Media Matters

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I was on national television this week. It wasn’t a big deal. Except it sort of is when you’re not a celebrity or someone that people are used to seeing on TV. This is because…well, just why is that exactly?

Not to mention, couldn’t they have interviewed me without showing my bald spot? Was that final over-the-shoulder angle really necessary? Plus, how come my face was shiny at points while the reporter asking the questions always had a perfectly matte complexion?  Well, the segment was called Rossen Reports so clearly Jeff Rossen takes precedence over me. Then there’s the fact that he has better hair. And a lot more of it. For now.

Anyway, these are the thoughts that linger. Much more than anything you say. Remember that the next time you call Barbra Streisand a diva or decide to make fun of Beyoncé’s demands. It really does take a village. For most of us.

Oh, I just woke up like this

Oh, I just woke up like this

Oh, and one final word about the looks department. I really do now understand why Nora Ephron entitled one of her last books I Feel Bad About My Neck. Men are secretly no different from women in this regard (despite the fact that the subtitle to Ephron’s book was And Other Thoughts on Being a Woman). We just don’t publicly utter the words. But for every male celebrity you think looks fantastic at any age, there is a closet Barbra or Beyoncé lurking and a Nora secretly thinking. So consider the veil lifted on that end because after many decades in the entertainment industry and my very limited encounters in front of the camera I now, more than ever, know this for Oprah sure. Yes, even George Clooney and Ryan Gosling have to give it some thought, despite the Jon Hamm of it all.

Of course, I’m straying from my original point. The national appearance was on Thursday’s Today show in the prime 7:30-8am period. This followed an appearance on the local KNBC 11:00 news two weeks earlier (and of course my blog post about it). And unlike Kimye, I would really have gladly exchanged the whole thing just for some piece and quiet.

Click here to see my moment of fame

Click here to see my moment of fame

As some of you might know, this all started with the inconsiderate asshat living above us. For the last six months he has been illegally renting out his house for many thousands of dollars per night to dozens of different patrons who host indoor/outdoor after hours parties. Of course, I like a party as much as anyone but, trust me, you don’t want to be living directly below the kind that start at midnight and go till 6 am almost every weekend and even on some weekdays. Unless it’s your house and your shindig. And even then.

When the police and local politicians get called, written to and lobbied dozens of times and do very little, where is one to turn in the age of more pressing issues like murder, death, drugs, campaign financing and ISIS? I’ll tell you where – the media. And if the cost of that is not coming across on camera looking and acting as you had always imagined – and know FOR SURE that you always do – well it’s a small price to pay for the peace of mind (and quiet) that I now have in spades. Hopefully, it will last longer than my 15 minutes of fame.

NYerInternetFollowing Cartoon

Yes, that’s right – since I appeared on camera in these two reports there have been no parties blasting everything from “disco to Snoop Dog” and no more nightmare nights or entire weekends filled with “torture.” (Note: Did I really put it exactly that way? Was that the very best that I could do? I don’t think so. And I certainly would have denied I said it in that fashion had I not seen the footage for myself. Of course, it could have been doctored. I mean, I don’t really sound exactly that way. Right?)

Anyway, for all of the above, even the parts that I KNOW in my heart of hearts were doctored despite all evidence to the contrary – I am extremely appreciative to the media – especially KNBC’s consumer reporter Joel Grover, NBC’s Jeff Rossen and everyone who works with them. Nothing else matters but the peace and quiet because I know that a. they were doing the best they could with what I gave them and b. I would’ve done a lot more to once again only be haunted by the garden variety strange sounds circulating in my head on a daily basis.

I mean, I could have done more

I mean, I could have done more

Which brings up this question:

How do we address the truth about those issues and things we don’t know as well as ourselves, considering that the reality of our knowledge on the latter is limited?

Not very well, I’m afraid.

It’s time for us all, myself at the top of the list, to consistently remind ourselves that all we are really getting on TV (Note: Feel free to substitute, print, web, virtual information and/or entertainment sources) is that interview, appearance or performance in that moment in time. This even goes for any encounter you might have with someone on the public stage live and in person. I mean, would you want to always be judged by the snotty answer you spit back at a co-worker on the day your lover dumped you or the dirty look you gave to the person standing next to you in the elevator who was wearing enough cologne or perfume to seduce the Entire Seventh Fleet? (Note: Okay fine, truth be known I’m good with all the cologne/perfume looks I’ve ever previously given).

I never leave home without my gas mask

From the elevator collection

Taken one step further, how really reliable is any of the information we have on the more pressing issues of the day?   You can’t count on every slickly produced news package you see to have ME in them, telling you the absolute facts – throwing all caution to the wind about how I appear for the good of the issue at hand. There are a lot of manipulators, even liars in our midst, who will do a lot more, including making a lot more noise (NOTE: Trust me on that one) to get you to their side of the coin.

This week I couldn’t help but think of all the brouhaha about Hillary Clinton’s emails. I mean, do I really give a crap what server she used or what she did or didn’t say? At its worst it has to be better than most of the stuff that Dick Cheney and George W. Bush uttered publicly. Certainly, it’s a lot smarter. (Note: Yes, that is my opinion, which we’ve established is absolute truth).

