Rondo Thank You!

Last night, while sitting around with some colleagues to discuss a new web sketch I'm directing, I received the news that my film Son of Ghostman had been voted Best Independent Film in this year's Rondo Hatton Awards. To say I was floored, thrilled, and shocked would be an understatement.

I knew we had some really dedicated fans, but I had no idea the reach stretched this far. I'm just beyond happy that this little film has touched so many people. You can't really explain what that means to me. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

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My Year in Movies. Best of 2011.

I saw over 50 new movie releases in the year 2011. I know this, because I counted them just now. Below are my favorite movies, as well as some other gibberish. I should point out, I have yet to see some of the Oscar contenders, including Hugo, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close, and Melancholia.

I am not saying these are the best movies of the year, simply the movies I personally enjoyed the most.

Honorable Mention: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, We Bought a Zoo, Mission Impossible 4, Thor, The Adjustment Bureau, Horrible Bosses, The Help, Warrior, Contagion, Crazy Stupid Love, Paradise Lost 3. 15. Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows Part 2

SNAPE
SNAPE

It wasn't exactly what I wanted. It wasn't exactly what I didn't want. I got the resolution I desired with Snape, so that was important. It was a fun ride with Harry and crew, even if I never developed an emotional connection with any of the characters other than Snape. Nice ending to the series. Though one day I'm sure it'll rear its head again... Seriously though, how did Alan Rickman never get a Best Supporting nod for his indelible portrayal?

14. The Artist

the artists
the artists

It's clever. It's unique. It's charming. And yes, it'll win Best Picture and deservedly so. I was impressed with everything and everyone associated with this film, even if it's not something I neccesarily ever watch again. Loved the two stars. And certainly the director was daring and courageous in even attempting this film.

13. The Beaver

If you can detach yourself from Mel Gibson's personal problems, then this is an overlooked film which is pretty damn daring in its own right. And again, if you take away the man's personal life, there's no doubt Gibson gives the best performance of his career. And talk about an ending that isn't Hollywood? I won't spoil it, but let's just say I didn't see certain aspects of it coming.

12. A Better Life

An interesting story of a Los Angeles gardener and his struggle to give his son a better life. The Oscar surprise of the year, Demian Bichir gets a well-deserved Best Actor nomination. I'm delighted this movie is getting added exposure. It's the type of movie that produces engaging conversation about tough topics afterward.

11. Rise of the Planet of the Apes

apes
apes

A summer popcorn flick that kicked my ass with both drama and action. I couldn't believe they were attempting to make another Planet of the Apes movie. Personally, the entire concept seemed tired and dated. I was wrong, because this movie was the surprise summer smash. Really cool. Really entertaining. Just awesome. Can't wait to see where they go next...

10. Drive

Drive is everything they say it is. It's cool and classy, smooth and intoxicating. Honestly, 'cool' is the best way to describe it. It's fresh. Visually sharp. Killer soundtrack. The kind of movie that stands the test of time and becomes a classic. Bonus for what has to be one of the coolest scenees I've seen in a while... again, I won't spoil... but Gosling by the night ocean, fitted with his mask... wow, what an awesome visual.

9. Water for Elephants

I know a lot of people who didn't dig this movie. For some reason, I did. It's the kind of old-fashioned Hollywood love story often missing from today's cynical films. I admit to be enthralled with the circus setting and the music that wafted throughout this story. I really enjoyed it.

8. Newlyweds

Yes, I'm biased because of my own current movie aspirations. Yes, I admit to liking Ed Burns. But taking all that away, I think this is his best movie since The Brothers McMullen. The reason I think it's his best work is because it seems the most real of any of his films. There's no Hollywood gloss or shoe-horning of plot points. It's a sharp and real look at adult relationships. I highly recommend it to any couples out there between the age of 25-50. Totally enjoyable, and for my money, Dara Coleman steals every scene he's in as the cliche aspiring actor. Very funny stuff.

7. Moneyball

moneyball
moneyball

Baseball. Brad Pitt. Aaron Sorkin.

My favorite moment is when Pitt is driving alone... and he just casually says to himself, "What am I doing?"

What man hasn't said that before?

6. Like Crazy

An indie film that brilliantly captures that first love of your life. The one that goes from silly notes to painful reality. Perfectly executed, this movie really does an excellent job of showcasing what that period of time is like. Starting out in the world, blissfully naive to the world and its problems. I fell in love with Felicity Jones, and you will too. This should have gotten more awards recognition...

5. PJ20

My favorite band with one of my all-time influences, Cameron Crowe, steering the ship. It was everything I hoped for, and so much more.

4. Captain America

Even I was growing weary of super-hero movies. Yet if 2011 showed me anything, it's that Marvel knows exactly who their audience is and how to make them happy while still staying fresh. Chris Evans, I apologize for doubting you. You WERE Captain America, 100%. Cap had a retro feel to it, yet still managed to stay current. I LOVED the way they chose to make Cap's costume believable. Clever guys over there at Marvel...

captain-america
captain-america

3. The Muppets

The bottom line here was that I just had so much damn fun. I laughed. I felt for the gang. I even enjoyed the songs. The backstory of Jason Segal and his unwavering, unabashed love for The Muppets is endearing. He made his dreams come true. How can you not love that?

