Wednesday, April 14, 2010

2009-2010 Artie Awards Contests

Rules & General Info for the Artvoice Theatre Awards
"Predict the Winners Contest"

The 2009-10 Artvoice Theatre Awards are being held on Monday, June 7th at the Town Ballroom. At this time of year, I like to run a "Predict the Winners Contest." In this contest, everything remains anonymous. Therefore, more people can participate and no one will know who you won't have to worry about offending or "slighting" anyone. The actual nominations are visible at the Artie Awards Archive, here.


Here Are the Rules:
Simply email me at with your picks for who you think is going to win in each Artie category, this year. DON'T email me with who you WANT to win as that is something completely different.

Whomever has the most correct choices will be the winner and will be notified by email. I will ask your permission to reveal your name to the public. If you wish to remain anonymous, I will simply state that "this year's winner is anonymous."

The webpolls on the right side of this page are for you to vote for whom you WANT to win. Feel free to vote an check back often. Spread the word to your friends and other theatre enthusiasts!


Monday, April 5, 2010

Welcome to My Revised Blog

I haven't posted anything on here in a long time. I wasn't sure where I wanted to go with my blog. A majority of the posts used to be about film awards. I have since deleted almost all of those.

What this new version of Smug Doug will offer is some of my old, familiar stylings, but with some limitations and additions.

The blog's name has changed to Smug Doug's Things to Watch. Why? Because a majority of what I enjoy doing involves watching things: films, tv, theatre and, more importantly, the world around me.

So, while you're here, you find some film reviews, tv reviews, theatre reviews, etc...but you'll also find my view/slant on certain topics. Some will be Buffalo/WNY based, while others will be national in scope. In other words: I'll give my opinions about things that matter to the things I watch.

There WILL also be some awards show stuff and the return of the Artie Awards "Pick the Nominees" and "Pick the Winners" Contests. (I also run a website which is the Archive of the Artvoice Theatre Awards (Arties):
There you can find all past nominees and winners of the award.

I hope you check back on occassion to see what's here. I'll update a few times a week. Sometimes, I'll be prolific while other times I'll be sparse.

Regardless, I hope you enjoy your time here. Below you'll find some entries going back to as early as 2007, involving film, tv and theatre a few entries that are there for nothing but fun.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

My 2008 Theatre Season Retrospective

As I did last year at this time, I'm ruminating on this calendar year (2008) and my theatrical accomplishments, therein. Again, I'm amazed at how things work out. And I'm amazed at the level of talent of my fellow artists in WNY. It all seems to go by so quickly and yet so slowly at the same time. Certain shows feel like "forever ago" while others which were further back in time feel like they were only yesterday.

In January, I was performing in 12 Angry Men at the Kavinoky Theatre, which was an experience I'll treasure for a long time. It was a very good production full of talented actors and directed by Brian Cavanagh who did a splendid job. The show went through a bit of adversity after the opening weekend, but triumphed over it all. A wonderful cast (pictured, above - that's me fourth from the left) in a wonderful production - something I'll always be proud of. Photo by Chris Cavanagh.

After that, I did a small bit of choreography for the Kavinoky's production of Glorious! which was a hoot of a show. My stuff was merely a few teeny moments, but I'm glad I did it and am proud of the work.

The spring and summer were particularly busy times of the year for me...which is ironic in retrospect because that's when I wanted to take time off...but I digress. In March, I directed Beyond the Rainbow: The New Judy Garland Musical at MusicalFare. The show takes place during Judy Garland's famed Carnegie Hall Concert, where we see Judy singing basically the entire concert. As she sings, each song reminds our "Concert Judy" of moments and events within her life which are also presented to the audience, utilizing a "Younger Judy" and other actors playing the parts of those within Garland's life. This show was a unique challenge in that we needed two actresses to play Judy Garland. The "Concert Judy" was originally cast with an actress who developed vocal problems after the first week of rehearsal. She then (understandably) had to drop out of the show and we had to replace her. Loraine O'Donnell (pictured, above background) took over the role with grace, panache and a powerhouse voice and I'm sooooo incredibly grateful to her for joining us and doing such superlative work. Michele Marie Roberts (pictured, above foreground) portrayed "Younger Judy" as a dead-on characterization, right down to the tiniest mannerisms and vocal inflections. Michele was simply brilliant. The cast was rounded out with Todd Benzin, Marc Sacco and Kathy Weese, all of whom had major acting muscles to flex and the talent to back up those demands. It's one of those shows which I'm incredibly proud to have directed. Photo by Chris Cavanagh.

