Saturday, December 29, 2007

It's the end of 2007--make way for turbulent 2008.

Thanks to those of you who have read this blog through its first almost-year.

See you sometime in January. 

Wishing the best for you in surviving the extreme partisanship and dirt-throwing that will plague the U.S. Presidential campaign and any attempt at discussion of unpopular subjects in the coming year.

Re death of Benazir Bhutto: what now re the fight against terrorism?

In the wake of Benazir Bhutto's assassination, one would think that George Butch Jr. might want to gather Dick and Condi and start thinking seriously of a face-saving partial-exit-from-Iraq strategy.

Then, the Administration should do some hard thinking about the subject of future support of Pakistan's current leadership.

Though the film has mostly drifted off the Zeitgeist radar, it wouldn't hurt for people to rent A MIGHTY HEART.  The portrayal of Pakistan as being caught between U.S. eagerness for cooperation in fighting the War on Terror and avoiding major unrest from the terror groups using its borders as a safe haven--it's a starting place for discussion of what could be the most serious threat to world safety since the Cuban Missle Crisis.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Jamie-Lynn Spears: the aftermath.

Here's a link to a MSN gossip column which has some info re Jamie-Lynn Spears decision to put a positive spin to her and her boyfriend deciding not to use birth control:

Right now, if you live in Los Angeles, you can put your ear to the ground and hear three loud primal screams:

1. From Lynne Spears, who again wins the hypocrisy award for raising two daughters to be robotic slaves to the get-ahead-no-matter-what world of Show Business at the expense of learning how to live some semblance of normal life when not being Competitive (sort of like the dilemma that Olympic athletes in their teens have to deal with)--while making a deal with a conservative Christian publishing house for a book on parenting.  Sort of blows the parent-of-a-clean-teen image (which was also tried with Britney--remembering the claims of her virginity around the time of the first album) apart, doesn't it, Lynne?

2. From Sumner Redstone of Viacom, who's probably figuring out ways to make money off the fourth and final season of ZOEY 101 if social-and-religious-conservative parents apply pressure to Nickelodeon to pull the show from its 2008 schedule.  Maybe Viacom could offload ZOEY to Showtime as it did a few years ago with the James Brolin-as-Ronald Reagan TV film that pressure groups kept off CBS.

3. From Diablo Cody, who wrote the mostly-critically-acclaimed teen-pregnancy comedy/drama JUNO, and will probably suffer blowback from the vapid chatter of superficial entertainment reporters who won't fail to handcuff together the fictional Juno MacGuff (well-played by Ellen Page) and the real-life Jamie-Lynn Spears for a few news cycles.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Hillary and Bill Clinton: They reek of Yesterday.

I don't know how many people remember an obscure Rolling Stones song titled "Winning Ugly", but it's apt in light of recent Hillary campaign antics to "marginalize" her key competitor, Barack Obama.

Probably the most obnoxious is to trot out old Bob Kerrey (a politician who once made the gossip columns for dating Debra Winger in the early 80s) to make a remark intended to bring up Obama's Islamic heritage.  Kerrey later apologized for the remark, but it made the news cycles.

I don't normally watch Chris Matthews and HARDBALL (given Matthews' past record, the show could be better titled SOFTBALL), but a left-leaning radio talk-show host (guesting on the show's first few minutes) accurately skewered Hillary as a candidate from the 90s that's wrong for the 2008 elections.

Does anyone remember the Pennebaker/Hegedus hagiography of James Carville/George Stephanopoulos called THE WAR ROOM?  In that film, Carville accurately skewered George Herbert Walker Bush (now known as Bush 41) by saying: "He reeks of yesterday."

And, to me, it makes me want to vomit that people who should know better will opt for the cowardly appeasement and covert racism of Hillary Clinton (and, by extension, husband Bill--who made sure to have a mentally-handicapped African-American executed during the 1992 campaign to show he was TOUGH ON CRIME) in next year's primaries.

The question is: Will people actually read and think and form independcnt judgment re other Democratic candidates or vote for Hillary the closet Republican because they think there's "no place else to go" ?

I dread the winter/spring of 2008 where Democratic lambs decide they'll best fight Republican lions by becoming acquiescent sheep.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Old movies get less love these days.

I made a rare visit (only the third this year) to a poetry venue near me last night.

The host there has the great virtue of being quick-witted enough to riff on just about anything (a previous poet's work, a remark from an audience member).

But he can sometimes be stumped.

Case in point: The host (in his late thirties) made reference to a Friday gig in Santa Monica.  He quipped that he would have dinner there with his spouse, do the reading and then walk into the ocean.

A renowned poet (in his fifties) in the audience made a reference to the movie A STAR IS BORN--I'm presuming it's the famous 1954 version where James Mason as failed actor Norman Maine walks into the Malibu-area Pacific waters after feeling he's been a burden to the life and career of wife Vicki Lester (Judy Garland).

The host didn't catch the renowned poet's reference.  And there was a silence that reminded me of an egg toss where the egg isn't caught and falls to the ground with a quiet splat.

No intention to slight the host at all, but it does seem like the abiliity for people of various age ranges to have shared memories of and love for older movies is something fast disappearing in a corporate-dominated culture celebrating the disposable, the ephemeral and the mockery of easy targets (celeb starlets and reality show regulars being prime examples).

Another case in point: the James Cameron megafilm TITANIC, loved by millions and hated by thousands, recently celebrated its 10th anniversary.

If one remembers the passionate pro-and-con opinions on its original release, it seemed a safe prediction that TITANIC would be considered a beloved recent classic of popular entertainment.

Paramount did give TITANIC a recent 10th-anniversary DVD reissue, but a low-key one. 

