Saturday, March 31, 2012

Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, Jane Taylor, and Nueroaesthetics

Today, my 13 month old son, Shepherd, is sitting on my shoulders when we take a walk and he's humming/singing/mumbling.

The song he's mumble-humming is the tune to "Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Stars." It's very distinct, and I begin to sing the song to him to his great joy.

And I say to myself, "Where in the world did this song come from, that of all the songs we sing around our children, that this is the song they gravitate towards?"

I remember when my first child was his age, and she too loved to sing Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star and I distinctly remember it really being one of the first songs she participated in singing.

So this lead my on my own personal Google and Wikipedia search to attempt to figure out a couple of things.

First, to whom I owe my appreciation to for creating this simple and for whatever reason attractive song.

Second, why in the world this song has such a gravitational pull?


So the who part of the research was easy and interesting. The tune (which also is the tune to the traditional American ABC song) is actually a french traditional "Ah! vous dirai-je, Maman" which was published in 1761, which were then further popularized by Mozart when he used this for this piano piece "Twelve Variations on Ah vous dirai-je, Maman" presumed to have been published around 1781.

The words to Twinkle Twinkle Little Star were published in 1806 in a book called Rhymes for the Nursery by Jane and Ann Taylor. The poem, titled The Star was written by Jane (there is a free archived version of the book available here).

The poem actually has multiple stanzas that go beyond our current version of the song, back when people probably really were looking to stars saying "how I wonder what you are?"

I am unable to find when the french tune and the poem were married to one another and popularized.


I ask myself, "Why do little kids get drawn to this song." Is there something inherit to our souls that is captured by those in initial staccato notes, or the descending partial scales?

And yet, I didn't find an answer here, other than I learned a new word...neuroaesthetics, in which a science blogger just a few weeks ago wrote about his or her interest in the world of the science behind why we find art attractive.

This blogger discusses how someone truly interested in neuroaesthetics is going to study simple things like the Wiggles or Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, as opposed to studying fine gallery art, and while in the comments someone asks "Please tell me nobody funds such nonsense?"

And yet, there's a part of me that would be fascinated to read a scientific study on why we're attracted to this melody/poem pairing. I don't know that if I'd personally fund it, but I'd love to read the study.

Thank you Jane Taylor, Mozart, and whoever is the Frenchman/Frenchwoman who wrote this tune, for creating something my infants have loved, in which you surely did not receive adequate royalties.

Artwork pictured is from the free archieve of the not copywrite protected, 1849 printing Rhymes for Children found here.

Chances Are You Are Not A Mega Millions Winner

Chances are you are not a mega millions winner.

After a frenzy of media and gambling frenzy over the mega-millions jackpot (totally over $600 million pre-tax dollars), three winners are splitting the prize and the jackpot is reset to 12 million dollars.

I've never bought a lottery ticket, but for the first time I was tempted. I didn't, but I still paid attention to the energy behind the random draw of 6 numbers.

One of things that I think is exciting about the mega-millions jackpots like the one's we just saw is that they put people in a place where they dream about what they're life would be like if money wasn't an issue.

For some, perhaps the truth comes out about all your evil motives of being a multi-millionaire who can do horrendous things. But for most, there aren't evil motives. For most there are dreams. Many dream of some simple financial freedom (dreaming of those first checks to pay off debt, homes, etc.).

But after the financial encumbrances are shaken off, those other dreams are meaningful as well. Perhaps dreams of giving to their loved ones, great family vacations, and helping out people in need. I read stories up to the drawing of people hoping to help horses in horse sanctuaries, or help out the people in need in their city.

Or maybe you dreamed of trying your hand at writing that novel, or moving to your dream city.

If you dreamed those dreams, then you shouldn't stop because you don't have a 600 million dollar payday didn't come due.

Instead, you should figure out how you might get there (without millions of dollars). I imagine it might mean for many being free of their debts (which would mean avoiding new debts). But for others, maybe money's not even really part of the story, maybe it's fear. And getting over it to do what you dream.

