Tribute: Leonard Nimoy

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We mourn the loss of Leonard Nimoy, who created one of the most iconic characters of all time, “Star Trek’s” half-Vulcan, half-human Mr. Spock, with pointed ears and angled eyebrows perfectly designed to convey a wry sense of irony.  The storylines of the original “Star Trek” were provocative political and cultural allegories, but the heart of the show was the reflection of the internal struggle we all try to reconcile: fire and ice, Athenian and Spartan, id and superego — between the passionate, impetuous Captain Kirk (William Shatner) and the cerebral, deliberate Mr. Spock.

Adam Bernstein wrote in the Washington Post:

Spock was the ultimate outsider — a trait Mr. Nimoy said he understood. He was Jewish and had grown up in an Irish section of Boston. Going to movies as a child during the Depression, he was drawn to actors who specialized in bringing pathos to the grotesque — especially Boris Karloff in “Frankenstein” (1931) and Charles Laughton in “The Hunchback of Notre Dame” (1939).

By most accounts, Mr. Nimoy portrayed the most popular character of the “Star Trek” cast. While some critics thought that Mr. Nimoy’s acting was dour or wooden, fans might have argued that these were precisely the characteristics of the emotion-suppressing, logic-obsessed Spock.

Copyright 1968 Paramount
Copyright 1968 Paramount

Nimoy was a fine actor, and he gave a dry wit to Mr. Spock. The character was fascinating because of his emotionless, stoic, purely rational approach.  Once in a while, his human side showed through. And although most of the time he seemed to conclude (rationally) that the Vulcan approach was superior, he occasionally seemed to envy his human colleagues’ capacity for emotion. And certainly, he showed himself capable of friendship with Captain Kirk.

I loved his father’s explanation of why he married a human: “It seemed the logical thing to do at the time.” Spock also had the enviable ability of telepathy and could immobilize a humanoid enemy with a neck nerve-pinch.

Bernstein’s obituary quoted an interview Nimoy gave to the New York Times:

“I knew that we were not playing a man with no emotions, but a man who had great pride, who had learned to control his emotions and who would deny that he knew what emotions were. In a way, he was more human than anyone else on the ship.”

He added: “In spite of being an outcast, being mixed up, looking different, he maintains his point of view. He can’t be bullied or put on. He’s freaky with dignity. There are very few characters who have that kind of pride, cool and ability to lay it out and walk away. Humphrey Bogart played most of them.”

He spoke to Pharrell Williams about his life and career and developing the character of Spock.

The devotion of “Star Trek’s” fans is legendary, and the subject of documentaries including Trekkies and its sequel, and no character had more fans than Mr. Spock.

A particularly fitting tribute was in an episode of “The Big Bang Theory,” where the hyper-rational Sheldon Cooper (Jim Parsons) has the most emotional reaction in the history of the series because he receives a special gift, a napkin that had been used by Leonard Nimoy.

In another episode, Nimoy provided the voice for Cooper’s Mr. Spock action figure.

Nimoy was the son of Jewish immigrants from what is now Ukraine. It was his idea to use the traditional rabbinic blessing gesture, with the fingers spread apart in a V shape as the Vulcan greeting.

He was also a successful director, not just of “Star Trek” films but also of the popular comedy “Three Men and a Baby” and the Diane Keaton drama “The Good Mother.”

In 1968, Nimoy responded with warmth, generosity, and wisdom to a letter from a biracial girl who identified with his bi-planetary character. He told her to “realize the difference between popularity and true greatness. It has been said that ‘popularity’ is merely the crumbs of greatness. When you think of people who are truly great, and who have improved the world, you can see that they have realized that they are people who do not need popularity because they knew they had something special to offer the world, no matter how small that offering seemed. And they offered it and it was accepted with peace and love.”

He left us with a beautiful final message via Twitter.

A life is like a garden. Perfect moments can be had, but not preserved, except in memory. LLAP

Nimoy gave us many perfect moments.  As long as there are devices to view content, new generations of fans will love and be inspired by Mr. Spock. May his memory be a blessing.

EPIX will pay tribute to Nimoy this weekend.