2. X-Men First Class

What a groovy, amazing, cool film! Wow. Again, I was shocked. I didn't see this coming. I honestly think X-Men First Class belongs up there with the best comic book movies of all-time. McAvoy and Fassbender are the stars, and they deserve to be. It's their friendship that ties the plot together, and they achieved emotional depths generally unseen in these movies. Totally rad.

x-men-first-class-movie-photo-03
x-men-first-class-movie-photo-03

1. Midnight in Paris

I'm not a Woody Allen buff, and the whole premise of this movie is something I'm usually totally against. Yet, I can't deny my love for this film. I can't even put my finger on why. I suppose it helps that I went to Paris this past summer. Whatever the reason, I lost myself in this whimsical tale of yearning for the past. And for someone like me, losing myself in the story is most important.

Fabulous movie.

All in all, I thought this year was opposite of 2010 where the 'artsy' awards movies were fantastic and the summer movies just okay. 2011 was the year of the popcorn movie, as the summer reigned supreme for me. Best part of it was, I didn't see it coming.

In the end, I'm constantly amazed at the unique talents that dot the film landscape. Diverse, gifted, and inspirational people abound out here. I only hope 2012 brings more surprises. Until then...

See you at the movies...

Hey Rock Snob, You Need To Support Coldplay. Here's Why...

You. I'm talking to you. Yeah, you. The guy in the corner with the perpetually arrogant know-it-all smirk on your face. The one that says your shit don't stink and you know all there is to know about rock music. You, the one who claims some unknown band currently playing at the local dive in Encino is "the next Nirvana, maybe better." The guy that says Binaural is Pearl Jam's only tolerable disc. And while we're at it, I'm also talking to you indie girl. The one that just seems so 'cute' and 'feisty', what with all of your quirky and interesting single song selections from a variety of rock bands usually featuring a girl-guy combo on vocals.

I'm talking to you.

Listen, I'm not telling you to change your music tastes. In fact, I would emphatically state that we need you to keep the fire burning for unknown, talented bands that aren't getting the airplay they deserve. What I am asking you to do is to stop sneering at what you consider "commercial" and "vanilla" rock bands. Because what you don't realize is, you and I both need them. And Coldplay is the perfect example. Here's why...

coldplay
coldplay

I shuffled through the usual mail this morning, lost in a blitzkrieg of crappy pizza delivery ads, credit card offers, and thick catalogs masquerading as magazines, was the latest issue of Rolling Stone Magazine. Yes, Rolling Stone Magazine. The patriarch of all things rock, even if it is reduced to the size of tabloid fodder-laden magazines like People and Star.

Now, full disclosure, I'm an arena, anthemic rock fan. To be clear, I willfully and happily check out all forms of rock music, but the melodramatic lyrics and sing-along verses pull me in most. I suppose you could say I still naively believe rock and roll can change the world. I count The Beatles, Pearl Jam, U2, and yes, Coldplay amongst my favorite bands. This isn't to say I don't appreciate more indie-centric fare, quite the opposite. Friends give me new records to digest all the time, and sometimes I find them exciting and fresh, like the time many years ago my friend ZZ railed with great passion over this band known as The Black Keys. Other times, I scratch my head and try to figure out the appeal (I'm looking at you The Hold Steady).

Through all of this, one of my favorite pastimes includes heavy and intense debates with musician friends over the relevance of a band such as The Kings of Leon. Any argument in the name of rock music is more than appreciated by me, and as my musician friends have found out, you better be prepared to come back with something more substantial than "it sucks", or "it's so generic."

Quite frankly, I think they're missing the point.

In this month's Rolling Stone (the Geore Clooney cover), near the front, there is an article: "Rock Radio Takes a Another Hit". This isn't the first such article I've seen shining a spotlight on the decline of rock. Sadly, I've been seeing a consistent surge in them for well over a decade, and the free fall of rock is very much a real thing. It's no longer an eyesore we can clean up, it's systematic and threatening to erode the entire landscape unless we do something about it.

And sad as it may be for some of you music snobs out there, it includes rallying around bands you may soon rather use as a spittoon in the conscious of your musical standards.

The internet has made 'being cool' into an even larger sense of hipster megalomania. Everything sucks, and everyone turns on what they actually like, corroded by the fear of having your own opinion which others may disagree with. I remember for many years hearing about this band called Kings of Leon. I heard they were Southern Rock at their most raw, with energy and an enigmatic frontman. Look back at a collection of Spin and Rolling Stone magazines from their early era, and you'll find nothing but love from critics and music snobs alike. Kings of Leon hadn't yet broke in America, certainly not until a little radio hit called "Sex on Fire" slowly took over the airwaves and infested itself into everyone's collective ears. They became huge rock stars instantly, even if like any other good story, it was anything but instant.

For a while, it seemed like KOL fans were celebrating in their band's ascent to a larger audience. They had worked hard, through relentless touring and hardship to capture the flag. Rock fans rejoiced.

It lasted for about six months, and suddenly everyone seemed to turn on the Followhill boys. This was before their recent and questionable antics. I listened to friend after friend, previous supporters of KOL, suddenly change their opinion. To them, KOL had sold out, the worst sin possible by a band of integrity. Their music was no longer the same. To them, it was far more generic. And although certainly a case could be made that the sound of KOL altered just a bit, it's also safe to say it wasn't a giant leap in content. Was Only By The Night so much different from Youth and Young Manhood? The changes were incremental, and certainly could be attributed by some as a sign of growth. Not for nothing, but KOL was never exactly Led Zepplin. Their slight melodic changes weren't the same as Garth Brooks suddenly doing Chris Gaines.