Chances are you didn't win, but if you dreamed what your life would be like with it, you shouldn't stop dreaming...maybe just making the same plans with out the slim to none chances of an incredible gamble.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Bad Timing: Neighborhood Watch

This July 27, Fox studios is slated to release a film called Neighborhood Watch, one of the anticipated summer blockbusters.

It stars Ben Stiller, Vince Vaughn, and Jonah Hill.

Yet, in the wake of the Trayvon Martin killing in Sanford, Florida (as well as it's continuing headline level controversy), this film simply has bad timing.

Fox Studios has pulled Neighborhood Watch posters and previews from Florida theaters, but at this time reports say it does not plan on pulling the film from it's July 27 release.

But, the film with it's comedic-alien theme surely will get a new poster treatment and preview treatment, especially since the current preview has Jonah Hill making a gun with his hand and
pretending to shoot teenagers.

That being said, in addition to an updated marketing campaign and geographical variations, you have to wonder if there will be further changes...if it's not a release date change, you wonder if they might go for a title change that doesn't so closely seem to connect this film to George Zimmerman, a real neighborhood watchman in the news.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

October Baby

This weekend I had the privilege of seeing the movie October Baby. The film, which is a small film with a budget around a million dollars. The film deals with the concepts of a failed abortion, adoption, families, forgiveness, pain, understanding our place in the world, etc.

It has all the feels of a coming-of-age drama, a tinge of Nicholas Sparks, and the life-is-a-journey road trip message.

The film which is clearly marketed towards to Christian's (Evangelical Protestants and Conservative Catholics) isn't overly religious in nature, but obviously deals with a social issue that is highly politicized.

That being said, politicized issues rarely appear in films, so there's no reason to critic a film like this for presenting a message, especially when it does so with sensitivity, working the story from a number of angles (the failed abortion survivor, the birth-mother, adopting parents, the nurse who administered the procedure, and friends and frenemies in the mix).

I loved the fact that American Idol alumni Chris Sligh is in the film and his music makes the bulk of the soundtrack (although sometimes appears in overly sentimentalized spots). But truly the great performances in the film are in the cameo performances by veteran Jasmine Guy and relative-newcomer Shari Weidman, and the lead performance by Rachel Hendrix.

The film is well produced for it's budget, the story is good, although could have benefitted from a script tightening.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Reel People: Billy Murray is Franklin D. Roosevelt

The film is Hyde Park on the Hudson, directed by Roger Michell (Notting Hill, Changing Lanes, Venus) and written newcomer Richard Nelson.

Franklin D. Roosevelt

Franklin D. Roosevelt was born January 30, 1882 in Hyde Park, New York to a wealthy family. Roosevelt is said to have been raised more by his mother than his father. He took regular trips to Europe and picked up some German and French. He was an avid sportsman, including golf and sailing.

Franklin D. Roosevelt attended Harvard, and while there is fifth cousin Theodore Roosevelt became president (1902). It was also in that year he reacquainted with Eleanor Roosevelt at a White House Reception. Eleanor was Theodore's niece. Eleanor was Franklin's fifth cousin once removed.

Roosevelt graduated from Harvard in 1903, entered Columbia Law School in 1904, married Eleanor in 1905.

Before getting his juris doctorate at Columbia, Franklin Roosevelt dropped out having passed the Bar Exam and took a job with the Wall Street firm Carter Ledyard & Milburn.

Franklin Roosevelt and Eleanor Roosevelt had six children (although much has been said about Eleanor's aversion to sexual intercourse). Anna was born in 1906, James in 1907, Franklin Delano, Jr in 1909 [who died in his first year of life], Elliot in 1910, a second Franklin Delano, Jr. in 1914, and John in 1916.

In 1910, Franklin D. Roosevelt ran for New York State Senate from the Hyde Park district around Duchess County, which he won, taking his seat January 1, 1911. He resigned in March of 1913 when Woodrow Wilson appointed Roosevelt Assistant Secretary of the Navy, under Josephus Daniels. Roosevelt became a strong supporter of the Navy with proposals that often exceeded the interest of United States foreign policy in aggressive action.

