Archive for the ‘Entertainment’ Category
I’m not big fan of network sitcoms anymore, mostly because of their boilerplate predictability, but Michael J. Fox‘s upcoming show has the potential to be quite brilliant, and might I say, brave for Fox to come out with a work that essentially seems like an irreverent satire of his own condition and his experiences with Parkinson’s disease. It could be an entertaining show as long as the writers don’t go crazy with too many Parkinson’s jokes.
Here is a trailer:
Beck goes and makes a comparison between what appears to me to be an ill-cast Satan character in the History Channel series, “The Bible” and Barack Obama. Here’s a side-by-side:
From Beck’s perspective, this was just another opportunity — he doesn’t really pass up any — to take a jab at Obama and vilify the president by any means necessary. In fact, this is a good summation of the general program of conservative right wing radio in general.
As for the Satan character, I always pictured Satan, were he to take human form, as a young and attractive alpha male kind of figure. Does the History Channel really want to go on record as casting the most evil being of all time as an old black man? The History Channel? Oh well. Looks like that die has been cast.
While the full implications surrounding the “War on Terror” that was initially waged by George W. Bush after Sept. 11, 2001, have been brought to light many times before (here, here and here), Ta-Nehisi Coates with The Atlantic recently asked some hard questions that, because of Bush’s declaration and the United States’ commitment to ending terror, don’t admit to any easy answers.
One of the most important and morally gray questions: does torture work, and if so, should we be willing to use it to extract information that is vital to national security. Coates notes some of the inconsistencies surrounding President Obama’s own policy on fighting terror:
The president is anti-torture — which is to say he thinks the water-boarding of actual confirmed terrorist Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was wrong. He thinks it was wrong, no matter the goal — which is to say the president would not countenance the torture of an actual terrorist to foil a plot against the country he’s sworn to protect. But the president would countenance the collateral killing of innocent men, women and children by drone in pursuit of an actual terrorist. What is the morality that holds the body of a captured enemy inviolable, but not the body of those who happen to be in the way? (Italics mine.)
I don’t have an answer to that last question. Critics of torture never tire of arguing — and as Quentin Tarantino argues in Reservoir Dogs — a person will say anything to make the pain stop. Or, in the infallible logic of Nice Guy Eddie:
If you fucking beat this prick long enough, he’ll tell you he started the goddamn Chicago fire, now that don’t necessarily make it fucking so!
Or, perhaps Mr. White’s rather nuanced view is correct:
Now if it’s a manager, that’s a different story. Managers know better than to fuck around, so if you get one that’s giving you static, he probably thinks he’s a real cowboy, so you gotta break that son of a bitch in two. If you wanna know something and he won’t tell you, cut off one of his fingers. The little one. Then tell him his thumb’s next. After that he’ll tell you if he wears ladies underwear. I’m hungry. Let’s get a taco.
What about the view of Creasy from Man on Fire:
I am going to ask questions. If you don’t answer fully and truthfully, you will suffer much more than you have to. I’m going to cut your fingers off. One by one, if I have to.
Or, how about Jack Bauer:
Jack Bauer: Ibraham Hadad had targeted a bus carrying over forty-five people, ten of which were children. The truth, Senator, is that I stopped that attack from happening.
Sen. Blaine Mayer: By torturing Mr. Hadad!
Jack Bauer: By doing what I deemed necessary to protect innocent lives.
Sen. Blaine Mayer: So basically, what you’re saying, Mr. Bauer, is that the ends justify the means, and that you are above the law.
Jack Bauer: When I am activated, when I am brought into a situation, there is a reason, and that reason is to complete the objectives of my mission at all costs.
Sen. Blaine Mayer: Even if it means breaking the law.
Jack Bauer: For a combat soldier, the difference between success and failure is your ability to adapt to your enemy. The people that I deal with, they don’t care about your rules. All they care about is results. My job is to stop them from accomplishing their objectives. I simply adapted. In answer to your question, am I above the law? No, sir. I am more than willing to be judged by the people you claim to represent. I will let them decide what price I should pay. But please, do not sit there with that smug look on your face and expect me to regret the decisions I have made. Because sir, the truth is … I don’t. (“Day 7: 8:00am-9:00am“)
I realize these are just arguments from the minds of entertainment writers, but the questions and concerns aren’t going away because of the Pandora’s Box that Bush opened when he first uttered the words “War on Terror.” Remember his remarks from 2007:
On every battlefront we’re on the offense, keeping constant pressure. And in this war on terror, we will not rest or retreat or withdraw from the fight until this threat to civilization has been removed.
