Friday, May 30, 2008

Some thoughts on SEX AND THE CITY and the mainstream media response to Scott McClellan

Keeping this entry brief:

If you look at today's LOS ANGELES TIMES calendar section (or go onto, you'll be educated and enlightened in terms of the limitations of mainstream journalism--be it about actual news or predetermined entertainment "events."

First, let's bring up the peeved responses of LAT's Tim Rutten and NBC's David Gregory to ex-George Butch press secretary Scott McClellan about the media failing to do its job and dig deep in reporting the runup to the Iraq War and the fairytales about weapons of mass destruction.  Essentially, Gregory and Rutten are offering the same kind of whining that college students do when their professors ask questions on exams that are in the textbooks rather than students' notes taken in class.

Now, let's deal with ex-Time Warner employee Carina Chocano of ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY fame.  Carina's doing her best to Come Through for her ex-employers' SEX AND THE CITY movie.  Read the review and you'll find Carina comparing the film's 142-minute length to a 19th-century novel--and, most silly of all, implying that all men who don't want to see SEX AND THE CITY are the kind of sexists who objected to Hillary Clinton's campaign for Presidency (i.e. the kind of "don't criticize because she's a trailblazer" crap that insults the memory of Shirley Chisolm, who ran for the Oval Office in 1972).

I watched a handful of SEX AND THE CITY episodes; I wasn't overly impressed, though the series gave good roles to actors of both genders (particularly remembering perpetual villain James Remar's against-type casting as one of Samantha's lovers).

And I even remember Sarah Jessica Parker (although I never met her) from working as an extra on episodes of a now-forgotten TV series called EQUAL JUSTICE, where she played an earnest assistant district attorney.  By and large, I recall her as being personable and into recycling before it became Celebrity Fashion.

It's too bad that Ms. Parker's fine work in recent films such as THE FAMILY STONE and SMART PEOPLE have been largely ignored by the public.  So I'm guessing she feels like Sylvester Stallone--having to go back to an uberfamiliar role, being the only way to star in a film likely to achieve big opening-weekend grosses.

But if I don't see the SATC movie, it's because I don't want to see it--not for any reasons having to do with perfidious sexism.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

More random notes.

I just returned from Las Vegas, a city that's morphed in twenty years from family destination to a virtual Spring Break theme park for twenty-to-thirtysomethings.

Here are some more random notes in the Larry King fashion:

1. It probably says something about the passage of Time that the death of comedian Dick Martin (best known for being half of the comedy team Rowan and Martin) was only mentioned in a likely-trimmed Bob Thomas AP wire piece on the obituary page of the LAS VEGAS REVIEW-JOURNAL--ironic since Rowan and Martin were Vegas staples a long time ago.  For those with no memories of Dan Rowan and Dick Martin, their biggest fame came from headlining the comedy revue series LAUGH-IN in the late 60s/early 70s.  LAUGH-IN (which specialized in fast pacing and displaying the talents of a repertory cast which included both Goldie Hawn and Lily Tomlin) was a step forward in the evolution of the comedy/variety series from previous conservatism in content and presentation to the later breakthroughs of SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE (coincidentally, SNL producer Lorne Michaels was briefly a LAUGH-IN writer).  Sidebar: producer George Schlatter, who produced the original LAUGH-IN for most of its run, revived the show in 1977--without Rowan and Martin--to poor audience and critical response, resulting in a quick cancellation.  One of the cast members of the 77 edition: Robin Williams (saw him Sunday night at the MGM Grand Garden in what I assume is a raising-money-for-the-upcoming-divorce stand-up tour).

2. Though his kind of literate, adult-oriented mainstream Big Studio kind of filmmaking isn't in fashion now, director/producer/occasional actor Sydney Pollack (who died Monday of cancer) will be missed.  My choices for DVD viewers of what I consider Pollack's essential films as a director from his peak period of 1972-1985: THE WAY WE WERE, JEREMIAH JOHNSON, THE YAKUZA, THE ELECTRIC HORSEMAN, ABSENCE OF MALICE, THREE DAYS OF THE CONDOR, TOOTSIE and OUT OF AFRICA (I haven't seen THEY SHOOT HORSES, DON'T THEY? in its entirety, but it is highly rated and hopefully will receive a TCM showing soon).  As an actor, Pollack was especially good in TOOTSIE, Woody Allen's HUSBANDS AND WIVES and last year's George Clooney/Tony Gilroy collaboration MICHAEL CLAYTON.