During this time, Franklin Roosevelt began what is believed to be his first and most notorious affair with Lucy Mercer, who was hired in 1914 to be Eleanor's social secretary. Eleanor would find out about this affair in 1918 upon finding letters in Roosevelt's luggage. Eleanor is reported to have offered Roosevelt a diverse to be with Lucy Mercer, but Lucy refused marriage to a man with five children, and Franklin's mother Sara aggressively discouraged the divorce due to the shame it would bring on the family. Instead Roosevelt committed not to see Lucy Mercer any more, and a wedge was driven into the relationship with Eleanor and Franklin, that lead to Eleanor spending the remainder of their marriage primarily living in a separate house in Hyde Park at Val-Kill.

But this was not his only affair. He is also said to have had a 20-year affair with his private secretary Marguerite "Missy" LeHand (shared by his son Elliot in the 1973 book An Untold Story: The Roosevelts of Hyde Park). LeHand died in 1941 associated with a general decline in health and a stroke. Many attribute this decline in health to Roosevelt replacing LeHand's companionship with Princess Martha of Norway.

In 1919 the Newport Sex Scandal broke - a case that was reported on daily in the papers in which a subculture of homosexual acts and cross dressing associated with the Army and Navy YMCA broke out, and in addition to the press associated with the deeds themselves, the investigation would gain criticism for the way it's investigators used an infiltration approach that often led them to commit acts it was reporting on.

Roosevelt as assistant secretary of the Navy resigned at this time and became the Vice Presidential running mate of James Cox in 1920 presidential election. Warren G. Harding, the republican candidate won the election, and became president. After the election, Roosevelt returned to New York to practice law again.

In August of 1921 Roosevelt fell into the Bay of Fundy while boating, while everything seemed normal for the next day, he suddenly had a numb leg, that would over the days ahead lead to paralysis of his lower body and a diagnosis of poliomyelitis two months after he fell ill. His paralysis would characterize the rest of his life. In 2003 peer-review study, modern researchers suggested that Roosevelt may have actually had Guillain–Barré syndrome, a paralysis that begins at the feet and hands and migrates towards the trunk.

Roosevelt would be careful from this point forward to present himself as getting better. He was only twice photographed in his wheelchair, avoiding to use in any public place. He also taught himself to walk by using iron braces and his hips.

After working through the 1920s to assist Alfred E. Smith, maintain the position as elected democratic governor of New York, when Smith ran for president 1928 he requested Roosevelt run as his replacement in the gubernatorial elections. Roosevelt accepted the invitation and became the governor of New York in 1928. He ran for a second term in 1930, which he won.

By 1932 he was running for president as the democratic representative. He won in a time when Herbert Hoover was incredibly vulnerable due to a struggling economy in the first years of The Great Depression.

Roosevelt's first terms as president were characterized by the great depression, and what Roosevelt termed The New Deal, which led to an onslaught of new government program, including new regulative agencies and stabilization programs.

Roosevelt won his second term as president against republican candidate Alf Landon, and far less legislation was passed in this second term, with conflict within the Supreme Court over Roosevelt's Nation Recovery Act, and Roosevelt's attempt to pack the court with 6 new justices, although that attempt failed. Roosevelt also maintained a general neutrality to world affairs that he had begun under President Wilson and in the previous term by dismantling military involvement and weapon sales in Latin America.

By the time World War II broke out, Roosevelt did break with Wilson's neutrality pack and did attempt to assist Britain and France, including secret correspondence with Winston Churchill as well as supporting a break in the embargoes associated with Europe. In 1940 he made the famous quote that America should be the arsenal of democracy, attempting to create interest in intervention.

In the election of 1940 Roosevelt made a unique power grab to maintain the presidency by moving the convention to Chicago, and creating a scene that showed willingness for the convention to choose anyone, but uniquely positioning himself as a popular choice, despite the unwritten rule that presidents would only serve two terms.