Admittedly, the extremism would have arisen and grown with or without Bush; the president simply committed the United States and its allies to the impossible task of wiping terrorism in its totality off the map. That was the critical mistake that Bush made. The threat of violence from extremists will never be removed as long as zealots and extremists cultivate the idea that a religion or a powerful leader can rise to such heights that any amount of death and suffering are justified in order to protect them. This is why John Lennon’s song, “Imagine,” was so important, and why we should never forget his lyrics:
Imagine there’s no countries
It isn’t hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for
And no religion too
Imagine all the people living life in peace
As long as zealots have something to kill or die for, they most certainly will because in their deluded and splintered minds, it gives them something, ironically, to live for.
Derek Thompson with The Atlantic has a recent article up highlighting the emergence of television as the new medium for gritty acting, quality shows and interesting characters. Shows like Lost, Fringe, 24, The Sopranos, The Walking Dead, Dexter, numerous HBO originals and now House of Cards on Netflix, have seemingly reversed a drama industry once dominated by Hollywood.
Edward Jay Epstein provides an excellent explanation on why television has gained transaction, and why Hollywood has largely floundered. Speaking about the example of HBO, Epstein writes:
It did not need to produce a huge audience since it carries no advertising and gets paid the same fee whether or not subscribers tune in. Nor did it have to restrict edgier content to get films approved by a ratings board (there is no censorship of Pay-TV). And it did not have to structure the movie to maximize foreign sales since, unlike Hollywood, its earnings come mainly from America. As a result, HBO and the two other pay-channels, Showtime and Starz, were able to create sophisticated character-driven series such as The Wire, Sex and the City, The L Word, and The Sopranos. As this only succeeded in retaining subscribers and also achieved critical acclaim, advertising-supported cable and over-the-air network had little choice but to follow suit to avoid losing market share. The result of this competitive race to the top is the elevation of television.
Sure, television executives found a workable model for taking advantage of the format, but the simpler answer, I think, that explains the rise of television is the fact that producers and directors began creating “sophisticated character-driven series” and not just for HBO or Starz, but for the networks.
When I was a teenager, in the 20s and even younger, cheesy slapstic, droll and boilerplate sitcom fare was about all from which viewers had to choose. Think: Alf, Who’s the Boss?, Family Matters, Full House, Growing Pains, Home Improvement, etc. As far as comedy goes, the most interesting shows were Seinfeld, Cheers and maybe Herman’s Head. Drama wasn’t much better. The 1980s and 90s had Dallas, Chips, Hawaii Five-O, Matlock, the prime time soap opera, Knotts Landing and others that were rather forgettable. Dallas was probably the most captivating show to come out of my younger years, and even then, the only serious question people were asking was the age-old: “Who Done It?” But even Dallas highlighted the era’s near limitless obsession with shallow soap operas. Law & Order and MacGyver arguably offered the most substance on the small screen.
Conversely, Hollywood gave us such gems as Casino, Heat, Scent of a Woman, Donnie Brasco, Reservoir Dogs, The Shawshank Redemption, Rain Man, Pulp Fiction, Philadelphia and many others. To be sure, Hollywood was offering plenty of trash like Kindergarten Cop and Look Who’s Talking, but if viewers wanted quality acting and sophisticated, nuanced characters, they went to the movies.
Today, they go to the couch. After enduring years of predictable plots, weak acting and lack of interesting and well-developed characters, I largely turned away from TV in the late 1990s, at least from sitcoms and drama. Only a few years ago did I give TV another try after the nearly ubiquitous praise that I was hearing about Lost, 24, Dexter, It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia and others. And the praise was not unfounded. TV and outlets like Netflix are offering a level of quality that, perhaps, has never been offered previously. We will never forget characters like Jack Bauer, Tony Almeida, Chloe O’Brien, Jack Shepherd, Jin and Sun and Sawyer, and now, Frank Underwood can be added to the list. The small screen, I would posit, is becoming bigger as we speak.