And that's okay.

And instead of standing behind them, rock fans fled. Sure, maybe you didn't enjoy the new album Come Around Sundown, but did that mean you now thought they should be erased from all rock formats? Extinguished from everyone's collective hip factor?

Even if you did, it wouldn't matter.

Because there are no rock formats anymore. It's dying.

Which is the reasoning behind the Rolling Stone article, as Clear Channel has nationalized even more radio stations, firing legendary DJs who broke iconic bands like The Doors and Tom Petty. Per the article, a number one rock hit reaches 13 million people, compared to the 138 million a top 40 hit attains.

Rock is dying before our eyes, and we're too busy fighting about what's cool to realize it has a larger effect on all of our bands.

Think of music formats, especially rock, like a food chain. If you eliminate one species, all suffer. You see, a band like Coldplay generates sales. As Coldplay succeeds, so does the faith of music executives in other rock bands. When those bands succeed, more money flows into the coffers. More money directly attributed to rock music. When this happens, more spending happens. Spending on that same unknown band in Encino who otherwise might just break up because they can't find an audience now has a shot at making a difference. A shot at bringing rock back.

You know, like that little band known as Nirvana did.

In today's age, Nirvana might never get a shot. Which means they'd never have a chance to crush bands that you despise (the god-awful Nickelbacks, etc) and change the game all over again.

Wish is what has always baffled me about music fans of a certain ilk. I certainly understand the unique ability to see a band like Arcade Fire in a near empty dive bar and realizing you've just seen the next biggest thing. I get it. It's similar to having a small plot of sandy beach all to yourself. But what I've never comprehended is the complete and utter desertion of that same band when they finally break through and in the process, bring their personal music which you find so appealing to the ears of those with less taste. This should be a good thing, seen as a celebration and nothing less. If anything, it has the power to broaden someone's musical taste.

Years ago, people used to complain that bands like Coldplay were the only rock they heard on the radio (a comment given often when talking about KOL and "Use Somebody".

What you're failing to see is that there is no complaining anymore, because they aren't playing anything new!

Let's take a look at the current top 10 rock singles on iTunes....

1. When We Stand Together Nickelback 2. Black Betty Ram Jam 3. Headstrong Trapt 4. Crazy Train Ozzy Osbourne 5. Down with the Sickness Disturbed 6. Iris Goo Goo Dolls 7. Closing Time Semisonic 8. Crawling Back to You Daughtry 9. Under the Bridge Red Hot Chili Peppers 10. Don't Stop Believing.

That's right rock fans, motherfucking Semisonic is in the top 10 with a song they released in the 90's. SEMISONIC???????

You got what you wanted rock snob, only now instead of playing lots of Wilco or The Avett Brothers, radio stations play the Biebers and the Katy Perry's of the world. Consider yourself lucky if you live in Los Angeles and New York, where at least some form of major rock stations exist.

Those same bands you religiously love but don't get the respect and adulation you want? Guess what, if radio stations were playing more Coldplay, than your band would obvious get more love as well. Sigh... how can you not see that it's a parasitic relationship and that we now have almost none at all?

We need the Coldplays and the Kings of Leon of the world, or face complete extinction on a large canvas. And quite frankly, my opinion remains that rock and roll, whether you call it grunge, alternative, indie, or any other popular buzz word... rock music... Rock and Roll. Rock and roll is the most important modern-day music genre of the last 100 years. Nothing can touch it.

And if we don't band together, neither one of us will survive.

Yes, I'm sure you enjoy the satellite stations that get little to no audience and play the bands you know but few others do. Keep them. Just learn to support rock in any form, because we all can benefit from that. Next time someone talks to you at a party about their musical tastes, especially if they lean more mainstream, rather than shame them, try to educate them on the music you like, while still respecting their opinions. I'm always willing to listen to you rock snob... just listen to me.

Even if you need Coldplay to get your own message across.

And the next time a cool rock band hits big, support them. Because I'm really doubting that the next Black Keys album is going to be shit just because more brainwaves accept the message.

For God's sake man, I don't want to be stuck with The Black Eyed Peas another five years, are Coldplay and Kings of Leon really that bad?

It's a food chain man.

And we, the rock fans, are swimming for our lives.

Kurt Edward Larson just published his first book, Finding the Super-Hero Within, which has many music anecdotes that occur along the way of his own personal journey. For instance, he was devastated when his Mother casually threw Pearl Jam's latest disc Vitalogy at him one Christmas morning, incomplete with no wrapping paper.

His Mother did not realize the importance of such an album, especially in the wake of Cobain's death.

He could have done without the track foxymophandlemomma though.

Regardless, you can buy his book in print or ebook form by CLICKING HERE.