Roosevelt won a third term against Republican Wendall Wilkie, and his third term was defined by WWII, which initially was involved with all efforts to assist in the fight against Nazi Germany without declaring war, but the landscape changed December 7, 1941 when Pearl Harbor was attacked. The United States involvement in the war was significantly important to the war, the changing world power structures as well as the United States economy.

It was also during this time that the affair with Lucy Mercer appears in historical records to have resumed despite Franklin's promise to stop communication with her. Including reuniting in 1941 and being with Franklin even on the day of his death. She also had the code name "Mrs. Johnson" that was used by the secret service.

Roosevelt experienced declining health in 1944, but still ran for president, with a new vice president Harry S Truman. They narrowly won against Thomas E. Dewey.

On March 29, 1945 after continued conferences aimed at strengthening world alliances and the United Nations, FDR died at the age of 63 in Warm Springs, Georgia with a cerebral hemorrhage. Roosevelt would be buried on April 14, 1945 in the rose garden of his families estate in Hyde Park.

Hyde Park on the Hudson

The story of Hyde Park on the Hudson takes place in 1939, and deals with an affair that Roosevelt had with a distant cousin Margaret Suckley over a weekend that the King and Queen of the United Kingdom visit New York.

In addition to Bill Murray playing the part President Franklin D. Roosevelt in the end of his second term, Olivia Williams plays his wife Eleanor, and Laura Linney plays his cousin Margaret Suckley.

Olivia Coleman plays Queen Elizabeth and Samuel West plays King George VI.

Bill Murray's only Oscar nomination was for his role in Lost in Translation (2004), but a portrayal of FDR is sure to give Murray a chance to top-line on some awards list. Will Murray receive his second Oscar nomination for portraying this Real (Reel) Person?

Friday, March 23, 2012

The Hunger Games & Kids Killing Kids in Movies

Kids don't usually die in movies.

Even less frequent is a plot that involves one kid killing another kid. Kid's murdering kids usually doesn't get people in the theater, and so it seems the topic is generally viewed as taboo.

Trying to think of a mainstream film with a degree of popularity that contains this plot element I finally came up with the film Pay It Forward. While the death of the central character at the hand of another similarly aged kid is central to the emotional climax, a plot choice of this kind has a tendency for surprise and even offense.

I ask this question going into the big film weekend we'd expect for the film The Hunger Games. This film will surely dominate at the box office and has received warm critical ratings, and yet it contains a disturbing central plot element - kids killing kids.

Arguably, this plot element is part of the intrigue, and even the broader discussion one could have about The Hunger Games book and film, and yet when I read the book, I was disturbed, but also questioned how this theme plays out in audiences.

People were sensitive to kid violence long before the 1999 Columbine shootings, but it seems that if there was ever a time that created a heightened sensitivity to the theme it was the years that followed.

Even now, the buzz trend (and the Weinstein documentary of the hour) deals with the topic of bullying and the way kids, specifically teens treat each other and potential impact each other more than they might be aware of with their words and actions.

And yet, somehow Suzanne Collins, and now director Gary Ross, in telling a story with wide popularity (particularly among teens and young adults) that hits a taboo topic in a way that no one seems to mind.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

The Hunger Game - First Book Thoughts

With the wide popularity of the young adult series and the film coming out, I knew I had to get my hands on Suzanne Collins' The Hunger Games.

I anticipate some additional posts on some of these topics, but here's the first thoughts on the book (We'll try to keep these relatively spoiler free).

► The book isn't a phenomenal piece of "literature" in the sense that it's writing style is only so-so.

►In terms of plot and suspense, it's definitely one that keeps the reader engaged. I credit this to ease of read, "plot shock," continued suspense, and very good plot pacing.

► When I read this, one of the earliest thoughts I had was that somehow some of the shock value in the book (a premise about kids killing kids) might seem increasingly disturbing in a film version.

► There was often times I felt like the set up of the actual "Hunger Games" themselves seemed oddly similar to the TV Show Survivor including some of the promotion and filming associated with the story. Too me, that was a sting against Collins creativity.

