Time for another poker story.
This one involves actor Tobey Maguire, probably best known for his role as “Spiderman.” He’s appeared in several noteworthy films over the years, including Pleasantville (1998), The Cider House Rules (1999), Wonder Boys (2000), Seabiscuit (2003), and most recently The Great Gatsby (2013).
I’ve had several direct encounters with Maguire in the past, all relating to my work in poker.
During the poker boom several Hollywood “A-Listers” began playing poker regularly. They not only joined private games held mostly in Los Angeles, but also attended major poker tournaments. Some of these actors are still a part of the game today, most notably – Jennifer Tilly and James Woods. [See Footnote 1]
Non-Stop is the latest action-thriller starring Liam Neeson.
Words of advice: Leave your brain parked at the door.
With every scumbag he blasts off the screen, Neeson projects himself one frame closer to abandoning his credential as an actor worthy of being taken seriously. Is this really the same classically-trained thespian who once mesmerized audiences everywhere with his performance in Schindler’s List? Now twenty years later, he’s about a half-dozen dead bodies and a strangulation away from turning into Bruce Willis.
That’s not a good thing.
Let’s get a few things out of the way.
First, I like Ellen DeGeneres.
Second, I think Ms. DeGeneres is a wonderful talent and an inspiration to millions.
Third, at one time years ago I was a big fan of her work – both as a stand-up comedian and later when she had a prime-time hit television show on ABC. I used to watch her show every week.
And now, to the point: She’s a TERRIBLE host of the Academy Awards show.
I’ve watched every Academy Awards night presentation since 1972. Haven’t missed a year since. Tonight, the streak stays alive.
Here are my picks and preferences for each of the major categories:
I just returned from a special screening of the five live-action short films nominated for this year’s Oscars.
Allow me to tell you a little bit about them.
It doesn’t matter that you probably won’t ever see any of these movies. Which is a shame. You may not even be interested in the subject matter. Your loss. You might think movies are purely for entertainment and escapism rather than to gain awareness and insight about our world. Stay stupid.
Okay, I’m being provocative with a reason.
Short films differ from regular movies for a number of reasons. First, they’re usually a truer reflection of the storyteller’s vision, because budgets are small and “there aren’t as many cooks in the kitchen,” as one low-budget filmmaker put it. Furthermore, short movies have to jolt you quickly. There’s no time for much story or character development. Conflict is almost immediate and pronounced. This often makes live-action shorts intensely powerful and moving. Third, most short films are created in places other than Hollywood, which gives audiences a much wider (some would say more authentic) portrayal of the subject mattter.
The lasting impression this year’s Oscar-nominated five short films left upon me was compelling, albeit in different ways. I’d like to try and convey my emotional reactions to each film, as well as the audience’s general response (the screening I attended included about 100 viewers). My intent isn’t to rehash the stories as to make a case that these “different” kinds of films should be much more widely seen and celebrated rather than largely ignored, which is now too often the case.
STOP READING NOW if you plan to see any these films and don’t want elements of story and surprise ruined.