‘Our Very Own’ premieres

I’ve posted several times about Our Very Own, the independent film shot here in Shelbyville last year. It’s an autobiographical tale by director Cam Watson, who was attending the big high school in Shelbyville at the same time I was attending Cascade High School out in the rural part of the county. We’ve never met, and as it happens I haven’t really been involved in covering the movie for the T-G. I am anxious to see it, of course, as is everyone else in Shelbyville.

The movie had its premiere this week at the Los Angeles Film Festival. There have been several stories — one from as far away as London — highlighting Mary Badham. Badham, as a child, played Scout in “To Kill a Mockingbird” — until now, her one and only movie role. But Watson talked her into playing a part in his movie.

Allison Janney of “The West Wing” is another of the stars of the movie; she appeared Monday on The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson and the movie was mentioned several times, but there was no real conversation about it and they didn’t show a clip.

Watson is hoping to do a Shelbyville premiere some time next month.

Celebrity Charades

I’m watching “Celebrity Charades” right now on AMC and enjoying it quite a bit.

The show is inspired by some real-life charade dinner parties hosted by actors Chad Lowe, Hilary Swank and Bob Balaban. Some of you are immediately flashing back to “Win, Lose or Draw,” the cheesy 80s-era game show produced by Burt Reynolds and Bert Convy and based on the Pictionary-like game Burt & Bert played among friends and family. But “Celebrity Charades” is nothing like that. It’s not shot as a game show, in a TV studio, with a live audience. It’s shot in documentary style in a New York loft, with handheld cameras following the participants as they run from room to room.

The running is required because of the rules of this particular game. There are two teams, each composed of five celebrities (there are actually 11 participants, since the actors take turns playing tournament director). The teams are playing simultaneously in separate rooms. Each team sends a player to run to the tournament director for a movie title. Each room works on the same five titles, in the same sequence. After a title is guessed, the person who guessed it must run to the tournament director for the next title. After a team has guessed all five titles, they must then guess the common thread that connects them. The first team to guess the theme wins the game.

The players on tonight’s episode included Balaban, Steve Guttenberg, Julianna Marguiles and Robert Klein. Amusingly, in one of the cinema verite mingling-around shots at the beginning of the show, Balaban innocently introduces Fisher Stevens to Guttenberg. After Stevens and Guttenberg give each other a friendly hug, Guttenberg explains to Balaban that they were in the movie “Short Circuit” together.

That, actually, is what makes this watchable; obviously, there were cameras present and the celebrities realized they were playing on a TV show for charity, but nobody acted like game show contestants. They cursed (bleeped out, of course) and kibbitzed and self-deprecated and seemed to be having a genuinely good time.

The show is running every night this week at 9 p.m. Eastern / 8 p.m. Central on AMC. It’s worth checking out.

A pig just flew by my window

Many years ago, one of the then-defunct Eagles remarked that he wouldn’t work with a former bandmate until hell froze over. When the band finally re-united, their reunion tour was called, naturally, the “Hell Freezes Over” Tour.

Something similar has happened involving one of my favorite TV personalities and “The Worldwide Leader In Sports.”

Thanks to TV Barn for the heads up.

Guilt and grace in Gotham City

Who Needs A Superhero?: Finding Virtue, Vice, And What's Holy In The ComicsIn light of this week’s movie premiere, Christianity Today has published a terrific chapter from H. Michael Brewer’s book “Who Needs A Superhero?” which compares Batman to the rich young ruler from the gospels. The essay points out some symbolism and allegory in Frank Miller’s seminal “The Dark Knight Returns” that I had never noticed before.

Billy Dee’s not two-faced

For the second time this year, I will have to miss the premiere of a heavily-anticipated movie due to preparations for my mission trip. I’ll be going to Mississippi next weekend and will miss the opening of “Batman Begins.” But I’ll see it soon enough. I’d like to go to the IMAX theater in Nashville and see it there.

While whetting my appetite, I was looking at some trivia on IMDb related to the moves that were produced between 1989 and 1997. This new movie essentially restarts the franchise; it’s not really a sequel or a prequel to those movies, more of a remake.

Anyway, I found a couple of very interesting facts about casting which I’d never heard before.

When “Batman Forever” came out in 1995, I recall explaining to my editor at the time — a movie buff — that Tommy Lee Jones was playing the same character that Billy Dee Williams had played in the original 1989 movie. In “Batman,” Billy Dee played district attorney Harvey Dent, essentially a cameo role. As comic book fans know, and as is briefly explained in “Batman Forever,” Dent is horribly disfigured and becomes the bitter criminal Two-Face.

Well, it turns out that Billy Dee was well aware of Harvey Dent’s ultimate destiny when he played the straight district attorney part in the first movie. In fact, he apparently had it written into his contract that he would get to play Two-Face in a sequel. When the producers eventually decided to cast Jones, they reportedly had to pay Billy Dee a large sum to buy out his contract.

The other piece of trivia concerns another Williams — Robin Williams. When the producers of the original movie were trying to convince Jack Nicholson to take the part of The Joker, he held out for a lot of money. At one point, they made a big show of talking to Robin Williams about the part, and sure enough Nicholson came around. But he needn’t have worried: according to IMDb, Nicholson made so much from his share of the profits, marketing and merchandising that he holds the record for the best compensation of an actor for a single film.

Anyway, the producers later tried to recruit Robin Williams for the part of The Riddler in “Batman Forever” — but he was still furious at having been used as bait to threaten Nicholson, and insisted on an apology from the producers! Whatever happened after that, Jim Carrey ended up with the part.

“Batman Begins” looks like it will return to the serious tone of the first movie, avoiding the campiness into which the other movies slipped. I can’t wait to see it, but I’ll have to wait.