Almost immediately following that show's closing, I directed and choreographed Mid-Life: The Crisis Musical, the summer production at MusicalFare. The show itself shall I say it...unevenly written. Some things are dead-on in their writing, while others are one giant cliche heaped on top of another. It made the comedy often times, predictable. But those other times...the times when the writing was sharper and less cliche...those moments made the show worth it for me. Oddly, it was another show where a performer had to leave the production in the first week of rehearsal as one of my male cast members became ill. His replacement, Guy Tomassi, stepped in and crammed a show into his head so fast you wouldn't believe it (again, for which I'm eternally grateful). He joined Tom Owen, Louis Colaiacovo, Maggie Zindle, Sheila McCarthy and Wendy Hall (all pictured, above) in a talented, zany cast who were willing to do anything for the sake of the ridiculousness the show called for.

Once that was open, I went into rehearsal for Artpark's production of Disney's Beauty & The Beast, in which I played D'Arque and dancing spoon #2. D'Arque is a weird character in that he's not introduced until Act 2 and he sings a trio with Gaston/LeFou, has one scene and then disappears into oblivion. He was relatively fun to play, but it would have been more fun if there was more "to him" in the script. Not that I was looking for a bigger's just that there was so little reason for his existence other than as a plot device, he's kind of unfulfilling to perform. The dancing spoon part was fun, but the damn spoon was heavy. Oh, and I also was a fisherman in the town scene...and I had one fish to sell at market...and the fish was broken...and pathetic. :) The same fisherman character appeared in the "Gaston" number (pictured above - that's me standing to Gaston's right), which the dancers all refer to as "Bloody Knuckle Time" because of the metal beer steins used in the choreography. Trust me though, the knuckle injuries were completely unavoidable. The choreography was exactly as it was supposed to be. Overall, it was a fun experience because of the people. It was a very nice company of actors and Randy Kramer (Director) and Lynne Kurdziel-Formato (Choreographer) all did nice work with "Disney-fied" material. Don't get me started on the run crew, though... Photo courtesy of Artpark.

Then, I did some choreography for With You...Dusty Springfield at the New Phoenix in September. Fun show!

The above shows are only the shows which I directed, choreographed or appeared in. Add to that MusicalFare's productions of Sweeney Todd (props), Victory (props), Buddy: The Buddy Holly Story (props), Jamestown Gals: The Music of Lucille Ball & Peggy Lee (props, RSM/ASM) and Charles Dickens Presents: A Christmas Carol (SM) and I did 11 productions in 12 months. It sounds like a lot, but last year I did 14 in 12 months. Honestly, not doing as many shows was a good thing and helped my sanity a little. I'm just grateful. I love what I do and can't wait to do more!

Monday, October 13, 2008

Who SHOULD Win an Oscar(r) Someday?

10 Actors and Actresses Whom I Believe are Oscar(r)-Worthy

I've been reading blogs, prognostication sites and industry pages and got to thinking about whom I'd like to see win an Oscar(r) at some point in their career. Some of my choices have been nominated before, but haven't won. Others have had buzz for roles, but haven't broken through yet. And others are those whom I simply respect and see that bright(er) future for. Here's my picks, in alphabetical order, along with brief explanantion:

Jamie Bell - Amazing growth over time; risk taker; oozes talent. See Defiance or Chumscrubber.
Russell Crowe - Yes, he's won before, but he was especially good in earlier films like The Insider; needs to get away from Ridley Scott so his career revitalizes. And, come on...Gladiator was his best performance? He needs to win for a truly meaty role. (Don't get me wrong - he was great in Gladiator, but he can do and has done much better work)
Johnny Depp - an amazing character actor who needs to get away from Disney & Tim Burton...branch out, man.
Leonardo DiCaprio - fantastic actor who only needs to do a film where he's not overshadowed by another powerhouse like Nicholson, Day-Lewis or a sinking ship.
Robert Downey, Jr. - Long overdue. Ever see Chaplin or Zodiac?
Jake Gyllenhaal - Has amazing potential and is best when directed well...see Brokeback Mountain and Zodiac.
Ed Harris - What does he have to do to win one? Exceptional, solid and brilliant. See Pollack.
James McAvoy - Hitting his stride with Last King of Scotland (underrated) and Atonement. If he keeps choosing correctly, he'll score one eventually.
Peter O'Toole - Don't give him one out of pity. Give him one because he has deserved one for almost every screen appearance; his next one will be just as good as his many past films. See Lawrence of Arabia and My Favorite Year.
Will Smith - A commercial and critical favorite who can amuse us, entertain us and act his ass off. See Ali and Pursuit of Happyness.

