Spiking the Oscars

Spike Lee should win the best director Oscar this year for BlacKkKlansman.  The film is THAT good, THAT timely and yeah, as its producer Jason Blum said recently, it is his time.

His time means that Lee has been in the filmmaking trenches over four decades and has given us such memorable, and sometimes seminal works, as Do the Right Thing, Jungle Fever, Malcolm X and Bamboozled, as well as such prescient and under-appreciated ones as She’s Gotta Have it, School Daze, Summer of Sam, and Get on the Bus.

Icon status

Lee has done and continues to do what every artist attempts and that is to create a body of material that reflects both himself and the times he, specifically, lived in.  You can look at any one of his movies and get a window into some aspect of national and/or personal history told through the vision of an African American kid from the New York boroughs with stories and messages whose truths reverberated throughout the world for nearly half a century.

That is no small feat for any director these days, but near impossible for one who is non-White.  Name another.

Waiting.

Still Waiting.

Right.  Well, we have nothing but time here so take another minute.

And…………

um helloooooo

Yeah.

So how is it that Spike Lee has NEVER BEEN NOMINATED for an Academy Award as best director??

Guess it must be bad luck or oversight.  Okay, maybe once…or twice.  But anyone who has ever been a reporter in a newsroom knows the old journalism adage: Three (or more) is a trend.

With the announcement of this week’s 2019 Academy Award nominations it is important to note that any number of films and/or filmmakers will be left off the list or rather purposely snubbed for a myriad of reasons.   Taste, personal animus, overcrowding and just plain ignorance are all excuses that come to mind.

One could also question why it even matters anymore given that the Oscars are clearly the most exclusive of clubs with a rarefied membership that more and more seems to speak less and less for the general public, i.e. the zeitgeist.

The majority of Oscar voters #oldwhitemen #morethan12 #oscarssowhite

Well, in a world of lists, elections, statuses and immeasurables it is THE most famous arbiter of professional excellence calibrated by a group of peers working in an artistic field that we have.  Sure there is consistent omission, bone-headed pettiness and high/low intellectual ignorance that keep the voters from truly always getting it right.  But love ‘em or hate ‘em there is a reason why each year the show gets watched by more than a billion people worldwide and the honor of receiving one of those little gold (but surprisingly heavy) statues gives the winner a strange sort of immortal status of achievement.

Spike Lee recently did an NPR interview with Elvis Mitchell where he noted his students (Note: He teaches at NYU’s grad program in filmmaking) don’t seem to care about any films made prior to the last five years.  He felt that it was generational and didn’t have an explanation for it, but also found that when he exposed them to work from directors like Kazan or Kurosawa they appreciated, even loved their films.  It was more a general sense of intellectual non-curiosity he was lamenting and he still didn’t understand the reason, even when pressed.

Would this help?

One could surmise it has to do with how much information we must all sift through these days and time management.  It also can be attributed to accessibility; meaning if you can get everything nothing is particularly urgent to experience.  It’s all at most of our disposals whenever we want it so why not do anything else that takes less time and is more pleasurable in the moment.

As one of my heroes, Carrie Fisher, so aptly wrote:

Instant gratification takes too long.

Yet that was back in the 1980s, before the web and about herself and her life as a drug addict.

We miss you lady

Building on this prescient theory, it’s not too far of a stretch then to say that we have all become a nation of addicts whose drug of choice is no longer the movies but the comments on endless streams of social media platforms, television shows and perhaps blogs such as (but unlike) this one where we get to opine on everything and nothing without doing the work it takes to truly earn our opinion.

This seems more than possible because if one is always giving one’s opinion of likes and dislikes, when would one ever have the time to read or watch anything else that would allow one to be educated enough on said subject and its creators in order to truly judge the issue or thing that is being presented???

This is why so many of us are such fans of the film BlacKkKlansman and of Spike Lee in particular.  Love him or hate him as a moviemaker you can never say he doesn’t study an issue, sift through numerous uncomfortable truths and then use his technical and creative expertise to form his take on what’s goin’ on.

When it comes to Mr. Lee, there seems to be no in between

Sure, it may be skewed but what he never does is waste your time on sheer nonsense or filmic masturbation that could at its best only be personally orgasmic.  Every film he does is called a Spike Lee joint and the reason is simple – he wants you to get stoned on the story, subject matter and characters along with him.

This was once deemed exotic and controversial but perhaps that is no longer the case with a pot store seemingly on every other block in L.A. and soon (perhaps?) the majority of the country.  But as a successful moviemaker, particularly one who is non-white, it is extremely rare.

BlacKkKlansman gives us the highly unlikely yet true story of a Black detective in the 1970s that infiltrated the Ku Klux Klan.  Said detective engineered it with the help of his White counterpart yet it is the Black man who takes the lead in the narrative.  But it is then Lee who imbues a rather unsavory and sadly quite timely story with equal parts humor, drama and irony.  Not to get too cute about it, but the result is a REAL black comedy in every sense of the word that only someone with a very particular body of work, mined over this particular half a century, could have brought justice to.

