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This Year’s Oscars Were About Much More Than Will Smith’s Face Punch


All the brouhaha about actor Will Smith slapping presenter Chris Rock at the 94th annual Academy Awards ceremony has overshadowed other aspects and wins from that evening.

Yes, Smith’s actions loom large in the public’s mind. It was one thing to angrily yell out in defense of his wife, Jada Pinkett Smith, after the comedian made a quip referencing her shaved head. By comedic standards, though, it wasn’t all that rude. Nonetheless Smith took such offense that he left his seat, rushed up to the stage and slapped Rock in the face.  

Without adding to the debate about whether a spoken remark should prompt such an overt physical act, its implications have been felt globally as social media and the press continue to comment on Smith’s behavior and its consequences.

But it’s important to reflect on the words of other winners, too. Take for example actor/director Kenneth Branagh who won the Best Original Screenplay Oscar for “Belfast” — his exquisitely crafted ode to his birth city. The film details a fictionalized version of his family’s struggles to avoid being caught up in the burgeoning civil war that was engulfing the city. Eventually the family is forced to vacate — leaving behind their recently widowed grandmother (beautifully played by Supporting Actress nominee Judy Dench) — with much sadness and hope.

In his acceptance speech, Branagh noted that, “The film is about the beginnings of understanding how to deal with the darkness of those days [in Northern Ireland.] It was to try and find as much joy and humor quickly, typical of the Irish, even in the darkest of situations."

In stating this, he obviously connects the film to those struggling in Ukraine in the face of the brutal Russian invasion — which has already forced more than four million to leave their homes.

What Branagh also expressed in the film was the strength of the family to bond and support each other for survival in the face of such adversity. As he stated, “This story is the search for joy and hope in the face of violence and loss…”

In fact, a number of the films nominated or winning Oscars were about the strength of families to survive because of their bonds.

CODA” — Best Picture winner — was all about a family and its efforts to cope by supporting each other. In this case, a deaf couple responds to their hearing daughter's desire to pursue her skill at singing. The film’s focus on the family tie makes for a touching narrative. The movie was judged worthy not only of one Oscar but two others — For Best Adapted Screenplay (to director Sian Heder) and Best Supporting Actor (to Troy Kotsur).

In “Parallel Mothers” –- nominated for two awards including Best Actress for Penélope Cruz as Janis Martínez Moreno — two women give birth to daughters at the same time. Because they were switched at birth in the maternity ward, the film deals with all the issues of having children with that added twist.

The Eyes of Tammy Faye” featured Jessica Chastain as Tammy Faye Baker in a rather distorted tale which revealed a family in collapse. Her performance was so powerful and involved such a transformation that Chastain was awarded the Best Actress Oscar.

The films of three of the other Best Actress nominees also centered on family.

The Lost Daughter” featured Oscar winner Olivia Colman playing a modern-day Leda Caruso – a woman who, at one time, abandoned her family to escape into an affair. (Supporting Actress nominee Jessie Buckley was the younger Leda in flashback). When she returned three years later, Leda was never the same. The film details the damage she did to herself and others.

Kristen Stewart uncannily playing Diana, Princess of Wales, in “Spencer” had to fit into maybe the most difficult family to marry into: the British royal family. In director Pablo Larrain’s conceptual telling, audiences get inside her mindset the Princess coped with at Christmas time while facing the emotional crisis of deciding to divorce Prince Charles. Family and its dissolution was the focus here.

Both Nicole Kidman as Lucille Ball and Javier Bardem as Desi Arnaz were nominated as Best Actor in their respective gender category. Aaron Sorkin’s examination of another family in transition, “Being the Ricardos” was a serious film about a comedic star who became a powerhouse in Hollywood.

There’s Denis Villeneuve’s “Dune” — co-written with Eric Roth and Jon Spaihts — a sprawling epic about family as well. Winning six technical Oscars including cinematography, editing, score and sound, the film details the struggle between two multi-generational clans, the benign Atreides and the evil Harkonnens. In adapting the late Frank Herbert’s science fiction classic, the focus is on extraordinary Paul (The Muad’Dib) — heir to the House Atreides, son of Duke Leto (Oscar Isaac) and consort Lady Jessica (Rebecca Ferguson). He survives after his chief nemesis Feyd-Rautha Harkonnen — tries to eradicate him and his entire contingent which had been relocated to the planet Dune.

Best Director winner Jane Campion made “The Power of the Dog” as a family drama which starred Benedict Cumberbatch as Phil Burbank and Jesse Plemons as his brother George. Both were nominated in their respective categories. Also nominated were Kirsten Dunst as Rose Gordon and Kodi Smit-McPhee as her son Peter. Dealing with sibling conflict and queer issues, the film addressed contemporary issues in an unusual context.

