Farewell, Princess.

The death of Carrie Fisher today at the young age of 60 is going to be especially hard for people around my age (52, if you were wondering). This is the passing of a slice of our collective memories.

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Princess Leia was a character like no other. In 1977, just 20 at the release of “A New Hope” and 19 when it was filmed, Leia was sassy, smart, sexy and could wield a blaster. She would go toe-to-toe with Vader, lead an army without fear and still be the object of affection of both male leads. (Remember at this point, she didn’t know Luke was her brother).

Carrie didn’t always speak well of Leia, calling the her a caricature. But to the legions of us who grew up on Star Wars, Leia is legend.

Carrie Fisher was an accomplished writer and actress. Outside of Star Wars, she appeared in When Harry Met Sally … , wrote the novel and screenplay “Postcards from the Edge” and was the uncredited “script doctor” on countless films.

Carrie battle bi-polar disorder, something she openly spoke about in the last decade or so. She took public criticism for her weight gain and would say “My body is a product of my mind”. She lots 30 lbs for her “comeback role” in The Force Awakens.

Her passing today as such a young age is a time for a little sadness. Remember her beloved mother, Debbie Reynolds who now faces the tragic task of saying good bye to her own daughter. But as long as the human race is watching movies, her performance as Princess Leia, the diminutive, tough, bagel-bunned heroine of Star Wars will live as one of the most memorable characters in film history.

 

“I signed away my likeness. Every time I look in the mirror I have to send Lucas a couple of bucks.”

 

I Guess “Banal” was the Wrong Word – 2016 Oscar Recap

Banal. I said the word “banal”.

I could not have been more wrong.

The 88th Oscars were without a doubt, the funniest and most intriguing shows in many, many years. Overlong of course, the word diversity beaten to death. And sorry Sam Smith, you horribly misquoted Gandalf, many openly gay people have won Oscars. Including fellow British Singer Elton John.

But stem to stern, I night of belly laughs and shocking results. I went 17 for 24, average year, with some winners that could not have been predicted.

Before anything, let’s talk about Chris Rock. Spot-freaking-on. The right host at the right time. Was there anything better than watching a room full of rich, white, entitled millionaires squirm in their seats, wondering if it was OK to laugh at his jokes. “We had better things to protest than who won best Cinematography”. The Will Smith jokes kept coming. Whoopi Goldberg’s cut into the scene from Joy. And the shows best moment, Chris Rock goes to Compton. “What’s your favourite movie? Superfly!”.

Morgan Freeman showed his skill as an actor last night. Spotlight has been all but written off for Best Picture, winning only one award earlier that evening. He managed to not react, hide what had to be his own shock when he announced the biggest “upset” in recent memory, arguably in Oscar History. The little dramatic pause he took with a grin on his face was pure skill.

You could hear an audible gasp in the room when Patricia Arquette finished her fumbling presentation and announced Mark Rylance for Best Supporting Actor over the heavily favoured Sly Stallone. I picked Sly and was rooting for him full force. But in this one instance, I will give a nod to the academy for making the right pick. Acclaimed stage actor Rylance was perfect in Bridge of Spies. The only consolation I will take here is that I called Rylance at the possible upset in my pics.

The Actress Catoegories went according to predictions. Both women gave wonderful, eloquent and dignified speeches. Alicia Vikander handled her moment like a seasoned veteran, with her mom by her side to see her win.

A highlight of the night for me was the legend Ennio Morricone finally getting long overdue recognition for Best Original Score for The Hateful Eight. Morricone spoke in Italian with a translator and the gang in the Orchestra pit who had been cutting off acceptance speeches all night, paid proper homage by letting him finish.

Mad Max:Fury Road is a six time Oscar Winner. I don’t know what to make of that. It is essentially a two hour video game of a movie. Coherent, but barely so and no plot. When it won #6, I thought it may just take best picture.

Other notable moments: Alejandro Innaratu joined only two other directors as back-to-back winners, the last being John Ford. The brilliant Emanuel Lubezki became a rare three-peat winner, after taking well-deserved cinematography Oscars for Gravity and Birdman. I loved Louis CK talking about the important of Best Documentary Short. “This Oscar is going home is Honda Civic”, referencing that the makers of these movies do it for love and for their cause and no chance of making a profit.