2018’s masterpiece #imeanit

That is why Spike Lee deserves the best director Oscar for BlacKkKlansman.  It is a smart, entertaining and expertly made film that speaks in particular to THIS moment in time through the lens of the past as it simultaneously teaches us all we need to know about the present.

But he also deserves it as a career award (Note: Like that doesn’t happen ever other year) and as a sentimental favorite who had been all but written off by mass contemporary audiences and too many industry decision-makers.

Finally, he deserves it for pissing us off so many times over the years as he’s done all of the above.  He deserves it for that, too.  Most especially.

End Credits – “Photo Ops” from BlacKkKlansman soundtrack

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Plot Holes

I don’t take things at face value.  Never have.  One could say that makes me a cynic.   But I’d say a realist.    So let’s split the difference and settle on a little bit of both.

Hell of a time to be living in for us cynical realists.

There is nothing wrong with watching what’s going on in Washington, D.C. these days and feeling like a skeptic who is positive some dry ice machine hidden just beyond our collective eye-lines is creating that incessant shroud of dense black fog we all continually find ourselves trapped in.

MUELLER WHERE ARE YOU

The FBI is investigating the president, OUR U.S PRESIDENT for being a Russian spy, a willing Russian stooge, or a blackmailed stooge being made to spy on HIS OWN COUNTRY by…..RUSSIA???

Why, it’s like some bad John LeCarre novel that you always felt you should read but decided not to when you saw how thick it was and considered that much time might be better spent at least attempting to read Proust.  Or your latest bank statement.

Just one of the many seemingly absurd Hollywood movies that seem more relevant now #KevinCostnerwasHOT #wow

Of course, there is nothing wrong with escape.  Us cynical realists do it all the time.  I, for one, am a sucker for cheap thrills in mindless entertainment.  But cheap doesn’t mean vague and unexplained and even mindless needs to feel reasonable.  Or, well, follow-able within the unreality that is being created.

Beware — minor spoilers lay ahead.

So will someone tell me: WHAT THE HELL WAS EVERYONE LOOKING AWAY FROM IN Bird Box????  And why??  Why??  Why?????  Why did it make so many of them suicidal and yet others of them spiritually reborn or evil or just clever?  Why Sandra Bullock and John Malkovich??? Why do you need a new kitchen or house or small plane that badly?????

And while we’re on this subject, or genre:  If John Krasinski’s character cared so much about his family you’d think he’d have removed that foot long nail sticking out of the floor in A Quiet Place the first 500 times he saw it.  Or at least after it almost pulverized his beloved wife the first time.  Why???  Why????  Why doesn’t this bother anybody else?????

uh yeah Jim, that’s what we want to know!

But that all begs the question of how an earnest film like Boy Erased, a movie all about a gay teenager’s coming of age, can show us an early scene of him being raped and then NEVER address it again in a story that deals primarily with sexual identity and psychological well-being?  Why???  Why???  Why is it okay to just IGNORE the ELEPHANT YOU PLACED IN THE GOSH DARNED NARRATIVE ROOM?????? WHY??????????????

No wonder I often spend my days feeling like Rosemary Woodhouse AFTER she’s pieced together the truth on her living room floor with Scrabble tiles while everyone else tells her that the truth really doesn’t matter at all and to simply stay in her room, turn up the air conditioning and be quiet.

How many points for COLLUSION?

Yes, there are a few spoilers here but does it seriously even matter anymore if we’ve forgiven everything else?  Or at least you have?

As a writer, I don’t believe you can write (nee create) an important character and not understand their childhood, their family or their love life.  And, if they’re really important, I even need to know their favorite food, color and sexual proclivities.

Call me crazy, but you can’t really get a person unless you understand whether or not they were raised by wolves (Note: Literally and/or figuratively), what they like to eat and who they choose to… well, you know… or if they simply choose NOT to with anyone.

Let’s get personal

No judgments here.  Ask my writing students.  In fact, I get a perverse pleasure out of watching morally questionable behavior unfold as long as it’s earned.   But that’s just a start.  If you’ve made this stuff up by the numbers, or use it lazily to create ridiculous choices and/or inactions, it’s no better.  Either a lack of data and/or vigor means at the end of the day we (Note: Okay, I) won’t be able to feel it.  All you will be giving me is incomplete or hackneyed information neatly arranged into a bunch of consecutive index cards or visual PowerPoint presentations.

This, more than anything else, is my problem with most Robert Zemeckis films.  Not that anyone asked. #ForrestGump goes #BacktotheFuture3X.  And #WelcometoMarwen.

