CINCINNATI -- Just over two weeks out from the NFL draft, it might be instructive, if not entertaining, for pro football fans of all interest levels to head not to ESPN but the local theater multiplex to take in draft day.
First, some back story. I was 22 years old, ironically 23 hours short of my bachelor’s degree at the University of Cincinnati and working swing shifts in every imaginable role at a competing TV station and its related radio affiliates. That’s when a new hotshot young news director entered the scene, determined to shake up the local news stronghold, which at the time revolved around Al Schottelkotte and WCPO-TV. Joe C. Harris, Jr. was 26 years old, a veteran of Al Primo’s legendary Eyewitness News franchise factory in New York City. As he parceled out jobs to existing personnel I wasn’t deemed suitable for any of the traditional slots: reporter, producer, photographer, production assistant.
“I have something special for you,” he proclaimed in a closed door meeting when I pressed my case for inclusion in this new newsroom world order.
“And that would be what?” I nonchalantly asked.
“Entertainment editor. You’re a local guy. You’ll report on music, new clubs and such and also do reviews of concerts, plays and movies.”
He provided a tape of his former Eyewitness 7 colleague, Kevin Sanders with one of his weekly movie reviews as a template. I can watch movies I thought to myself. And tell people what I thought. But I had one further question:
“What does it pay?”
Harris replied with a straight face: $75.00 a week ... but you get to go everywhere for free.
That was enough to cinch the end of my academic career and the beginning of my regular on air persona. I was now a fulltime entertainment editor with flashy business cards to prove it.
It was quite a ride for two years and I did go everywhere for free. Movies, plays, concerts. With occasional out-of-town junkets sprinkled throughout the year. I shared dinner with Clint Eastwood in New Orleans, breakfast with Lee Marvin and Jon Voight in New York and brunch with Lucille Ball at the Lovejoy, Ga. home of then U.S. Senator Herman Talmadge. His residence was used for the exterior shots of "Tara," the iconic estate featured in "Gone with the Wind" and hosted the publicity launch for Ball's 1974 film version of "Mame."
As for my veracity as a critic? Mixed at best. I did highly endorse films like "The Conversation," "Serpico" and "Blazing Saddles" but had one very noteworthy failure as the Enquirer’s John Kiesewetter is always inclined to remind readers. During an on-air segment I predicted that while the 1973 buddy film, "The Sting," starring Paul Newman and Robert Redford, was an entertaining yarn, it wouldn’t fare well at the Academy Awards. In fact, I flatly forecasted that it would be shutout.
"The Sting’"cashed in seven of its 10 Academy Award nominations, including Best Picture. So it is with no small measure of trepidation that I dip my toe back into movie critiquing.
Go see "Draft Day."
Producers gained unprecedented access to not just NFL teams but the entire draft process from Commissioner Roger Goodell on down. There are some wispy plot lines that insinuate themselves into the main story but they are survivable and lend themselves to the building drama as Kevin Costner, the embattled General Manager of the Cleveland Browns faces the decision of a lifetime.
Jennifer Garner is more than easy on the eyes as Costner’s love interest and Denis Leary is perfect as his quarrelsome head coach. Same for Frank Langella as the team’s owner. I will be curious to ask a Bengals source if the horse trading and staccato phone calls portrayed in the film as the clock winds down to the first overall pick, ring true. These exchanges are bloodthirsty, curt, dismissive and rude —but riveting nonetheless.
I realize that the film hasn’t done all that well at the box office perhaps due to less than favorable treatment by the critics.
But as has been proven in at least one instance, what do they know?
And that's my 2 cents.
Dennis Janson's "My 2 cents" column is published every Monday and Wednesday on WCPO.com. His video commentary airs every Friday at 6 p.m.