3. Former White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan seemed to me to be a person who, while doing the job asked of him (spinning George W. Bush's policy decisions in a positive light), lacked the hatchet-person gusto of predecessor Ari Fleischer and the airy, distanced, facts-don't-really-matter cool of Tony Snow's successor Dana Perino.  Now, McClellan has a book coming out which, from cable news coverage, takes a few shots at targets like Karl Rove and, again, follows what looks like an ongoing trend towards partial-rehabilitation of Butch Jr. of spinning Little Butch as "misled" by advisors (SLATE's Jacob Weisberg, who also profited from books of Butch Jr. malaprops called "Bushisms", took a similar line in a serious Butch Jr. bio recently).

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

AOL Truthwatch: misleading headline re DANCING WITH THE STARS.

I'm aware that the good people (who occasionally overindulge in snark as if it was marzipan) of AOL want to get lots of attention from the contents of their front page.

Here's a misleading headline from today's front page:


There's a Reason TV Execs Don't Cast
Gay 'Stars': What They're Trying to Hide

Yes, it's a link to fellow Time Warner site TMZ.  Here's the reality:

"So here's what our "Dancing" spies tell us. Producers prefer straight, because it creates believable sexual tension on the dance floor and that's what the audience wants. Think of Kristi Yamaguchi doing a rumba with Tommy Tune. Pleeeeze."

The above refers to DANCING WITH THE STARS and Disney/ABC's mindset that audiences want to see ostensibly "straight" DANCERS (not stars) with the celebs that compete each season.

And it goes without saying that it's sad that Harvey Levin, the TMZ majordomo who is gay, allowed the slur on Tommy Tune to appear on the site.  But I guess there's nothing like pandering to homophobia for the purpose of getting a few thousand more hits. 

Monday, May 19, 2008

Tarsem's THE FALL--and why you may see fewer arthouse films like it.

Film-and-video auteur Tarsem (who as Tarsem Singh directed the 2000 thriller THE CELL with Jennifer Lopez and Vince Vaughn) has a new film in the arthouse marketplace called THE FALL.

THE FALL has a set-in-1915-L.A. framing device : an injured Hollywood stuntman (Lee Pace of PUSHING DAISIES) tells a young immigrant girl (Catinca Untaru, giving what may be the best performance by a child you'll see this year) a fantastical story about diverse heroes who join together on a quest--a story containing elements of THE WIZARD OF OZ and THE ADVENTURES OF BARON MUNCHAUSEN.

THE FALL has received some rough treatment from mainstream critics--it was urinated on by ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY's Owen Glieberman (receiving the D+ grade) along with pans from Richard "film reviewing is more a business than anything else to me" Roeper and Michael Phillips on the unofficially-titled ROEPER WITHOUT EBERT SHOW.  The consensus of the pans seems to be that THE FALL is lovely but boring and pretentious.  I saw the same film the reviewers did--and found it quite imaginative, humorous and moving.  But what do I know?

Kudos to small independent distributor Roadside Attractions (and the willingness of filmmakers Spike Jonze and David Fincher to take presentation credit on the ads) for guiding THE FALL into a more-cutthroat-than-ever specialty-film universe and, so far, supporting and nurturing the audience attracted to the film.

Last year, quite a few independent films were released into American theaters--and a lot of them were boxoffice stiffs.  Now, the mentality towards acquiring arthouse product has shapeshifted into the same kind of everything-must-be-a-blockbuster ethos routinely in effect at mainstream studios such as Warner Brothers (who, likely thanks to Alan Horn and Jeff Robinov, closed down its specialty divisions Picturehouse and Warner Independent Pictures recently).

A recent article about this syndrome in THE HOLLYWOOD REPORTER made a valid point: when distributors acquire films according to a this-is-surefire mentality, they often forget that the small pictures considered uncommercial are those which often become successful with the public.