Of course, as nearly everyone knows, “West Side Story” is the ultimate tale of families in conflict — not only brother versus sister but one community versus another. In playing this generation's Anita, Ariana DeBose won the Supporting Actress award as Rita Moreno did 50 years ago. The win was historic for that as well as the fact that DeBose identifies as LGBTQ and as a person of color. She acknowledged her familial connection to both identifiers in her acceptance speech.

Then there’s “King Richard,” a powerful family story about tennis legends Venus and Serena Williams and their incredible parents — mother Oracene "Brandy" Price (Best Actress-nominated Aunjanue Ellis) and Best Actor winner, Will Smith, as father Richard Williams. Smith won and without shame, stepped up to accept his award making a weird, semi-tearful acceptance speech.

Looping back on Smith’s drastic action of the famous slap. The Oscars are normally thought of as a unifying event of the community of actors, filmmakers and other cinematic creators. But the veteran performer’s onerous behavior turned the event into a matter of children behaving badly at a global playground. That unfortunately put a huge pall on what normally is one of the greatest celebrations of artistic effort. An unnecessary act indeed.

Want to See Broadway's Best? Be Prepared to be Ripped Off by Ticket Resales!

This rip-off business of some theater ticket sites selling “resale tickets” at outrageous prices by “bots” is now illegal; but the resale of tickets purchased by individuals at posted box offices prices to sites for enormous mark-ups, appears to be legal. Both practices are highway robbery. Interestingly, though this moneymaking scheme creates a great loss for producers, they have done nothing to stop sites from individual ticket reselling. It appears to be covered by the Constitution – an inalienable right.

After purchase, these tickets are offered at three, four, and five times face value. It’s nothing more than consumer rip-off, but it’s what some consumers are willing to do for seats to blockbuster shows. There needs to be a rebellion! Avoid the price-gouging.

In a measure to stop the “bots” rapid purchase of tickets, legislation was passed late last year by voice vote in the Senate and House of Representatives that would crack down on computer software used by some ticket brokers to snap up tickets. This sells out performances to, say, Hamilton, Dear Evan Hansen, or Hello Dolly!  and, months before its March 2018 opening at the renovated St. James Theatre and before the box office even opens, Frozen in minutes according to New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman. Then, tickets are resold at upwards of $1,000 or more.

An Associated Press report cited third-party brokers that resale tickets on sites such as TicketMaster, StubHub, and TicketsNow average margins of 49% above face value and sometimes more than 10 times the price. The bill would make using the software an “unfair and deceptive practice” under the Federal Trade Commission Act and allow the FTC to pursue those cases.

Hamilton creator Lin-Manuel Miranda and Charlotte St. Martin, president of the Broadway League [of producers], announced their support for NY’s Senator Chuck Schumer‘s sponsorship of legislation that would impose a $16,000 fine on those who use automated ticket purchasing software to purchase tickets online. Miranda is proud of the 40 plus tickets per show Hamilton makes available for $10 via digital lottery. Other shows either have lotteries or heavily-discounted day-of rush offers.

However, “bots” rapid purchase is different from consumers buying up what they can at posted box office prices and selling the tickets to sites for resale.
An executive with the Shubert Organization informed that “what these sites are doing is legal – even if greedy and unethical.” However, the executive added that what theatre owners and producers are attempting to do “is shut down sites which sell the same seat(s) twice or more; and also those issuing bogus tickets.” According to several theatre house managers, this is happening more frequently and buyers get turned away when they arrive. A new scheme is to attempt to buy as many wheelchair seats as possible and then pass them off as regular seats. But theatres know how many wheelchair seats per show have been sold and remove specific seats to be prepared. You have to be the ultimate con artist to arrive in a wheelchair when you don’t need one.

A solution, which is something that won’t work for everyone – especially those trying to plan an outing months In advance, is to go to the box office. Treasurers are eager to help you secure the best seats for a price you can afford. And if you go as a couple but don’t mind seeing a show in separate seats, you’d be surprised what you can get into. Sadly, when the bots attack a hit show, they don’t leave many desirable seats for the box office to sale.
Another safe option is Shubert Organization-owned TeleCharge, where service fees will apply but where you won’t be gorged in the wallet.

Since you have to pay rent or monthly fees and also eat, you might consider the numerous promotions for shows in previews. The Broadway League has the Kid’s Night promotions; NYC & Company, the bi-annual Broadway Week [usually two weeks] 2-for 1 ticket offers []. Take advantage of the fact that 90% of shows are available for 40-50% off [plus $4.50 service fee] at the TDF booths.

Keep in mind when a show sells out, the box office offers standing room. Prices vary, but around $50.00 is a good bet. Just wear comfortable shoes.

 Now, you can find bargains. For instance, just this week someone found second row orchestra seats for the farce The Play That Goes Wrong on and for under $115.00, including service fee. Both sites have theater clubs that are free to join.