Th Weekend did Canada proud. Sam Smith sucked. Don’t care if you like him or not, that was a bad performance. Lady Gaga – I could argue either way, but I thought she nailed it.

And finally, Leo. How did this night become about Leo. For my Canadian friends, it’s worth noting that The Revenant was filmed in Alberta and Leo made an epic blunder of blaming a Chinook wind on the oil sands. That lead to a bit of a public spat with our Prime Minister. Thank you, Leo, for at least for acknowledging Martin Scorsese for making you into an actor. I do not knock his talent. I love his films. But he managed to make this about him.

The late great George Carlin said two things about comedy : “the joke is in the exaggeration” and “I feel its my job to poke fun at people who take themselves to seriously”. Chris Rock took that spirit of comedy and knocked it out of the park. A little offensive at times, maybe crossing a line or two? You bet. But to me, that was his job. When he said “Jada Pinkett Smith boycotting the Oscars is like me boycotting Rhianna’s panties” I stood and applauded the TV. My kids were there to witness. It was perhaps the most audacious moment I have ever scene at this Oscars. And if there is a crowd of people that needs to be slapped off its pedestal, this is it.

Dan’s Oscar Picks – 2016

This is a pretty banal year for the Oscars again. Other than the controversy stirred up by Spike Lee (which I will not comment on) there is not much intrigue at all. When Ridley Scott, the deemed front-runner, was not nominated in the Director Category, the prognosticators were left scratching their heads. It always leave me curious as to how a movie can be nominated in 8 or 9 or 10 categories and not director (Argo, The Color Purple, Driving Miss Daisy, Dark Knight and many others).

What will be nice this year is to see a couple of “lifetime achievement” Oscars handed out.

So we are heading for a night of foregone conclusions or complete shocks. Maybe Chris Rock will drop a swear or two and shake things up. I will be disappointed if he does not go off script and bring up the fact that Spike Lee is at a Knicks game. I can only hope.

I see early front runner The Martian going home empty. Usually one major nominee does. Mad Max with a lot of trophies but The Revenant will be the big winner.

Here are my pics for this year

 

THE SIX MAJOR CATEGORIES

Best Picture

I have not seen a site that is not picking The Revenant. So I will go with that. If you want to pick a dark horse either Spotlight or my #2 movie of the year, The Big Short. Spotlight was the pervasive frontrunner but ended up failing commercially and critically.

Dan’s Prediction: The Revenant

 

Best Actor

Oh please, Leo, please use your speech to continue your little spat with Prime Minister Selfie and slag the oil sands. Please!!! I can’t stand Leo but he is a great actor and long overdue. This is his year. Mortal lock.

Dan’s Prediction: Leo, the Revenant

 

Best Actress

Charlotte Rampling kind of took herself out of the running by proclaiming that the Oscars are racist against whites. Not a solid career movie. Cate Blanchett is in a daring performance but has won twice and recently. Jennifer Lawrence who is my girlfriend and doesn’t know it is the new Kate Winslett, nominated for everything. Down to Brie Larson and Sariose Ronan.

Dan’s Prediction: Brie Larson, Room.

 

Best Supporting Actor

Really, could this happen?? I will jump out of my seat and scream for joy if Sly Stallone wins for this 7th incarnation of Rocky Balboa in Creed. This is a tough category with brilliance all around. Acclaimed stage actor Mark Rylance may upset here in his wonderful, understated performance in Bridge of Spies, but it looks like after Sunday we will have the phrase, Oscar Winner Sylvester Stallone. Rocky is part of our culture. This is one of three or four categories I am truly excited about.

Dan’s Prediction: Sylvester Stallone, Creed

 

 Best Supporting Actress

I have not seen The Danish Girl but all signs from all media point to Oscar newcomcer Alicia Vikander in Tom Hooper’s transgender drama. Hooper has directed Colin First to his Oscar

Dan’s Prediction: Alicia Vikander, The Danish Girl

 

Best Director

Ridley Scott has directed one best picture winner and one nominee. He is also responsible for Bladerunner and Black Hawk Down. He was considered a shoe in for best director months ago and not nominated so I think this is wide open. That said, it looks like we are in for a rare repeat of Best Director. John Ford is the only director to accomplish this with Grapes of Wrath and How Green Was My Valley in 1940/41. That’s some pretty impressive company. Alejandro is yet to make a weak film, let alone a bad one.