An example: last year's sleeper success ONCE, the Irish-love-story-with-music.  It was, thankfully, supported and nurtured by 20th Century Fox's boutique unit Fox Searchlight.

The question is: How many "small films" like ONCE (with the potential of connecting with an audience) will even find a distributor this year?


Friday, May 16, 2008

James Frey's back again and providing a litmus test as to how you fit in with the literati.

The good folks at AOL which give me the opportunity to blog have printed this snarky front-page  headline re the new novel BRIGHT SHINY MORNING by James Frey:

Lying 'Oprah' Author Is Back
Will Anyone Want to Read This?

And, whether or not one believes the allegations that Frey's A MILLION LITTLE PIECES was shopped as a novel and then marketed as a "memoir", it's safe to say the knives are out.  David Ulin, literary majordomo of THE LOS ANGELES TIMES Book Review Section and Deirdre Donahue of the more mass-market USA TODAY, are among the critics loudly reminding people that JAMES FREY CANNOT WRITE!!!

And this kind of fervor trickles down into the small corner of the literary community (the poets/writers who often imagine themselves as greater in talent and impact than they actually are) I have been involved with for the past decade.  As I told a friend a few days ago, a great way to ingratiate oneself into the positive attentions of L.A. literati is to sidle up to local poets/writers (or perhaps the staffs of Book Soup and Skylight Books) and talk about how JAMES FREY CANNOT WRITE!!! and how the Stupid Masses are stupid enough to give Frey another chance even after The Serial Liar was keelhauled by Oprah Winfrey and SOUTH PARK.

And I'm sure there will be a considerable amount of snark to be spread in print and online about Frey holding a book signing last night at the Sunset Strip landmark Whisky a Go Go.

Let's face it, the world is filled with the kind of "improving on truth" ethics that Frey received a smackdown for.  Hillary Clinton embellished a landing in Bosnia during her First Lady term for the edification of campaign-rally audiences.  George W. Bush recently told a whopper about giving up golf during the 2003 phase of the Iraq War that just keeps on going.

And the nation's self-appointed Smart People save most of their indignation for a wiry little bearded guy (pretending to be a rough tough badass along the lines of John Milius, Harry Crews and Joe Eszterhas) who seems to be interested more in making money than Lasting Art has a successful not-a-memoir-but-an-actual-novel on his hands.

Presumably, there will be a lot of exploding heads a la SCANNERS among book reviewers everywhere when the next Dan Brown novel is published.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Keith Olbermann followed the war herd in 2003--will he do it again?

Some of you reading this entry probably watched or read tonight's Keith Olbermann COUNTDOWN opinion piece where he opined mightily on a recent George Butch Jr. interview where Butch Jr. defended his record in the Oval Office.  Olbermann built his rebuttal to a have-you-no-shame-sir crescendo where he lambasted Butch Jr. for giving up golf as a way to display empathy with the families of the troops being sent to war (and apparently fabricating a Karen Hughes-esque "better than truth" story that claimed that Butch Jr. gave up golf at a certain point in 2003--unfortunately there exists a Getty Images photo of the Commander In Chief on the links later that year).

If you haven't seen or heard it, here's the link to the text:


Not that I completely disagree with Olbermann's opinions, but here's a link below to a wet kiss that SLATE columnist Jack Shafer gave Keith in 2003 that proves an old thesis of mine: Olbermann is basically following the herd at MSNBC in that it's safe safe safe to go after an unpopular President.  But during Gulf War II, KO apparently went along with the pro-war herd at a time when that was safe safe safe at the network (keep in mind NBC dropkicked Phil Donahue earlier that year for not being sufficiently prowar).  And this punches a hole in KO's self-mythologizing about being a fearless truth-teller.

And here are passages of Shafer's article that made me shake my head in dismay:

As coalition troops began their rout of Baghdad in early April, Olbermann returned to form, blending his shtick into the mix as he's always done.

On April 7, as he rolled tape of an Army Humvee battering down a mahogany door at a Saddam palace, Olbermann gave Countdown his SportsCenter best: "And, ding-dong! Avon calling!" Following Iraqi Minister of Information Mohammed Saeed Al-Sahhaf's denials that U.S. troops were in Baghdad, Olbermann deadpanned a shot at his former employers at Fox: "Mr. al-Sahhaf added that he thought his assessment of the military situation was 'fair and balanced.' "

Other great bits of collected Olbermann Countdown shtick:

Good evening. Well, they wanted Saddam Hussein dead or alive, and now they have gotten him exactly that way—dead or alive. …

When they won't fight, the war tends to be over. …

Tough time … to be French and German—as I am.