And Time Warner's ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY only gave two skimpy pages to the film's anniversary, mostly babbling about the big-budget films that have followed in its wake (the coverage being on the level of how much more common $200-300 million "tentpole" event films are these days).

So it's easy to see that the 1954 A STAR IS BORN will become a casualty just like TITANIC, E.T. (which didn't even receive a 25th-anniversary DVD reissue) and...... 


Tuesday, December 18, 2007

How to explain Dan Fogelberg to future generations.

I know it's not good to speak ill of the dead. 

This post isn't about Dan Fogelberg the human being who died recently from prostate cancer at the age of 56.  Instead, it's about the mixed-at-best legacy of Dan Fogelberg the musician.

Fogelberg first burst into national prominence with the album SOUVENIRS (in 74/75) and the moderate hit single "Part of the Plan."  He was a member of the Irving Azoff management stable--and was blessed with Joe Walsh as the album's producer and Graham Nash plus sundry Eagles singing backup.

By the late 70s, the career of John Denver (if you buy any John Denver albums, get early titles like ROCKY MOUNTAIN HIGH and FAREWELL ANDROMEDA when Denver was still mixing in a few John Prine covers and the "gosh and golly folks" persona hadn't quite taken hold yet) had peaked and was heading downward. 

This turned out to be a boon for Fogelberg, who probably enjoyed his greatest success from 1978-81 with gentle soft-rock ballad singles such as "Longer" and "Leader of the Band."  Unfortunately, Fogelberg dropped a huge pile of impossible-to-rinse-off bathos on America: a song called "Same Old Lang Syne".  It's a lachrymose retelling of the old "I saw my old lover again and gee look how much we've changed" tale that makes Harry Chapin's duology of "Taxi" and "Sequel" (covering the same ground) take on the hard  edge of Joy Division by comparison.

To put it mildly, "Same Old Lang Syne" is a song Satan probably uses to torture most newcomers to Hell.

Sometime during the 80s, Berke Breathed had Opus the penguin make a reference to Fogelberg as "Dan Fogelburp" in the comic strip BLOOM COUNTY.  It seemed apt at the time.

But to give Fogelberg his due before he returns to the obscurity his death briefly interrupted, "Part of the Plan" and "There's a Place in the World for a Gambler" (the latter song I heard on the soundtrack for the 1978 film FM) are catchy, quite memorable examples of 70s lite-pop/rock and would make good candidates for a mixtape/CD and/or iTunes playlist.

UPDATE (1/10/08): I received this comment from castmyvote:

The writer of this blog has obviously not listened to any early Dan Fogelberg....albums like "Home Free", "Souvenirs", "Netherlands" and "Captured Angel"...and obviously not much of John Denver's later environmental works either. Too bad the writer just had to write something without knowing much of anything!
castmyvote is welcome to add his/her knowledge of Fogelberg or post-RCA John Denver to this blog entry to cover areas I wasn't addressing.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

BEAUTY AND THE BEAST TV series: Unlikely to be remade in this climate of ubersnark.

At the risk of biting the service that gives me the chance to post a blog:  I wonder what kind of snarky conversations take place at the AOL headquarters in Virginia or New York or wherever the decisions to put triviabites on the Welcome page are made.

It does seem like dubious celeb behavior and endless lists of "we-consider-this-tacky" rule the day far more than when I first became a subscriber in 1997.

And it's probably a blessing that Time Warner doesn't own the rights to the old BEAUTY AND THE BEAST series (a favorite of my wife Valarie), otherwise we'd be seeing all sorts of supersnarky links to reruns of the show.

The new model for female-driven romance-and-uplift would have to be Diablo Cody's script for JUNO (which I liked overall), where there's half a movie of ornate comic dialogue (expertly delivered by Ellen Page and Olivia Thirlby, among others) and distance-yourself-from-feeling "attitude" before the other half of the movie arrives with squishy sentiment, TV-esque resolutions (particularly involving the characters played by Jason Bateman and Jennifer Garner) and director Jason Reitman falling into the cliche of pulling the camera slowly away from sad or happy moments instead of just cutting away to the next scene.

In short, once the WGA strike ends, you're more likely to see a semi-sanitized JUNO TV series than the hybrid of Harlequin romance/New Age message/dollops of literature/occasional "action" of BEAUTY AND THE BEAST--a relic of an age when some members of the mass audience placed a high value on entertainment depicting non-ironic sincerity.


Sunday, December 9, 2007

Thumbs up (hope Disney doesn't sue me) for STARTING OUT IN THE EVENING.

It's not being released through a major studio's boutique division, but STARTING OUT IN THE EVENING is a specialty film as good as (or maybe better than) most of the literate/upscale product that will be campaigning for Independent Spririt/Golden Globe/Academy Awards recognition.

And if you're a writer, this film (along with ATONEMENT) will have special resonance for you--regardless of what level of "craft" or "success" you have achieved.

Here's a link to a page on the distributor's website which describes the film:

In a perfect world, Frank Langella would be one of the five Best Actor Oscar nominees for his performance, but he'll probably have to save his acceptance speech until 2009 for his performance as Richard Nixon in next year's Ron Howard-directed adaptation of Peter Morgan's play FROST/NIXON.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Re the WGA/AMPTP difficulties.

Thanks again to Jeffrey Wells for originally posting this link to the WGA's United Hollywood blog on his Hollywood-Elsewhere blog:

The AMPTP isn't serious about finding common ground with the WGA; instead, it stages a dramatic walkout and hires a high-powered "crisis management" firm to start the demonization process in the public media.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Dana Perino and her latest gaffe.

Here's a link to the Dear Mr. President blog, which has the full exchange of White House Press Secretary Dana Perino scolding veteran reporter Helen Thomas for asking too-probing questions re Iraq:

Soon Ms. Perino may banish reporters entirely from the White House Press Room and replace them with stenographers.