Janelle, you are way too cool for Welcome to Marwen #JUSTICEforJANELLE

This could all account for why I’ve been grossly riveted to cable news and the horrific events of our current Electoral College POTUS these last few days.

Childhood: Raised in my hometown of Queens. Beat the crap out of other kids his age and younger in his youth.  Expelled from high school and sent to military school.  Used Dad’s $$$ to get him out of the REAL military and into IVY league higher education, during which time he was known to have never picked up a book.

What? I’m tired!

Family:  Raised in my hometown of Queens (Note: Still) by extremely rich parents  who marketed in racism, corruption and various other dirty deeds in order to build and keep their massive empire afloat.

Love Life:  Married three times, during which there were countless affairs, various incidents of rage, violence and at least one case of alleged rape with his first wife.  More incidences of sexual harassment and inappropriate manhandling of women in airplanes, parties, movie premieres and television sets than anyone can count.  Or would want to.

Is it working?

Favorite Food: Well-done steak, french fries, ice cream, anything McDonalds and an estimated one DOZEN cans of Diet Cokes per day.

Favorite Color:  Gold. (Duh).

Sexual Proclivities:  I can’t even….   Stormy Daniels knows all.  Though let’s give equal credence to the mysterious #PeeTape once it surfaces.  Which it inevitably will.

If you say Pee Pee Tape three times, Stephen Colbert appears.

The consistent, salient details of DJT has, if nothing else, made me BELIEVE his most unlikely of stories.   That is because if you simply pay attention nothing is shrouded in fog.  The data continues to unfold in a consistent pattern and with the rigor of the best Shakespearean tragedies.  That is where, in the final act, the main character meets his inevitable demise because of every action he took in each scene of his play.

It doesn’t take much to see it’s all very Aristotle’s Poetics.

Both storytellers and audiences should take note for future reference.

The All-American Rejects – “Dirty Little Secret”

Cadavers in Revolt

NO, Kevin Hart will NOT host the Oscars this year despite self-elected Queen of Us Gays Ellen DeGeneres’ efforts to allow him to do so.

And NO, newly minted Congresswoman Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) was NOT smeared when right wing Republicans began re-tweeting a video of her fabulous self doing the Breakfast Club dance back in college.

And CERTAINLY NO, not even newly minted Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) became marginalized EVEN SLIGHTLY when Trump tried to chastise her this week for saying: WE’RE GONNA IMPEACH THE MOTHERF-CKER! 

That way of thinking is SO, SO, SOOOOO 2015.   If you haven’t been keeping up with the times, well, the rest of us have.  So you wanted the guardrails off, well guess what?

THE GUARDRAILS ARE OFF, MOTHER F-CKERS!  GET OUT OF OUR GOD D-MNED WAYS OR WE WILL CUT YOUR D—CKS OFF AND FEED THEM TO YOU FOR BREAKFAST.   Yeah, you too, Ellen.

Oh it’s about to GO DOWN

Oh, and finally, guess what what?  No way in the god d-mned world will I ever be marginalized, ostracized or slightly, even vaguely, smeared by writing that.  Sure, this is a blog but I do have a watchful editor and as any self-respecting WOKE FEMALE in 2019, SHE (Note: My editor, yeah, she’s a GIRL) is certainly, totally on board with that…and more.

I gotchu Chairy

You can’t have it both ways, kids.  All this faux outrage only works when you recognize there are standards and practices, things you can’t say or don’t say in polite company and intellectual discourse.  Norms one follows and morals one adheres to that are generally accepted by the whole of society, or at least by a majority of Electoral College and/or Motion Picture Academy voters.

But when you spend two years (and in some cases, many more) either subverting or ignoring those parameters in hopes of a Supreme Court justice or two, career fame and fortune or just plain expanding your audience in hopes of world-view domination, you DO NOT GET TO COMPLAIN NOW.

I guess kudos for being consistent #ignorance

All right, sure, you get to complain.  Yell and scream all you want, it’s a free country, right now.  But do NOT expect it to register much.  The general American zeitgeist may not be too swift on the whole but on the whole they do eventually get what’s faux and what is most certainly cadaverous outrage.

This temper tantrum you’re now having about the majority speaking up and grabbing some of the power you slyly and not so slyly stole from us in your attempts to marginalize anyone who didn’t agree with you, or worse yet, render them voiceless, these days registers as nothing more and nothing less than:

CADAVERS IN REVOLT.

You WISH you had these moves

Give me a friggin’ break, Ellen.  People that don’t want Kevin Hart to host the Oscars because he made AIDS jokes in 2004 and apologized by way of saying it was a different time then, are HATERS?  (Note:  Your words, hon, not mine).

And seriously, Congressmen, you’re going to actually BOO Congresswoman Ocasio-Cortez and no one else when she cast her vote for Nancy Pelosi to be Speaker of the House? And then say they were just playful boos?  What are you, eleven?  Are you playing kickball?  If you have a secret crush on her, why not playfully just go up to her and punch her in the arm?  Right, you can’t do that anymore in the age of #MeToo.  Then just speak to her privately and tell her you like her, despite everything.  No touching, though.