We are sorry Saddam Hussein can't come to the war right now; please leave a message after the beep. …

The old Europe meets the "axis of evil"; making matters more intriguing, they're talking Shiite.




Saturday, May 10, 2008

POETISTA--a poem still relevant four years later.

This poem was written in 2004, but is still relevant as a snapshot of how a certain level of poetry in Los Angeles views itself:



I hate bad art.

Unfortunately, I live in Los Angeles

and work in the Motion Picture Industry.

So, I help to produce and market

bad art every workday for fifty weeks a year.


But there’s a secret life I lead.

My partner and I host a poetry reading

at the most comfortable cybercafe in Los Feliz.

Due to my work commitments, the reading is

only for one day a month.


And it’s a very special reading.

To be a truly successful host, one has to book

the best and most literate poets in the city

so there will be an audience of sophisticated,

cutting-edge people-not just the usual coterie of

mediocre coffeehouse poets

wanting to read in the open

and harboring thoughts of featuring

at our elevated venue one day.


We have a special way of discouraging mediocrity.

If a bad poet comes too often, we make him or her

feel as if he or she is taking a spot belonging to

someone far more deserving.

It may take a few weeks, but eventually he or she

gets the message and never returns.


And need I add that our reading draws a large crowd

of successful poets and influential audience members?

One time, we had an audience of almost 50 people.

Fortunately, we didn’t have to deal with the Fire Marshal

ordering people to leave.


I wish you could have been at our most recent reading.

We had a glittering bill of four features-meaning no

open readers!!!! (yay)

There was a comedienne who used to write jokes for Sandra Tsing-Loh,

a Santa Ana poet who bills himself as The Last Liberal in Orange County,

a poet from Westchester who holds $1,000-per-person workshops

and our very special guest: actress AMBER TAMBLYN!!!


Truly a fabulous evening of poetry-all the right people were there.


Who could ask for anything more?



A symbiosis of sorts between SPEED RACER and how I perceive Los Angeles poetry.

Given the high value placed on uniformity of critical opinion, you may have been saturated with negative opinions of Larry and Andy Wachowski's SPEED RACER by now (my take: it's worth at least a bargain matinee ticket and nowhere near as awful as you're being led to believe).

The Wachowskis and producer Joel Silver are unlikely to receive a parole from their ongoing season in Hell for not giving audiences a Neo-fighting-the-good-fight-in-the-Real-World storyline in the two sequels to THE MATRIX.  But the promise of THE MATRIX's close becomes an integral part of the plot in SPEED RACER--Speed and family resist the appeals of the evil corporate head who, when rebuffed, gives an angry speech about how races are fixed and it's better to accept that fact and play ball (resembling a similar speech in David Mamet's REDBELT).

Here's where the similarity of SPEED RACER and Los Angeles poetry comes in:

At a certain point in SPEED RACER, Speed has to make a decision as to whether or not to race for the love of racing--instead of just "winning" and gaining all the temporary attention and rewards attached.

I feel like I have to make the same decision with regards to writing and reading poetry in the city of Los Angeles.

Here's a quote from a wise female poet named Mary McIntyre:

"Tell you what I've seen as problem with poetry in this town ever since I arrived--everybody's too busy either obligingly congratulating each other or anxiously awaiting what could be their 'big' moment."

Now that the local scene is shapeshifting towards near-exclusive congratulating and rewarding what was once described in a long-ago L.A. WEEKLY article on poetry as "poets in academia writing for each other", Mary's words above still ring true.

And, perhaps, more than they did when she first wrote them on a local poetry listserve.



Thursday, May 8, 2008

Eric Priestley--poet from Watts--fighting to keep his home.

An op-ed piece from former L.A. WEEKLY writer Erin Aubry Kaplan (now with THE LOS ANGELES TIMES) about Los Angeles poet Eric Priestley:,0,7419516.story

REDBELT: Did David Mamet crib from Buster Keaton?

