will Hunting”. The Academy chose incorrectly once more.

JER: TITANIC was a long- shot for me since day one. For its time, this 200 million dollar production seemed ready to sink and fail with its fictional tale of love on a tragic non- fictional event. Director James Cameron had failed previously with another underwater and pricey production: THE ABYSS. Cameron’s bet paid off! An incredible box- office hit with audiences that returned several times to the theaters and with a huge win at the Academy Awards… it was the year of TITANIC, no matter how you looked at it. As great as L.A. CONFIDENTIAL is, it just couldn’t compete with this luxury liner. Forget about AS GOOD AS IT GETS, THE FULL MONTY or GOOD WILL HUNTING even standing a chance of a win. Dare I say that you totally ‘missed the boat’ on this one!

SHAKESPEARE IN LOVE
JOHNNY CHAZZ: 1999: “SHAKESPEARE IN LOVE”: An overrated film surrounded by four (4) others that were lucky to have been nominated. This film simply won by default and the show should have been cancelled this year.

JER: Finally! I will agree with Johnny Chazz on this one. Overly- hyped, nearly- forgotten rubbish that actually beat out my favorite for the year, SAVING PRIVATE RYAN. Other contenders that year included ELIZABETH, THE THIN RED LINE and the tragic, but humorous LIFE IS BEAUTIFUL. My choice was a clear vote for SAVING PRIVATE RYAN, hands down. See, we can see eye- to- eye on occasion.

AMERICAN BEAUTY
 JOHNNY CHAZZ: 2000: “AMERICAN BEAUTY”: The Academy had a tough choice this year as there were three strong films in the running including “The Green Mile” and “The Sixth Sense”. The choice of “American Beauty” was probably the right one in this critic’s mind and the Academy chose correctly this year….can you believe it?

JER: Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed AMERICAN BEAUTY, which I clearly need to revisit again, since I feel THE SIXTH SENSE and THE GREEN MILE were far more superior to the win. THE INSIDER was ok and I didn’t care for CIDER HOUSE RULES. This would have been a tough call, but I think AMERICAN BEAUTY would have ranked a possible third choice for me.

JOHNNY CHAZZ: 2001: “GLADIATOR”: Perhaps one of the most embarrassing awards ever given to a film. The fact that it won over the likes of “Traffic” (a film we dedicated a blog topic to a while back), “Chocolat” and the amazing “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” was simply a slap in the face of American audiences. The Academy missed the beat by a long shot here.


JER: Johnny Chazz, it amazes me how often we agree with each other and it surprises the hell out of me with the times we disagree. I will have to say that I am in 100% total disagreement on this one! The first viable threat would have naturally had been CROUCHING TIGER, HIDDEN DRAGON… no doubt about that. I would have been worried about TRAFFIC and felt less of any kind of worries with both ERIN BROCKOVICH and CHOCOLAT. GLADIATOR’s win reminds me of the Golden Age of Hollywood when films like THE TEN COMMANDMENTS, SPARTICUS and BEN- HUR dominated the screen. GLADIATOR doesn’t compare within the same caliber of those giants, but it does deserve a seat amongst them with its win!
2002: “A BEAUTIFUL MIND”: The right choice. Amen.

JER: Let’s face it… an absolutely horrible year for films, so much so, that the only film I was rooting for was LORD OF THE RINGS: FELLOWSHIP OF THE RING! The first of the trilogy, the film opened strong and I was begging for more immediately. A bold and well- crafted film that deserved the nomination… and possibly the win. I didn’t care for A BEAUTIFUL MIND and was greatly disappointed with the win. There was no threat in place with IN THE BEDROOM, GODSFORD PARK or MOULIN ROUGE causing an upset in taking Oscar home.


JOHNNY CHAZZ: 2003: “CHICAGO”: Here is an example of the musical genre winning and probably only won based on that aspect. What was amazing was that this film generated only 20% of the box-office revenues in respect to “Lord of the Rings”, but even that film was ill deserved based on a plethora of reasons. This leaves us with either “The Pianist” or “Gangs of New York” which both deserved to win over “Chicago”. “The Hours” was also a beloved film that year but one that this critic felt was vastly overrated on numerous levels. The Academy missed again.