Amy Adams - A brilliant spitfire. See Enchanted and Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day.
Patricia Clarkson - One of those actresses who is just good in everything. See Station Agent, for example.
Anne Hathaway - Taking a long, smart road to get there. See Brokeback Mountain and Rachel Getting Married.
Felicity Huffman - Another who's good in everything. See Transamerica for a tour-de-force performance. An actor's-actor.
Catherine Keener - Quirky, and utterly believable. See Being John Malkovich and Capote.
Keira Knightley - Some may disagree, but I think she's damn talented. See Atonement or Pride & Prejudice.
Laura Linney - The third who's good in everything. See The Savages and You Can Count on Me.
Julianne Moore - Someday she'll get it. After a run of smashing performances, she's chosen odd and inconsistent projects. For high quality Moore, see The Hours and Far From Heaven.
Samantha Morton - Always interesting and always solid. See In America and Sweet & Lowdown.
Kate Winslet - Literally, one of my all-time favorite actresses. See ANYTHING she's done. From drama (Little Children, Iris) to fantasy (Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Heavenly Creatures) to spectacles (Titanic) to period pieces (Sense & Sensibility, Hamlet), she is always brilliant.

Agree? Disagree? Have your own ideas? Let me know!

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Film Review

The Happening

I wish M. Night Shyamalan would branch out into another genre. I assume he feels that horror/suspense is his niche, and it has served him well enough. He probably feels that this type of movie is what audiences expect of him. The Sixth Sense, Unbreakable and Signs were all great, or at least reasonably good films. The Village was ok (I'm one of those freaks that figured out the "twist" of that movie in the first few seconds) and Lady in the Water is best left unspoken about. The Happening falls into the "ok" category.

I had high hopes for the film, actually. Elements of the trailer were creepy and visually arresting. Yet, ultimately, it was disappointing on many levels.

The film starts out with a bang and immediately peaks your interest. Without giving away any plot details, it then degenerates into a preachy lesson. Another point: a reviewer recently wrote that Shyamalan has a way of getting poor performances out of good actors. While I don't agree with that wholeheartedly, it is true of this movie. Mark Wahlberg speaks in a higher register than we're used to hearing. He comes across as whiny and condescending (his acting when he talks to his students - he's a teacher - is abominable). Zooey Deschanel, as his wife, is completely out of her element here. She usually plays quirky roles, but this is supposed to be fairly straightforward...and she still tries to imbue it with some sort of quirkiness to no avail. They're supposedly having marital issues...and ya know what? one cares. Here's the ultimate proof: I have no idea what either of their characters' names were. No freakin idea.

John Leguizamo is wasted in a small role. Betty Buckley overacts in another small role. Shyamalan uses his usual tricks (like the character we've never seen/heard of before popping up to offer a different perspective/theory...and then whom we never see again), but I have to admit there are some truly horrifying moments (in a good way) along with a few truly humorous ones. However, there also seem to be major holes in the scenario/plot which I can't discuss here. Aggravating.

I don't know why this film was Rated "R," either. Must have been some sort of publicity stunt because there was nothing in this film which was any more gory than in The Sixth Sense and there was no major profanity and no nudity.

Did I like the film overall? No. I only liked moments of it. Shyamalan should put his ego aside and do something completely different.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Film Review

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull

George Lucas ruins everything.

When I say "everything," I mean "every sacred childhood/adolescent/young adult movie-going experience and memory."

When I think back to the original Star Wars trilogy, I have terribly fond memories. More so of The Empire Strikes Back (directed by Lawrence Kasdan, not Lucas) than the other two films, but still, there were many thrills and surprises and genuine moments of awe. When it came time to do the new trilogy, I was sooooo looking forward to seeing them. Sure, the special effects were cool in all three newer films and there were moments where I was thrilled or awed. But, overall I came away from that trilogy with the thought: "You can't go back again, and ya know what? Maybe you shouldn't."

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull left me with that same thought.

Don't get me wrong - the performances were all good. Harrison Ford was Indy. Cate Blanchett was mighty hysterical as the villainess. Shia LeBeouf's character was a great addition to the series, and it was super-extraordinary to see Karen Allen again.