Will we still get the puns when Jon is gone?

Will we still get the puns when Jon is gone?

Then I considered the openly public letter to the Islamic State of Iran written by a man who has only been in the Senate for two months – Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AK) – and signed by him and 46 other Senators while our sitting president is in the midst of secret nuclear disarmament talks with said country.

I mean, only the fate of the entire world hangs in the balance. So it’s not wrong to wonder, what was the real meaning of this unprecedented (Note: Meaning it’s never happened) move? Treason? Political opportunism? Or true concern about the global realities that the universe has in store for us if their POVs go unspoken (nee unwritten)?

Oh.. they didn't send an email?

Oh.. they didn’t send an email?

The answers to these and other questions are, of course, above my pay grade – and probably yours. But if I know that my two recent TV appearances created the change I wanted in my limited world imagine how well both sides on the above issues could do in convincing you of their reality? All I had on my side was the truth. They actually have a team of experts you can trust. Or choose not to.

Think about that how you will. I myself will go ponder it in the new silence of my old home. Off-camera.

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The Oscar Race

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There is not much to count on in life anymore but one of the constants is that upon the announcement of the Academy Award nominations there will be a significant group of people outraged by the choices made by the group’s almost 6,000 voting members. This is not to denigrate the passionate emotions those who are outraged display. I myself have still not gotten over the fact that Mia Farrow was not nominated for her star turn in Rosemary’s Baby and that movie was released before I reached adolescence (Note: Yes, it’s true, I had opinions even then). Not to mention, we’re not taking into account the biggest Oscar slight of all – Judy Garland losing the best actress race to Grace Kelly in 1955. I mean, all things being equal could you honestly say that you’d rather watch The Country Girl on a loop until the end of time rather than A Star Is Born??? Please.

Lest we forget 1951's blasphemy

Lest we forget 1951’s blasphemy

So you see where I’m going with this.

This year the principal outrage is about the movie Selma receiving only two Academy Award nominations – one for best picture and the other for best song. So powerful were the passions stirred that the hashtag #OscarsSoWhite began trending almost instantly. Among my favorites was:

#OscarsSoWhite that the statue counts as a person of color.

Oh snap!

Oh snap!

Bravo! (or Brava!) to whoever thought of that one.

As a lifelong Oscar watcher, former entertainment reporter, person who has been going to Academy screenings for 30 years, and screenwriter who admittedly would LOVE to at some point get nominated for one of those things as I’m simultaneously made fun of by 50 million people from their beds and/or living rooms, let me just say this:

None of this is fair. And it is NOT a conspiracy of exclusion. The day that the creative types and non-creative types who make up the membership of the Academy could truly agree on what is a good movie is the day when Oscar watching will cease to be an attraction. Or even vaguely interesting. Which, in laymen’s terms means — IT WILL NEVER HAPPEN.

Here’s the deal. Minorities ARE underrepresented in movies. But if you take the entire list of films in distribution in each year, so are — intelligence, depth, humanity, and individuality.

And just think.. 3 years ago this was the Black and White debate of the Oscars

And just think.. 3 years ago this was the Black and White debate of the Oscars

There are a MINORITY number of films in release these days with many of the above qualities and most of those are the ones being considered for Oscar statuettes. That’s a small number compared to the amount of movies each year that can qualify for consideration by the Academy but a large number when taken as a group unto themselves. So given that most categories are limited to five nominees means that when it comes down to it there is A LOT of competition for those top slots.

What happens then is that it becomes a matter of taste. Well, all you have to do is go into the recently revamped bland, near empty, high-tech nightmare that accounts for the new lobby of the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences and you can see that its ingenuity in that area is – to be kind – sorely lacking. While it does deserve credit for keeping the traditional cushy red velvet seats in the Samuel Goldwyn Theatre – still the best sound and best place in town overall to see a movie – the design of the new lobby itself tells you all you need to know about the organization’s taste level at this moment – or really, any moment. And that is – well, go down the list of nominations and judge for yourself. The one thing that is for certain is that you can find quite a bit not to like.

The only Oscar lobby we care about this year

The only Oscar lobby we care about this year

It’s difficult to defend the Academy’s record for the employment and recognition of non-white, non-male and non-heterosexual people on the whole. On the same token, it’s equally difficult to find much consistency in many of their choices. For instance, if the 21st century of Academy voters were truly white-centric why did they award Oscars to 12 Years A Slave last year for best picture, screenplay and supporting actress, among the film’s nine nominations? If they are so white, traditional and such an insular club, how is it that they failed to even NOMINATE the unofficial KING of Hollywood directors, Steven Spielberg, for best director on The Color Purple in 1986 yet saw fit to vote the movie a whopping 11 nominations back then?

Apparently having brown eyes also puts you in the minority. #creepy

Apparently having brown eyes also puts you in the minority. #creepy

Don’t try to answer because none of it makes any sense and it’s about as fair as who wins the lottery or is chosen to participate in The Hunger Games. Though it is a lot more fun to watch than either. Especially when the right people lose and the wrong people win. Admittedly those are sad facts but undoubtedly true ones.