Dan’s Prediction: Alejandro G. Innaritu, The Revenant

 

THE CONSOLATION PRIZES

 The Original Screenplay

Wouldn’t it be great to see Straight Outta Compton pull the upset. Won’t happen but we can dream, can’t we?? I would love to see Inside Out, the year’s best film and a work of writing genius win, but let’s go with a safe pick about Catholic Church corruption.

Dan’s Prediction: Spotlight

 

Best Adapted Screenplay

This is the only pick where I will use my emotions and hope the Academy honours a brilliant, original film.

Dan’s Prediction: The Big Short
Best Costume Design

Interesting category. Sandy Powell is nominated twice. She has been in this scenario before and won. But I predict a technical sweep for Mad Max, so let’s go there.

Dan’s Prediction: Mad Max: Fury Road

 

Best Production Design

I will do what I usually do and go with the same movie as costumes. Not this year.

Dan’s Prediction: The Revenant

 

 Best Film Editing

The link between Editing and Best Pic has not been as reliable in the last 7 or 8 years so let’s break that convention. Mad Max – didn’t love it but it’s a wonderful mess and totally coherent.

Dan’s Prediction: Mad Max: Fury Road

 

 Best Cinematography

A three-peat?? Looks that way. The great Roger Deakins will go home a runner up again and a man who is changing the way movies are filmed will win a third in a row. Watch Gravity, Birdman and The Revenant. They could not be any more different. He is a bona fide genius.

Dan’s Prediction: Emmanuel Lubezki, The Revenant

 

Animated Feature

If Inside Out does not win, I will throw a shoe at the TV

Dan’s Prediction: The best movie of 2015, Inside Out

 

Foreign Language Film

Son of Saul. I have not seen this Hungarian holocaust drama but two reviews I have read both said it is on par with Schindler’s List for visceral impact. I want to see it but movies like this about the inhumanity of man tend to get under my skin and stick with me.

Dan’s Prediction: Son of Saul

 

 

TECHNICAL CATEGORIES

Sound Mixing: Mad Max Fury Road

 

Sound Editing: Mad Max Fury Road

 

Make-up: Max Max Fury Road

 

Best Visual Effects: Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Really, can they let this film go with nothing?

 

Best Original Score: Ennio Morricone, The Hateful 8

This may be the most interesting category of the night, along with Song. On one hand we have the legendary, brilliant John Williams. A mind boggling 41 nominations and 5 wins. No wins since 1994. He just turned 84 and the music for The Force Awakens in awesome. Then you have Ennio Morricone. Also legendary and brilliant. 88 years old and scoring Tarantino movies. 6 time nominee and never a winner. Do they perhaps honour Mr. Williams one more time or finally give Ennio his due?? Expect Ennio to win and a five minute ovation.

 

Best Original Song: Diane Warren and Lady Gaga for The Hunting Ground

This is a controversial documentary and rape and cover up on college campuses. Joe Biden will introduce Gaga at the show tomorrow night. This is Diane Warren’s 8th nomination. A chance for the Academy to give her her due, make Gaga and Oscar winner and honour this film all at once.

 

 

The Educated Guesses

 

Documentary Feature: Amy (not a guess here, pretty much a lock)

 

Documentary Short: Claude Landmann: Specters of the Shoah

 

Animated Short: Sanjay’s Super Team

 

Live Action Short: Shok

Not a Bad Night After All – Oscar 2015 Recap

For a night that was supposed to have few surprises, Oscar 2015 had more than its share and more than most in recent history.

Personally, I went 20 fro 24 on my pics. I managed to pic all three short film categories yet miss best picture. I have been Oscar picking since 1990 and that’s a first. This is one of my better years, my best still being 2006 (when Crash was best picture) and I was 23 for 24, missing only Best Original Song.

Neal Patrick Harris started the show with an opening number for the ages, comparable to any of the Billy Crystal routines, but with better vocals. He kinda fell flat after that, save for when he said that Edward Snowden could not be there “for some treason”. Brilliant.

The four major acting categories all went as planned, but outside that, there were plenty of upsets.

