And the Winner Isn’t…

screen-shot-2017-02-27-at-1-44-31-pm

Much will be made about the 2017 Academy Awards broadcast where La La Land enjoyed a full two minutes as best picture only to have its Oscars literally yanked out of its producers hands so they could be given to the real winner, Moonlight.

But for all the wrong reasons.

LALALAND.... MOONLIGHT... LALALAND... MOONLIGHT #couldntresist

LALALAND…. MOONLIGHT… LALALAND… MOONLIGHT #couldntresist

The issue is not at all about whether La La Land or Moonlight was truly deserving of the ultimate Hollywood honor (Note: Other than box-office grosses, that is) but just how interested all of us spectators are in having our feelings publicly validated in the matter. And how little it all means in the long run.

Is there a best picture of 2016? Of course there is. Isn’t. Is there?

As I posted last night:

If only every one of my actions supported that statement 100% of the time.

I certainly BELIEVE there is no real best picture winner. But that still hasn’t prevented me from rooting for one every year since 1968 – when Oliver! snatched the trophy right out of the hands of my beloved Funny Girl.   But at least the playing field was a bit more leveled back then. They were BOTH musicals.

Truth be told, I did think Moonlight and La La Land were wonderful.

And…I was on team La La Land.

Ya don't say!! #fakeshock

Ya don’t say!! #fakeshock

La La Land moved me in a way no other movie did this year. I related to it. I thought it struck an extraordinarily tone between the real and surreal that seemed, while I was watching it, and even now on reflection, pretty much impossible to achieve. It also spoke to me about artistry, and love, and the price we pay for each with our fantasies. And in our real lives.

Moonlight also spoke to me, especially as a gay man of a certain age. As did Hidden Figures – a treasure of mainstream Hollywood movie making – by showcasing true historical injustice as only great Hollywood films can.

Three VERY different films

Three VERY different films

But neither in the same way as La La Land.

This does not make me right or wrong on the subject of what is the best picture of the year. Nor does it belie character defects of anti-intellectualism, superficiality or an anti-indie, anti-IMPORTANT motion picture belief system.

It just means I liked the damn film more than perhaps you did.

And as time went on I grew SO tired of defending it to those of you on the other TEAM that I began to love it even more — as I slowly and perhaps unknowingly even began to figure out ways to out-argue the rest of the world about why YOUR CHOICE didn’t deserve the BEST trophy over MY DATE.

Did someone say date? #heygurl

Did someone say date? #heygurl

I mean, who even knew I was playing that game. Did you know you were? Okay, maybe you weren’t. But some of you were (are?). Because I know I am not the only one of us Americans weighing in here.

It’s really such an American game, the Oscars. We just love our winners and losers. And this was well before our current technical POTUS.   There’s just something about being #1 that is so totally Us. Until it’s not.

And that is what the Sunday night’s big Oscar screw-up leaves Us with. The hollowness of being thought of as #1 instead of settling for living a life where you truly exude classic #1 behavior.

I am still trying to wrap my head around having this much composure and grace in the moment. #realclass

I am still trying to wrap my head around having this much composure and grace in the moment. #realclass

The producer of La La Land had it when he graciously proclaimed Moonlight the true winner and said he was proud to be able to hand his Oscar over to his “friends” (Note: That four-month awards circuit creates lots of lasting Hollywood friendships). Team Moonlight had it in countless post-Oscar interviews where it threw the respect right back at La La Land. Meryl Streep had it when she led the applause for best actress winner Emma Stone. And Matt Damon has it every time he allowed Jimmy Kimmel to mercilessly and very personally insult him and his past work in their many years long public faux feud.

Let's be real: you would totally watch We Bought a Zoo on a plane #andyoudlikeit

Let’s be real: you would totally watch We Bought a Zoo on a plane #andyoudlikeit

Well, what does it cost them when they are the beneficiaries of such good press for being such good sports, you might say. Well, as much as it costs us when we don’t get our due, our validation, when it comes to our tastes, opinions or choice of award winners.   We, who are really all just a bunch of onlookers, sitting on a really, really, really long bench of public opinion rabidly addressing our…prey.

Sure, this is a thin and perhaps too superficial argument from which to make a grand statement on tolerance and understanding and benevolence, especially since statistically speaking there is little to none of any of that in the entertainment industry to begin with. Though no more or less than there now is through the rest of the country, or the world, or in any other industry inhabited inside any of the aforementioned for that matter.

And when in doubt... LaLaLand comes out on DVD in May

And when in doubt… LaLaLand comes out on DVD in May

What #OscarsSoScrewedUp (#OscarSoWhoops?) showed us so beautifully and so specifically is that, in the end, perhaps the BEST use of our time is to save our energies for the upcoming battles that will be required fighting – and not from the bench but in the arena.

And…..for all of you haters to watch La La Land.

Again and again till you get it right.

Oh wait, I mean…MOONLIGHT. Watch Moonlight!

The Film of 2016

screen-shot-2016-12-18-at-3-22-01-pm

More than half the country’s voters (by 2.8 million and counting) are bemoaning the year 2016 and can’t wait for it to come to an end. Certainly, I am one of them. I mean, not only did a lunatic become president-elect but Florence Henderson died. One wonders – how much worse can it get???