JER: Again, I disagree! What are you talking about? You love the genre and musicals, JC… what is there not to like about CHICAGO? This was a win, hands down. Although I enjoyed the second chapter to the LORD OF THE RINGS series, I didn’t feel it was as strong as its first film. GANGS OF NEW YORK wasn’t director Martin Scorsese’s best or strongest film and I didn’t think THE PIANIST had a shot with the continued controversy that continues to plaque director Roman Polanski. THE HOURS just didn’t deserve to be in the category and was a dark- horse from the start.

JOHNNY CHAZZ: 2004: “THE LORD OF THE RINGS: RETURN OF THE KING”: Was this a joke? “Mystic River” and “Monster” were definitely films that deserved to be in the running (although “Monster” was not even nominated), but “Lost in Translation” offered an original screenplay that was second to none combined perfectly with emotion, passion, feeling, a gripping story, amazing imagery, creative and intimate interiors, a limited space, strong sound, vibrant editing and a documentary-style of film-making that places it in the top-20 of all-time for this critic. The Academy was way, way off this year and how sad that is.

LORD OF THE RINGS: RETURN OF THE KING
JER: This week’s topic has continually caused an on- going clash of opinions… how could LORD OF THE RINGS not win? I know how you feel about LOST IN TRANSLATION, but it was a snooze- fest lining up to be executed with the epic story and backdrop of LORD OF THE RINGS! LOST IN TRANSLATION is a great film on its own, but if it is going to go face- to- face with a contender like LORD OF THE RINGS, it is going to lose, especially with this being the stronger of the trilogy with plenty of closures and satisfactions all around. MONSTER was a great character film, played by Award winner Charlize Theron, but the film itself was bland and not as interesting as it should have been. I don’t think it had the legs to carry a Best Picture nod…and the Academy obviously agreed with me for once! MYSTIC RIVER was fine, but I wouldn’t have gone as far as to allow it to take Oscar home.

JOHNNY CHAZZ: 2005: “MILLION DOLLAR BABY”: No. “Sideways” deserved the award and some could even make a case for “The Aviator” or even “Finding Neverland” which was vastly underrated. The Academy is once again way, way off base.


MILLION DOLLAR BABY
  JER: I admit I was on the fence about this entry…I had enjoyed the one viewing I had of MILLION DOLLAR BABY, but that is all I can say about it. I can say that I enjoyed both SIDEWAYS and THE AVIATOR with the numerous viewings I have had on both. Kudos for a very satisfying FINDING NEVERLAND as well!

Well, these are my thoughts this week regarding the sad period of Best Picture awards between 1995 and 2005. There were two (2) films that I did feel well deserved (“AMERICAN BEAUTY” & “A BEAUTIFUL MIND).


JC's: LOST IN TRANSLATION
Keep in mind Jer that this topic was focused on the films that we each feel "deserved" top billing - not the ones that were expected to win. Looking at 2004 would be a prime example as "Lost in Translation" which you referred to as a "snooze-fest" is a totally separate genre from "Lord of the Rings" - I simply found the film to be a far, far superior one to “Rings” on countless levels. Please note that I also mentioned that "English Patient" should not have won the award as “Fargo” was the most deserving that year...hands down. Still, "English Patient" deserved a nomination in my mind. Moving on, it is apparent that we will always agree to disagree on films such as "Gladiator" and "Chicago" (Musicals just are nowhere near what that used to be and "The Pianist" impacted me on a deeper level) and even "Titanic" - but that is what makes this topic intriguing.

Still, some terrific feedback here Jer - and I can see your angle on many of your own selections for "Best Film" during this bizarre decade between the ten-year span. It seemed like an interesting idea to bandy around - so let's leave the rest to our audience and see what their thoughts are. We might surprise ourselves to hear what they have to say.


Until next week when Jer pulls a rabbit out of the hat with a new Cinema: Counterpoint topic ***** Ciao all! SEE YOU NEXT WEDENSDAY!