Whiplash, the small film starring JK Simmons, took home three awards, two (Sound and Editing) to the shock of everyone, including the recipients. Disney’s Big Hero 6 upset How to Train your Dragon 2.

The strongest category of the night was Adapted Screenplay, which included Grand Bupadest Hotel, front runner Boyhood and critically acclaimed Birdman. When Birdman won, I was scrambling to adjust my ballot when no one was looking. When this night is analyzed by the prognosticators, there will be long discussions on how the universal favourite, Boyhood, went home with one statue.

The night belonged to Birdman, winning for Picture, Director, Screenplay and Emanuel Lubezki’s genius cinematography. Lubezki has now taken his place as the man to have behind the camera. Grand Budapest Hotel was honoured in four technical categories and Whiplash made its mark with three wins.

The night had his highs a lows. Sean Penn, who is a pretentious d-bag on a good day, paused before reading the best picture winner and said of Alejandro Innaritu “who gave this son of a bitch his green card.” That classless moment was the worst in Oscar history since Julia Roberts said “I love my life” before reading Denzel Washington for best actor. Yes, I know he and Penn have worked together. Still, that moment, Sean is not about you.

The peak of the night was clearly Lady Gaga. Looking shockingly normal, she did a four song medley from Sound of Music and nailed it. Even Julie Andrews, who joined her on stage after, seemed speechless. LAdy Gaga performed those songs like she owned them. She commanded the stage like a seasoned pro and proved she is not ordinary pop start. Common and John Legend brought the house down with Glory from Selma, then went on to win Best Original Song. Common gave a heartfelt, powerful acceptance speech.

Count me among those who felt Patricia Arquette’s “giving birth to taxpayers” speech was off key. While I have no quarrel with her content and agree with her, I have trouble with and highly paid actor preaching wage equality to a room full of privileged white millionaires. That moment for me was soon washed out by Graham Moore’s (original screenplay for Imitation Game) heartfelt, slightly sad but oh so joyous speech, encouraging youth to “stay weird and stay different”.

While Alejandro Innaritu will now go down in film history as a three time winner for Birdman, I encourage you to look at #86 on my blog, his brilliant “21 Grams”. Like Birdman, its challenging, different, demands a lot of its viewer. It was my first exposure to his work and it is a film that continues to mesmerize me to this day.

This year also confirmed my long-standing, undying crush on Cate Blanchett, my respect for Meryl Streep and the fact that Jack Black just makes me laugh.

For a year with no Clooney, no Pitt, no blockbusters, it turned into an exciting event. By the time the last two awards arrived, Best Actor and Best Picture were truly up for grabs.

I don’t expect to see Neal Patrick Harris back. He is uber talented and funny, but did not seem comfortable on stage and his ongoing gag with his picks on stage fell flat.

Lady Gaga, Common, JK Simmons and Mr. Moore all provided moments that will long be remembered. Birdman, a truly great but genuinely unusual film, will take its place amongst lesser Best Picture winners.

Dan’s Oscar Picks for 2015

Dan’s Oscar Picks 2015

 

This is the first year I am able to blog about the Oscars. Sadly, it is not an exciting year. There is no blockbuster, few real races and the front running movies are almost exclusively smaller pictures with little exposure.

Easily the most anticipated part of this show is Neil Patrick Harris. He has the ability to rival Billy Crystal and Johnny Carson as host.

The Academy consists of 6,000 members broken into 17 branches. The voting system, especially for best picture is so convoluted that it defies description. Over the years, they have gotten it right (The Godfather, Return of the King, Patton,  Platoon) and at times they miss the mark so bad its embarrassing (Braveheart, Gladiator, The Color Purple going 0 for 11). Right or wrong, I love the show and never miss.

Here are my pics for this year.

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THE SIX MAJOR CATEGORIES

 

BEST PICTURE

This is a two-way race between Boyhood and Birdman. Both are unusual films made by artsy directors. Boyhood is critically acclaimed and seems to fit the profile of recent winners.

Dan’s Prediction: Boyhood

 

BEST ACTOR

Possibly the only real race of the six major categories. Will it be young, relative newcomer, Eddie Redmayne or well loved, never nominated veteran Michael Keaton for Birdman. Redmayne does two things the Oscar voters love, playing a handicapped character and a real life person. Keaton arguably is playing himself. And we cannot count out Bradley Cooper, who has pulled of the rare feat of three straight nominations. Benedict Cumberbatch and Steve Carrell have no real chance but this is an anything goes category.