OH C'MON! #effthisyear

OH C’MON! #effthisyear

And yet, this year did offer one very significant piece of filmic art. A work that provides a road map for our futures and could possibly inspire generations to come.

It is the most important film of the year.

And just might be the most significant motion picture of the next four years.

A movie that thinkers and dreamers will return to time and again as we forage our way through the hell of our futures —

6z33f0

Wait a minute…

This is not to say it is the best film of the year. I will leave that for others to determine. It is not even to say that it will be in your top 10. Perhaps you don’t like musicals. Maybe you hate L.A. Or perhaps (and maybe) you have no patience for the dreamers among us. Certainly, that attitude is popular these days. Lord knows what it will be in two, three or twelve months from now.

oh hey 2017!

oh hey 2017!

Still, there is a timely importance to La La Land whether it’s to your taste or not. Whether you love it, hate it, or if it wins any Oscars or Razzies at all.

La La Land offers a road map on how to proceed. It shows us methods to cope. And it eventually delivers a desirable if not bittersweet future which, given the current circumstances of our real lives, is a terribly tempting reality for which to strive for in the next 48 months. And awfully clever for a fantasy film.

No, I am not overstating this. And note: there will be no spoilers here.

You can trust the chair #kisskiss

You can trust the chair #kisskiss

Granted, as a show biz aspirant who arrived in Hollywood decades ago with my own version of stars in my eyes, perhaps I’m a bit partial. But I don’t think so. What’s the old adage – “everyone has two businesses, their business and show business?”

You don’t think that’s true? Go back to your hometown anywhere in the U.S. and, despite how they voted, see what happens when you tell them you work in film or television.

#lifegoals

#lifegoals

The plot isn’t much. A guy and a gal in their twenties each trying to make a big dream in their lives come true in a world that keeps saying:

No, not on my watch. What you want is impossible and you don’t have the karma or smarts or talent to bring off what you choose to do.

Being young and in their twenties – and yes, looking like Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling (Note: Remember this is a metaphor & okay maybe he’s in his thirties but who cares), they keep fighting. And failing. And failing yet again. Then they figure out other ways to get their dreams that seem like they’ll work but sadly, do not.

Along the way they find each other and that’s nice.

But something still doesn’t feel quite right. They are not living up to who they are and what they believe deep down in their souls. And if you can’t do that, well, it’ll only be a matter of time before everything else in your life and world will turn to shit. (Okay, I’m inserting my own philosophies here but that’s their general point. Or, well, at least mine here).

Bonus points: You do still get to look like this #hellloooryan

Bonus points: You do still get to look like this #hellloooryan

In any event, what these dreamers believe in more than anything is that acting on their core beliefs – nee using their true talents – will not only benefit them but in some small way can bring some relief to other people’s lives. If only just for a few random moments. And what this story proposes to us is that when one of them (or us) gives up, the other one forces them to go on. And when the other one of them (or us) gives up, the other one of…Well, you get the picture.

More than the power of positive thinking it’s the mutual power of faith and hope in each other that is really what La La Land is about.   Of what can be achieved when you fulfill what you know is right, and how you can be helped along on this road even when you begin to doubt yourself.   Okay, I’m beginning to have déjà vu right about now re:the whole faith and hope thing, but even still, that doesn’t mean this way of thinking is wrong.

We're with you girl

We’re with you girl

Survival means imagining against all odds and acting on it.

Dreaming the big (or small) dream and doing something about it.

Proceeding when others say no and call you names and threaten to do a lot worse to you.

And then do a lot worse. And A LOT more than that.

In order to counteract what’s coming we ALL need INSPIRATION from everywhere. What popular culture can do is produce art that INSPIRES us to fight. Or to continue the fight. Or simply just be and act on WHO WE ARE continuously and to maximum effect.

... EVERYBODY NOW!

… EVERYBODY NOW!

Naysayers can make you cry, infuriate you, and make you want to beat the crap out of them or yourself. But only you can decide when THEY win. THEY don’t get to marginalize you – only you can do that to you. If this sounds a little precious – well, maybe. So is the Declaration of Independence, the Bill of Rights, The Constitution and The Gettysburg Address when you read them. And we all should read them, again or for the first time, sometime.  And then perhaps get a copy of the text of Dr. King’s “I Have A Dream” speech and critique that for purple prose. But not before we take in the true meaning behind those words.

One of the screenwriting books I use for teaching says a good movie is like “a seamless dream.” Well, that’s about as great a description as I’ve ever heard.   And makes it even important to remember that without dreams we wouldn’t have innovation. Or innovators – aka – the people who change things.

Now i just have to work on waking up in full hair and make up #cinderellawho

Now i just have to work on waking up in full hair and make up #cinderellawho

Not everyone can inspire or change stuff on a massive scale. But any number of us working together to support each other’s dreams and/or innovation – yes, it just may take a village – can do so. And if you doubt that, right about now you might want to remember that Steve Jobs’ estranged father was a Syrian refugee.

There are real life heroes and movie heroes. None of them are flawless and none of them do it alone.

See you in the trenches. And in our dreams.