Have you visited the official CINEMA: COUNTERPOINT page on YOUTUBE? Check out classic and contemporary trailers, scenes and other great trips down memory lane! Just click the link and check out the "Favorites" on our site! Enjoy!

Sunday, September 18, 2011

JER'S TURN: HOLLYWOOD- THROUGH THE EYES OF A FAN!

JER: What is it that drives the film fanatical, myself included, to a street in the middle of a big city? Just stopping for a moment and realizing the harsh reality…it is a street, just like any other street in any other big city. It has a few businesses, a couple of theaters, restaurants, tattoo parlors, a mini mall and even a hotel or two.
My photo taken from Hollywood and Highland
I have been a film fan for as long as I can remember, beginning as a youth, and to this date can still recall stepping off the tour bus when my mom purchased tickets for us to enjoy our very first trip through Hollywood. It was the summer of 1979 and I was 11 years old. I looked like a tourist and gazed upon the sights as one. The very first image I took in was that of the Chinese Theater. One of my earliest memories was of a huge banner that hung above the main entrance for the Ryan O’Neil/ Barbra Streisand comedy THE MAIN EVENT. I had never seen banners or film titles spread across the marquee of a theater before... my small town local theater inhibited me of such luxuries. The bus driver gave us a measly fifteen minutes to ‘enjoy’ Hollywood! I felt like a game show contestant that was running against the clock to gather the needed supplies for some scavenger hunt! I hastily ran around and tried to take photos of the theater, some footprints within the courtyard and a Walk of Fame star or two…whistle blows…time out…let’s get on the bus and continue through with the rest of the day’s agenda. Within a few years, I made it my goal to get my driver’s permit, learned to navigate through the busy and maniacal roads of L.A. and go to Hollywood as often as I want and stay as long as I want…and I have!

Whether you are a Southern California native or a visitor from another state or country… the Hollywood Blvd. has always been the place to visit, sandwiched between your itinerary and expected visits of Disneyland and Universal Studios! Regardless your status or point of origin…I would love to take you through a grand tour of my favorite city in the world... through my eyes and the lens of my trusty camera!
Inside one of the gift shops that await us!
Now, I am an average guy with a great job and I enjoy the things I do…this includes taking friends and relatives on my ‘tour’ of Hollywood. I load up my car and personally drive them through areas they had only read about or seen on a recent Discovery Channel special. I have been doing this for years now and I would like to say that I know the streets of Hollywood as if they were the very same streets I grew up on. So, let’s grab a Starbucks, pile into my vehicle and allow me to play Tour Guide through the marvelous town I call “home."

JOHNNY CHAZZ: Well, it's not surprise that the town I live in (Las Vegas) designed our "Strip" after the Sunset Strip in Hollywood many years ago. Back in the 1930's and 1940's everyone knew that Hollywood was a special place - albeit a street in a town supplied with the basics: movie theaters, restaurants, a few hotels, etc. Still, there was a mood and a feeling about Hollywood. It was not just the location and the cool air, but the lights and the celebrities giving the feeling that anything was possible and anyone could become a star overnight. This was the aura - and soon became the aura 280 miles away in the desert with a club that opened called "The Flamingo".

Now, taking a look at some of your "sites" in Hollywood here Jer, allow me to comment a bit on each:

Yes, I even took a photo of the 101 FWY Entrance!
JER: Thanks JC; to begin with, there has always been a sense of anticipation driving on the Hollywood 101 Freeway towards our destination...for me, anyways! I can estimate it takes about 15 minutes until we will come across the Hollywood Blvd. exit, however, before we take that off- ramp… I think a quick bite to eat would be appropriate fuel before we continue our day- long tour. Exiting off on Alameda Street, our stop leads us to Philippe’s French Dip Sandwiches!

