Bill Murray’s awesome Q&A session: OK, I’LL TALK! I’LL TALK

A few days ago Bill Murray took to Reddit for a hilarious – and genuine – AMA question and answer session, as part of the publicity for THE MONUMENTS MEN. bill_murray_amaYou can read the full session here, but has culled a few choice selections here. This answer’s a classic:

What is it like being so awesome?
BillMurray: Well, nothing prepared me for being this awesome. It’s kind of a shock. It’s kind of a shock to wake up every morning and be bathed in this purple light.

Furious Cool – Richard Pryor

In the new biography of Richard Pryor, “Furious Cool: Richard Pryor and the World That Made Him,” authors David and Joe Henry trace the career of one of the most influential and successful performers of the last 50 years. 12-25-Rant-n-Roll-Furious-Cool

The book “fills in details and fleshes out years of Pryor’s wildly successful failure of a life, from his upbringing in a Peoria brothel to his sad decline as a diseased, diminished icon,” writes Chicago Tribune reviewer Steve Johnson.

“This was a man, remember, who broke all onstage boundaries of his 1970s heyday, admitting even to rampant drug use and beating women in his life. He somehow kept audiences on his side, not just in comedy venues but on the big screen, becoming the top comic star of his era.”

Pryor is beloved for standup routines that pushed the envelope, “combining anger and pathos, outrage and humor, into an art form, laying the groundwork for the generations of comedians who followed, including such outstanding performers as Eddie Murphy, Chris Rock, and Louis C.K.” (Workman.)  The authors ask the question: “Is standup comedy literature?” and make a good case for a Yes answer. Troy Patterson, reviewing for Slate, goes further, calling certain self destructive incidents in Pryor’s life “existential protest art.”

Before challenging social boundaries, Pryor achieved mainstream success with wholesome comic routines similar to those of Bill Cosby. In the LA Review of Books, Lary Wallace describes the pivotal moment of change: “It was hard for him to receive much personal satisfaction from doing an act that would compel Don Rickles to approach him after a show and say, in well-meant sincerity, ‘It’s uncanny. You sound just like Bill Cosby.’

“It was shortly after this, in 1967, that Pryor took the stage for his opening performance at the Aladdin Hotel and Casino, and, as he would later tell his close friend and collaborator Paul Mooney, ‘it hit me that all those motherfuckers out there [in the audience] wouldn’t make room for [my] Mama if you put a gun to their heads.’ Pryor leaned into the mic and asked the audience, or perhaps himself, ‘What the fuck am I doing here?’”

This pivotal event was part of his transformation from comedian to cultural icon. Johnson states: “The book makes a beyond-persuasive case for Pryor as the greatest American stand-up comic, earning the lasting reverence of his peers by going where none had gone before.” The Henrys write “He showed that a comedian standing in front of an audience could … plumb the same depths of humanity as a novelist, poet, or playwright could sitting over a typewriter.”

That humanity was on display in the under-appreciated film HARLEM NIGHTS, written and directed by Eddie Murphy. Here is a clip showcasing Pryor’s nuanced performance.


De Niro honors his artist father in new documentary

UntitledRobert De Niro has produced a documentary to honor his late father, the abstract expressionist painter, Robert De Niro Sr. The film, called “Remembering the Artist Robert De Niro Sr.,” has premiered at Sundance Film Festival and will air on HBO in June.

According to the Associated Press, De Niro Sr., was part of the post-WWII art scene, which produced such talent as Jackson Pollock. He was endorsed by the famed art collector and socialite, Peggy Guggenheim. But while he was successful when he started out, De Niro Sr.’s work went out of style as pop art became the trend.

He died in 1993 at 71, but his story is now being told by his Oscar-winning son. De Niro  also put some of his father’s work on display at the Julie Nestor Gallery in Park City.

Untitled 2Robert De Niro, Sr., Last Painting, 1992, copyright Estate of Robert De Niro, Sr., Courtesy DC Moore Gallery, New York/ARSNY.

Director Perri Peltz has said of De Niro Sr.: “In some ways his story is the universal tale of the struggling artist who works and works but fails to receive the attention he deserves from critics, collectors or dealers. It begs the question of what is fame and why is it important? Why do some people become famous and receive all of the recognition and benefits of fame while other equally talented people work in relative obscurity? For De Niro, Sr. that lack of recognition was impactful. We gained insight into his struggle and sense of self. “dc48a1925bef473d906ccb97b38bbb75-b01834712e0d4e41b3a6a44894571024-1

The Future is HER

Production Designer K.K. Barrett received a well deserved Oscar nomination this morning for the ‘slight future’ romance HER. For a movie so centered on technology, the film startles by depicting a world in which technology is mostly invisible.


In Wired Kyle Vanhemert makes the case that HER will dominate User Interface design more significantly that MINORITY REPORT. “It’s not just that Her, the movie, is focused on people” he writes. “It also shows us a future where technology …  has receded, or one where we’ve let it recede.” Designer Barrett explains: “‘We decided that the movie wasn’t about technology, or if it was, that the technology should be invisible,’ he says. ‘And not invisible like a piece of glass.’ Technology hasn’t disappeared, in other words. It’s dissolved into everyday life.” Barrett sums up the aesthetic: “The future is much simpler than you think.’”