Twenty First Century Films

popcorn

Movies aren’t what they used to be.

This is the GOLDEN AGE OF TELEVISION!

Movies suck.

What did you binge watch lately?

There is NOTHING to see at the movie theatre!

Can I borrow your Netflix password?

Movies, in general, have taken a critical bashing as of late and it’s not entirely unwarranted. Let’s face it, the Suits are drunk with sequels and superheroes and don’t really give a hoot what makes sense or doesn’t if it can deliver millions of bodies in potential theme park rides, sequels, spin-offs and merchandise.

Oh how the mighty have fallen #TeamJen #Argowho?

Oh how the mighty have fallen #TeamJen #Argowho?

Films have taken on the business school lingo of a precious asset – a property that exists not solely for its financial value at the theatrical box-office or, heaven forbid, its creative content. Rather, they are seen in most of the top towers and executive suites as a commodity to be leveraged into many, many smaller and larger off-springs –much like a Triple Crown winning horse that is put out for gelding after it serves the greater good.

That’s fine. For them. But it’s not the entire story of 21st century film.

Quite randomly last week I came upon a new list put out by the BBC. NO, DON’T STOP READING! This list actually applies to you – the moviegoer. Or more broadly, the movie fan. Instead of surveying critics and audiences to compile a list of the 100 greatest movies of all-time, or some such subset that would spotlight drama, comedy, action or presumably, even porn or snuff films in the future, they tried something novel. (Note: No, not an actual novel, as in reading – we all know no one does THAT anymore).

Why read when you can see Emily Blunt in the movie version? #duh

Why read when you can see Emily Blunt in the movie version? #duh

Yes, the Brits had the tenacity to compile a list that I, Mr. Movie Fan, had never seen before. That would be the top 100 films of the 21st CENTURY.

Huh? What is that – a list of 10, or maybe 20 movies, most of which none of us have ever seen before? Or want to see? No, surprisingly not at all.

Okay, technically the list is of 102 films and it does stem from 2000-2016 which means the first year it charts is technically not a part of the 21st century – which began in 2001 (Note: Apparently 2000 was an irresistible film year one couldn’t turn away from). But who really cares? The point is, this is a very narrow period where 177 film critics from every country in the world (Note: Antarctica was the exception, which brings up the whole question of climate change and access we don’t want to get into) actually agreed there were 100 plus movies, many of them AMERICAN, that are actually worth watching, remembering and…wait for it…HONORING.

Believe it Olivia.

Believe it Olivia.

In case you are wondering – no, there is not a sequel in the bunch.

In case you are further wondering – yes, there is exactly ONE superhero film in the bunch and you probably have already rightly guessed which one is indeed The ONE. (HINT: Uh no, it’s not The Matrix. Plus, Neo is not really a superhero and anyway, he first appeared in 1999. As for the 2003 sequels – well, let’s not go there).

Which is the pill that helps me take a nap?

Which is the pill that helps me take a nap?

What this list reminds us of is that – WAIT, there are lots of movies I’ve enjoyed in the last 15 (okay 16) years. Sure there are too many clunkers, or cynically made assets. But maybe, just maybe it’s worth forgetting the Netflix password every once in a while and instead go out to an actual theatre before the art form, as we know it, dies altogether. Or worse yet – becomes solely a corporatized asset.

Please be good. Please be good. Please be good. #clingingtohope #heygirl #lalaland

Please be good. Please be good. Please be good. #clingingtohope #heygirl #lalaland

A complete list will be shared below but how about just the top six right here?

  1. Mulholland Drive (2001, David Lynch)
  2. In The Mood for Love (2000, Wong-Kar-wai)
  3. There Will Be Blood (2007, Paul Thomas-Anderson)
  4. Spirited Away (2001, Hayao Miyazaki)
  5. Boyhood (2014, Richard Linklater)
  6. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004, Michel Gondry and written by CHARLIE freaking KAUFMAN, OKAY?)

All of them original, beautifully made and meaningful. Are they my top six or your top six? Perhaps not. But they are inarguably as good as many of the classic movies from decades before.

Added bonus: This phrase being added to our world.

Added bonus: This phrase being added to our world.

Certainly, any LIST inherently has its head-scratchers and personal duds and this one is clearly among them. Notice I stopped at six because #7 is Terrence Malick’s The Tree of Life, which you couldn’t pay me enough money to endure five minutes of ever again. Perhaps this confirms the long held belief that I am a philistine, but that is not the point. We all have our personal Trees. And in fact, I’d pay to watch other glorious Malick films such as Badlands and Days of Heaven over and over if you didn’t bring up the subject of #7 ever again.

That dinosaur sequence though. #neverforget

That dinosaur sequence though. #neverforget

As for some others The Coen Brothers’ No Country For Old Men and Inside Llewyn Davis ranked #10 and #11 respectively. David Fincher’s Zodiac was #12 and Alfonso Cuaron’s brilliant Children of Men was #13.

 You want less, well, pretentious? (Your word, not mine). Pan’s Labyrinth was #17, Mad Max: Fury Road was #19, The Social Network was #27, and Wall-E was #29.