A great shot I got from across the street of Phillipe's 
PHILIPPE’S: Located at 1001 N. Alameda Street, one block north from Union Station, Philippe’s has recently celebrated its 103rd Anniversary (as of 2011)! This very restaurant fed the many railroad workers that built Union Station and it actually places saw dust on their floors from an age- old tradition to help soak- up liquids that might get spilled. Although it serves up a minority of different other foods, including largely portioned breakfasts…the real draw here is its French- dipped sandwiches! With your choices of roast beef, roast pork, lamb or turkey… it is a throwback time warp of flavors and atmosphere. You step up to the long deli-like counter and your ‘carver’ takes your order, prepares the sandwich right before your eyes and takes the money for your completed experience. Lined with red brick walls, Norman Rockwell drawings, old fashioned ceiling fans and turn- of- the- century service…it really is a historical and culinary journey that everyone must travel at least once. History will tell that Philippe’s claims to be the birthplace of the French dipped sandwich! Some say a hurried police officer named 'French' ordered a roast beef sandwich that accidentally fell into a pan of drippings, others will say that French- born owner, Philippe Mathieu, was asked to pour some of the left over gravy onto the sandwich… the history tellings are left to your decision… but the taste will stay with you for a very long time!

While in line, I snapped this photo of the crowds
JOHNNY CHAZZ: My first visit here was back in the 1980's just before attending a Dodger-Mets game at Chavez Ravine. I was probably around 12 or 13 years old at the time and the place looked so big and it was so very busy. The exterior is classic L.A. design and the interior reminds you of a typical N.Y.C. Delicatessen, but with a stark L.A. feel. Now, I was not one for French Dip sandwiches at the time, but I do recall having 3 cheesecakes and a couple of cokes. To say the least, I went to the game in a diabetic coma! Since then, I have made this a routine stop on my way in and out of L.A. and consider it an ideal lunch spot - but get there before 11:00 am or it gets really packed. The coffee, if I am not mistaken, is still 10 cents a cup and has not changed in nearly 50 years.

JER: Truly great memories, JC…the tour can now begin as we get back onto the 101 and exit off on Melrose for our first stop… the Paramount Pictures Studios!

My photo of the newer gate entrance into Paramount
PARAMOUNT STUDIOS: Founded in 1912, Paramount Studios is the oldest working film studio in Hollywood! Oddly enough, it is the only studio still actively working in the city of Hollywood. Located on 5555 Melrose Avenue, it sits on a 26 acre lot that actively produces both film and television shows. Paramount is responsible for such Blockbuster film franchises like FRIDAY THE 13th, MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE, STAR TREK, INDIANA JONES, BEVERLY HILLS COP and TRANSFORMERS, Other recognizable hits include TOP GUN, VERTIGO, FATAL ATTRACTION, THE TEN COMMANDMENTS, GREASE, AIRPLANE!, SHANE, SATURDAY NIGH FEVER, PRETTY IN PINK, FORREST GUMP, IRONMAN and PARANORMAL ACTIVITY….just to name a very select few.

I found the original entrance and got this photo of it
JOHNNY CHAZZ: Just the exterior is enough to allow film fans to reminisce about the film "Sunset Boulevard" as the entrance is so classic and grand. Today they have all kinds of VIP tours and special events that allow tourists and locals alike to walk around the sets and back lots to grab a direct view of the action inside and outside the studio. As an added nod, the first movie to ever win an Academy Award for Best Picture, titled "Wings" in 1927, was a production of Paramount. This is a must-see location in Hollywood and a tour worth taking if you have the chance.

JER: Driving up Melrose to the corner of La Brea, our next stop is at PINKS! I hope you are hungry…

...and here I am afterwards!