Oh, don’t back away from this, ELECTORAL COLLEGE POTUS and all of your minions and surrogates, one of whom is bound to be reading this.  Or at least, an acquaintance of a friend who might happen to whizz by it while surfing the web at 2 a.m. in search of Chair porn.

I’d rather look at this than “The Mule” #sorrynotsorry

You know for a fact that mother f-cker is just a term you use (Note: or he if you’re a surrogate) first thing in the morning at Mar-a-Lago in reference to your illegal alien cleaning lady when she doesn’t empty the gold plated garbage can of all those tissues you used the night before in your gold glited boudoir en suite.  Open concept, indeed.

Oh, do NOT start with us about mother f-cker, you MO FO.  You might not have been caught on tape saying the “N” word (Note: Yet) but you have proclaimed it’s okay to grab women by their p-ssies and have been widely quoted hurling F, S and B bombs by friends, acquaintances and co-workers on an hourly basis.

I mean….

Of course, you’re also the guy who told a friend that you thought Jared was A LITTLE SWEET (Note: GAY) when your daughter Ivanka first introduced you to her future husband so you’re right, it doesn’t make you quite as homo-hating as Mr. Hart.  Were it not your only offense.

#MeixcansAreRapists

#ShitHoleCountries

#GetThatSonofAB-tchOffTheField!

#GrabEmByTheP-ssy (Note:  Repeated for the number of times you’ve said it and it’s been written about over the last two and a half years and we’ve had to listen to it).

So please, when asked about the new Michigan Congresswoman referring to you as a mother f-cker at a bar, do not say stuff like:

I thought it was highly disrespectful to the United States of America

You really missed your calling in standup #HILARIOUS

We’d much rather have you curse.  At least that’d be honest.

For a change.

Because as former POTUS (both Electoral AND Popular Vote) Barack Obama once so eloquently stated:

We Are The Change We’ve Been Waiting For.

Know that you, as well as so many other power brokers in the mainstream (Note: Yes, we’re speaking to ALL of you), helped get us here.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Dancing – Breakfast Club Style

The Chair’s Must See Movies 2018

This is NOT a 10 best list.  Frankly, this year one would be hard pressed to talk about the best, as in:

We’ve got THE BEST MOVIES.

It would sound too much like that doll-haired huckster on TV shouting, with far too much certainty, things like:

I’ve got the best people…

I’ve got the best brain….

I’ve got the best words…

(Note to self:  Whenever someone has been reduced to telling you about their WORDS, run…don’t walk…to the exit).

My final thoughts on Electoral POTUS for 2018 #2019isMuellerTime

We like to say movies are all about images but what they really are is a combination of pictures AND words, mostly said by actual human beings, These two essentials are then arranged, ordered, stretched, edited, cut and re-interpreted to the point where they:

TELL A STORY.

But not just any story.  The most memorable must sees of any year show you people engaged on a journey that in some way is so unexpected, or familiar, that it grabs you and holds you even when you have to go to the bathroom and desperately want to let go.

Yup.  Must see movies have that kind of power and I’m just the middle-aged guy to personally testify to that fact.  Because if they’re done right you have a tough time breaking their spell despite what your body is pleading with you to do.

But even more difficult is getting them out of your mind.

Of course, this doesn’t mean they’re THE BEST in any given year.  After all, what is best at this point in time is starting 2019.   (Note: Hopefully.)

PLUS THE LAST AVENGERS MOVIE IN 2019!! (It is the last right? Right? RIGHT?)

Instead it means that in a time when pretty much everything FEELS and IS more important than any one movie, these films would NOT..LET…GO.  They held us, well me, to OUR CHAIR.  #ShamelessSelfPromotion

So screw the critics who want to make you feel dumb or out of it when you think to yourself things like:

Getcha glasses, here comes the shade

– I thought The Favourite was ridiculous and mean, as great as those three actresses were. 

– I felt Mary Poppins Returns was sacrilege and a sad excuse for Disney to make money.

– Nothing about Dick Cheney is remotely amusing, especially when one of our most handsome actors has to so ugly up his person to play him in Vice.

And —

– I wish Clint Eastwood would just STOP.   Or simply make a movie with an animal again.

The 2018 MUST SEES, in no particular order:

Three Identical Strangers

Do not adjust your screens, this is not three Andy Cohens

You know how you turned on the news most days in 2018 and thought/said – you can’t make this stuff up?  Well, no screenwriter could convincingly concoct this story and have it resonate the way it does – which is why it IS absolutely true.

A documentary about three wooly-haired Jewish triplets is crazy enough but what happens when they’re separated at birth, find each other in college and then….