Reflections of PJ 20

I very rarely don the various sports jerseys and hats that so many others willfully do when attending a sporting event. It's not for a lack of passion, but rather the fear of being shamed by others less tolerant of unabashed team fervor. Taking all of that into account, it speaks volumes that I am here in the heart of Los Angeles, at the epicenter of scrutiny and arrogance, proudly showcasing my Eddie Vedder silhouetted t-shirt. I think it's vital to point out that this shirt is also red. Not the kind of muted red that seems so prevalent these days on the backs of hipsters and wannabes alike. No, this is a bright red. The kind of red that begs you to stare.

But rather than being shunned, the opposite occurs. It starts with a few nods, the kind of nods only guys do when they want to show their acceptance while still maintaining a sense of distance. Forceful nods. Occasionally, I get a few "nice shirt" utterances. All in all, my shirt is going over well; whereas in other parts of this city, I'd be scoffed at.

But this is a Pearl Jam crowd, and this is our night.

pearljam
pearljam

I have tried to convey just exactly what Pearl Jam means to me, and every time I do, I am constantly thwarted by the doubts in my head. I've alluded to their importance in my life in other blogs, most notably my love letter to the shuttering of Chicago's Rock Alternative Station, Q101. To this day, that piece continues to generate positive feedback of which I'm grateful for. And no question, a lot of that has to do with the words I wrote inside regarding Pearl Jam. But writing a real piece on my respect and admiration for who they are as both muscians and artists is futile at best.

Sometimes, music captures you in a way that can't accurately be described. Pearl Jam is such a case for me. I don't expect you to understand, because I'm sure you yourself have a deep connection to some band or musician that I don't quite get. That's the beauty of music and the emotions it can evoke.

Suffice it to say, it was an odd night of emotion for me.

For starters, I almost didn't make it to PJ20. My close friend, Baron Nightwing, had a surprise gathering for his birthday. Of course, I had to be there. Unfortunately, I had already bought a ticket to PJ20 and it's not like I could go the next day. It was one night only, and the theater was packed with rabid fans like myself. But--and this is a great statement on friendship--Baron also knew I couldn't NOT go see PJ20. To not go to PJ20 would be an insult to him, as an absence to that show would mean a misunderstanding of the dynamics of what our bond is. I had to know he wouldn't be upset, knowing all too well how much those two hours meant to me.

And thus, I spent a few hours with Baron, and onward to Pearl Jam I went.

The lobby was unusually quiet when The Angel and I entered from the familiar front doors of the Arclight. We made our way to the bar and quickly ordered a drink. For a moment, I thought perhaps I had missed something regarding the time. It was empty, and conversation was easy. This struck me as odd.

Then, in what seemed like an instant, the bar and adjacent lobby was full. It wasn't like fans trickled in over time. We literally turned our heads away for a moment, only to return and find the brown Ikea-like booths swarmed by black and red Pearl Jam t-shirts. A metaphor for their own meteoric rise to the top for sure.

That's when the buzz started. The room hummed with anticipation, and unlike other rock bands, we were all in this together.

Adding to the emotional context of my mindset, my high school best friend Matt McLemore had joined us. Matt McLemore; the guy I spent 15 years hanging out with in just about every setting possible; the guy I had fought beside; the guy I had occasionally fought with (like any set of brothers do); the guy I had discovered Pearl Jam with; and the guy who I had only recently got back into contact with after a two-year sabbatical that left us both better for the wear. Matt was there, and our own adolescent musing on where we were going at age 18 was surely to swell up upon seeing Eddie Vedder rip through "Release" for the first time tonight.

It wasn't just Matt though.

PJ20 is directed by Cameron Crowe.

To give you some semblance of what those words mean to me, I have written thousands of words in both screenplay and essay form. The most influential thread in those words is without question the spectre of Cameron Crowe. If you read my work, then you know how I loathe the casual way in which we throw the word 'genius' around. In saying that, I think Cameron Crowe is a genius.

He finds a way of capturing human emotion at its heights, all under the umbrella of sincerity. It's not a stretch to say that I've been trying to write Say Anything and Jerry Maguire for my entire creative career.

If you ask me what type of screenplays I write, I usually shuffle my feet and attempt to throw a few adjectives together in a seemingly abstract way of defining what my work is. What I really should say is, I try to write like early John Hughes and Cameron Crowe, though with my own personal style.

Of course, if I said that, I'd sound like an absolute moron. I probably already do...

But really, I take great offense at someone who describes Say Anything as a romantic comedy. To do so is to demean what that movie is. When I think of romantic comedies, I think of a film involving some flavor of the month blonde and a shirtless Matthew McConaughey. Or a really bad Katherine Heigl movie. What I don't think of is the layered brilliance of Lloyd Dabbler and how perfectly it captures young love and the influence our parents have on us.

And for the last few years, I've dealt with the constraints of an industry that continually tells me my work is valid, only that it needs to be more extreme. One producer once told me, "If Cameron Crowe was a 33 unknown right now, he wouldn't get an opportunity to make Say Anything."

I found that sentence appalling, and it struck a nerve in me that continues today, egged on by others like Kevin Smith and Ed Burns. If they won't let my voice be heard, then I suppose I'll find my own way. Say Anything came out in 1989, which means Crowe was just about 33 years old. John Hughes directed his first film around the same time, and by all accounts neither really had any idea what they were doing when they decided to direct.

Certainly, at 33, a year away from hopefully shooting my own first film, I feel a bit of self-induced pressure that I can make something even half as decent as what they did in those first films.

