A Cinderella Story: The Addison Recorder’s Brief Tribute to Harold Ramis

Hollywood has sucked hard so far in 2014, in ways that have nothing to do with the quality of movies. The best are dying and dying so fast.

In the aftermath of Philip Seymour Hoffman’s death, so eloquently memorialized here by Alex, the number one clip I kept seeing over and over on the Internet was of the Lester Bangs scenes in Almost Famous, the scenes that made Hoffman feel like our cool older brother or uncle. In the same way, Harold Ramis, native of Addisonian territory, graduate of high school in Edgewater, former member of both the Second City and the Chicago Daily News, could truly be seen as a father figure for our generation.

Two examples from my personal life: I got my first pair of glasses just after I turned four years old in 1988 and I’ve worn them ever since. Back then, I had all the action figures and the Ghost Traps AND the firehouse headquarters playset for Ghostbusters. I watched the movie over and over and never missed the Saturday morning cartoon show. And Dr. Egon Spengler–Harold Ramis–was my hero. Venkman and Ray got the laughs, but Egon knew all the science. Egon came up with the plans that worked and kept the team together. Egon wore glasses and it didn’t keep him on the sidelines or make him be treated like a nerd the way all the other characters I saw who wore glasses were treated. 

And in my family, every time somebody says the line “I just talked to her last week…she was going to make a pot for me!” we all crack up.

But I need to take this beyond me. All of us who write for The Addison Recorder exercise our purely creative muscles beyond non-fiction in one way or another. Harold Ramis’s work shaped our ideas on how to be entertaining. How to be hilarious. How to tell the truth in an inventive way.

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“The Smell of Old People’s Houses” : The Great Beauty


After the first woman he ever loved broke his heart, Jep Gambardella wrote a novel called The Human Apparatus. It won major literary prizes and everyone alive in Italy seemed to have read it and been inspired by it. Jep then moved to Rome, became a journalist and an even bigger celebrity, and never wrote another word of fiction. Now he’s just turned 65. His two best friends are a playwright lusting after a college girl and the foul-mouthed dwarf woman who edits his newspaper. He interviews performance artists who shave their pubic hair into Communist symbols and run headfirst into aqueducts. His upstairs neighbor in their apartment complex across the street from the Colosseum intrigues him. He’s unexpectedly connecting with a 42 year-old stripper. And everyone around him is starting to die. Not in a supernatural or murder mystery sense, but simply from aging, decaying, leaving only traces behind.

Paolo Sorrentino’s magnificent The Great Beauty is a film full of dichotomies, and here is the key one…

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Olympics Recap: Fire On Ice, or, “Believe What You Want But That Glacier’s a Fact!”

There’s something very special about this skater…read on to find out.

Monday night, while watching Meryl Davis and Charlie White take home a magisterial gold medal for the USA during Ice Dancing, all five male Addisonians ended up in a twitter conversation regarding how attractive the female halves of the pairs were. (Including Travis, heroically joining in from a stalled Megabus.) My own comment was that this relates to why I love figure skating, as mentioned in my earlier recaps: the particular meld of athleticism and aesthetic gracefulness. Female figure skaters in particular look like Gainsborough and Reynolds paintings come to life in their elegance, but more importantly, they have trained their bodies to do things hardly any of us are capable of doing. Quadruple jumps and spins on ice at incredible speeds on bodies that have less muscle? Call me astonished every time.

But no one will equal the grace of bronze medalists Elena Ilinykh and Nikita Katsalapov, so remarkable that MY MOTHER called to tell me to watch them. Not as technically brilliant as the competition, they conveyed so much emotion and poetry to make up for any deficiencies: many tweeters called it “a true dance on ice.”

Ilinykh and Katsalapov

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Philomena and the New Oscars


Miss Williams and I agreed this scene is one of the diamonds of the film. Not saying anything more…

It may surprise you that Philomena has outgrossed both Dallas Buyers Club and her at the American box office. It should not surprise you that Philomena is an excellent movie. Like Gravity and Twelve Years a Slave, it is perfectly executed in that it fully works out its theme, never wastes a minute of its running time without feeling too short or too long, and has a marvelously constructed screenplay by Steve Coogan (who also produced and starred) and Jeff Pope. It’s the sort of script where the setups and payoffs are both logical and emotionally earned. There is one scene near the end, for instance, where the action takes a turn I initially thought was far too abrupt; by the end of that scene, however, I understood why the characters were acting the way they did at the beginning and what made them change. And the overall effect of these setups and payoffs was enough for it to be the first Best Picture nominee this year to make me cry. (I saw this with fellow Addisonian Meryl and she basically concurs on these opinions.)