►Part of me wonders if this book will become a "classic" (in the loosest sense of the word) or just be fad fiction, and there is a part of me, that could see this book taking a "classic" type of role, particularly if it becomes a staple of the education system, which I could see as possible since I think it reads in such a way that teachers could use it as a teaching stage for middle school and early high school.

►Part of me wonders if making a film will hurt it's chances of filling that "classic" role.

►I think there is a fascination in literature with Utopian/anti-Utopian literature, and when literature doesn't get too sci-fi (which I don't think this book does) people gravitate towards it.

► I think Gary Ross had an easy job in adapting this book to film because the book reads almost like a screenplay. The scenes play straight without a lot of figurative language, the narrative is pretty straight forward, and the descriptions are detailed enough that you can picture the action, not to mention there is almost always action and short dramatic scenes. Some of that seems natural to the book due to the fact that many of the scenes are written as "televised on TV."

► The book is certainly the type that leaves you wanting to recommend it, talk about it, and read subsequent books in the series (which I plan to do)

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Reel People: Kat Dennings is Renee Yohe

The film is Renee. Renee is directed by Nathan Frankowitz with screenplay and story by Kate King Lynch and Nathan Frankowitz.

Renee Yohe

Renee Yohe was born sometime in the late eighties. By the time she was 19 was in a bad spot, with severe depression, involved in self-injury ("cutting"), and had a drug and alcohol addiction.

At this time, in February 2006, she had a life changing encounter in which she met Jamie Tworkowski. Where some friends only encouraged the bad habits, Jamie wanted to see Renee be free of her pain and additions.

Renee Yohe would use razor blades to write foul and degrading things on her arms, and when Jamie tried to help get Renee into a drug rehabilitation center, they would not accept her due to being to high of a risk, primarily due to the self-injury and the level of detox needed.

So, instead Jamie Tworkowski and his friends took Renee in, and over five days they helped her in her detox as well as helped raise money for Renee's detox by selling t-shirts.

After five days, she handed Jamie her last razor blade and was able to be admitted into rehabilitation.

During this time, the group and non-profit continued to raise money for Renee's rehab and the message hit the road with bands like Amberlin and Switchfoot, giving an opportunity to sell T-Shirts and share the message.

Renee and Jamie are now a part of a movement called "To Write Love on Her Arms," a non-profit organization based in Melbourne, Florida (originally based on Cocoa, FL) where a staff of 12 continue their global effort.


In addition to staring Kat Dennings at Renee Yohe, the film also stars Chad Michael Murray as Jamie Tworkowski.

The film also has roles for Rupert Friend and Corbin Bleu, and is marketed not just as an inspirational film event, but as a film that tells the story of tragedy and redemption in a unique way with a multi-level story about dreams and fantasies. The film is also promoted for his indie-movie soundtrack.

Kat Dennings certainly has the skill for an Oscar nomination, and it's hard to tell exactly how this film might resonate with a wider film audience, but who knows...Will Kat Dennings receive her first Oscar nomination for portraying this Real (Reel) Person?

One Year Old's Favorite Book - Redux

Shortly after my daughter turned one, I did a post entitled: "My 1 Year Old's Top 10 Favorite Books."

Now that my son Shepherd has just turned one, I thought I would do a similar post.

But doing 10, wasn't going to work. He hasn't clung to books the way my daughter did, and while he does enjoy one of her one year old favorites (Today is Monday by Eric Carle). The other's haven't grabbed him in the same way.

Instead though, it's very easy for me to identify his favorite book.

So instead of a top 10, he gets a top 1.

When I sit him down in the little club chair and read him a bed time story he will always sit still for a peaceful and calm reading of Big Red Barn by Margaret Wise Brown.

And I won't lie, I enjoy it to. Something about it's rhythm (although sometimes slightly less than rhythmic), it's nothing-special pictures that line up well with the book, and the irregular amount of text on each page makes this an enjoyable read for both of us.