It’s not fair to reveal more than the trailer.  Suffice it to say the story becomes bigger than the three boys and takes you on a JOURNEY…JOURNIES.  No excuses, it’s #Streaming.

Black Panther

Take me to Wakanda

Many of us weren’t interested in superhero comics as kids and even more of us have little interest in superhero movies now.  This does NOT mean we dislike them.  Like many adults, we are simply indifferent.

What the team behind Black Panther did in the most in the most subversive way was to NOT treat the film based on a somewhat obscure Marvel comic from the 1970s as SPECIAL  It was smart enough to know that with the first Black  Superhero Film EVER all that was needed was to tell a STORY that rang true and they could create the most meaningful movie of the genre to date.  That they did, and then some.

Does it suffer a few lags in the middle, a couple of confusing plot twists and several overly long action sequences?  Maybe.  But it also brought suspense and depth to an overdone genre not by adding another star villain but simply by being the best version of itself.

The Other Side of the Wind/They’ll Love Me When I’m Dead

Redeeming Orson

This is the newly finished final cut of the unfinished film Orson Welles started shooting more than 40 years ago and a documentary on the making of said film and of Welles’ final journey of incompletion.

There are more than a few moments of brilliance in Welles’ imperfectly perfect last film.  More than anything, this seriocomic mockumentary of itself and its real life filmmaker shows us once again how far ahead of his time Welles truly was (Note: Decades before reality TV) and just how deep his love-hate relationship with Hollywood ran.

The actual documentary on the making of the movie confirms most of what any movie fan could guess about the filmmaker and his subjects.  It plays as equal parts loving tribute, cautionary tale and historical document of the Hollywood filmmaking community.

There is no other filmmaker who can bridge the gap from the 1930s, up through the 1970s, and then just time into the 21st century so seamlessly.  The fact that Welles does it in two films via Netflix feels like his final middle finger to the town that lauded and then dumped him.  And after watching both pieces of work, that seems more than justified.

Can You Ever Forgive Me?

Let the Oscar buzz begin

What was the last film you saw featuring a nasty middle aged lesbian writer and an even older gay male party boy who strike up an unlikely friendship in 1970s/80s New York City?  Based on a true story?  Where they bilk collectors out of money by selling fake literary letters while blithely insulting all of the pretentious people you yourself are not fast enough to one-up in real life?

Hmm.  Never.  Though sounds like a typical Saturday for me.  Which is one of the many reasons I LOVED this film and it’s a must see.

The other is the surprisingly multi-layered, in-depth performance of Melissa McCarthy in the lead.  What a pleasure not seeing her spitting out a piece of pie to the camera, going to the bathroom in the middle of the road or flying through the air and squashing someone on her way down.

She and her co-star Richard E. Grant should both get Oscar nominations and every writer, or anyone who thinks they truly understand the writing life, or has ever written or read a book, should see it.  And not look at box-office figures or read the reviews. #GiveMeABreak

BlackKlansman

Talk about a good poster

Speaking of the Oscars, do you know Spike Lee has never even been NOMINATED for an Academy Award as best director??  Hopefully that changes this year.  It’s hard to imagine anyone but Lee bringing the right mix of comedy, irony and politics to what amounts to a story about race in our country.

Yeah, a real Black policeman in the 1970s DID pretend to be an aspiring member of the KKK on the phone to some real KKK members and actually began to rise through the ranks of  his local racists via the white Jewish  detective he got to pose as his physical self.

It’s so strange it works and so specifically scary that it resonates in 2018 politics.  One more reason it’s one of the must-sees of a year that will not have ended a bit too soon.  #DidIAlreadySayThat?

The Cold War

From the Director of IDA

It’s 89 minutes and as special as ANY movie you will see in 2018 or any year.  Polish filmmaker Pawel Pawlikowski has gifted us the story of his parents’ turbulent romantic relationship set against the 1950s Cold War in Poland.  But don’t let the title or the poster fool you. Unlike its title, it is intensely romantic, bizarrely strange, tragically quirky and so musically eclectic as to be right on the border of camp.

It is a pleasure to report that a filmmaker can tell a story with giant gaps in time and not confuse his audience; move arcs of characters in completely odd directions that feel perfectly understandable; and get us to buy it all in Polish and French with only English subtitles to guide us.  That and an unwavering bullsh-t detector that never allows for a single false moment.

If there is a film of the year, THIS ONE would be IT.

Ella Fitzgerald – “The Best is Yet to Come”

Bad Behaviour

There’s an old saying;

People get the government they deserve.

Let’s table that for a moment.

A less troubling but equally important question to ask ourselves during the 2018 holiday season is:

Do we get the movies we deserve?

I mention this because essentially the saying and the question broach the same issue. They ask us to consider whether the situations we now find ourselves in are inextricably linked to and reflective of:

 Who we really are.

Yeah, I’m not ready to look either.