I snapped this while in line...
  PINKS FAMOUS HOT DOGS: Started in 1939, PINKS is a family- owned establishment and has held the same location since the beginning. Being only a few short blocks away from the Paramount Studios, it has become a celebrity hot spot throughout the years! So much so, that the location boasts a wall- to- wall collection of autographed photos that have become a tourist attraction in itself! It is all about hot dogs…you want wieners, sausages or even veggie dogs... it is all here. On a bun or wrapped in a tortilla, covered in barbeque sauce, nacho cheese, chili, pickles, onions, sauerkraut or anything else you please. Pinks has become an L.A. staple and a landmark… it is here that Bruce Willis proposed to Demi Moore and Tom Hanks traditionally orders a catering of dogs at the end of every one of his films in celebration. Having made numerous appearances on television specials from the Travel and Discovery channels, Food Network and films like THE GOLDEN CHILD and THE TRUTH ABOUT CATS AND DOGS… Pinks has expanded its name- brand to other cities including San Diego, Universal City and Las Vegas. Interesting tid- bit: Hoffy makes a special hot dog exclusively for Pinks… a rich blend of quality meats with a ‘snap’ into your first bite. Be prepared to stand in line for one of their tasty dogs, but it is well worth the wait! 
Proud of my photo that shows the ladies that make it happen!

Here is a photo I took of the autograped walls
JOHNNY CHAZZ: Well, I recall going to Pinks at some point in the 1990's while attending college in Los Angeles, but due to a prior cocktail party at my flat with a couple of 'birds' in attendance, my appetite was mild and my sense of direction was in disarray. Thus, I would have to say that my first "conscious" experience of Pinks was roughly 4 years ago with Jer (Cinema: Counterpoint) as we ventured into Hollywood late one Saturday morning in May and I was shocked to see that the line was around the corner. Now, typically I whine and gripe about waiting in line, but I figured that this place had to be something special. There were 3 other bonuses: 1. The scent of the dogs, fries and chili was amazing 2. The people-watching experience can never be replaced 3. Reminiscence of the scene in "Mulholland Drive" filmed in the back of Pinks. All of this was a bonus and made the wait worth-while. As for the food? The selections and varieties of dogs (Pastrami, cheese, chili, onions.......should I go on?) are second to none. A must see!

Here is my pic of Pinks
JER: JC, wipe off that chili from your chin and guzzle that Bubble-Up soft drink because it is time to drive up La Brea and hang a left onto Melrose as we head up to do some shopping at Amoeba Music.
Snapped this photo from across Sunset Blvd
AMOEBA MUSIC: Located on 6400 Sunset Blvd, Amoeba Music is one of the largest independent record stores in the world. Having opened its doors in L.A. on November 2001, it’s the largest of the three stores throughout California. A two floor center housing every style of music available from Jazz, Pop, Rock, Blues, Techno and so much more… Cd’s, Lp’s, vinyl, new and used… as well as movies: DVDs, Blu- Rays, VHS and Laser Discs… it is a music and film lover’s paradise! This store has quickly become one of my necessary pit- stops whenever I am nearby. A variety of different artists has actually stopped by for meet and greets or autographs opportunities including a recent visit from Ozzy Osborne! Bring plenty of money and put aside a few hours to roam through the store from wall to wall.

Here I am after a few hours of shopping...more films!!!
JOHNNY CHAZZ: Heck, I was at Amoeba about once a week even though I was living about 20-30 miles South. Just as Jer commented, it was the amazing variety of music that this store had which made the selection so vast. One could literally spend 3-4 hours in this store. What I recall most is that the store still had 78's and 8-tracks when I was there and tape cassettes were still fairly popular as CD's were just becoming the new rage. Now I feel old.....lol. Still, what a place and what a selection! Be careful however as their prices have always been a bit on the high side due to the location and target market. Still, Amoeba Music is a definite stop on any Hollywood tour - especially for music and DVD fans.

I took this from the 2nd floor looking down at the floor
JER: Let me ‘counterpoint’ here, JC. The prices can be high, but you have to shop thrifty. There are used copies that they guarantee if damaged. I sift through everything to make sure I am getting more bang for my buck and anyone else can too!

Did you make your selections? Take it to the counter because it is now time to drive up a couple of blocks to Hollywood Blvd.! At last! Ok, let’s start on one end and move up from there. First stop… the Pantages Theater.
I took this foyer view

My fancy angle shot
PANTAGES THEATER:  Located just around the corner of the famous intersection of Hollywood and Vine, the Pantages Theater is a landmark and iconic fixture on the strip! Formally known as the RKO Pantages Theater in 1940, it has been the home for many premieres and was home to the Annual Academy Awards between 1949 and 1959. The theater has also been seen in several films: Leonardo DiCaprio walked Gwen Stephani as Howard Hughes and Jean Harlow, in THE AVIATOR, for the premiere of HELL’S ANGELS. In the 80’s, music group The Talking Heads filmed their concert film STOP MAKING SENSE on stage as well. Today, the Pantages Theater has been home to such Broadway hits like “The Phantom Of The Opera”, “The Lion King” and “Wicked."