Monday, March 05, 2012

Bully & It's Plea for a PG-13 Rating

Pictured here is a link box on the website for the upcoming documentary Bully.

Bully which is the Weinstein Co.'s next release, is a documentary about bullying which is due in theaters March 30th.

The film is previewed and touted as a powerful film of real stories of teens and the challenges they face with bullying.

I have received an e-mail or two about a petition to change the films rating, which appears to be appeal to get wider viewership, and open up the opportunity for the film to be more freely shown in schools.

The Steven Zeitchik for the Los Angeles Times writes:

The Rev. Jesse Jackson and Rep. Mike Honda (D-San Jose) have touted its importance. A Michigan teenager unaffiliated with the film has started a petition in favor of a more lenient rating from the Motion Picture Assn. of America — it was given an R for profane language — and has gathered nearly 200,000 signatures to date.

That being said, the Michigan teenager mentioned, Katy Butler, I feel has the right attitude and idea that a PG-13 rating probably would increase the films viewers, but all reports indicate that neither the film's director, Lee Hirsch or the Weinstein Co., are interested in editing out select passages with foul language to make the ratings meet the MPAA standards.

Which I get it - I get both sides, and yet, I think the ball is truly in the movie producers court to consider a re-edit (or alternative version for public presentation, such as schools), rather than suggesting that a petition could change the rating.

While the rating system is somewhat arbitrary at times, there is a general framework of standards associated with the ratings (although always changing). But it would be like a candy bar company collecting signatures to get the nutrition counsel to change it's nutrition label standards to make the candy more have wider appeal verses changing the contents of the candy bar (or accepting it the way it is).

This is a case where you will not find my name on the petition. I do think the film deals with an important concept, and I hope that the film has an impact and starts important conversations regarding this very real topic.

Sunday, March 04, 2012

GCB, The Blind Side and Southern Christian Women

Pictured left is the promotional ad that ABC is using for it's new series GCB with Kristen Chenowith in a very short choir robe, high heals, diamond studded lettering of the shows title (with a cross charm) and the tag line "Love Thy Neighbor." GCB is a midseason TV replacement that seems to be the Dallas, Texas version of Desperate Housewives.

ABC has certainly taken a risk with this show with a title that is in itself quite offensive, and so it abbreviates the title of the book by Kim Gatlin for which it is based.

The show which premieres in the United States tonight, has played up the Christian imagery that would appear to be central to it's theme and storyline.

Depending on what part of the country (or world you live in) you may have a context for the characters portrayed in this film. The general portrayal seems to be the suburban woman from southern United States (in this case Dallas, Texas) who's faith provides the cultural structure for their life that makes their religion more in line with a country club then a faith community based on Biblical teaching.

This person exist. And I can accept a TV show, movie, or book that portrays a believable type of person.

That being said, to me, this type of person is not an attractive/entertaining/valuable addition to my regularly scheduled entertainment. The comedy-drama element Robert Harling (Steele Magnolis) is putting in play here, instead seems either a combination of offensive and sad. And certainly, not redeeming.

To see a group of ladies say with their mouths that they believe one thing, and act contrary to that is hardly laudable, and to me is defaming to people who try to live in a way that aligns their belief with actions.

I think that most would agree. A recent example of a the strong Southern Christian woman can be seen in the character of Leanne Tuohy as portrayed by Sandra Bullock in the 2009 film The Blind Side.

Sandra Bullock was portraying a woman in a similar set up as a suburban southern woman (in this case from Tennessee) who had a little bit of fire in that certainly had it's own southern flavor, which might have some similarities to what could be portrayed in the characters of GCB.

The difference that I imagine will be established between the central female characters of GCB and Sandra Bullock's role is that Bullock's characters faith led to action. And it is this "faith with action" built into this character-type that led the film to have a very successful box office, matched with a critical response and awards for the film, including an Oscar for Sandra Bullock and a best picture nomination for the film.