I tell you all of this for context.

We have the love of my life next to me. My former best friend lurking a few rows in front of us. My current closest friend just down the street. The band that means everything to me. And the director who subconsciously swirls around nearly everything I write. I'm just saying, it was a heavy night.

Right from the onset, PJ20 took me back... back to the sweaty corridors of Jacobs High School, to a time when I thought All 4 One was an amazing musical act.

Then I heard "Alive", and my world forever changed.

Before there were digital downloads, bootlegs of every show, and an internet channel filled with every video every recorded of any artist you could want, there were questions. You would hear stories, and unable to verify their authenticity, you'd let your mind wander. McLemore and I saved our hard-earned money, the kind of dollars you receive bagging groceries at the local supermarket, and we happily spent them on Pearl Jam imports. Only with imports could we hear "Sonic Reducer" and some new track called "Better Man."

Let me be clear, Pearl Jam forced me to grow up. I was no longer a wide-eyed kid going about the world. Adult themes began stirring inside me, angst and indifference being foremost amongst them. Pearl Jam didn't create this frustration inside me, it only brought it to the surface. And thank god they did, as belting out "Porch" was surely a positive release to the obvious alternatives.

Twenty Years later, I was ready for what Crowe had prepared us.

And what unspooled on the screen in front of me was nothing short of a complete and personal mind-fuck, and I mean that as the highest compliment.

Viewing the career of Pearl Jam, all condensed into a two-hour beautiful portrait, was like reliving the last twenty years of my life. The heartache. The jubilation. The pain. The awkwardness. The love. The scars. The fun. All of it.

So many different people in my life flashed on-screen in the form of musicians and fans I've never met.

I don't know if Crowe set out to make a movie which forces those of us who know the history of PJ to reflect on our own lives, but that's assuredly what happened to me and many others last night.

It was wonderful.

And through the process of maturing, the band survived. Which is how I felt watching them. I had survived.

We had survived together.

And that is what I most took away from this movie. We can all look back now and smile. That includes Eddie himself, the charismatic lead singer who has often shunned the spotlight in favor of artistic expression. I saw Vedder smile more than I ever knew capable while watching PJ20, and I was so thankful Crowe captured that side of him.

Pearl Jam is a band intent on earning their integrity, and they've done so in their own way.

And moreover, they've created a community intent on sticking beside one another. We were there at the onset, and we were there through the growing pains. And we sure as hell are here now, one united in celebration.

Not to be trite, but we were all still alive.

Whether you get that or not, we don't care.

We get it.

Exit Stage Left.

Somewhere in New York, I'm hoping the cast and crew of Rescue Me is getting shit-faced and duking it out with each other. You may find that term crude and obnoxious, but any other word used to describe those people getting drunk just wouldn't seem appropriate. Tonight, the curtain drops on Rescue Me.

rescue me
rescue me

It's hard to describe the emotions I feel for what is to be the end of a show I called my favorite for so many years.

Rescue Me's appeal is difficult to pin down. It has heroism. It has comedy. It has drama. It can be lewd. Inspiring. And poignant.

All great works of art are all that and more.

Now, you may find me calling Rescue Me a work of art blasphemous, but I would passionately disagree. For the record, so would the Smithsonian, which inducted props from the show into its hallowed walls just this year. I got news for you, they don't do that for just any program.

It's fitting that Rescue Me ends right around the same time as the 10th anniversary of 9/11, as so much of the show's content, both seen and unseen, was derived from that horrific day. As a nation, and as individuals, we're still trying to come to terms with what happened. So are the characters. In fact, it's hard to imagine another show so deftly handling the delicate tightrope of emotions that come about from such a tragedy.

Rescue Me did just that.

And it did so much more.

For those of us who loved it, Rescue Me became a constant flickering pulse in the background of our ordinary, mundane lives. Even when the storylines dragged a bit long or became a bit too soap opera for its own good, we kept watching. Because at its best, Rescue Me is a snapshot of what most of the men in America think on any given day.

I have never seen a show so accurately portray the beautiful idiocy that is men. The guys from Rescue Me weren't just characters, they were brothers and friends each of us came to know and love. One minute they're talking about the fire they just narrowly escaped, the next a dissertation on jerking off. And through all of that nonsense, nothing matters more than the one word common thread these guys understand most- respect. This is a world where no subject is off-limits, but respect is earned, not given. The code of honor and friendship amongst each other matters most, and those not worthy enough might as well watch some other superficial bro-show.

Of course, Dennis Leary was at the core of that mixed bag of misfits. It's a travesty he hasn't won some sort of Emmy for his work as Tommy Gavin. There aren't a lot of shows on television that have the balls to do what Rescue Me does, and no one deserves more credit than him. In an age where finding a show that has BOTH comedy and drama becomes increasingly hard, Leary did it with ease. Oh, and he threw action into it too. Let's see your Mad Men do that.

Rescue Me has been criminally undervalued by the people in charge of 'esteemed' awards for far too long... call it the curse of FX's brilliance. It's something the new kid on the block, Sons Of Anarchy, is finding out as well. Go ahead and heap your love and adoration on other, glossy shows... I'll take the grit of Rescue Me, because I know they'll also make me laugh.

But no matter.

Rescue Me doesn't need awards or Hollywood ass-kicking schmooze-fests to know its effect.