Simpler for the humans, that is. A smart home that requires no control pads or light switches. No software or hardware keyboards for computers or phones.  “We wanted it to be natural,” Barrett says. The dominant channel for human/computer interface is auditory. Vanhemert points out that “the voice-based UI was … a perfect fit for a film trying to explore what a less intrusive, less demanding variety of technology might look like…Conversational interfaces make everything easier to use. When every different type of device runs an OS that can understand natural language, it means that every menu, every tool, every function is accessible simply by requesting it.” Theodore, played by Joaquin Phoenix, “with his voice-based valet as intermediary, is burdened with even less under-the-hood stuff than we are today… In other words, Theo lives in a future where everything, not just his iPad, ‘just works.'”

The most important design choice in HER is the adaptable personality of the artificially intelligent OS, voiced by Scarlett Johansson. “You don’t want a machine that’s always telling you the answer,” Barrett says. “You want one that approaches you like, ‘let’s solve this together.’…I think it’s very important for OSes in the future to have a good bedside manner…. you can’t talk at someone all the time. You have to act like you’re listening.”

One thing is certain: Designers are listening to HER.

HER, Warner Bros. Written/Directed by Spike Jonze. Produced by Megan Ellison, Spike Jonze, Vincent Landay.

Cedric the Entertainer brings us BARBER BATTLE

This sounds fun! TV By The Numbers is reporting that the CW is adding a new reality show to its lineup, from Cedric the Entertainer.bbhairshow1062560_685307738152929_1768278549_n

“BARBER BATTLE will visit different barbershops across the country in each of the 10 episodes. The most talented barbers from the Bronx to the ‘burbs will compete with their clippers to showcase their artistic designs and be crowned the creator of the best “crowns” in town. Going beyond mere hairstyles, these amazing stylists use their scissors and clippers to create astonishing works of art ranging from portraits to landmarks to ballparks – all on someone’s head. Episodes will blend craft with comedy and will feature a winner each week. Judges, locations and contestants will be announced at a later date.

BARBER BATTLE is hosted by actor and comedian Cedric the Entertainer (“Who Wants to Be A Millionaire,” “The Soul Man,” “The Original Kings of Comedy”), who also serves as executive producer.”

Not a movie: Robots have their own World Wide Web

_71855175_robotbodyBBC News reports that a world wide web for robots to learn from each other and share information is being shown off for the first time. In an article titled “Robots Test Their Own World Wide Web, Dubbed RoboEarth” the news site describes the system, which has been developed by research scientists from Philips and five European universities.

“At its core RoboEarth is a world wide web for robots: a giant network and database repository where robots can share information and learn from each other,” said Rene van de Molengraft, the RoboEarth project leader.

The aim of the system is to create a kind of ever-changing common brain for robots.

Author James Barrat, who has written extensively about the dangers of robots gaining their own intelligence, thinks there need to be safeguards.

“In the short term, RoboEarth adds security by building in a single point of failure for all participating robots,” he said.

“In the longer term, watch out when any of the nodes can evolve or otherwise improve their own software. The consequences of sharing that capability with the central ‘mind’ should be explored before it happens.”

Elsewhere on BBC News, Jane Wakefield reviews advances in artificial intelligence, in the article “Singularity: The Robots Are Coming To Steal Our Jobs.”

“AI’s are embedded in the fabric of our everyday lives,” head of AI at Singularity University, Neil Jacobstein, told the BBC.

“They are used in medicine, in law, in design and throughout automotive industry.”

Wakefield writes: “And each day the algorithms that power away, making decisions behind the scenes, are getting smarter.

It means that one of the biggest quests of the modern world – the search to make machines as intelligent as humans – could be getting tantalisingly close.

Mr Jacobstein predicts that artificial intelligence will overtake human intelligence in the mid-2020s.”

As an example of the coming changes in the workplace, she reports that “Chinese company Hon Hai, the world’s largest contract electronics manufacturer, has announced it intends to build a robot-making factory and replace 500,000 workers with robots over the next three years.” The article points out that “Google has just bought eight robotic firms, while Facebook has its very own AI lab.”

She continues: “if the rise of the robots is inevitable – albeit a few years off – then it is also a logical step that humans will eventually be eliminated from the decision chain entirely, meaning AIs will be controlling other AIs.”

This seems to be happening already: RoboEarth.


Esquire’s “The Do’s and Don’ts of 3D Movies”

Nick Schager writes in Esquire that Alfonso Cuaron’s GRAVITY has reversed the trend of diminishing boxoffice returns for 3D films. He points out that GRAVITY earned 80% of its revenue on the first weekend from 3D screens. esq-gravitySchager applauds the 3D work of auteur directors in particular. In addition to GRAVITY, he singles out Cameron’s AVATAR, Scorsese’s HUGO, Spielberg’s ADVENTURES OF TINTIN, and Luhrmann’s GATSBY. These films “all demonstrate the creative possibilities afforded by 3D when employed by skilled hands.” In addition, he says “3D can even be an enlivening format for dramas.”esq-smaug-xlg-47910938IMAX 3D also gets praise. Shager: “if you can get to a legitimate gigantic IMAX screen, seeing a native-3D film is a definite upgrade. Providing a truly enveloping experience, genuine IMAX 3D is something that simply can’t be duplicated.”

Go see some native 3D!