Favorites of mine like CHARLIE freakin’ KAUFMAN’s Synecdoche was #20, while Sofia Coppola’s Lost in Translation was #22, Paul Thomas Anderson’s The Master was #24, Christopher Nolan’s Memento was #25 and Pedro Almodovar’s Talk To Her came in at #28.

Let’s also give separate credit to The Dark Knight at #33 because, well, think of the odds against the whole thing working the way it did when there was merely a blank page and no real concept but a history of…ASSET. 

See Ben, this is how it’s done.

See Ben, this is how it’s done.

As I continued down the list I came across any number of films (40, in all) I hadn’t seen, some I really didn’t care for (Okay, I admit it – I’m too old for Wes Anderson) but others I had forgotten had come out in the not so distant past. Of the latter how about: Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon, City of God, Brokeback Mountain, Melancholia, Moulin Rouge, Inglorious Bastards, The Great Beauty, The Hurt Locker, Her, Amelie, The Pianist, Ratatouille, Finding Nemo, Spotlight (Note: I have a very short memory) and Requiem for A Dream.

What pleased me most about this list is that it coincided with the first week of the fall screenwriting class I teach.  The list of top 100 films on everyone’s mind are usually the 1, 2, 3 classic movie punch of Citizen Kane, The Godfather and Casablanca. Certainly, these are all great, timeless movies – as are many of the others on that usual classics list.   But for young people – as well as for some of the rest of us – consistently remembering these as the best of what the big screen has to offer can’t help but feel a little depressing at some point. Because it evokes a golden age that is long gone and, very likely, will never return.

Le sigh.

Le sigh.

This is why the BBC did Americans and moviegoers worldwide – not to mention the future of film – a great service by compiling this new grouping of films. Perhaps it doesn’t evoke a new golden age (though maybe it does) but it does prove the movies are alive and well and can be for some time to come. Though only if we get out our pods and mosey on down via our people mover of choice to check some of them out. Judging by the newly motivated faces on some of my students perusing the list, this will continue to happen in the near future. But at the very least, we could give them a little help.

PC University

Screen Shot 2015-08-16 at 1.07.57 PM

There’s been quite a lot of swill in the air lately about political correctness. Mostly on how our society has devolved to the point where you can’t say anything anymore and how the nation’s college campuses have greatly contributed to this trend with affirmative action-based helicopter parenting under a doctrinaire, left wing manifesto of bland, overly sensitive inoffensiveness.

Bull crap.   Or horseshit if one prefers the non-p.c. version of bull crap.   And this is particularly the case when it has to do with college campuses and, more broadly, the millennial generation.

Interestingly enough, a lot of this criticism has been coming from any number of aging baby boomers that are no doubt pissed off at a slightly more benevolent world (well, in some sectors) that they no longer understand and thus feel excluded from.  Or perhaps now that many have college-age children, or need them in their audience to stay relevant, they simply mourn the days when they (or others) could utter a racial epithet, gay joke or sexist remark without having their reputations twittered to death all over the world. Though they could simply resent the fact that their kids don’t have to endure the hard knocks that they believe made them into the strong, successful adults they are today. It could be just that.

Is this how boomers see millennials?

Is this how boomers see millennials?

I feel like I can say this because I am a baby boomer. I am also a college professor who gets along quite well with my students – even when we vehemently disagree – which we often do in everything from movies to politics to Beyoncé (Note: Don’t hate me, she’s talented but I just don’t get what the big deal is).

Still, I find a great kinship with them because in some small ways – even if only generally – they seem to be living their lives by the sort of mythical moral code that was set forth in the 1960s in Broadway shows like Hair and albums like the Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Heart’s Club Band. That would be a world where it was not cool to disrespect people of other races, sexual preferences and religions “just because” you want to make a point and are too lazy or annoyed to do otherwise. For these views, some of my students have granted me honorary millennial status. Though I’m sure in the minds of many of my fellow boomers I am simply the cause of their limited thinking – exhibit A for why our educational system is a disaster and, in turn, our American Empire will continue to decline. How can you lead when you’re so willing to go the extra mile for peace of any kind? And how can you wind up being #1 when you make a conscience choice to use equal amounts of intellectualism, heart and reality to make the most important decisions in life?

How? The same way Barack Obama was elected president of the U.S. twice. And why he would probably win a third time. The. World. Has. Changed. Have a seat or deal with the alternative. The latter is the option almost everyone I know 55 or over is desperately trying to keep at bay these days – irrelevancy, death or, perish the thought, The Republican Apprentice. (Note: Yeah, you know who I mean. Don’t make me say it).

He who should not be named

He who should not be named

Here are two articles that surfaced this week in The Atlantic that brought this on, were forwarded all over the web and much discussed on TV and the media platform of your choice.

The Coddling of the American Mind – In the name of emotional well being, college students are increasingly demanding protection from words and ideas they don’t like.

&

That’s Not Funny – Today’s college students can’t seem to take a joke

As refutation to these I would offer up a third piece in Vanity Fair this month entitled,

Tinder and the Dawn of the Dating Apocalypse 

It will reassure anyone who believes recent college grads have a too-politically correct view of the world or that sensitivity TRUMPS boorishness.