The stock market has just cratered to its lowest December since the Great Depression (Note: The one in 1929).

Our Electoral College POTUS has just announced the US is leaving Syria (against the advice of all our top military brass) to be picked apart by a JUBILANT Russia and China. #YoureWelcomeVlad.

And our government has been arbitrarily shut down this holiday weekend by said EC POTUS, who tweeted the Democrats now own the shutdown! after last week publicly stating  he would be proud to own the shutdown if he didn’t get the money to build his Border Wall Slats Whatever.

I’m with you Charlie Brown

Oh my, it’s confusing.

But not as confusing as to why so many of us will be spending our holidays watching nasty big screen dramedies about such inspiring figures as Dick Cheney (Vice) and England’s Queen Anne (The Favourite).

And yes, this IS much easier to talk about.  And write about.

An Oscar for Rachel Weisz’s eyepatch please #earlypredictions

The latter was a 17th century monarch mired in self-loathing, as well as a toxic lesbian triangle entirely of her own making – and manipulation.

The former was  (in case memory fails) an oil chief who grunted his way into power and self-created a war in Iraq based on “specious” facts.   A man who survives to this day after numerous heart attacks, a pacemaker, and finally someone else’s heart entirely  – all the while reveling in the ominous nickname the majority of the country have for him – Darth Vader.

Pretty much

Well, Merry Christmas to all of you, too!

And — HAPPY NEW YEAR!!

VICE and THE FAVOURITE are certainly not the only movies to see this week but they are among the newest, most touted and certainly most noteworthy.  They’re considered to be prestige pictures and must-see films.

They are also both rotten to their cores – celebrating a kind of ruthless, sociopathic lust to get power and remain in power during which time their “heroes” all wittily revel in the massive carnage they create around them as they crush anyone who dares to question their power.

It’s good to clarify

These films don’t so much take a look at the individuals at their center but serve up their extreme behaviors as a brooding, bloody kind of entertainment spectacle for the masses.  They are in so many ways both Grand Guignol yukfests and serious historical biopics,  each masquerading as the other when it’s most convenient.

When important dramatic questions beg to be answered, better to evaporate into fringe conduct peppered with either hysterical shrieks or guttural grunts.  On the other hand, when an important issue is reduced to egocentric flippancy, what better way is there than to evoke the trappings of the Crown or the White House, amid the deaths of their respective soldiers, in order to drag us back into the urgency of the situation at hand.

Ugh, along with bonus 80s drag #yuck

Just as it might be too soon to laugh at Dick Cheney and his antics in and around Iraq and the Capitol Building it feels faux cheeky to watch three  17th century ruling class lesbians mire around in the mud and curse like sailors for our own amusement.

Yeah, yeah – they said naughty words back then but never to such syncopated snappy effect.  And sure, sure, it was a scream and a half when Cheney shot that guy in the face but what is the point of watching him and his wife get hot for each other in bed while reciting Shakespeare??  God, I’d like to unsee that.

Agh Ew No!

Not to get all Hollywood movie executive – but can’t we at least have SOMEONE to root for or feel sorry for or just plain want to be with for two plus hours?  Even Bale’s Patrick Bateman was more sympathetic than Cheney.  Certainly, he was a lot easier to look at.

Yes, it’s an amazing parlor trick to see a handsome guy like Christian Bale transformed into a bald, bloated bellicose VICE slithering his way to the top with no discernible guilt or crisis of conscience for his misdeeds even as a plethora of facts confront him to the contrary.  It sort of reminds you of….well, turn on the news.

IS IT OVER YET?!

At the same time, watching three ladies so cleverly bitch at each other is a unique screen treat these days, if not quite politically correct.  Though one supposes if you are going to have three  (count ‘em!) lesbian characters engage power in a major motion picture where men are relegated to nothing but sex objects, impotent fools or embattled warriors as mere pawns, you should be given credit for a certain progressiveness – a kind of reversal of gender destinies.

Still, one can’t help but feel like it’s all a crock and we’ve simply devolved into a sadly reflective state.  A period in our culture where we need to minimize real life bad behavior by peppering it with enough humor and absurdity to make it go down easier.  A kind of whistling at the gallows.

What more timely message can the movies give us through which to close 2018?

Jill Scott – “Hate On Me”

Addiction Du Jour

So I’m sitting here listening to Jada Pinkett Smith talk about addiction because what else would you do on a Saturday afternoon when deadlines are looming and you have a dozen and half more student scripts to read?

Killin’ it

You might want to know that it turns out Jada has a talk show on Facebook Watch (Note:  So this is a thing now?) called Red Table Talk with her Mom (Adrienne) and daughter (Willow) and the random guest where they share three generational perspectives on…issues.

Now I’m not a Jada fan, or even non-fan, though I remain rankled by her husband Will Smith refusing to kiss a guy onscreen decades ago when he played a gay character in the film adaptation of Six Degrees of Separation.