David Mamet's homage to mixed martial arts and notions of honor vs. venality--REDBELT--will expand into more theaters tomorrow (May 9th).  I saw the film on Tuesday and thought it watchable, if sometimes overwrought.

Without giving too much away, the fight-scene climax seems to owe something to a similar finale in the Buster Keaton silent boxing-match comedy BATTLING BUTLER.

If anyone has seen both films, feel free to comment.

USA TODAY: unfit troops being sent into combat.

Regardless of one's position on the War on Terror, this article in USA TODAY (linked onto AOL) about U.S. soldiers being sent into combat regardless of health is worth reading:

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Some signs of the economic times.

As the tidalwaves of the recession keep smashing onto the shores of the middle-class...

1. In Northridge, CA, a Wells Fargo bank displayed a group of photos of foreclosed houses for resale (at least a couple of them in the suburb where my wife and I used to live--Granada Hills).  There was also a realtor, eager to nab potential customers, in the bank lobby.

2. In the lobby of the Regal Cinemas in Simi Valley, CA, there is a replica of a gasoline pump--offering "free" gasoline for a year to the lucky winner of the drawing (I didn't notice whether or not this is connected to time-share vacation lodgings).

3. Furniture stores are closing.  People can't afford to buy "nice" furniture.

4. Sharper Image stores are closing.  People can't afford to buy overpriced gadgets and radios with access to High Definition stations anymore.  And they're still costly, even with the Going Out of Business sales.

5. In Glendale, CA, there is a pricey shopping center/affluent housing community called Americana (on the stretch of Brand Boulevard going north, with the venerable Glendale Galleria a few blocks away) which opened two days ago.  It's a sort of sick joke to expect people to travel across greater Los Angeles to Glendale to buy overpriced Ed Hardy clothing after, say, the Grand Opening weekend.  And, remembering the 13 years I lived in Glendale, it's unlikely that the majority of local residents will be shopping at Americana--because they can't afford to buy more than a bargain matinee ticket at the Pacific Theaters 18-plex on the property.

Feel free to use the comment section to add more to the list above.




Saturday, May 3, 2008

Sidney Blumenthal helps Hillary win ugly; fellow traveler Joe Conason lends support.

"It's just politics" department:

Here's a link to Peter Dreier's HUFFINGTON POST column about how Sidney Blumenthal, who used to rail about the "vast right-wing conspiracy" and also helped to derail Bill Clinton's impeachment, is now collaborating with the right-wing to neutralize Barack Obama's candidacy:

And here's a link to a SALON column by Bill and Hillary Clinton-lapdog Joe Conason offering his support and rationalization for Sidney's dirty tricks, while criticizing Dreier:


Friday, May 2, 2008

AMPTP repeating bullying behavior with SAG during negotiations.

Here's a link to Nikki Finke's DEADLINE HOLLYWOOD DAILY column about the state of the current AMPTP/SAG negotiations, with the producers playing hardball in the same irrepressible way they did with the WGA earlier this year:

Of course THE LOS ANGELES TIMES contributed to the please-actors-don't-kill-the-Industry drumbeat just recently with a pro-AMPTP article about how below-the-line crew members are still suffering post-WGA strike.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

The annual E-Book Free for All is here again--passing along info.

Passing along this e-mail from Rick Lupert of POETRY SUPERHIGHWAY fame about his annual E-Book Free For All; this year, there are 64 e-books of poetry from various poets--and four of them (THE USE YOUR DELUSION SAMPLER, NOTHING HELD BACK, HOLLYWOOD POETRY: THE DEFINITIVE EDITION and I SAW IT ON TV) are mine.

Here's an opportunity to check out a true diversity of poetic voices.


The 4th annual Poetry Super Highway E-book Free-For-All is on now. 64 e-books have been donated by poets from all over the world and they are now available to download for the next 24 hours for free. Click on "E-Book Free-For All" from the main Poetry Super Highway menu to get your free e-fill.

This is a limited time offer...the free download links will disappear tonight at midnight (The evening of May1st) and we'll post a new page letting everyone know how many times each book was downloaded.

So get to that e-book downloading's a free-for-all!