The four writers of these pieces – three of whom are boomers, the other of whom is merely 41 years old – were on various news and entertainment outlets promoting their work, including HBO’s Real Time with Bill Maher.

The fifty-something Caitlin Flanagan (That’s Not Funny) essentially covered the National Association for Campus Activities annual convention in Minnesota where 350 colleges came to book numerous acts, including comedians, for appearances at their schools that year. Essentially, she seemed in shock that two white students from a college in Iowa didn’t want to hire one of the convention’s most popular performers – Kevin Yee, a gay comic with a Broadway background who closed with a song about a gay man and his “sassy black friend.” Yes, he got hired by other schools but – Imagine, they thought the kids at their small Midwestern school wouldn’t get what he did??? How PC of them!!!

Look at your life, look at your choices

The writer and Mr. Maher essentially backed up that and numerous other groundbreaking revelations with quotes from comedians like Jerry Seinfeld and Chris Rock, both of whom recently noted they won’t play college campuses anymore because the environment is too-PC.

Question: What Jerry Seinfeld joke could possibly step over the line of political correctness?

Answer: Well, it was actually a line where he says people are scrolling through cell phones these days like they’re a gay French king. Right. Okay. Judge for yourself.

tumblr_nporseHjLl1ru5h8co1_500

Full confession: I didn’t think it was funny because it was perpetuating a straight guy stereotype and had no context within the rest of the joke. Yet when an edgy comic like Lisa Lampanelli rides the gay guys in her audience by calling them “faggots” and insults the sexual appetites of her GBF (Note: Uh, gay best friend?) I’m on the floor because in that same moment she lets us know where heart really is.

More troubling is the idea in Coddling, which bemoans the fact that certain words and phrases that either are or can be perceived as sexist, racist, or homophobic are listed as microagressions and discouraged in college classrooms. That is unless they are put into context. The authors vehemently write this way of thinking contributes to students being in a constant stage of outrage, even towards well-meaning speakers trying to engage in genuine discussion. They further argue shielding students from this is bad for the workplace and…bad for American democracy, which is already paralyzed by worsening partisanship.

Huh?

Here’s the thing. No one is saying you can’t use most words or phrases in a campus-based discussion – only that in an open learning environment what you say is positioned in a context. What makes colleges special is that they are a safe space where you can discuss tricky issues in a way that is too often NOT done in the real world. Does this mean college is NOT the real world, and sensitive matters demand guidelines upfront, especially for 18-22 year olds? If we’re at all to cover new ground and empower them as they get older to create new and perhaps even more innovative ways to move society forward in any sort of productive manner — Yes.

Gear up

Gear up

Of course, there’s another reason for this – words change. When I was in elementary school African-Americans weren’t even called Black people, they were Negroes. Actually, THE Negroes. That’s also the term Martin Luther King used in his I Had A Dream Speech. Not to mention queer was an insult to gays – who at best were referred to clinically as The homosexual. Yet queer has been adopted by many under 30 in the LGBT movement as their current word of choice. Not by me, of course, because, well, I AM a BOOMER.
My autobiography

My autobiography

Oh – and lest any of us forget – the time period I’m referring to was also a time where crude sexist men could diminish a woman’s thoughts or questions by saying or even implying she was having her period. What’s that – you still can? Oh.

The final refutation to all of this should, of course, rightfully come from the millennials themselves. This is what you will get when you read about the group of Wall Street, marketing and other types of college grads as they wax poetic about scrolling through pages and pages of nubile, sexy or otherwise available young prospects on the dating app Tinder even as they are sitting in a bar with other real live prospective sexual conquests right there before them. One guy in the story bragged he slept with 5 women in 8 days – Tinderellas, he called them – noting with those numbers you could rack up 100 girls you’ve slept with in a year! Another guy said he scored 30-40 per year via Hinge, another app, by selling himself as a boyfriend kind of guy even though he wasn’t and had no intention of changing. (Note: In fairness, Mr. 100 did chastise him by saying, ‘dude, not cool.’).

Don't go looking for the Goslings

Don’t go looking for the Goslings

This is not so much the end of the world but a mere continuation of the one they inherited. When I was a younger gay man I couldn’t understand the idea that when you picked up someone at a bar you called them a trick – as if you were a prostitute turning over customers. To me, it devalued the sexual act and myself as an individual. Of course, that was my feeling and hardly anyone else’s. I remember being called a nun, part of the skirt and sweater set and by one boyfriend, hopelessly middle class.

Yes, I’ve written about him before and he called me that a lot. I suppose there are worse things. In fact, I know there are. But you can’t say them to someone on any number of college campuses. Thank God. God, that is, as you know Him. Or Her. Or even if you don’t.

The Art of Seduction

Screen shot 2012-11-29 at 09.58.17

Pres. Obama took many of the members opposing him in the Republican Congress to dinner, lunch and then lunch again in the last 10 days.  Meaning, he asked them out on a proper date, arranged a place to dine and – in a stroke of grand presidential largesse – picked up the tab.  (Note: Presumably the President paid, not you or I in the form of an expense account write off.  Though like all dates, we will probably pay in other ways).

No biggie, you might say.  Long gone are the days when someone in any kind of position of power, meaning a person with their own expense account, could possibly be swayed by a dinner date with someone they don’t particularly like or agree with and, on the surface, are certainly not attracted to.

