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THIS WEEK'S MOVIE REVIEW
"Starsky and Hutch"
 by Mike Smith

ODDSERVATIONS
76th Academy Awards Oddservations....Indecency Hearings
 by Andy Lalino

DEADGUY'S DEMENTIA
Gay Marriage Amendment
 by Mike Scott

BLACK DOG
The Ghosts of Columbine
 by Joshua Montgomery

THE DROW
Collectible Card Games and You
 by Dylan Jones

NICHOLAS REX
P.C. Aftermath: The Response
 by Nick King

THE OGRE
Ybor's Ups and Downs
 by Clayton Smith

SPLASH PAGE
The Passion in Brooksville....I Wanted the Scarecrow....FCC and the Sponge, Follow-Up....WMD At The Academy Awards?....Things I Didn't Know But Probably Should Have
 by Brandon Jones

MIKE'S RANT
And The Winner Is....In Other News....How Could She See Over The Wheel?....March 5th....Meet The Beatles, Part 7
 by Mike Smith

LETTERS
Flash Fantastic
Nolan's Pop Culture Review, 2003!
Established A.D. 2000, March 19. Now in our fifth calendar year!
Number 206  (Vol. 5, No. 10). This edition is for the week of March 1--7, 2004.

The 76th Academy Awards
Few surprises, but satisfying outcome.
"Lord of the Rings: Return of the King" first fantasy film in history
to win Best Picture
Also...
The Passion of the Christ continues to stir debate (Lettercol).
Howard Stern and Bubba the Love Sponge spark a memory.
Gay Marriage Amendment debate.
Virgin image vandalized.
Another high turn-out week for PCR writers (thank you!)
The return of Deadguy's Dementia!
Plus...Mike and Matt at the Oscars: Click here to see the winners!

In an almost by-the-numbers voting outcome, pretty much every nominee favored to win in every category did so at the 76th Academy Awards. If there was a surprise it was that Lord of the Rings: Return of the King, while favored to be the Best Picture winner, AND the first fantasy film in history to do so, managed also to win TEN other awards---in every category there was a nomination---tying it with Ben Hur and Titanic as the most Oscars awarded any movie.

If there was a tight race it was in the male acting category, with every critic on the fence between Bill Murray for Lost in Translation and Sean Penn for Mystic River (Penn took it). The Best Female lead was a no-brainer from the start, in my opinion, with Charlize Theron the high-on favorite for her devastating portrayal of serial killer Aileen Wuornos in Monster, and she did win. Not a shocker, but very satisfying!

I didn't actually see the broadcast but was keeping up with it on radio as I had to work that night. Please see Andy's and Brandon's columns for more details on the broadcast itself. Also, please the results of Mike and Matt's annual challenge for Oscar picks. (Hint: Mike wins again! But not by very much, ha ha.)

Howard Stern and Bubba the Love Sponge...
The latest round of gov't battles with Clear Channel Communications over "indecent language" resulted in the firings of local shock-jock "Bubba the Love Sponge" from 98 Rock and nat'l loudmouth Howard Stern being taken out of most markets. I mentioned this in last issue's Lettercol in my reply to another topic that had been raised regarding the use of language in this country and its power to control via political correctness, etc..

I am not big fans of either gentlemen, but I was comforted by the fact they had shows on the air. Why? Because it ensures that free speech is still recognized in America. As soon as you have the government making noises about raising penalties for "indecency", you're in big trouble. Clear Channel's top dog groveled before Congresss and begged forgiveness for accidentally allowing Howard Stern (and Bubba) to help make the company millions of dollars over the course of many years "without his direct knowledge" (HAHAHA, right). Further, that he was embarrassed by the material once he was made to face it and would NEVER allow this to happen again. He did this because Congress threatened to dectuple (10 times) the amount of penalty for language complaints. 98 Rock was already facing fines of $775,000. The gov may go so far as to cite every affiliate separately for a syndicated show like Stern's, which, if successful, could net many millions of dollars.

...and Nolan's Porno thing from the '80s
I was thinking how this reminded me of a previous witch hunt, one in which I became victimized by an out-of-control gov't bureacracy in the '80s. In a remarkable coincidence, just as all the "indecency hearings" talk was cresting in the news, Derrek Carriveau from Legion Studios.com asked several writers to write a story for his site having to do with the topic of pornography. I only had one, but it was a whopper, a life-changer. Most of my older friends remember it quite clearly, but I have never discussed it in the PCR (outside of hinting) as I never thought it relevant to current pop culture material. And it's pretty depressing. But I capitulated and wrote this never-before-revealed chapter of my life to illustrate to you, my loyal readers, that government witch hunts are not new, they cycle around every few years. And you can become a victim.
    Go to www.legionstudios.com and click on the big PORNO word graphic. There are several stories in there, scroll to the bottom for mine, entitled "Witch Hunt".