Taken on my recent trip in September 2011!

JOHNNY CHAZZ: This locale is certainly a signature of Hollywood and a certain stop on any tour. It is interesting how it has moved from more of a concert hall to such Broadway-style shows, as Jer mentioned, including "Wicked" (coming this Dec.) and Monty Python's "Spamalot" arriving next Spring (Feb.). On a historical note, Howard Hughes purchased the theater in the 1960's and actually lived on the top floor (similar to what he did at the Desert Inn in Las Vegas in the 1980's). What is important about this is the fact that the Academy Awards were actually held for nearly 10 years at the theater during Hughes’s reign. In the 1970's and the early part of the 1980's the Pantages operated as a movie theater. The productions that have been featured there include, but are not limited to: "La Cage"; "West Side Story"; "Cats"; "Phantom"; "The King and I"; "West Side Story"; "The Sound of Music"; "Annie"; "Miss Saigon"; and "Les Miserables". The interior is awe-inspiring, the seating is spacious and the chandeliers are a work of art. The location of the theater is also ideal and within a stone's throw of so many Hollywood attractions.

Taken from across the Hollywood Blvd Metro Station
JER: Right next door is the infamous FROLIC ROOM although it is simply a bar to some…and not a very fancy one at that, it has created its own iconic following by appearing in film- noirs like L.A. CONFIDENTIAL and BLACK DAHLIA. Just in passing, you can smell the booze that has been poured since the 1930’s when it was a VIP lounge that was directly linked to the Pantages Theater and quenched the thirst of many of the Hollywood elite including Marilyn Monroe and Humphrey Bogart. Having knocked back a few shots at the Frolic Room…let us wobbly make our way around the corner and take in the intersection that is Hollywood and Vine.

JC's photo near Al Jolson
As you look downwards throughout our travels, you will notice that we have been taking the WALK OF FAME. Consisting of over 2,400 ‘stars’ embedded into the sidewalks spanning three blocks along Vine and fifteen on Hollywood Blvd. Beginning in 1957, the sidewalks is one the most visited locations throughout Los Angeles... how many favorites would you find?
                                                                                                                      
                                

 

...and this plaque I photographed

I love this sign
HOLLYWOOD AND VINE: So, what are the origins of why this intersection is so popular? If we time warped into the glory days of yesteryear… the TAFT BUILDING, which still stands in its location today, is where Charlie Chaplin made his offices and wrote many of his now famous films. THE BROWN DERBY, a very popular and trendy restaurant, once catered to the Hollywood famous…it was definitely a place to be seen! You may recall a staged appearance in an episode of “I Love Lucy” when Lucy was starry- eyed at all of the famous caricatures that adorned the walls. The building has been leveled and is now a parking lot… moving on. Right up the street we are faced with the monstrous and impressive architecture of CAPITOL RECORDS.

My close-up shot...

and from a-far...
Standing at 13 floors, the very distinctive building has been opened since 1956 and resembles a stack of 45s on a turntable. The building has even made appearances in films…with some disastrous results! Capitol Records went crumbling apart in the 1974 film EARTHQUAKE and was blown away in 2004’s THE DAY AFTER TOMORROW. Andrew “Dice” Clay was found falling off the side in THE ADVENTURES OF FORD FAIRLANE and Will Smith spiked a bad guy’s car within the tower’s needle in HANCOCK. Fun fact: the blinking light on the tip of the needle tower spells out ‘Hollywood” in Morse code! 