Uh, well – if you are indeed the you who is saying that, here’s the answer you sooo don’t want to hear —  YOU ARE WRONG.

Most of the many members of Congress who went on these dates not only reported that they had a good time, but came away now impressed by a president who in the last five years they had grown to discount, dislike or disown.  Some even went so far as to brag at how these meals represented a new beginning with a man they have finally gotten to know and enjoy – a man they only wished had come forward (or come on) to them sooner than the four plus years it took HIM to finally ask them out.

Well, upon hearing all this, all I could think of was – uh, welcome to our world, guys. We ALL want to date the most popular and desirable guy or gal on campus ESPECIALLY when we claim we have no interest or attraction.  And now that you’ve had that first date — take it from someone who has been in your exact same position — you will not be able to rest until you AND HE do it again in an even more spectacular way.  Well, that is if you can get him to approach you again – what do you think will do it a second time now that you’ve had a meal, or what will he have to do to get you to not only do it again but to take it to yet another level?

Flowers, candy, jewelry, a flat screen?  Precisely what can he do for you (or to you) to, as they say, keep sealing the deal for a second, third, fourth (or life?) time?

Unless this is your Big Man on Campus...

Unless this is your Big Man on Campus…

Let’s face it – life is just one big date and at some point we are all reduced to being the guy or gal on the sidelines waiting for our dream prom king or queen to come down off their thrones and agree to go out on the town and then eventually back home with us forever.  Okay – perhaps this isn’t entirely true since not everyone is attracted to power and popularity.  But what is true is everyone is attracted to something.  And with the right kind of seduction, any one of us can be had.  Or to reverse the thought – HAVE.

Discussing seduction is sort of like talking too much about what makes something funny.  Once you begin to analyze it, it ceases to be the very thing that intrigues you.  It’s also akin to a fan of magic twisting the arm of the magician to reveal a trick that, once unmasked, you learn wasn’t very magical, or particularly difficult to begin with.

But seduction is about A LOT more than the lure of illicit sex cloaked in an undercurrent of danger and..well…sex, sexiness or…well…just plain sex.

Writing is a seduction.  You use all the tools at your disposal to entice people into your story.  In live encounters we tend to think of these tools solely in terms of looks, power or wealth (well, mostly looks).  But in truth it’s much more diverse.  We all use many things in our bag of tricks in order to “seduce” our prey.  In real life, it’s humor, looks, strength, violence, intelligence, kindness, even feigned indifference (ever hear of playing “hard to get?”).

Getting your audience to crack up? (Too easy, couldn't resist)

Getting your audience to crack up? (Too easy, couldn’t resist)

You can do all of this and more using the written word too.  You can also provide structure on the page for your story in the same way you can provide it for a potential lover by building a routine or place for them to come to with a solid foundation – employing traits such as reliability and escape all in the form of a trip to a far away place you would never go to or even think to go to by yourself.  Even if you did think of it (the trip), part of the allure could be the irresistible strange force you (or they) will meet that would change your life – something you could use in your work or, perhaps, you could find in either a lover or a good book, film or play written by someone else.

Students get REALLY uncomfortable when I discuss this kind of stuff.  I mean, no younger person wants a middle-aged person to talk to them about anything vaguely having to do with what they see as, um, seduction (really, sex).  Yet once I discuss this in the context of writing or any of the other arts…..I see their eyes begin to light up as they contemplate their particular plan of attack with their desired prey (the audience).  What will they use and in how many parts each?  Jokes, smarts, sex (again?!), action, athleticism, violence (only on the page of course), kindness or even anger and rage?

Veronica Mars creator Rob Thomas and star Kristin Bell this week set a record with a Kickstarter campaign to raise $2 million to make a feature film of their now defunct TV series (they raised the money in 2 days instead of the allotted 30 days because they had already seduced audiences (and the network?) with what they did previously on the small screen).  In fact, so enduring was the seduction, the audience still desired them 6 years after being cancelled and now desperately WANTED a film – and this time the seduction wouldn’t be as difficult as raising their Nielsen ratings a point or two – willing to donate up to $10,000 a piece for small rewards in record time, with others left bitterly disappointed that they too couldn’t open their wallets and be a part of things.

Get ready for your closeup, kid.

Get ready for your closeup, kid.

I’ve probably given to 20 kickstarters over the last few years and I’m hardly rich.  But even as a generous donor for any number of creative project fundraisers, I’ve never come close to being a part of something like this.  I mean, we’d all do best to forget trying to stop global warming and imagine something the world really wants – like a return of their favorite long-cancelled TV show.

Fox News will no doubt attack this as socialism or laud it as being free market enterprise – I’m never sure which these days.  But if they’re smart, any movement or government or network worth its weight in quid pro quo lobbyists will try to seduce its audience on issues far more unsavory, just as every production company will figure out a way to seduce you by “any means necessary” in order to see John Carter, Hangover 3 or Die Hard 28.  So doesn’t it makes sense to try it on something that on paper is not as big but can produce quite profitable if not potentially large results in direct relation to its seduction quotient (in the company’s case, cost of seduction = dollar cost)?  And do it from the ground up instead of waiting until you’ve already spent $250 million (125 times that of the VM movie) on your production budget?