Never has there been a more appropriate usage of this gif #ByeWill

Still, that’s not her responsibility and I did enjoy her in Bamboozled.  Though I really dislike the idea of people home schooling their kids, which apparently the Smiths have done.  And I think we can all also agree her announced Oscar boycott a couple of years ago, partly due to Will not being nominated for, ahem, Concussion, was a bit grand and a bit much.

On the other hand, who’s to say?  #OscarsSoWhite became more of a thing and the next year Moonlight did win best picture.

All of this is #SoNotMyBusiness, of course.

I don’t know these people and have no right to judge them.  Except, well, I do – most of us do – especially when they expose their personal lives to us via…well, I was going to say television.  But silly me, Red Table Talk is a web series, which is not exactly TV even though it involves a small screen with talking heads and programming you can make disappear with the flick of your finger.

TV? Phone? Remote? I have no idea.

Don’t knock that power.  How much did you wish you could make disappear this week?

Somehow watching Jada’s Mom talk about her years as a heroin addict, Will’s sister admitting up until a week ago she was stoned on grass 24/7 and Jada recalling her own sex addiction back in her twenties became, in itself, addicting.  At least for the 15 plus minutes it was on.  Add to this the presence August Alsina, the seemingly tough guy young singer she and Mom recently helped out of pill addiction and I began to wonder if my continued interest wasn’t the latent addiction gene that I know I carry but had always managed to keep at bay, finally rearing its ugly head.

Suffice it to say – no.

We’re all addicted to addiction and not necessarily in a good way.

Pretty much

Although…I lament on how unable I am on most days to turn off cable news.   And when I had my students watch Boogie Nights last month I could see the look of sheer terror in some of their eyes when I casually mentioned that porn was not always free to watch over and over again on the Internet.  Speaking of which, is Twitter raging an addiction?

That’s obviously rhetorical.

Three major movies at the moment spotlight addiction.  Julia Roberts tries valiantly to keep her son from going back on drugs in Ben is Back, Steve Carrell valiantly trying to understand why his son does drugs in Beautiful Boy and Lady Gaga is torn up inside and out that the man she loves and knew was an addict before she married him is now back on drugs in A Star Is Born.

I was so moved by this scene I almost forgot the terrible orange hair moment. #ALLY

The old sick joke at the newspaper I once worked at was that it took at least three concurrent examples to even begin to consider something a trend at any moment in time.  So if we add Twitter raging to the mix, well…. draw your own conclusion.  But know another golden journalism rule I learned in grad school at Northwestern — never rule out the obvious.

(Note: You’re welcome since I just provided you with several thousands of dollars of valuable education gratis).

The price is right

In too many ways all three of these film stories are rather obvious, but, isn’t that part of the attraction?  We know these people, we’ve seen these people or perhaps we are these people.  All of us addicts.  Or enablers.  And sometimes both.

Tom Arnold just claimed in Newsweek that even self-proclaimed never tasted alcohol Electoral College POTUS Trump habitually snorted Adderall on the set of NBC’s The Apprentice.  Stand up comic Noel Casler, who says he worked on the show for six years called the EC POTUS a speed freak and said his obsession/ogling of the female contestants on the Miss Teen Universe pageant he owned was something akin to what would happen if you gave Jeffrey Dahmer a cooking show. 

It’s just beyond #MUELLERHURRY

None of this is pretty but we don’t live in pretty times.  Therefore, the more we can understand our addictions and/or the addicts we love, or love to hate, the sooner we can make the necessary informed choices.

They may not all be our cups of tea but let’s not pretend A Star is Born, Ben is Back and Beautiful Boy don’t offer us all something and that together they’re not a trend. We can even learn from Jada Pinkett Smith, god help us.

Joan Jett & The Blackhearts – “I Hate Myself For Loving You”

 

Hostess with the Mostest

This year’s Oscars should be co-hosted by Wanda Sykes, Tiffany Haddish and Viola Davis. Wit, class, diversity and what the Motion Picture Academy most seems to be looking for – an expansion of its viewing audience.

That’s industry parlance for higher ratings

AKA MONEY #timetogetreal

I partly suggest this because I am so sick of men.  That’s quite a statement coming from a gay guy, but, trust me it’s true.  If I didn’t already have a husband I’d be taking a break.

After the Electoral College POTUS, Harvey Weinstein, Bill Cosby, Kevin Spacey and Les Moonves of it all we get…Kevin Hart as THE choice to host the annual TV show that gets the biggest ratings of the year?  Well, among the biggest ratings these days because that number has rapidly been decreasing, among so many numbers for network television.

I can’t

Still, this pick (rescinded two days later) says so much about the entertainment industry – in this case quite an apt stand-in for our immediate world – and its ability to perceive what’s going on in the zeitgeist.