VIRGIN'S IMAGE DAMAGED BY VANDALS
Pictured at left is a very clear shot of the former bank and used car building located in Clearwater that became notorious in 1996 for its mysterious Madonna image clearly seen in the window. (The Mother of Christ, not the rock singer.) The explanation of the window's sunshield film warpings fell on deaf ears as pilgrims from all over the world flocked to the corner of US 19 and Drew St. to ogle the Virgin. As you can see, it became a shrine. The original business moved out (it had to) and the Shepherd's of Christ Ministry took it over.

The large crucifix was not there when I visited myself about 1998 or so, that's a more recent addition.

Just a few days ago, the top three windows were shot out by vandals using most likely some kind of ball-bearing rifle, like a pellet gun, but heavier.

At right you can see investigators in the top floor behind where the glass used to be. I'm going to side-step my usual rave-up about what people decide to worship in this country, and why, and just say I never in my wildest dreams thought anybody would be so offended as to shoot out the building's windows. Punks out on a lark with a gun? No reason needed? Possibly. I can't help but think this is related to The Passion of The Christ somehow.

It left a whole lot of people without their shrine and that's just sad even if it is just warped glass, it meant something to them.

I am indebted to Clearwater fan Richard Fortner for sending me a personal photograph of the intact building and finding me a pic of the damaged one.


Announcements
Astute observers in webland have, no doubt, noticed by now two very unusual things about this issue of PCR. One is no La Floridiana. The other is Deadguy's Dementia, back from the grave! The former almost never misses an issue, the latter hasn't written in over a year.

Well, La Floridiana writer William Moriaty has simply decided to take a little time off his Florida history and culture pursuits to concentrate for the time being on catching up Schlockarama! We think that's a very worthy cause.
Mike "Deadguy" Scott is a bit more mysterious, but in a beneficial way---after a looong absence from these pages, he must've found a computer that worked, because suddenly I'm hearing from him quite a bit lately! And the topic he chose for his comeback is another shot out of the dark: gay marriages. A topic a few of us are commenting on this week.
In any event, check out the newest Schlock and slide over to hear dementia from Deadguy (welcome back!!).

And speaking of The Gay Marriage Amendment debate... I'm already running too late in the week (Fri) to do this justice, so I may do an update as we get closer to something serious coming out of Congress. Let me just say now that I am totally opposed to adding ANYthing to the Constitution regarding legislation such as this. Deadguy does such an outstanding job in this week's Dementia discussing this issue, all I can say is he speaks for me, too. Check it out. I will say the Bush Bros, George and Jeb, for all their talk of "less intrusive government" seem to LOVE to get involved in people's personal lives. George with his obssession with gays, and Jeb getting his nose into the Terri Schiavo case. Truthfully, I don't think this gay marriage amendment has a chance at ratification in real life. It's just currently giving George Dubya another easy target to beat his chest about.


Guest Editorial
Our friend and erudite entertainment reviewer Hugo Morley of Mad Dogs & Englishmen returns for his third installment in PCR! Please note anytime you see a British spelling variation, it is left intact on purpose. ---Nolan

Bette Midler at The Forum, March 2nd, 2004

The Divine Miss M brought her mammoth "Kiss My Brass" tour to the St.Pete Times Forum this week and found a deservedly, enthusiatic welcome from the Tampa Bay community. A beautiful, elaborate boardwalk themed stage set, skillfully designed by Michael Cotton made the cavernous Forum feel a lot more intimate than usual & Bette Midler made her entrance flying in on a carousel horse announcing "I'm not retiring and you can't make me". She then began the first half of what was essentially a two-act greatest hits tour. From the vulgar humour to the wheelchair-bound mermaids nothing seemed to be left out and nobody could have been disappointed.

Midler is no fool & leaves nothing to chance hence she has on hand two writers, Eric Kornfeld & Bruce Villanch who not only shape the show but tailor it to each specific venue. She told us that she was thrilled to be in Tampa where Bubba the Love Sponge has finally been hung out to dry. She was sorry to have missed Gasparilla as she loves wholesome, family-orientated festivals. Welcoming the people in the first few rows Midler said that these were the people who lied, cheated & screwed people they didn't even like for such good seats - her kind of people - South Tampa. Looking up higher, to the third level Bette welcomed the people from Plant City asking them to shake their mullets. Jeb Bush we were informed is so concerned about the gay marriage situation he has had to take time off from rigging this years Presidential Election & as Florida residents we were begged to not repeat the mistake we made four years ago.