I took myself to see Selma a few days ago before I weighed in on any of this. I liked the film, which gained power as it went on – not unlike the march for voting rights did in Selma. Its director Ava DuVernay did a fine job and David Oyelowo so powerfully evoked the spirit of the late Dr. Martin Luther King in such a uniquely human fashion that there were occasional moments that felt like discarded behind-the-scenes documentary footage rather than beats of a large scale, mainstream Hollywood-type movie.

And to think he's British!

And to think he’s British!

Yes, it would have been just to finally have an African American woman nominated for best director. In fact, it’s beyond ridiculous that it hasn’t yet happened. But when going over the list of nominees, who clearly doesn’t belong and should absolutely be eliminated?

Alejandro G. Inarritu, Birdman

Richard Linklater, Boyhood

Not going to happen. Those two are the frontrunners of arguably the most unusual and complicated films made this year. So that leaves three more slots.

Wes Anderson, The Grand Budapest Hotel

Morten D. Tydlum, The Imitation Game

Bennett Miller, Foxcatcher

One thing's for sure: they all need a haircut.

One thing’s for sure: they all need a haircut.

Well, I for one always feel left in the lurch with Wes Anderson movies (Note: Students don’t hate me and yes, it’s probably a bit generational). Yet given the complicated visual execution here and the fact that the Academy has a new and growing group of younger voters who have finally brought the average age down to somewhere around 60, you can see why it’s hard to argue a case against this. It’s a film that feels hip and quirky and there almost always seems to be one slot for that.

The Imitation Game is, like Selma, somewhat of a film about injustice but unlike the march for civil rights it centers on the life of a little known previously unsung GAY man who pioneered the use of computers which significantly contributed to the Allies winning WWII (Note: Never underestimate WWII stories in Academy circles).

OK... maybe not all of the time.  #sorryangie

OK… maybe not all of the time. #sorryangie

It’s also strangely about humanity and civil rights but also manages to make the puzzles surrounding the computers that baffle most Academy voters in daily life seem decipherable. All told that’s a triple relevance factor overall and it’s hard to compete with that.

That leaves Bennett Miller’s nomination for Foxcatcher, a rather unsavory, artsily-disturbing look at a murder. It has a lot of sparse, directorial flourishes and features a beloved comic actor who has not been recognized previously by the Academy in a stomach churning, disturbing star turn. One can’t imagine it’s the White choice or even the commercial choice. The oddness of it feels like the choice of the director’s branch – a group composed primarily of men who probably related to its themes of maleness.

And yet THIS is the Academy president

And yet THIS is the Academy president

The latter could alone validate the reasons of the outraged and the fact that certainly more female-driven stories need to be made, hopefully by more female directors. Meanwhile, the one female to actually win best director, Kathryn Bigelow, did so seven years ago for The Hurt Locker – a war film with maleness written all over it, despite its female director. 12 Years A Slave had an even more violent underpinning and also got recognized in spite of, or perhaps because of, its quite violent subject matter. Hmmm.

This all does not address the best director omission this year of perennial Oscar alpha male favorite Clint Eastwood for American Sniper, The Theory of Everything’s James Marsh’s unique take on Stephen Hawking, or why Whiplash could get a best picture, screenplay and supporting actor nod while Damien Chazelle was completely left out of the aforementioned category. Did that movie direct itself?

Ageism?

Ageism?

Best actor is an even more impossible competition. Do you by pass by Michael Keaton for Birdman, Eddie Redmayne in Theory of Everything, or Benedict Cumberbatch in Imitation Game? Those three were locks. That leaves two major movie star, star turns. Both Bradley Cooper and Steve Carell left behind all traces of their charismatic and jovial selves in American Sniper and Foxcatcher and if nothing else the acting branch are suckers for that. I would wager at least a box of Red Vines and a small Diet Coke that Mr. Oyelowo came in sixth for a performance that was so good it managed to blend into the movie rather than stand above it. That is a credit to him as an actor, regardless of race. It is just not always the best strategy to net an Oscar nomination in a super competitive year. One only needs to look at the Oscar nominated best actor performance of Chiwetel Ejiofor in 12 Years A Slave last year to see the difference. Which begs the question of why Jake Gyllenhaal in Nightcrawler was overlooked this year for totally transforming into…well, see it. My guess is he was #7 even though he clearly delivered one of the three best acting jobs of any sex or race in 2014.

Someone get this man a hot meal!

Someone get this man a hot meal!

Of course, this and all other Oscar analyses and prognostications are sheer guesswork.   Yes, we all need a lot more work on inclusion and equal opportunity. But like most of us, Oscar is primarily an equal opportunity offender. Which is to say there is no coherent reason for why they are doing the offending in the first place.  This makes it quite different from the events in Selma and near impossible to come up with a reasonable explanation as to why that film received a paucity of nominations.   Or why some of the others you and I didn’t care for received a plethora of them.

Which doesn’t mean I won’t be watching, waiting and ready to comment when they give out those little suckers for the 87th time next month – along with most of the rest of you.