My expectations weren't incredibly high going in. But my expectations were to experience something akin to the original films. There was something magical about the original Indiana Jones films. Seeing him run through a cave fleeing a giant rolling boulder in Raiders of the Lost Ark seemed somehow plausible. And it still does in re-viewing. Seeing him ride a mine car in Temple of Doom or take that "leap of faith" in The Last Crusade were the same way. Even though the series is somewhat modelled after 1950s serials and pulp adventure, there was a certain element of believability in the action sequences, through a tongue-in-cheek mentality. You knew it was implausible for Indy to get through some of these things the way he did. But you merely felt it was him heroicism and dumb luck that got him through.

In this latest film, that's all gone. Some of the situations are sooooooo (and now add 5,000 more o's to that) implausible that it ruined any feeling of "going home again" or revisiting my childhood. There were a few moments of humor, mostly due to Steven Spielberg's direction and there is definitely chemistry between all of the actors. This, despite some of the most truly awful, trite and beyond "pulp" dialogue I have ever heard in my life. You could actually see Ford wincing his way through some of those lines. (George Lucas had storyline credit, though many screenwriters waded through this morass).

There's also too many modern filmmaking techniques. There's way too much CGI and not enough good-old (style) special effects which helped make the original films feel so special and "period." My friend Michael also pointed out that the lighting was high-def. Way too modern a look for this film.

There were nice homages to Sean Connery and Denholm Elliott. There were occassional moments of magic due in large part to the actors. But overall, it was highly disappointing.

Look, I know you can't please everyone. And I know the die-hard fans are hardest to please. But when you take away the basic elements of the original films and replace them with technological advances that are supposedly "better" and throw such inane dialogue at actors and audience alike, you're bound to not please anyone.

Maybe it'll serve as a transition film - a passing of the torch from Harrison Ford to Shia LeBeouf. I wouldn't mind seeing Shia take the reins and give us more adventures with his character...minus Indy. It'd be much like the film Star Trek: Generations where both Patrick Stewart (as Picard) and William Shatner (as Kirk) fought side-by-side, until Kirk's demise...therefore handing over the reins of the Star Trek film franchise to The Next Generation cast. Generations was an inferior film...but set us up for some fantastic adventures with the "newer" crew of the Enterprise. If there's a God, that's what will happen with these films. Otherwise, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull will have been in vain.

Oh - and the Crystal Skull itself? It's supposed to be made of quartz, and it's very large. However, it looked like a hunk of plastic stuffed with aluminum foil...and was treated that way by the cast. It never seemed to have any weight to it. Much like the film itself.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Film Review

Sex and the City

Now that the WNY Theatre scene has calmed down for a while, I can get back to other realms of entertainment. I went to a movie for the first time in months to see Sex and the City.

I always enjoyed the HBO series. I was never a rabid fan. I was more like a "Oh, that's on tonight. Guess I'll watch" kind of fan. I always found the show, at the very least, engaging. I was happy in the series finale when Carrie ended up with Big. But was I ecstatic enough to hope for a movie? No. I wasn't sure how many more stories could be told about these women.

That being said, I really liked the movie a lot. I loved the fact that they didn't try to hide the actresses' ages. We saw the lines on their faces. They were real. The acting by the original cast was superb. Cynthia Nixon and Sarah Jessica Parker rocked my world. Kim Cattrall and Kristin Davis were very good in "less meaty" roles. The men in their lives all performed well.

The worst thing about the movie was Jennifer Hudson. When she had to be "sassy" or "silly," she was fine. But when she had to be "real" - not so much. You could see the inexperience. While I thought she was very good in Dreamgirls, I never felt she deserved the Oscar. She won that award based on a being a performer, not a actor. There is a difference between the two. You can be a great performer in a multitude of places...theme parks, cruise ships, cabaret acts, concert tours to name a few. But doing those things well does not make you an actor or actress.

I've had friends of mine tell me they weren't crazy about the movie. Their reasons mostly centered on Chris Noth's character of Mr. Big. They say things like "Big would never act that way," or "Big's been through this before. It wouldn't be a big deal for him." Without giving away plot-points, all I can say is - I agree and disagree. I agree in that I don't know why Big got sooooo flustered at one point. It doesn't seem to fit his backstory, exactly. But, you also have to take into consideration: several years have gone by since we last saw/knew these characters. People's mind-sets change. People's insecurities bloom under pressure. I can "buy" the events of the film, because of those issues.

The other talking-point is (again, trying not to give away plot-points) whether Carrie's decision at the end of the film is the one I, personally, would have made. I don't personally think I would have done what she did. But, Carrie's Carrie...and I'm me.

Overall, the movie was like an entire season of the show, presented in two and a half-ish hours. And like any full season of the TV series, I liked a majority of it enough to want to come back for more.