(Editor’s Note: As someone who sat next to Andrew during 12 Years a Slave, this is definitely not the first Picture nominee of 2013 to make him cry. – Alex)

(Editor’s Note 2: As someone who sat down aisle of Andrew during 12 Years a Slave, I decidedly have to agree. Although he wasn’t alone in the crying. No sir. – Travis)

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Olympics Recap: Dispatch from the Official Addison Ice Master and Deliverer (PLUS Non-Olympics Postscript)

Maybe a kindler, gentler title will mean less injuries, falls, and general recklessness tonight, eh?

Meredith Viera has taken over the hosting duties in the absence of Costas and Lauer, and while she looks the part of Winter Games host in an all-white ensemble. But she has almost no personality, delivering the results with standard charming morning-show monotone.

CHILLED TO THE MARROW: I am not stopping the skeleton puns for the follow-up to yesterday’s first part of the Women’s final.

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Olympics Recap: “I Don’t Know How You Escaped My Carnival of the Damned, But You Won’t Escape the Taste of My Blade!”

As one of only two single members of the now eight-strong staff, the plan is for me to join J. (and any others who decide to leap into the fray) to cover the Olympics on this Valentine’s Eve and Day  (I mean, what else am I going to do but help our group?) and again on Wednesday and Thursday. These days were not picked at random: they are the days of my favorite of all Winter Olympic events, maybe Olympic events, period: men’s and women’s figure skating.

Why do I love figure skating so? I think it’s a combination of my great admiration for people who can do things I cannot (if you’ve ever seen me on the ice rink, you would know the truth of this statement…plus I got into it when I was still overweight, and skaters are among the most superbly built athletic figures of them all) and my own personal aesthetic loves (this goes beyond beautiful women and men who, like William Holden in The Bridge on the River Kwai, I can appreciate…I’ve come to value good clothing design, and I love classical music, film scores, and Broadway music, so seeing people interpret this in a way even more daring and risky than most modern dancing…this involves wearing blades on your feet like frigging Lotte Lenya in From Russia With Love…is one of the heights of art for me. Art meets sports. Of course this was something I would be very into.)

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The Grammys Live Blog, 2014, by Andrew J. Rostan and others


Sara Barielles is wearing a magnificent dress of floral appliques. Macklemore beat Kanye West for Best Rap Album. And I’ve been drinking Crown Royal and other concoctions the past 24 hours as a rapidly-organized gathering of Rostans celebrated the life of my Uncle Donald. But I promised I would live-blog the Grammy broadcast, so here it is.

I spent a long time talking to my father and uncles about music, and they mentioned they could not get into modern sounds…and of course I would take the Beatles, the Grateful Dead, ’70s progressive rock Miles and Trane and Monk, over most of today’s music any day…it just sounded better, more organic, meant more. But that is not to say today’s music is worse, for there are always examples of joy, beauty, and wonder. Pure pop that gives the masses a glorious time, social commentary done in clever ways, songs that cut to the heart of human emotion. And the best writers are getting younger all the time…

Like pop’s newest BFFs. Read the Rolling Stone cover story on Lorde: they help each other interior decorate!

So let’s see what’s the new Sound of Young America (don’t sue me, Berry Gordy) in a continuing series of updates after every commercial break (when I’ll be composing and refining sentences).

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The Vision of Martin Scorsese, in a Chorus of “F—s”

“Hookers and blow,” Travis said to me when I got home from the cinema Monday night “That’s all I kept repeating for half an hour after that movie ended. Hookers and blow.”

“Guilt,” I said. “So much Catholic guilt.”

Travis looked up from where he was grilling burgers, paused, and nodded in acknowledgment that we were both right.

Martin Scorsese, the greatest lapsed Catholic to ever direct movies, is always first to admit that his old faith’s morals, iconography, and attitudes form a major undertone—and are quite often vividly on display—in his oeuvre. And that faith’s lingering trappings have never risen to the forefront as they do in The Wolf of Wall Street, his magnificent black comedy which doubles as a purging litany, a three-hour documentation of the modern world’s sins crafted to highlight their obscene ridiculousness and cancerous effects on humanity, both individually and as a collective. It is by turns hilarious and humiliatingly repulsive. It is a film that people need to see. I’m not sure if it’s a great film; it’s not in the league of Scorsese’s masterpieces (Taxi Driver, Raging Bull, The Departed) but it in some aspects it ranks with Dr. Strangelove in terms of dark satirical power.