At times it seemed that the songs were only there to break up the stand up routine but they were of course the backbone of the evening. Many treats in the first half included a beautiful rendition of 'I Think It's Going To Rain Today' from her favourite movie 'Beaches' which she cleverly segued into a rousing version of "When A Man Loves A Woman". A tribute to Rosemary Clooney reminded us of the glorious heyday of New York cabaret acts and a time when Rosemary Clooney was so much more than just George Clooney's aunt. Midler knows exactly what to give her audience and later returned to 'Beaches' saying 'I know what you came to hear' before singing 'Wind Beneath My Wings'.

My parents met in 1964 at the University Of Honolulu where my mother was Bette Midler's roomate. Midler was eighteen at the time and told my father (who is English) that she really wanted to be a Beatle and how should she go about achieving that. He explained that they seemed to be a quite happily self contained act & that as far as he knew they were not recruiting new members. He went on to explain that they were all male (which she wasn't), they were all English from Liverpool (which, again she wasn't) and that they could all sing (which she couldn't). Unfased by such harsh critcism Midler announced that she was going to be an actress, they were after all on a drama course. My father was no less critical of her acting abilities telling her that she could not do that either. Showing early signs of the survivor & fighter that she undoubtedly is Midler said "You might be right. I may not become the world's greatest singer or the world's greatest actress but what I am going to become is the biggest fucking star that you will have ever met". She certainly stayed true to her word & unless my father was totally wrong she has greatly improved her singing talents over the years.

I think my father was right about her acting skills as she has been pretty terrible in almost every movie that she has made. With the possible exceptions of Ruthless People and The Rose she has also made several of the worst movies of all time. In the brochure for the concert she even says about Stella - "I really should have read the script." Her foray into the world of television was even more disastrous but finding success in everything Midler has turned this into a filmed skit for the concert. She faces Judge Judy in the Viewing Public vs Midler to try to defend her sitcom. The sheriff (played by Gary Coleman) plays a video of lowlights from the show before Judge Judy finds for the people and tells Midler to leave the courtroom before anybody starts discussing her movies.

In Bette Midler's world nothing seems sacred, she describes her own audience as mainly Jews & Queens and who is she to not attack Hollywood relationships? While singing "Going To The Chapel" video monitors show us photographs of less than successful Hollywood pairings and Miss M has a barbed comment for each of them. Pamela Anderson & Tommy Lee: "They looked so happy in the video". Billy Bob Thornton & Angelina Jolie: "I remember when exchanging vials of blood really meant something." Liza Minnelli & David Guest: "Liza with an 'X', thank god there was no video of them."

The second act of "Kiss My Brass" consisted mainly of a very elaborate musical pastiche "Fishtails Over Broadway". This featured Miss M and her three dancers as mermaids in motorised wheelchairs. Bette was Dolores de Lago a mermaid with dreams of Broadway stardom and almost every musical from the fifties to the seventies were lampooned from Oklahoma to Mame by way of Gypsy, Cabaret and A Chorus Line. "Fishtails" ended with Midler on Carol Channing's Hello Dolly staircase. As her tail prevented her from walking down it a stairlift was utilised.

Midler spoke about seeing Britney Spears performing in little more than pasties and a g-string thinking "That bitch, I opened the door for trashy girls with big tits and do they thank me?". It is true that Madonna totally ripped off Bette Midler's act in the mid eighties and never gave her due credit for it. Despite being famous for her trashy look, many of Midler's outfits were actually quite stylish and sophisticated and she herself looked good and younger than her fifty-eight years. At times she looked like she could have been Sarah Jessica - Parker's mother.

Like any true showbiz whore worth their salt, Bette Midler saved the best till last. This didn't involve big scenery or elaborate costumes no dancers or vulgarity. This was just Bette under a tight spotlight singing the heart-wrenching song "The Rose" and to see her perform that live was worth the price of admission by itself.


Letters to the Editor
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"Mike's Rant" is ©2004 by Michael A. Smith    "Matt's Rail" is ©2004 by Matthew Drinnenberg     "La Floridiana" is ©2004 by William Moriaty     "This Week's Movie Review" is ©2004 by Michael A. Smith    "Oddservations" is ©2004 by Andy Lalino    "Splash Page" is ©2004 by Brandon Jones    "Deadguy's Dementia" is ©2004 by Mike "Deadguy" Scott    "The Black Dog Bites Back" is ©2004 by Joshua Montgomery    "The Drow" is ©2004 by Dylan Jones    "Nicholas Rex" is ©2004 by Nick King    "The Ogre" is ©2004 by Clayton Smith      All contents of Nolan's Pop Culture Review are ©2004 by Nolan B. Canova    
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