That’s Chair parlance for reality.

Let’s be clear – I don’t want to get rid of all men, or shall I say, all straight men.  Some of my best friends are…

We know, Chairy.

I’m only advocating we, well… try to take a look around and through, inside and out, and up and over.

Kevin Hart.  If you want the full details of his tweets, have at it here.

But here’s a quick summary.  He’s admitted to being physically violent with his wife, even spent a night in jail for it.  There was also a sex tape of him cheating on her when she was eight months pregnant but let’s put that to the side because, well, who doesn’t cheat on their pregnant wife?

The Chair bringing the shade

Mr. Hart has joked more than once that if he caught his son playing with a doll house it would mean he was gay and he’d hit him over the head with it and say, stop it, that’s gay.  In fact, that’s gay or that’s so gay seems like it was his go-to twitter insult from, ok…2007-2011.  He even made an AIDS joke about Damien Wayans back then, saying his social media pic looked like a gay billboard for AIDS.

Explaining himself in a 2015 Rolling Stone interview, Mr. Hart said he wouldn’t do those jokes anymore because, the times, when I said it, weren’t as sensitive as they are now.

Yeah, we need to talk

See…this is the crux of the problem

For some people, the times only become sensitive when they get caught or called out for their… stuff.  Or as All in the Family’s Archie Bunker once eloquently stated nationwide on CBS –TV in the early 1970s:

She (Eleanor Roosevelt) was the one who discovered the coloreds in this country.  We never knew they was there!

When you talk crap so publicly so often and gain any sort of success or profile (Note: Or even if you are unknown and just say it too loud or to the wrong person) you get held accountable for your actions these days.

On the same token, when YOU are the one to bring up what someone said and challenge them on it it’s likely you will get called out in some corners for being the PC police. That pejorative is sort of like the alt-middle version of fake news but without the knee-jerk mass revulsion now finally beginning to be associated with Trumpism.

Yet, when we face the issue, we can see how one is the outgrowth of the other.

When someone tells you — Racism, sexism, homophobia – we just weren’t aware of this stuff pre 1960’s.  It was a different time – you can answer : Yeah, you did and well, sure it was.  What was different is that people didn’t make fun en masse about your minority group because you won the genetic lottery ticket of the moment that excluded you from marginalization.  (Note: Or you were in the majority).

So, big congrats on that.

To which they might answer:

But before we complain and lament about oversensitivity and political correctness – can’t we joke about anything, anymore??? 

“Everyone is just SO sensitive” says the white men who lament a “War on Christmas” #HappyHolidays

To which you reply:  Okay, but let’s look at what’s being asked for.  All that’s being asked for is – a look.

I got called out on social media this week by one woman who wrote that as a Jewish person she’s heard many celebrities go on anti-Semitic rants, including members of the LGBTQ community and that SHE never asked that they not work.

Oh lady, I haven’t had enough coffee to deal with you

Well, no one is saying Kevin Hart should never work.  I mean, I’m not hiring him but, hey… knock yourself out, he’s a movie star…ish.  He’s just not the right host for the Oscars.  Would you want Mel Gibson hosting the Oscars, lady???

Not to mention, you HAVE to know I’m Jewish.  Who else but a Jewish gay man from New York with the insatiable need to always have the last word would ever take the time to answer you back so incessantly, Ms. Laurie Freedman Fannin?!

Oh yes, that is her real name.  Look her up on Facebook.  Especially if you agree with me.  Please.

LOL, you shady Chair, you!!

The real point is, any of the above-mentioned information about Mr. Hart, et. al was available to the Academy through a quick Google search weeks, months and years before they made that choice.  You can be edgy, more than edgy, and still proceed with due diligence and basic consideration.

This is how we get to Wanda Sykes, Tiffany Haddish and Viola Davis.

Here for this!

All women in the #MeToo era.

All people of color in a year when Black Panther and BlackkKlansman seem like sure bet nominees (and perhaps winners in multiple categories).

Wanda Sykes – One of the best standups in the country who happens to be an out lesbian, thus satisfying the mantra of trying to get a comedian host and knowing there are also multiple LGBTQ themed films that will receive nominations.

I’m on my way!

Viola Davis – A past Oscar WINNER (Fences) and multi-nominee (The Help, Doubt) who has had a hit show, How to Get Away With Murder, on ABC (the network that also broadcasts the Oscars) for the past five years.

You know Annalise would slay #nobrainer

Tiffany Haddish – A younger comic actress who WON the prestigious New York Film Critics award last year for a breakout performance (Girl’s Trip) and now STARS in her own movies. In fact, her latest is the current box-office hit, Night School, where she gets to beat the crap out of Kevin Hart!

Heck knows, I’m not that smart.  I just put in a tiny bit of thought on the matter and used The Google.

You’d think the Academy would do the same.  Or would you?

Aretha Franklin – “Respect”