The immediate point: the multitudes who are decrying that Scorsese glorified Jordan Belfort and made him into some sort of hero are drastically missing the point. Belfort’s introduction to us is immediately smarmy, a man you would have to refrain from punching in the stomach as he smiles at you, and his character only gets worse from there. His sparks of humanity flash only in bursts of seconds. Whenever confronted with a choice between the decent or sensible thing and self-indulgence, he opts for self-indulgence with no hesitation. He surrounds himself with enablers who only exaggerate his worst traits as mentors, friends, and business partners. He has no respect for anything but money and playing off people’s need for money. And when he does find two people who try to bring out his best, his self-control, who tell him what sort of man he’s becoming, he pushes both of them away for further hedonism. It’s almost—ALMOST—a caricature straight out of the Franks, Capra and Tashlin, but sadly, we now have lived long enough under a system which produces more and more accumulators of wealth at the expense of others. Jordan Belfort is no cartoon but a test case. This is, then, a film arriving at an opportune moment, but the pervasive nature of sin is so timeless a theme that, like Wilder and Sturges’s pictures, it is also a film that won’t date.

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Slaves, Hustlers, and Space: The 2013 Oscars Conversation Begins

You know it’s important when Thor takes charge.

The other day on Facebook, I got involved in a conversation about anticipating the Oscar nominations with an old friend, Clifford Galiher (2007 Jeopardy college champion, defeater of Andrew Rostan in that year’s Tournament of Champions), who compared Oscar Nominations day to Christmas Eve, all full of anticipation, but Oscar Night itself to New Year’s Eve—we all know what’s going to happen, but we still drink and have a great time.

I loved the simile, but I don’t think it entirely holds for 2013. This year, I don’t think there’s a single race you could call certain. Not even Best Animated Feature, because when you put Frozen up against what may be Hayao Miyazaki’s last film, you get a fight I don’t want to call.

Nowhere is this more pronounced than among the three largest nominees, which present me with an interesting dilemma. Since I first became obsessed with cinema, there are two kinds of movies I have loved and always wanted to see get more Academy recognition, and you can probably blame Annie Hall and 2001: A Space Odyssey and David Lean’s movies for this. First, films that aren’t serious and weighty with importance but are lots of fun, with great acting, clever writing, plenty of laughs, and still able to leave you with some insight into humanity.


Second, intelligent spectacle, films with imagery and production which take your breath away while still having more on their minds than pure adventure or robots and monsters punching each other (NOT to put down Guillermo…and on the other hand, Raiders of the Lost Ark is the rare exception that proves the rule).

Two movies exactly like these ended up leading the pack with ten nominations each, but they had the bad luck, in my opinion, to come out the same year as a movie that got nine and happens to be, further in my opinion, one of the greatest American movies ever made.

All of them were nominated for Best Picture and Best Director and wracked up a huge presence in the other major categories.

There are plenty of other films to consider besides American Hustle, Gravity, and Twelve Years a Slave, but I’m going to kick off what I think will be an annual conversation with Alex by focusing on these three to ask, and answer, a series of questions which will make me wish Damien Bona was still around to offer smart and sarcastic home truths.

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Getting to the Bottom of the Martini Glass: The Joys of “James Bonding”

During the first year of the Addison Recorder, I wrote extensively about my admiration for Chris Hardwick and his Nerdist empire. After a brief fall-away from listening to podcasts when I transitioned to a new job, I returned to the Nerdist to find that the show had only increased in quality despite Chris, Matt Mira, and Jonah Ray taking on higher profiles and more jobs (Chris’s television show @midnight is worthy of its own Recorder piece one of these days). So in advising our readers on wonderful free sources of entertainment for 2014, I wholeheartedly recommend continual adventures with the Nerdist (and would suggest the episodes with Tom Hanks, Brie Larson, and the Talking Cat?!…you heard it right…as great recent jumping-in points, and then the incredibly moving “Honestly 2013” wrap-up special), but I also want to add another podcast in the roster which has joined the main event as my personal favorite: James Bonding.

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