Its legacy is in fans like me. Fans who cared about each and every character on the show, the ultimate award in any work or art.

Just last week, I watched in horror at one of the most gripping moments I have ever witnessed on television when Tommy and his crew rushed into a burning building, only to find their one route of escape cemented shut.

Those 12 minutes or so of television caused me to wake up in the middle of the night, lost at the thought of their outcome.

And so tonight, the end will occur. Like a one-time heavyweight champ getting in one last knockdown, I expect nothing short of tears.

From where I stand, how can you not take the time to see this beautiful show end.

In closing, I'd like to thank the people who made that show come alive.

Raise em' up boys, you did well.

You most certainly did well.

How the new Transformers Movie, a wrestler named CM Punk, and possibly you relate.

NOTE: The author is going into BESERKER RAGE, which means humorous (yet fundamentally true) ranting is about to commence. For the past few weeks, I've heard more than a dozen film fans and friends alike bemoan the recent success of Michael Bay's latest tour de force: Transformers Dark of the Moon.

transformers-dark-of-the-moon-imax-poster
transformers-dark-of-the-moon-imax-poster

Although the various intricacies of one's condemnation of all things Transformers takes many forms, the basic gist is that while visually stunning at times, Transformers isn't exactly Shakespeare. There are several blogs and articles dedicated to the complete deconstruction of Transformers and what it stands for, but I'm not really talking about those critics. I'm talking about the average movie-goer who shelled out 30+ dollars to watch their diminutive hero Shia LaBeouf expressively showcase fear and action with his various grunts and grimaces. To date, only one colleague of mine has had anything positive to say about Transformers.

For the record, I enjoy the Transformers' movies on a strictly popcorn movie level. Living in Los Angeles, you're surrounded by artsy kids from the hills of Hollywood who can dissect even the most inane films, and while telling you how magnificent said bizarre movie is for hours on end. They like to sound intelligent as they proclaim, "you just don't get it." "No, I get it. You're a pretentious idiot." Never short on opinions or access codes to trust fund accounts, these bratty kids loathe anything put out by a studio.

You might think as an aspiring actor/writer that I would fall into this same camp. But while I certainly appreciate the nuances of a well-crafted independent film, I also have no problems revelling in something big, loud, and aesthetically pleasing. I think there's a place for everything, as long as we find room for all forms of movies. Whether we currently do or not is a debate for another time.

My point is that The Transformers' movies serve me just fine. I'm not obsessing over the plot details, as really I just came to see robots fight. Robots fighting is ridiculous, which is why it works.

But I do find a certain sense of hilarity in my friends that wax poetic on the problems of Transformers, often using words like 'shitty', 'waste of money', and 'stupid'.

And the guy that made me see the irony in all of this even clearer than I already did was a tattooed skinny WWE wrestler named CM Punk.

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cm

Stay with me here...

I know many of you don't grasp the WWE or its appeal, but I assure you, when it's orchestrated with story and skill, it can be just as dramatic as anything else on TV. The problem is, finding those storylines that ignite the regular viewer are few and far between. Keeping them going with creative momentum proves even more challenging...

Nonetheless, I've dutifully been a WWE fan for most of my life, though admittedly taking a few breaks here and there. Now is one such time. The WWE has been beyond stale for some time now. Quite frankly, it's been lame. There are a lot of internet wrestling fans (known as the IWC or internet wrestling community) who collectively think they know what and what's not right in the state of wrestling. And while I think they happen to be right a majority of the time, sometimes I also think they're way off base. I have respect for their wishes that every match be five stars with guys that are smaller than the monsters we're used to seeing flash on our tv screen, but there is something to be said for the entertainment aspect as well. Sorry guys, Dean Malenko just isn't as appealing as King Kong Bundy.

Wrestling, in my opinion, is best when you have the most proficient performers in the world working with a storyline that captivates the viewer. Shawn Michaels and The Undertaker are two of the best in the business, but their Wrestlemania matches were considered some of the greatest of all time because of both the wrestling AND the backstory.

Unfortunately, wrestling hasn't been doing much of either lately.

I used to TIVO WWE Raw and watch it late Monday nights, fast-forwarding through the commercials. Then slowly, I started fast-forwarding more of the product. It had became a retread of everything I had seen before. Worse yet, the same sludge that kept coming out of Vince McMahon's empire seemed to correlate directly with talented individuals being held back. And so when Shawn Michaels left, so did I.

I actually stopped recording Raw altogether. When you realize the only entertaining parts of the show revolve around a comedy gimmick named Santino Marella, you know it's time to move on. (For the record, WWE even screwed up Santino's rise, as surely a match with the Honky Tonk Man at about the time his longstanding IC title reign record would have been broken was perfect theater... except it never happened)

Then through the grapevine, I started hearing about a brash wrestler kicking up dirt and telling it like it is. CM Punk.

Of course, I had been familiar with Punk for some time, and always enjoyed his work. The Angel knew him as "the Chicago Guy."

She'd ask, "Is that the Chicago Guy? We like him, right?"

Yes, we liked him.

Only now he was taking that rare step into the legendary annals of WWE history, and we were about to like him that much more.