Dan’s Prediction: Eddie Redmayne, The Theory of Everything

 

BEST ACTRESS

This is a forgone conclusion. Bet the farm here. It’s a mortal lock.

Dan’s Prediction: Julianne Moore, Still Alice

 

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR

If you own two farms, bet the second one here. I have long admired JK Simmons since the days of Oz. I will be estatic to see him win

Dan’s Prediction: JK Simmons, Whiplash

 

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS

Patricia Arquette has had the momentum in this category for a long long time and seems to be the universal favourite. If there is an upset it will be Emma Stone. That said, never count out Meryl. Nomination #19.

Dan’s Prediction: Patricia Arquette, Boyhood

 

BEST DIRECTOR

Very much a two way race between Boyhood and Birdman. Both films employ interesting trickery and both are directed by respected men who have never won before. A true coin toss. I see a split between Picture and Directior.

Dan’s Prediction: Alejandro G Innaratu, Birdman

 

 

THE CONSOLATION PRIZES

 

BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY

The toughest category, with the two main front runners for best picture and the well loved Grand Budapest Hotel. This is where I see TGBH getting honour.

Dans’ Prediction: The Grand Budapest Hotel

 

BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY

A much weaker category. I will go with the winner from the Writer’s Guild.

Dan’s Prediction: The Imitation Game

 

BEST COSTUME DESIGN

Now here is a hard one to pick. Three time Oscar winner Colleen Atwood is a safe bet for Into the Wood as is three time Oscar Winner Milena Canonera for Grand Budapest Hotel. One of these gifted women will pick up a fourth.

Dan’s Prediction: Grand Budapest Hotel

 

BEST PRODUCTION DESIGN

So often goes with Costume Design.

Dan’s Prediction: Grand Budapest Hotel

 

BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY

Birdman is an astonishing technical achievement and deserves to win but will his win for Gravity last year hurt Emmanual Lubeski’s chances? If you think so, go with Grand Budapest Hotel, Or could it be the year that Roger Deakins gets his long overdue Oscar after 11 nominations?? Tough call

Dan’s Prediction: Birdman

 

BEST FILM EDITING

The single best predictor of Best Picture. Often movies that only win a few awards win Editing and Picture (Argo, Crash to name two). Look for Sandra Adair to be honoured for piecing together a twelve year story.

Dan’s Prediction: Boyhood

 

BEST ANIMATED FILM

Can someone PLEASE explain to me how The Lego Movie was not even nominated???? This is a weird category this year. I am going to take a guess here and what appears to be the most popular of the five films. However, the Academy may try to show how open minded they are by choosing The Tale of Princess Kugaya.

Dan’s Prediction: How to Train Your Dragon 2

 

BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FIM

Total guess here.

Dan’s Prediction: Ida (Poland)

 

 

THE TECHNICAL CATEGORIES 

Sound Mixing : American Sniper

 

Sound Editing : American Sniper

 

Visual Effect:  Interstellar

 

Hair & Make-up : Grand Budapest Hotel

 

Original Song : Glory from Selma (This movies persistent whining about only receiving two nominations may hurt its chances. I will be elated it “Everything is Awesome” from The Lego Movie pulls an upset)

 

Original Score : The Grand Budapest Hotel (This could also be Imitation Game – either one of the Alexander Desplat scores)

 

THE EDUCATED GUESS CATEGORIES

Documentary Feature: Citizenfour

 

Documentary Short: Crisis Hotline: Veterans Press 1

 

Live Action Short: The Phone Call

 

Animated Short: Feast

 

Remembering Mork

Remembering Mork

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A Tribute to Robin Williams

From his appearance as an unknown on Happy Days in February of 1978 guest starring as Mork the Alien until his tragic and untimely death yesterday, Robin Williams became a part of American culture. For 40 years he was part of our lives and for many of my ilk, we cannot remember life without him and are still reeling at the thought of him being gone.

Why did we love him so much? He was a man of many personal demons. Battled drugs, alcohol and depression most of his life. He made more than his share of mediocre (and worse) films.aladdin-genie

But when Robin appeared on screen, the audience would all giggle in delight. You really never knew what to expect.

