Archive for the ‘Entertainment’ tag
on my good name.”
This song seems apt given the recent controversy about a recent post of mine that sparked some controversy:
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 guy’s Kevin Spacey is spot-on:
Arguably the saddest song ever written (and Michael Stipe’s favorite REM song):
And here is a live version:
OK, so yeah, this is a little bit gay (not that there’s anything wrong with that), but here we have Zooey Deschanel and Joseph Gordon-Levitt singing and playing a New Year’s Eve tune. Zooey is on the lukulule, while Levitt is on the guitar.
The only thing that fascinates me about this is that movie stars are typically so sheltered from the general public that we rarely get to see what they are like as people. Zooey, on YouTube (user name: hellogiggles), breaks this trend, and that’s one reason why I’m a fan:
An example of brainlessness:
And here is a spoof of said brainlessness:
Sadly, my IQ has dropped 50 points.
The screen door slams, Mary’s dress waves
Like a vision she dances across the porch as the radio plays
Roy Orbison singing for the lonely
Hey, that’s me and I want you only
Don’t turn me home again, I just can’t face myself alone again
Don’t run back inside, darling, you know just what I’m here for
So you’re scared and you’re thinking that maybe we ain’t that young anymore
Show a little faith, there’s magic in the night
You ain’t a beauty but, hey, you’re alright
Oh, and that’s alright with me
You can hide ‘neath your covers and study your pain
Make crosses from your lovers, throw roses in the rain
Waste your summer praying in vain
For a savior to rise from these streets
Well now, I ain’t no hero, that’s understood
All the redemption I can offer, girl, is beneath this dirty hood
With a chance to make it good somehow
Hey, what else can we do now?
Except roll down the window and let the wind blow back your hair
Well, the night’s busting open, these two lanes will take us anywhere
We got one last chance to make it real
To trade in these wings on some wheels
Climb in back, heaven’s waiting on down the tracks
Oh oh, come take my hand
We’re riding out tonight to case the promised land
Oh oh oh oh, Thunder Road — “Thunder Road,” Bruce Springsteen
So, Adam Duritz of Counting Crows has sung these lyrics numerous times during live versions of “Rain King.” During Tim Russert’s memorial service in Washington, D.C., Springsteen, a favorite of Russert’s, appeared to sing this song. Near the end of the service, a rainbow appeared, and the closing song was somewhere over the rainbow. Here’s a video, albeit one that I think Russert would even call to “pie in the sky.”
And here’s a good article about the service from Newsweek: http://www.blog.newsweek.com/blogs/stumper/archive/2008/06/19/the-russert-miracles.aspx.
The most moving part of the article is:
“After the magical experience of this service, to come out and see the rainbow and Luke at the bottom of it made the last dry eye weep,” said NBC News executive Phil Griffin. The last song in the memorial service was, fittingly, “Somewhere over the Rainbow.”
When asked his reaction to explain the sudden appearance of the rainbow at the exact moment, Luke Russert, his sparkly smile so reminiscent of his father’s, said: “Is anyone still an atheist now?”
I don’t deny that I’ve had doubts and will probably always have some doubts about faith and the cosmos and philosophy and all of it, but one thing is clear: I’m only 30, and I’ve seen way too many of these “coincidences” in my lifetime to dismiss God as an invention of man. I mean it really is startling how these things happen, not just once every 10 years, but frequently in our lives to continually point us to the fact that things don’t just happen haphazardly. In fact, that gives me an idea. Perhaps I’ll start a new blog and only use it to record these “coincidences.
So, my wife and I watched the movie, “Cloverfield,” last night for the first time. Well, correction. She watched it for the first time. I watched it the night before by myself after she had went to bed because I was curious to see what it was all about. I can report today that I still don’t really know what it was about, but apparently, that seems to be the intention of the filmmakers.
I don’t have to redraw the plot here since it’s well recorded on a million websites by now. But, long story short — or maybe that should be short story made even shorter, since the movie clocks in at only 84 minutes — but Rob, the main character, got a job in Japan and his friends held a going-away party for him. During this short period is really the only time you get some character development, and even then, it’s sparse because, well, some horrificity starts going down. During the party, Rob learns that his friend — and clearly romantic acquaintance — is with some other guy. Not too long after Rob has this revelation and his brother, who later falls prey to aforementioned horrificity and friend try to console him, the horrific-ness begins. They think an earthquake has befallen the city, when in fact, it’s the horrificity of a 30-story monster known as Cloverfield. Why was it named Cloverfield, one may ask? That’s a good question. I’ll have to Google that sometime because they don’t really help us out on that one. Needless to say, here’s the main promotional shot from the previews:
And here’s shot of the horrificity:
Nice, huh? Anyway, the audience gets about 15 minutes of party talk, minor character development, etc. etc. and then what follows is the destruction of much of Manhattan, including every person we get to know and love previously at the party. Again: pleasantness personified. But this movie isn’t about happy endings — if you know of a way to have a happy ending with a ticked off and scared, 30-story monster wreaking havoc on one of the most populous cities in the world, by all means, let me know.
The moviemakers said the movie is less about the monster itself but about how people would react to a cataclysmic event where the Statue of Liberty’s head goes flying and other unthinkable unpleasantries go down. I understand that. I also understand the movie makers’ desires to make a true “monster movie” reminescent of King Kong, where the only assumption is that a monster is destroying the city. There is no historical framework. No great philosophical hypothesis about where a giant monster came from, why he is there and what that means for religion, philosophy, science, mankind or anything. It’s just there. Sort of like a chronic disease: doctors have no cure, no one’s going to sing a song for you — you just have some horrific problem and you are on your own. Sort of like our health care system and the Republican way of caring for people and leaving people to fend for themselves. But I’m getting the cart before the horse. More on that later, perhaps.
Needless to say, I was left with a certain sick, unfulfilled feeling when “Cloverfield” abruptly ended as a small bridge in Central Park supposedly collapsed on top of Beth and Rob. The last two words: they each uttered, “I love you,” and in less than a second, a thud, then the view of a camera buried in rubble … roll credits. The next sequence was of a portion of the tape that didn’t get copied over of Rob and Beth at Coney Island in New York. Beth’s last words were, to paraphrase: “It’s been a good day.” Good day indeed, all except for perplexed movie-goers. But still, this movie is remarkably enjoyable in some shallow way. There is no depth. There are no questions answered. Just 84 minutes of havoc. But to the movie’s credit, it was havoc that was fun to watch.