CM Punk has been delivering blistering promos on the entire wrestling universe over the past few weeks. The story goes like this... CM Punk's contract is up this Sunday. It also happens to be the date of the WWE's latest pay-per-view. The show also happens to be taking place in Punk's hometown of Chicago, where he's fighting this other guy that we'll get to soon enough. Just look at this spot-on delivery he gave recently...

For the record, this is not fake. Punk's contract is up on Sunday. That's the truth.

So what Punk has been doing lately is talking about the idiocy of the WWE for not promoting guys like him for some time. He's railed on the lack of promotion someone like him has received over the past five years, all the while pointing out why. It usually has something to do with kissing ass, something Punk has long been rumored to not indulge in backstage. Again, real llife. Basically, he's the guy at the job who's been busting ass for every day, only to see lesser employees receive promotions. He's been passed over for far too long and he's fed up.

See, you've probably never heard of CM Punk.

This is a travesty. Do you know why?

Because I bet you've heard of a guy named John Cena. The same guy Punk fights this Sunday on pay-per-view.

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JohnCena2

John Cena is the face of the WWE. And while I have total respect for Cena's work ethic, both in and out of the ring, I also can't stand him. He represents all that is wrong the WWE right now. Cena is a puppet, used to push merchandise and sell colors. He's Hulk Hogan all over again. And by that I mean, watching a John Cena match is like watching the same episode of Gilligan's Island over and over.

It's bright. It's colorful. It's goofy. But the result is always the same. Oh wow, I'm so shocked, John Cena got the win. He came down from insurmountable human odds to defy expectations and get his hand raised again.

It's so... so... so boring. And obvious. And annoying.

Especially when a guy like Punk clearly knows what wrestling and wrestling entertainment should be. The guy is an absolute killer.

So I've been tuning in to watch him deliver his awe-inspiring truths to the WWE universe for the past few weeks.

And the fans have responded. They cheer Punk. They salivate at his appearance, because he speaks the truth. You have to cheer for a guy who calls himself the "voice of the voiceless" and actually comes through with his words. They're all based in very real, very dramatic, facts.

And the one thing that Punk has been saying that struck me as most real is the way he's lambasted that same audience cheering him. Because the audience is just as much as the problem as anyone else. You see, McMahon and the WWE will keep chucking up the same tired Cena matches and storylines because the audience has shown them they'll buy into it.

Let me make this clear, Cena literally has changed primary colors about five times since he started his ascent to the top. What I mean is, wrestlers sell t-shirts and merchandise based on their characters. Now, mind you, all wrestlers change shirt designs to make more money. Certainly, the greatest marketing machine ever--Stone Cold Steve Austin--had more than a dozen different t-shirt designs. But the audience never felt like they were being sold a different product so blatantly as when Cena goes about it. Austin would stay in his color palette, mostly black. It may sound silly, but it's not.

If you're fully aware that you're being sold swampland in Florida, then it's bound to piss you off.

Cena just changes colors. He slaps orange, red, or yellow on something and sells it to you with a big shit-eating grin on his face. He's a fucking stooge for McMahon. I understand it's a business. But John Cena is so obviously the used car salesmen shilling for an inferior product that it alienates fans like me. He's quite possibly worse than Hulk Hogan at kissing ass. Again, real talk.

But the problem is, the audience keeps buying Cena. They don't demand a change. They sit there in their seats, watching little to no wrestling over a two-hour period, all the while sucking on Cena sodas and popping up their Cena wristbands while the WWE laughs at them. Make no mistake, the WWE is laughing at their fans. Because believe me, they aren't showing any respect to us.

If they were, Macho Man Randy Savage would have been inducted into the Hall of Fame a long time ago. For starters.

Instead, they inducted Koko B. Ware.

WWE, you make me sick.

And Punk is right, the audience is the real problem. The only reason wrestling resurfaced in the 90's was McMahon had to change formats or risk losing it all. He's closer than he thinks to that now again.

I'm a perfect example. I have bought next to nothing wrestling related in over 5 years, and if you take away the occasional book or DVD purchase, they have none of my money. But I'm just one guy, and so the bottomless pit of boredom continues...

The audience obviously feels similar based on their reactions to Punk, but they don't change.

Yes, I know it's a storyline in wrestling, but I assure you, it blurs the line between truth and fiction with deft transitions. Believe me, some of what Punk is saying definitely comes from the man behind the character.

Which brings me back to Transformers.

Again, I don't have anything against Transformers personally.

But for those of you that do, you only have yourselves to blame. Is someone out there too ignorant not to notice the cause and effect?

I literally laughed at loud at someone's recent Facebook status update when they mentioned how they couldn't believe how bad they thought Transformers was, and how there might be something wrong with Michael Bay.

No, there's nothing wrong with Michael Bay. Have you seen the grosses from Transformers?

You did see the first two Transformers movies, right?

Did you expect something new? Something different?

The question should be, what's wrong with you?

If you didn't enjoy the first two, why did you shell out money for the third?

It's insanity people.

The way to infect real change is to stop the bean counters. You don't like remakes or sequels? Stop going to see them.

As Howard Stern always says, change the channel.

Because if you don't, then you become the wrestling fan sporting the John Cena shirt while simultaneously wishing someone like Punk would save you from the monotony.

The people making these decisions aren't the issue, the audience is.

At least in wrestling, we have someone like Punk telling it straight.