Took this photo from across the Vine Street of The Palace
Directly across the street from Capitol Records is another recognized building, even though it is now called THE AVALON, it will always be known as THE PALACE to me. After a recent renovation into a supper club, The Palace was once considered a hotspot that held many live concerts within its intimate high- end bar/ lounge settings. It was featured as James Woods’ nightclub in the 1984 action/ thriller AGAINST ALL ODDS and most recently became Joshua Jackson’s nightclub in the 2004 horror film CURSED. For music fans, it was the first ever place that hosted The Beatles’ first West Coast appearance in 1964…other performers have included Duran Duran, Culture Club and So Cal’s Oingo Boingo featuring Danny Elfman (film composer for most Tim Burton films.) It would be the time to break- out your cameras because our next stop is what you have been anticipating the most...
 
JC in 1992 at the Vine Street Bar & Grill!!!
JOHNNY CHAZZ: On the topic of "Hollywood and Vine", I must concur that this is one of the most popular intersections in all of Hollywood. The "Brown Derby" has always been a favorite of mine throughout L.A. not just for the food, but the clientele and the ambience are second to none. "Capitol Records" is, of course a must-see for all music fans (especially those of the R&B and Motown years) as well as one of my favorite spots (refer to photo from 1992) hanging out and listening to jazz musicians at the "Vine Street Bar & Grill just down the way." Additionally, I recall "The Palace" at a very young age and was surprised many years later to see that it had turned into "The Avalon" in which I will always consider to remain as "The Palace" club. I must admit however that I was not aware that it was used in the film AGAINST ALL ODDS so there lies a lesson for Johnny Chazz today. Thus, Hollywood & Vine is rich in history and landscape and remains a must-see on our guided tour with Jer through Tinseltown this week...  
Can I legally be buried here???

A close-up shot I snapped
 JER: GRAUMAN’S CHINESE THEATER: 6925 Hollywood Boulevard may read as an average street address to some, but the reality is that it is the location of thee most famous movie palaces worldwide! Since its opening in May of 1927, the Chinese Theater has hosted many premieres to iconic and beloved films which included the launching of STAR WARS in 1977.




I took this interior shot right before showtime!
  
Standing across the street, admiring the view!
 The Chinese Theater also played host to the Academy Awards between 1943 through 1945. The Courtyard is famous for the various foot and handprints that have been collected by Hollywood’s greatest since its opening. Many stories have circulated over how the tradition began, but owner Sid Grauman said that that he accidentally stepped into wet cement during its construction and went to his business partner, actress Mary Pickford and insisted that she place her feet in the cement… the rest is history!

"Lucy?????"
 Since that momentous occasion, people from around the world have seen and dreamed about casting their feet and hands in cement as well. The lucky ones have included John Wayne (remember that episode of “I Love Lucy” in which she tried to steal those footprints?), Johnny Depp, Cher, Fred Astaire, Charlie Chaplin, Meryl Streep, The Marx Brothers, director Cecil B. DeMille, Frank Sinatra, Julie Andrews, John Travolta and Al Pacino… with many, many more. It was Grauman who wanted a “palace design with a Chinese flair” when it was decided as to how the Theater’s interior and exterior look would be.


Emma, Daniel & Rupert from HARRY POTTER

Original STAR TREK cast
The continued popularity has increased over the years and has almost created a ‘circus-like’ appearance on the sidewalks in and around the Theater’s locations. Panhandlers, look- alikes, peddlers and vendors continue to grab the tourists’ attention (and money) away from the once enjoyed appearances of the historical theater. Several other tourist attractions have surfaced over the last few years including an expansive mall.

 JOHNNY CHAZZ: I may have to go another route on this one, Jer, as I have always considered this spot to be a bit of a "tourist trap" in the Hollywood area. Heck, every city has one - even out here in Sin City (we have handfuls of 'em). The place is constantly bombarded with tourists snapping endless photos of the Hollywood stars of yesteryear and today who have cast their feet in the cement walkways along the street. I must admit that I have taken my share of photos in the area and it is a fun thing to do, but the fun seems to stop there. This is simply one of those Hollywood stops that remains a perfect fit for those who are making a first-time visit to L.A. and is probably not worth a return trip once you have seen it. The crowds are a bit overwhelming and I even recall having seen a film or two there back in the late 1980's and early 1990's and not being all that impressed. Am I raining on the parade here?