 FYI: Tony and Drama Desk winner Donna Murphy will play the title role in Hello, Dolly!  on Tuesday evenings and September 6-10, October 15 evening performance, October 30, November 1-5, November 24 matinee, and January 7 evening. Check the Hello, Dolly! site for updates.

The posted box office price for Hello, Dolly! orchestra seats is $189.00-$229.00Dear Evan Hansen, $189.00. Frozen tickets just opened its online sell and shows are sold out for months but ticket resale schemes are huge. Since almost every young girl will want to see this show, imagine what it will cost to have a matinee or evening theater outing.

Here are recent examples of how people desperate to see the blockbuster hits are being taken to the cleaners by individual reselling tickets. Over the weekend, a young patron reported her boyfriend paid $1,000.00 for two orchestra seats for Dear Evan Hansen on one of the ticket sites. When asked why, she replied, “It was last minute, and we really wanted to see it.” She added that both will go without lunch several days. Maybe even dinner! Tickets were popping up
on resale sites: $187.50 tickets were $429.00 to over a thousand dollars – not including fees. Event wheelchair seats were gone.

TicketMaster, where a recent purchase of a Hamilton ticket, rear Mezz, Row E, right, with a posted base price of $179.00 $229.00 (front) was resold for $587.00 plus service fee of $93.92, for a total of $680.92. Where is the service in reselling a ticket at more than twice its value?
At, resale prices for Hamilton ranged from a $79.00 ticket for Balcony, Row F, left, resold for $275.00 plus $90.00 service fee; $422.00 for Mezz, Row D, side; to $552.00 for side Orch, Row V or, get this, $2,760.00 for side Orch, Row W (second to last row). The site recently sent an e-mail blast: Save $50 On Hamilton tickets! Well, okay, then; but make it $100! is offering Hello, Dolly! for $180.00-$420.00 [sides, Balcony] – $990.00 [center Orch]; Dear, Evan Hansen, $285.00 [sides, Mezz]-$800.00 [center Orch] in the intimate Music Box Theatre., usually the site for bargains, has offered weeknight tickets [prior to Donna Murphy performances] for Hello, Dolly! for $326.00 [Balcony]- $490.00 [Orch/partial view].

There seems to be no shame. Box office prices [which also average $145.00 for plays] can be daunting. Then, add another $2 facility fee. Seniors on walkers and in wheelchairs should keep in mind that the Shubert Theatre has not succeeded in finding a way to install a handicap-accessible bathroom.

Round One of the 2014 Oscar Predictions

As 2013 races to a close, it's time for the first round of Oscar predictions. 2013 started with a whimper with a truly slumping spring season that moved into a relatively disappointing summer slate of blockbusters (at least from a critical perspective). But the fall season hopes to make up for any inadequacies of the rest of the year with a lump sum of certifiably great films. Although some of my predicted contenders have yet to see the light of day, there are now enough pieces in play to make a fair judgement as to what may and may not make the cut come the year's end. Come join us to discuss our first round of 2014's Oscar predictions.

I've personally only seen a few of the big contenders for Best Picture (Gravity, Dallas Buyers Club, Captain Phillips), some have played their way through the festival circuit (Inside Llewyn Davis, Saving Mr. Banks, 12 Years a Slave, Inside Llewyn Davis) and the remainder have yet to be seen at all (The Wolf of Wall Street, American Hustle, The Monuments Men). But even for these unknown qualities, all you have to do is look at the talent and directors and a shoe-in is the rule rather than the exception.

Read more: Round One of the 2014 Oscar...

Peter Christian Hall Wants YOU To Sell "American Fever"

american fever coverThe latest novel from author/filmmaker Peter Christian Hall is American Fever: A Tale of Romance & Pestilence. It follows a blogger in New York writing about the world five years after a devastating bird-flu pandemic had laid waste to much of the United States.

And now YOU get to help him sell the book!

Publisher Arterial Witness is offering a $1,000 prize to the filmmaker that can create a 73-second video trailer for American Fever that also uses an original song by Gang of Four’s legendary guitarist, composer, and producer, Andy Gill.

The contest is embracing the rise of crowdsourced projects and taking an almost egalitarian approach to advertising.

Hall said in his email, “There’s a world of enterprising talent out there in film schools and tiny production companies — scouring magazines, websites, and the great DSLR blogs -- itching to make an fast impact with great images.”

In an age when a book can start off as a fan-fiction for a popular series about vampires and be launched to literary stardom (as in British author E. L. James with her 2011 hit erotic novel Fifty Shades of Grey), the world is taking a new approach to the creation and selling of books.

Some would question this approach, but I find that since the story is told through blog posts that this is an appropriate means of conveyance for the story. In a way, it’s a continuation of the narrative themes laid down in Bram Stoker's Dracula, a story told through journal entries and news articles.

To learn more, go to or

And American Fever is actually already available to read online for free at

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