But the harsh fact of reality is the studios are going the way of the music industry – not waking up to the needs of their loyal and long term audiences and, for the most part, staying with formulaic programming.  That is, until the formula changes (which it has already, except they don’t know it).

The free market has already recognized this and has prompted creative individuals to find original ways to seduce their new backers using the personal touch of a series of cameos (what they see as a group) in a film, individual screen credits, personal thank yous, set visits and limitless signed souvenirs.  It’s a new, more direct method of post millennium involvement in the process of creation – in the ability to reach millions with the mere post of an offer on our public bulletin board of the web.  Imagine notesfromachair as an international uber blog that somehow turned into the world’s most popular weekly must read and you can see the parallels for a journalistic start up (Note: I’ll leave it up to you to determine if that is the beginning of a seduction).

And when in doubt, just post a shirtless pic of Ryan Gosling.

And when in doubt, just post a shirtless pic of Ryan Gosling.

See, the market has changed and young people don’t view illegally downloading films on bit torrents as stealing.  They’re used to getting everything for free on the web – and they do it.  In droves. Despite my explaining copyrights, gross and net points (ethics?).  Why not a chance to become a virtual movie producer or be a part of the creative process in the same way they (or many of us) participate in their favorite video game?

As the creator of a property it can also be quite financially beneficial to involve (seduce?) your audience from the get go.  Because, well, if you self-finance you don’t have to worry as much about terms like gross and net because you share gross from dollar one.  Or if you don’t, you receive an upfront distribution fee payment (from a supplier desperate for content) or must decide to shell out an upfront payment for the favor of distribution from a studio like Warner Bros – which the VM producers did for their new film – either way you are still coming out ahead.  People will have a guaranteed means of seeing your movie but you don’t have to pay for the 20%  studio overhead.  Or for your financier’s (nee studios’) other movies.  On the latter, when I worked at several film studios in the 80s it was commonplace to charge things to not necessarily the movie you worked on but to other films where it wouldn’t be noticed.  Each film had a number attached to it and though I didn’t have a particularly large expense account many, many others did and they charged many, many things to many, many movies that did not benefit from those expenses.  Not charges in the league of houses and cars but a lot of smaller things that in the end did add up.  And I have no reason to believe it is any different now.

Insert obvious "wink wink" here.

Insert obvious “wink wink” here.

Government leaders have been doing all kinds of seduction for years, including both fear and promises for a better future.  Some would argue, as Rachel Maddow does in her terrific MSNBC documentary Hubris, that the United States was seduced by fear of a possible nuclear attack into the second Iraq war by the Bush-Cheney regime – a war that didn’t have to happen but was carefully planned out for much more financial than national security reasons.  You can also seduce people to support you into a particular course through aspirational “gifts” or programs for the poor while you’re stealing the country blind.  That, of course, was also the subject of Evita, the megahit musical about the wife of Argentinean dictator Juan Peron.  Not that I’m making any comparisons here.

In the pop culture zeitgeist, the nation gets seduced by the idea of being a billionaire like Donald Trump until Trump goes too far with his political views and suggests Pres. Obama was not born in the United States.  The seduction stopped there because Trump’s modus operandi of seduction – i.e. apprenticeship riches guaranteeing a path to becoming even richer – was taken away and he had only his personality, belief system and expertise in political persuasion to rely on.

Seduction strategies were far more effectively used by companies pushing advertisements for cigarettes in the Mad Men era via the Marlboro Man or razor blades using naked models who urged young men shaving to “take it off, take it all off.”  Of course, these days we do have the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue – which in some way will seduce males and perhaps a few gay women into buying a magazine in which the revealing suits are somehow connected to the idea of being an athlete.  Or is it perhaps a reward for being the elite of your class?

If not that, then there’s the shirtless Diet Coke guy who needs to do nothing more than sip the soda half-naked in order to tempt a whole group of ladies into crossing over the line to purchase the bubbly treat which somehow promises them a more primal treat of their own.  Seduction or just plain eye candy or both?  You be the judge.  Unless you’d rather look at Uber Swede Johan – the guy with the blonde Brad Pitt-like hair in the commercial for Gevalia Coffee – who explains to a group of ladies just how much he – meaning his coffee blend – will take care of them and care for them if they just drink it (him?) up.  This is a caring unlike, say, the makers of Starbucks or Sanka – though he never mentions any of his competitors by name.  Of course, he doesn’t have to with a stare like that and the locks to back it up.  Plus, it’s wise for him not to because, lets face it, you don’t want either the spell or his aroma to be broken.

Television hyphenate Lena Dunham seduces audiences with an odd combination of wit and uneasiness; bad and often unattractive choices; and truth and humor in similar ways to that of her comic male counterpart, Louis CK.  Neither one’s public persona is traditionally attractive and, in the view of some (not me, however), neither is attractive at all.  Yet, in fact, they’ve both become sort of geekishly seductive because of what they do offer (decide what that is or isn’t on your own) rather than an absence of what they can’t offer.  Which should be a lesson to all of us.