JER: I have to say that the umbrella has been taken out because of the dark cloud you have cast over our heads! Nonetheless, we will persevere forth and continue on with a few ‘silver linings’ that even JC will approve of!



My outside view of the Kodak Theatre
 Located next door is the newly constructed KODAK THEATRE. Having opened in 2001, the Kodak Theatre is a live- theatre venue that has hosted televised events including several “American Idol” finales and is now home to the Academy Awards since 2002 until present. Live concerts have also been enjoyed including Mariah Carey, Prince, Elvis Costello and others. The broad stairway that leads to the front doors is flanked with columns that have the Best Picture winners listed from its first win in 1927 (WINGS.) With all of this commotion, I can do with a little peace and quiet. Walking across the street, let’s head into the Roosevelt Hotel.

THE ROOSEVELT HOTEL: Named after Theodore Roosevelt, the twelve- story, 300 room hotel opened its doors on May 1927. The Roosevelt has the extreme honors of hosting the very first ever Academy Awards in their Blossom Ballroom in 1929…lasting all but approximately five minutes followed by a sit- down dinner. The architecture is Spanish style with dark woods, a Spanish tiled staircase leading to the second floor and a beautiful vintage chandelier hovering over the lobby’s waiting room. Marilyn Monroe stayed in room 229 while she was a struggling actress. She was a model subject for a photo shoot at the hotel’s pool. A full- length dressing mirror in the room has claimed to be haunted by a vision of her spirit… according to guests and several hotel employees. I personally saw that mirror as it was carefully hidden on the second floor; I got a confirmation by a hotel employee. The mirror’s location was soon reveled and many fans and spook- seekers came rushing to the hotel. The hotel has since changed its location once again… without informing the public of its whereabouts. Just so that you know, there are more ghosts here than at the Haunted Mansion at Disneyland… Montgomery Cliff’s spirit is said to haunt room 998 when he lived there for about three months while learning to play the bugle for his role in FROM HERE TO ETERNITY. The sound of bugle playing can be heard late at night and has received complaints from both guests and employees. The hotel’s bar was featured on several television specials detailing mysterious cue balls flying off the billiards table as well as images reflected off the bathroom mirrors… recently, the bar was closed and sealed off with a brand new bar opening across the hotel’s entrance in its place.   

This Marilyn portrait was next to the mirror...

JOHNNY CHAZZ: I have the feeling that this was a strategic move on your part this week Jer.....saving this haunting, yet vibrant and richly historical landmark for last. Located on Hollywood Blvd. in a prime location and highly visible from the 101 FWY, this luxury spot is a definite stop on the tour. The service, the ambience, the lobby area, and the Spanish decor are just a small portion of the sights to see in this exquisite property. However, I am still trying to figure out how the ghost of Marilyn Monroe can haunt two hotels at the same time (Roosevelt and the Del Coronado in San Diego)......Nonetheless, I think for our readers this week we should keep one thing in mind - this is NOT a family-style hotel. On a honeymoon? A romantic getaway? Filming a personal "Ghost Hunters" episode with friends? Or, are you simply a history aficionado? Then this is your spot. The bottom line is that this was an excellent choice for this week Jer and the Roosevelt will always be regarded in this critic's eye as a "hot-spot" in Silver-Screen Hollywood which still remains a secret to many...... and therein lies the charm.

That's me standing outside the historic Blossom Room!
With everything I covered on this trip and JC commented on...there is still more to be seen!... but that will be traveled and discussed another day soon! I hope you enjoyed your trip, make sure you pick up your trash and exit out of the vehicle carefully... both JC and I hope to SEE YOU NEXT WEDNESDAY when JOHNNY CHAZZ takes us on another great ride through the world of cinema!

Have you visited the official CINEMA: COUNTERPOINT page on YOUTUBE? Check out classic and contemporary trailers, scenes and other great trips down memory lane! Just click the link and check out the "Favorites" on our site! Enjoy!