Some new shows thrive, and some fail, and obviously the model established by a film like Desperate Housewives certainly gained a significant following and multi-season success, but there is a part of me that hopes that ABC will have to pull out another mid-season replacement for this show that uses Biblical tenants (like "Love Thy Neighbor") as comedy instead of life transforming truth.

Saturday, March 03, 2012

Reel People: Sean Penn is Mickey Cohen

The film is The Gangster Squad. The historical bio-pic about Los Angeles Police Department and the East Coast Mafia is based off Tales of the Gangster Squad by Paul Liberman. The Gangster Squad is directed by Ruben Fleisher (Zombieland), and screenplay adaptation by Will Beall (story editor and writer of many episodes of TV's Castle).

Mickey Cohen

Meyer Harris "Mickey" Cohen was born September 4, 1913. He grew up in a poor orthodox Jewish family in Brooklyn, New York. By the age of six, Mickey's mother moved the family out of Brooklyn to Los Angeles where instead of selling newspapers on the street corner, Mickey and his brothers could help with the pharmacy the family had opened. It was prohibition at that time, and older Cohen brothers ran a small gin mill and Mickey would be the runner delivering the moonshine.

As a teenager, Mickey left Los Angeles to go be a boxer, training back in New York. He fought all across the United States in the the early 1930s and picked up the name "Gangster Mickey Cohen."

Cohen turned in his prize fighting gloves and went to Chicago where his fights were less likely to be in the papers. He ran one of Al Capone's gambling operations associated with the Chicago Outfit. After a short time in prison in Chicago, and conflict with some Chicago gamblers, he moved to Cleveland temporarily before returning to Los Angeles, at the direction of Louis Rothkopf, an associate for Bugsy Seigel.

In addition to being the muscle for Bugsy, Mickey Cohen also set up the sports books at the Flamingo Hotel in Las Vegas, Nevada as well as setting up the Las Vegas race wire.

When Bugsy died in 1947, Mickey Cohen still remained a big part of the mafia scene in the West, with connections to Jack Dragna and other mafia members. He hired his own body guard, the playboy Johnny Stompanato (until Stompanato was killed by his girl friend and actress Lana Turner's daughter, Cheryl Crane).

In 1950 and 1951 Senator Estes Kefauver headed the United States Senate Special Committee to Investigate Crime in Interstate Commerce. This caused him to convicted of tax evasion with four years in prison, but upon release was more popular than ever. He even appeared in a Mike Wallace TV interview in May of 1957. Time magazine also covered a meeting Mickey Cohen had with evangelist Billy Graham.

In 1961, Cohen was again convicted of tax evasion, and this time sent to Alcatraz where he was attacked by another inmate with a lead pipe that caused him to become partially paralyzed.

In 1972 Cohen was released from prison. Mickey Cohen died in his sleep July 29, 1976.

The Gangster Squad

The film according to Patrick Goldstein for the LA Times Blog describes the film saying: "The $70-plus million movie, filming here at such iconic locations as Griffith Park Observatory, City Hall and Olivera Street, is something of a throwback. In today’s Hollywood, studios are focused on global conquest, churning out a stream of superhero fantasy films, nearly all scrubbed clean of any specific references to American culture. So “The Gangster Squad” is something of a commercial gamble. It's a hero story, but one where the heroes, a bunch of hardball-playing 1940s cops, bend all the rules, acting a lot like gangsters to oust the worst gangster of them all."

In addition to Sean Penn as Mickey Cohen the film also features Ryan Gosling (Sgt. Jerry Wooters), Emma Stone (Grace Faraday), Nick Nolte (Bill Parker), Giovanni Ribisi (Conway Keeler), Josh Brolin (John O'Mara), Anthony Mackie (Coleman Harris) and Michael Peña (Navidad Ramirez).

Harvey Keitel was nominated for an Oscar for portraying Mickey Cohan in the 1991 film Bugsy. Will Sean Penn follow suit and receive his sixth Oscar nomination, and potentially his third win for portraying this Real (Reel) Person?