A white, female rapper, Kitty Pryde, yes, that’s with a “Y,” who looks like an emo kid. Just … wow.
This is actually better than the versions from which it borrows:
I highly recommend this article from Ali Gray at IGN.com on how characters within Quentin Tarantino’s movies are either connected with characters from his other movies or who have actually seen the movies themselves, thus creating some kind of ultra-fictional bizarro-world of character interactions.
I can’t break down the whole article without taking a lot of time because it is long, but here is one example: Mia Wallace in “Pulp Fiction” refers to a pilot episode of a show called “Fox Force Five,” which is eerily similar to elements in “Kill Bill:”
In fact, we should give Tarantino more credit than that: he’s created two universes in one. Quentin has confirmed that From Dusk Till Dawn (which he co-wrote) and Kill Bill are “Movie movies” i.e. they’re films that the characters from his /other/ films enjoy. For instance, in the little-seen, Tarantino-produced drama Curdled, a character is seen watching the Gecko brothers from FDTD on TV. This goes some way to explaining their cartoonish violence and supernatural elements; it’s also why no one in Reservoir Dogs lives in fear of a vampire attack. The rest of Tarantino’s films exist in the ‘Realer Than Real’ universe, which is marginally less ludicrous but nonetheless abides by the rules of our world. Brands like Red Apple Cigarettes and Big Kahuna Burger might exist in both universes, but characters can’t cross between them.
This information leads you down all sorts of exciting paths. Is it feasible that, having watched Kill Bill and marvelled at The Bride’s expert swordsmanship, Pulp Fiction’s Butch Coolidge had his eye drawn to the samurai blade in that ill-fated pawn shop? Even more out there: can it be mere coincidence that Mia Wallace’s description of her failed TV pilot, Fox Force Five, sounds so much like the plot of Kill Bill? Is it Uma Thurman playing The Bride, or Mia Wallace?
Hang on a minute. Maybe you noticed Michael Parks‘ lawman drawling his way through From Dusk Till Dawn, Kill Bill /and/ Death Proof? That’s Sheriff Earl McGraw, and he’s an exception to the rule. Tarantino considers him a crossover character, capable of existing in both the ‘Movie Movie‘ universe and the ‘Realer Than Real’ universe. Why? Just to be difficult, we imagine. Tarantino also considers Harvey Keitel‘s fixer ‘The Wolf’ a crossover character (despite the fact his only appearance is in Pulp Fiction), so don’t be surprised if he turns up as the villain in Kill Bill Vol. 3 in the year 2024. We’re through the looking glass here, people.
Here is the “Fox Force Five” clip:
Right on cue, P.Z. Myers doesn’t waste any time dubbing this promotional image of a video game called “Dead Island: Riptide for Europe” as “vilely misogynist,” yet fails to ruminate on how he would feel if a “hot” male body was depicted in such a way. I mean, for god’s sake, if you insist on showing graphic content such as this, there are only two options: either you show a mutilated female body or a mutilated male body. Does Myers and the feminist crowd want equality or not? Or do they just want men to be the exclusive victims of violence and women to be portrayed only as fragile flowers who somehow stand above the fray of human suffering? I chafe at this image as much as the next guy, but doesn’t it at least say something about the equality that has already been achieved that marketing material such as this can see the light of day without unraveling society as we know it?
Nielsen, the media-analytics and ratings firm, has published an important new study this week on the state of social media. Its insights are trenchant and wide-ranging, and they have given the media much to digest. You’ve got gender disparities in the amount of time spent on social media. You’ve got the rise of Twitter as a second screen. You’ve gotPinterest as the fastest-growing social network. But most importantly by far, you’ve got nothing short of a paradigm shift in how Americans use the bathroom.
Yes, according to Nielsen, 32 percent of young Americans between the ages of 18 and 24 report that they engage in social networking while on the pot. Nielsen did not report the numbers for other demographics. But it’s well-understood in the technology industry that the behavior of this bellwether group heralds the shape of things to come for the nation as a whole. In short, our days of leafing through newspapers and magazines on the commode are numbered.