If you look his most famous roles – Mrs. Doubtfire, The Genie, Adrian Cronauer, John Keating – they are four wildly different men/women/entities. But they were all distinctly his. They all had his signature and they all worked.

In stand-up, he redefined the genre. In his early years, there was no-one like him, not even close. Hyper kinetic, stream of consciousness that could chase down any rabbit hole and find the humour. (Case in point, what 1982’s A Evening with Robin Williams and pay attention when an audience member gets up to go to the washroom).

Robin Williams could make anything funny – and perhaps that is what we liked about him. At the end of this article, I have some quotes from various topics and he could find the often-twisted humour anywhere. He even spoke openly about his own drug and alcohol problems and although there was a serious side, he let us all laugh along with him. Because sometimes, that’s all there is to do, right?

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Robin Williams always found a laugh, especially where it didn’t belong. After 9/11, he said that the Statue of Liberty should be changed to holding a baseball bat saying “You wanna piece of me??!!”. He has biting political humour and took on everyone.

If you look at Robin’s 10 highest grossing films, they really summarize his storied and legendary career.

Mrs. Doubtfire (2), Patch Adams (7), The Bird Cage (9) and Good Morning, Viet Nam (10) are pure schtick. The Robin Williams stand up comic, let loose is a star vehicle.

Aladdin (3), Happy Feet (4) and Robots (8) are his brilliant, incomparable voice over work. Only Eddie Murphy can compare.

Night at the Museum (1 and 5) and Good Will Hunting (6) are supporting roles. As the world grew familiar with his brand of humour, he was content to take these secondary roles and bring movies to life, if only for a small amount of time screen.

He also made several deep and thoughtful films. What Dreams May Come, Bicentennial Man, Awakenings, The Fisher King and Garp were all challenging films that explored themes of life, the after life, our purpose, marriage, love and friendship.

In total, there were 46 films with a total domestic gross of over $3 billion.

Although The Genie will rightfully takes its place in Hollywood legend, I will remember Robin the most for Adrian Cronauer in Good Morning Viet Nam, the mercurial DJ on Armed Forced radio. This will full of vintage Robin Williams stand up, but also had depth and emotion to it that for the first time made me thing, holy crap, he can act!

Through all of this, Robin Williams maintained an accessibility and vulnerability to his audiences. He was the kind of guy you wanted to have over for a beer.

Although we will be denied Mrs. Doubtfire 2, Robin has 4 films yet to be released. So we will get a chance to see him on the big screen again.

Once shock of his death settles in and the tabloids leave him in peace, I hope we can remember Robin Williams as not just a funny man. A skilled actor, genius comic, all around nice guy and humanitarian.

If you want to celebrate his career, I encourage you to look beyond Aladdin or Patch Adams. Try What Dreams Will Come or World According to Garp. Perhaps Awakenings or his excellent work in The Butler.

Rest in Peace Mr, Williams. You’ve earned it.

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Great Robin Williams Quotes

 

On Marriage

Ah divorce. From the Latin word meaning “to rip a man’s genitals out through his wallet.”

 

On His Home, San Fransico

“A place where ‘God Save the Queen’ has a whole new meaning”.

 

On The Arms Race

‘A woman would never make a nuclear bomb. They would never make a weapon that kills. They’d make a weapon that makes you feel bad for a while’

 

On Drug Use

“Cocaine is God’s way to of saying ‘You make way to much money; “.

 

On Sports

“Cricket is basically baseball on valium.”

 

On England

‘In England, if you commit a crime, the police don’t have a gun and you don’t have a gun. If you commit a crime, the police will say, “Stop, or I’ll say stop again”‘

 

On Rehab

“I went to rehab in wine country, to keep my options open.”

 

On the Amish

And, if you’re ever in Amish country and you see a man with his hand buried in a horse’s ass, that’s a mechanic. Remember that’

 

When Accepting his Oscar for Good Will Hunting

Most of all, I want to thank my father, up there, the man who when I said I wanted to be an actor, he said, “Wonderful. Just have a back-up profession like welding.”.

 

On Jonathon Winters

Jonathan Winters was my mentor. I told him that and he said, “Please, I prefer idol.”.

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