Hell, he might even get my money for this Sunday's pay-per-view.

Either that, or I'll go see Transformers.

3D Movies are the equivalent of foil-covered comics of the 90's.

I was unaware of how to react when my eyes first popped open in amazement at the visual advancement I was staring at. It was cool. Unique. Edgy. I thought the medium was about to change forever, and I couldn't get enough of it. The characters seemed to be right next to me, enhanced by the technology it was wrapped in. Nothing would ever be the same... I was 13. And I was staring at a foil-enhanced comic book cover.

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AMSM375

I still remember the days of buying every comic book laced with such developments, if for nothing else I wanted to be on the ground floor of the revolution I was sure was about to take place. It didn't matter if the characters were Spider-Man, Deathstrike, Bloodsport, ummm Bloodtsrike? Deathsport? Arg, I couldn't keep up with everything Image and Valiant were throwing out there, but I ate it all up. There were gold covers, chromium covers, red foil covers. They were everywhere, and you were paying premium for it.

The weekly tallies on my comic book bills were escalating, while the stories told within were dropping. I looked around and suddenly found that every comic book on the newsstand seemed to be a "special" issue with a new cover. Covers didn't become as artistic as they once were, and I started to resent what was being forced down our throats (The Spider-Man Clone Wars didn't help).

Foil-covers became gimmicks.

After that initial rush of excitement encased my common sense, a new opinion took over my mind in regards to foil covers...

They sucked.

Moreover, they weren't very good. They were being rushed into production as a means to increase profits. The makers of these books sacrificed story and art for gimmick covers, and eventually the marketplace took notice and revolted.

The comic craze floundered, and there's no question foil covers had a lot to do with it.

It took comics well over a decade to recover, and some people think they never quite did.

CUT TO-

Today.

The first time I saw Avatar, I was genuinely moved. Pandora seemed like as good a place as any to call heaven, and my senses struggled to keep up with the images unspooling on-screen. The story wasn't fantastic, but it was enough to stay engaged. James Cameron had proved yet again, he is a visionary. No question about it.

But due to Avatar's success, every studio in town rushed their film slate into 3D conversions. I thought this seemed sensible. Not only were there precious dollars to consume, but it seemed any movie not in 3D would suffer (at least blockbusters on this level). Cameron had changed the game, and everyone needed new equipment just to play.

Unfortunately, reality set it.

Studios thrust hastily converted 3D films upon audiences at a rapid rate. The Last Airbender. Clash of the Titans. Cats and Dogs. Drive Angry. Etc. Etc.

And as each live-action film came out in 3D, audiences groaned louder. Reality set it.

3D hasn't actually transformed the world of film. Not on the level where it was predicted, not yet.

3D will undoubtedly one day be the most prominent way to view movies, but it has a long ways to go before they take over the market. Because by and large, audiences still want story over lack of substance. Studios need to understand that neglecting story in favor of 3D wizardry won't work. The audiences are catching up to their motives, much like foil-covered comics of the 90's. You can't just slap 3D on any movie and expect us to come in droves.

Avatar was a pioneer. Nothing can replicate that first 3D moment we all felt upon seeing it.

But I also feel strongly that Avatar had a secret weapon that most of these 3D movies don't... Pandora.

In my opinion, 3D works best right now for animation and CGI created characters. Where I don't think it's working is with actual human beings. When I think about Avatar and how incredible the 3D was, I can assure you it had nothing to do with Sam Worthington's... ummmm, acting. It was all Pandora, all the time. The blue creatures popped with intensity, and the topographical landscape was simply breathtaking.

Conversely, people running around in 3D looks weird. Worse, the darkened glasses seem to wash out any and all light.

This is why animated movies like UP and Toy Story 3 look glorious in 3D. First off, they're colorful. They're also cartoons, which helps us suspend disbelief even more. A long establishing shot of a 3-inch Nicolas Cage driving a car just looks silly, and it sure as hell doesn't help that he's in a movie called Drive Angry... which is about... you know, driving angry.

I hope 3D gets to the point where it rocks our socks off. The idea of Derrick Rose dunking on LeBron James in my living room is beyond tantalizing, and I'm certainly all for innovation. But for now, I'll stick with traditional 2D.

And I'm not alone, as this story suggest movie-goers are specifically avoiding 3D movies right now.

The studios better figure it out before it's too late, because their reluctance to understand what the audience wants could have a drastic effect. They're holding on to a gimmick.

And just ask the comic book companies how that worked out...

Music That Left Me Speechless.

I'm one of those secret hippies that truly thinks music has the ability to alter and shift our world. I'm fascinated by those that perform, and with their performances transcend social and political barriers.

Music can be spiritual. Sexual. Liberating. And inspiring.

It can come cloaked in a clenched fist, or through the simple howl of a soul-searching crooner.

I have many friends and colleagues that play music, and I'm often left impressed with their personal vision for what music is and how they fit into that equation.

But it takes something special for music to not just stir emotions, but to leave those feelings speechless with its power.

It has to be the magical combination of words, images, sound, and voices.

I'm sure so many of you have already seen this video, but I had not.

I literally thought it was one of the most moving pieces of footage I've ever seen.

It made me feel so much. But more than anything, it just reassessed my belief that no one out there is alone.

This is truly amazing.

And another...