A Conversation with Leonard Nimoy: AIRING: Friday 2/27 – 11:00PM ET, Saturday 2/28 – 5:40PM ET & 10:00PM ET, Sunday 3/1 – 8:00PM ET 

Leonard Nimoy shares insights and personal anecdotes from his nearly 50-year involvement with the phenomenon that is Star Trek.  

Star Trek Into Darkness: AIRING: Saturday 2/28 – 10:15PM ET, Sunday 3/1 – 8:15PM ET

In the wake of a shocking act of terror from within their own organization, the crew of The Enterprise is called back home to Earth. In defiance of regulations and with a personal score to settle, Captain Kirk leads his crew on a manhunt to capture an unstoppable force of destruction and bring those responsible to justice. As our heroes are propelled into an epic chess game of life and death, love will be challenged, friendships will be torn apart, and sacrifices must be made for the only family Kirk has left: his crew.

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Actors Television Tribute

New from Daniele Watts: Muted

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Copyright 2015 HBO
Copyright 2015 HBO

Actress Daniele Watts stars as missing teenager Crystal Gladwell in Muted, winner of the 18th annual American Black Film Festival short film competition, showing on HBO throughout March 2015.

Muted follows Lena Gladwell, played by Chandra Wilson (Grey’s Anatomy), a mother whose world is shattered when her teenage daughter Crystal disappears. Lena attempts to enlist the help of the press and the police. Expecting the full support of law enforcement and local media, Lena quickly learns the painful and tragic lesson that all missing persons are not created equal.

Watts says of the movie, “I appreciate the filmmakers Brandi Ford, Rachel Gould, and Tara Tomlcevic for telling a story about complicated issues that are difficult to talk about. People may not be aware that biased media coverage continues to shape the way people are perceived or not perceived in America. As American society becomes more aware of the ways that a history of racism has shaped, and continues to shape our perceptions, we can open the door for greater clarity, compassion and understanding.”

Muted was written by Brandi Ford, produced by Tara Tomicevic and directed by Rachel Goldberg.

 

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Television

Smile of the Week: Uptown Funk from Alex Boye and the Dancing Grannies

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“Uptown Funk,” from Mark Ronson and Bruno Mars, is covered in a sensational new video from longtime Mormon Tabernacle Choir member Alex Boyé and back-up performers ranging in age from 65-92.  According to the Choir’s website,

Between all of his video co-stars, they have raised 500 children, 1,200 grandchildren and 250 great-grandchildren. We’re not going to give the whole thing away but the video just might feature a 92-years-young woman doing a split.

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Music Shorts Smile of the Week

List: The Best Movie Con Games and Grifters

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In honor of this week’s release of “Focus,” here are some of my favorite movies about con games and grifters. Remember that “con” comes from “confidence.” A con man (or woman) makes you believe in them and have confidence in their schemes. And cons make great movies. If you haven’t seen these, crank up your Neflix queue.

1. The Sting  This Best Picture Oscar winner stars Paul Newman and Robert Redford — along with the Oscar-winning ragtime score.

2. Dirty Rotten Scoundrels Michael Caine and Steve Martin play con men outdoing each other in this remake of “Bedtime Story” with David Niven and Marlon Brando.

3. House of Games David Mamet is fascinated by con men, and both this film and The Spanish Prisoner are about characters caught up in elaborate cons.

4. American Hustle The FBI did actually collaborate with real-life con men in a sting operation that ended up taking down Members of Congress.  David O. Russell’s film stars Bradley Cooper, Christian Bale, Amy Adams, Jeremy Renner, and an unforgettable Jennifer Lawrence as one of the few people in the story who isn’t conning anyone.

5. Criminal John C. Reilly, Maggie Gyllenhaal, and Diego Luna star in this remake of the twisty con story Nine Queens.

6. Confidence Dustin Hoffman gives one of his best performances as a crime boss whose bag man gets conned by Edward Burns.

7. The Music Man Professor Harold Hill sells band equipment and then skips town before it arrives, until he meets a pretty piano teacher named Marian in this most glorious of musical comedy romances.

8. The Rainmaker Burt Lancaster and Katharine Hepburn star in the story of a farm community during a drought and the man who says he can make it rain.

9. Matchstick Men A con man struggling with OCD meets his daughter for the first time.

10. F for Fake Orson Welles is something of a con man himself in this documentary about two of the 20th century’s most notorious cheaters.

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