Real (Reel) People Win Oscars: 2012 Edition

When it comes to win an Academy Award, recent years have shown that not any bio-pic performance means a guaranteed nomination, but if you get nominated for your performance playing a real person, then there is a good chance you will win.

Of the past 10 years (20 Lead Actor/Actress winners), 13 of these winners have won for playing real life people. That's 65% of winners since 2002.

• In 2011 Meryl Streep played the well known British prime minister Margaret Thatcher and won the Best Actress prize (her third Oscar)
• In 2010 Colin Firth played King George VI, stuttering British royalty at the dawn of the radio era and won for Best Actor.
• In 2009 Sandra Bullock played a surprise hero as the Southern mother Leigh Ann Tuohy and won for Best Actress.
• In 2008 Sean Penn played controversial politician Harvey Milk and won the Oscar for Best Actor.
• In 2007 Marion Cotillard played French singer Ediath Piaf and won the Oscar for Best Actress.
• In 2006 Helen Mirren played Queen Elizabeth II and won the Oscar for Best Actress.
• In 2006 Forrest Whitaker played Ugandan dictator Idi Amin and won the Oscar for Best Actor
• In 2005 Reese Witherspoon played country music celeb June Carter and won the Oscar for Best Actress.
• In 2005 Philip Seymour Hoffman played author Truman Capote and won the Oscar for Best Actor.
• In 2004 Jamie Foxx played musician Ray Charles and won the Oscar for Best Actor.
• In 2003 Charlize Theron played prostitute/serial killer Aileen Wuornos and won the Best Actress oscar.
• In 2002 Adrien Brody played Jewish pianist Wladyslaw Szpilman and won the Best Actor oscar.
• In 2002 Nicole Kidman played author Virginia Woolf and won the Best Actress oscar.

The non-biopic winners: Jean Dujardin (The Artist), Natalie Portman (Black Swan), Jeff Bridges (Crazy Heart), Kate Winslet (The Reader), Daniel Day Lewis (There Will Be Blood), Hilary Swank (Million Dollar Baby), Sean Penn (Mystic River).

I wouldn't expect 2012 to be different. As a result we can almost plan on either Best Actor Oscar winner or Best Actress winner going to a performer who played in a biographical film as a "Real (Reel) Person."

2012 Real (Reel) People Performances:

Reel People: Ben Affleck is Tony Mendez
Reel People: Daniel Day-Lewis is Abraham Lincoln
• Reel People: Kat Dennings is Renee Yohe
• Reel People: Anthony Hopkins is Alfred Hitchcock
Reel People: Helen Mirren is Alma Reville
Reel People: Billy Murray is Franklin D. Roosevelt
Reel People: Sean Penn is Mickey Cohen
• Reel People: Jonny Weston is Jay Moriarity
Reel People: Chow Yun-Fat is Cao Cao

Click the following links to see the previous Real (Reel) People projects from 2011, 2010, 2009, 2008 and 2007.

Thursday, March 01, 2012

Baby Naming Assistant - Our Three Year Old

My eldest toddler (three and a half) has decided upon announcing the birth of a third child that she should be involved in the naming process.

What has been interesting is to see what names she thinks this baby should have.

We don't yet know if it's a boy or a girl, but her recommendations tend to come from pop culture (toddler-pop of course) and her favorite girl name is Emily Elizabeth -- the name of the girl in the Clifford the big red dog book series.

This name isn't necessarily on the plate (no criticism to anyone who has this name), but it's interesting to see where her name choices come from.

Her top choice for a baby boy is Thomas (as in Thomas the tank engine).

I tend to find that pop culture influences discourages my naming choices. As an example, my wife and liked the name Edward for a baby at the time our first child was born, and with the rise in popularity of the Twillight series, certainly didn't want anyone to think that this was the inspiration for our baby naming.

Every name we've liked, she hasn', she might be booted from the baby naming committee - especially with recommendations like Newbaby and Heart.

Note: Right after I hit published, was informed by my wife she wrote a similar post a couple days ago. Read her similar post here.