Commentary

Long good-byes and longer movies

It's that time in our program to stop and remember the folks we lost this year.

•Actors: Peggy Ahern, 95, and Jack Hanlon, 96 ("Our Gang" kids); Dimitra Arliss ("The Sting"), 79; R.G. Armstrong, 95; Luke Askew, 80; Zina Bethune, 66; Turhan Bey, 90; Ernest Borgnine (Oscar winner for "Marty"), 95; Phil Bruns, 80; James Farentino, 73; Ben Gazzara, 81; Celeste Holm (Oscar winner for "Gentleman's Agreement"), 95; Sylvia Kristel ("Emmanuelle"), 60; Herbert Lom ("The Pink Panther"), 95; Patricia Medina, 92; Deborah Raffin ("Once Is Not Enough"), 59; Joyce Redman, 96; Joan Roberts (the original Broadway "Oklahoma!"), 95; Ann Rutherford ("Gone With the Wind"), 94; Warren Stevens, 92; Phyllis Thaxter, 92; Susan Tyrrell, 67; Simon Ward, 70; Dick Anthony Williams, 77.

•Musicians: jazz pianist Dave Brubeck, 91; bluesman Eddie "Guitar" Burns, 84; lyricist Hal David ("Raindrops Keep Fallin' on My Head"), 91; bassist Donald "Duck" Dunn, 70; composer Marvin Hamlisch, 68; Levon Helm (The Band), 71; Larry Hoppen (Orleans), 61; orchestra leader Mort Lindsey, 88; singer-songwriter Dory Previn, 86; sitarist Ravi Shankar, 92; songwriter Robert B. Sherman, 86; singer-songwriter Joe South, 72; guitarists Doc Watson (89), Mickey Baker (87) and Bob Welch (66).

•Singers: Toni Arden, 88; Russell Arms, 92; Max Bygraves, 89; Maria Cole (widow of Nat), 89; Robin Gibb, 62; Whitney Houston, 48; Etta James, 73; Davy Jones, 66; Marion Marlowe, 83; Tony Martin, 98; Dorothy McGuire, 84; Scott McKenzie, 73; Johnny Otis, 90; Marguerite Piazza, 90; Herb Reed (the Platters), 83; Jenni Rivera, 43; Kitty Wells, 92.

•TV people: writer-director William Asher ("Bewitched"), 90; director Paul Bogart ("All in the Family"), 92; Peter Breck ("The Big Valley"), 82; Frank Cady ("Green Acres"), 96; Gary Collins (Miss America host), 74; host-producer Don Cornelius, 75; Richard Dawson ("Family Feud" host), 79; Don Grady ("My Three Sons"), 68; Andy Griffith, 86, and George Lindsey, 83 ("The Andy Griffith Show"); Larry Hagman ("Dallas"), 81; Robert Hegyes, 60, and Ron Palillo, 63 ("Welcome Back, Kotter"); Sherman Hemsley ("The Jeffersons"), 74; Kathryn Joosten, 72, and Lupe Ontiveros, 69 ("Desperate Housewives"); Rosemary Rice ("Mama"), 87; director John Rich ("All in the Family"), 86; producer Lee Rich ("The Waltons"), 93; Doris Singleton ("I Love Lucy"), 92; Reinhold Weegee (creator of "Night Court"), 62; Yvette Wilson ("Moesha"), 48; William Windom ("Murder, She Wrote"), 88.

•Other: astronaut Neil Armstrong, 82; writer Maeve Binchy, 72; editor Helen Gurley Brown, 90; writer Virginia Spencer Carr, 82; movie critics Judith Crist, 90, and Andrew Sarris, 83; writer-director Nora Ephron, 71; victim Rodney King, 47; film director Zalman King, 69; artist LeRoy Neiman, 91; film director Frank Pierson, 87; hairstylist Vidal Sassoon, 84; figure skater Barbara Ann Scott, 84; film director Tony Scott, 68; cinematographer Bruce Surtees, 74; writer Gore Vidal, 86; Mike Wallace ("60 Minutes"), 93; film producer Richard Zanuck, 77.

•People I knew: musician Mark Wayne; Scottish family man Robert McPherson; friends Wally Harper and Ceci Vandervoort; artist Dorothy Gillespie; singer Brenda Byers; neighbor John Reber; colleague Gary Taylor; former colleagues Sue Hong and Jeff Zaslow.

Navel gazing

Albert Brooks touches on many subjects in his Vanity Fair interview, including his feelings about a new president's just being elected and then being told what really is going on: "You go from thinking you can change the world to being scared out of your mind." That's one reason why I really don't care if the world ends today.

•Thanks to all of you who spoke to me, e-mailed me and Facebooked me about my announcement last week. I'll keep you posted.

•Season finales: "Homeland" did end with a lot of body bags and the deaths of semi-regular characters. "Dexter" ended with the killing of a regular and with Dexter asking if this was the beginning of the end. In fact, I hope the next season will be the last; it's kind of creepy rooting for a serial killer even if he does kill bad folks.

•More season finales: This is the first I remember ever liking all three of the final "Amazing Race" teams and all three of the "Survivor" survivors.

•I was duped once; I won't be fooled twice. In other words, I'm not going to see three long installments of "The Hobbit" after suffering through the interminable "Lord of the Rings" trilogy. As it is, I'm going to have to stoke myself with coffee to get through the long end-of-year features "Les Miserables" (157 minutes), "Django Unchained" (165 minutes) and "Zero Dark Thirty" (157 minutes).

•At the cinema: "Skyfall" is too long, too (143 minutes), but it's mostly entertaining, and I like Adele's title song and Javier Bardem's turn as a villain. "Hitchcock" (just the right length) is enormously entertaining although the prosthetic'ed-up Anthony Hopkins looks freakish. Helen Mirren, Scarlett Johansson and Jessica Biel are Alma Reville, Janet Leigh and Vera Miles respectively.

•Someone took a big bite out of the stupid roundabout at Miller and Delaney, not for the first time. Delaney is too narrow for all the stupid street-divider eyesores.

•I dug up an old Rosemary Clooney holiday CD the other day, and I'm betting it's one she hated because of such banalities as "Suzy Snowflake" and "Little Red Riding Hood's Christmas Tree." A better Clooney holiday album: "White Christmas" (1996).

•I don't remember ever seeing as many cameos and guest shots as there were on last weekend's "Saturday Night Live": Alec Baldwin, Carrie Brownstein, Jimmy Fallon, Tina Fey, Tom Hanks, Samuel L. Jackson, the New York City Children's Chorus, Paul Shaffer, Joe Walsh, Kristen Wiig, the surviving Nirvana guys playing with Paul McCartney. Martin Short was a terrific host, especially in the Royal OB-GYN skit.

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