That come hither stare

That come hither stare

All of this is not say to that the gals and I can’t be had by a Bradley Cooper/Jon Hamm sandwich or that Angie (Jolie) and Jen (Anniston) are still not respectively the ultra naughty and innocently tempting Veronica and Betty of the celebrity zeitgeist for the rest of you.  But these are rare specimens who ironically are also smart enough, despite their looks, to both be developing other aspects of themselves.  Angie, for example, is going to direct a big studio movie and is a mother to a gaggle of kids.  Jen flips houses, is getting married, is the go-to Hollywood rom-com gal and seems to be generally having a better time on the beaches of life with a bigger choice of friends and partners than most of us.  Plus – she smiles A LOT.  Which can be, and often is, a seduction unto itself.

Creative types on that level are expert seducers not only with their looks and talent but because a. they’ve had A LOT of practice and have gotten really good at it AND b. they understand it’s all a big construct in order to achieve their higher goals.  This can be seen or used as a positive or negative in an endless amount of ways but to deny it as fact is to avoid an essential component in what makes the world go round.  Of course, what’s even worse is to believe that each of us, in our own particular way, can’t play the game as well as they do.

Santa’s Vixen

 

Twas the night before Christmas and on the West Coast...

It’s that time of the year in the world of show biz
When it’s spooky and silent, even if you have kidz
Cause the town closes up and all calls go unanswered
Leaving new screeners and old TV shows to be cancelled.
 
Yes, just when you thought there was hope you’d break through
The red carpet rolls up and there’s nothing to do
Except to go home and spend time with your loved ones
Or open a bag of Top Ramen with no one.
 
You had hoped to buy presents but didn’t earn the money
Or you do have the cash, but you don’t have a honey
Or you’re doing quite well and you’re happy as pie
Except you can’t help but think that this dream soon will die
 
Cause HBO just nixed “Hung” and “Bored to Death,” too
They grew tired of cable sex and a stoned sleuth half-Jew?
But for Mike White’s new “Enlightened,” a big fat renewal?
Well, it’s a little new age-y and not very cruel
 
Perhaps that’s the secret, since Kim K’s divorce
Be a little more real, and a little less coarse
Wait, that doesn’t make sense, cause K’s still get big ratings
And Revenge is a hit, while Glee’s quickly abating.
 
American Horror’s taken Ryan’s attention (and I can’t say I blame him)
It’s got sex, blood, guts AND, no divine intervention
I’ll bet he goes home and eats more than Top Ramen
And Jessica’s Golden Globe nom surely must calm him. 
 

Not a creature was stirring

 
Hmm, let’s make a new plan, we can switch to the movies.
A lot more respect and a lot, lot less hooting
But did you see “Twilight,” or sit through “Transformers II?”
How about “The Green Lantern,”  or that “Scooby Doo 2?”
 
Well “Drive” was a hoot and this year Woody’s done well
At least it shows you can also be old and still very much sell
Or if you’re young there’s the Black List for scripter’s unknown
Even when they’re not made, you get deals and great phone
 
Go Gosling, Go Bullock; Coop, Pitt and Jolie, I can see you!
Go Cruise, Clooney and even Ms. Streep now feels brand new
Still it’s tough not to think of how much can go wrong, 
Or pretend the list of disasters aren’t incredibly long
 

Ry in his cap

It’s so tiring thinking of ways uber-defeatist
Or just running in place while Sorkin’s sold his next fetus,
I did once read that selling your body could actually work
But three hour gym days drive everyone berserk.
 
Wait, what’s that I see – off there in the distance,
It’s a Hollywood God – no, it’s Ben Affleck.  Or Matt Damon?
I can’t see their faces;  cause it’s her, you damn fool.
She’s Marilyn Monroe and she’s sitting right by a pool!
 

Santa Baby

 
 
No, it’s not Michelle Williams, though she’d actually do
Could you imagine that “Dawson’s Creek” girl’d one day make you drool?
Ill bet that Michelle never thought that would happen
How could she when even Van Der Beek didn’t pay attention?
 
Look Marilyn’s nodding, I think it’s what we just stated
Or is she blowing me a kiss, and my sadness has just abated
No she meant what she said and she said what she meant
She was looking at us, not that clone of Clark Kent
 
The smartest of people is what I think are cool
And the ones that I met in that hip acting school
Or the grips on the crew who are nice and just real
Not the ones who just used me while copping a feel
 
Wait, are you a mirage that everyone sees
Hey Mar, I’m DeNiro, “you talkin’ to me?”
You know that I am, and now try to break free
And don’t fret like the rest of the fish in this sea.
 
A real life is precious as precious can be
Like Taylor’s Krup Diamond which, by the way, just sold to me
The mistake that you make is you try to fit in
When the ways you are different is what gives you the win
Your smile and your brain and your sweet disposition
And the art that you bring to each difficult mission.
 
I made my mistakes but at least they were mine
Now go and make yours cause to me, you’re divine
Woah, I think she’s just vanished, along with the pool
And it had to be her cause I’m feeling so cool
 
And as I look up in the sky on this bright L.A. night
Where once there were not any stars in my sight
There is Marilyn saying with everything that she feels
Believe in your talent,  you are the REAL DEAL.