Monday, November 30, 2009

Re the Afghanistan Surge.

Guessing there will be a great silence from regarding Obama's Bush-Lite efforts to "finish the job" in Afghanistan. [Actually, the silence was broken by a post asking for "benchmarks" and "firm" exit.]

And wondering what the human and economic costs of our President not wanting to appear "weak" will be.

Sunday, November 22, 2009


From the reactions of the critical community, one would think that Werner Herzog's collaboration with Nicolas Cage was some kind of classic gonzo mashup of genre convention and Method actor playing Improv games with co-stars.
Not really.
BAD LIEUTENANT is a sometimes-meandering two-hour mixture of Steven Bochco-esque police procedural (which makes sense since Bochco almunus William Finkelstein wrote the script and shows up in a role that sort of channels Mark Rydell playing Marty Augustine in THE LONG GOODBYE), a few riffs from/shoutouts to Abel Ferrara's original 1992 character study with Harvey Keitel planting his feet at the bottom of the metaphorical swimming pool and a lot of let's-throw-Cage-in-a-scene- with-another-actor-and-see-what-happens.
There are some bits involving iguanas and alligators--presumably Herzog's main contribution. One can't help but regret that Klaus Kinski is deceased; imagine the kind of thespic bouts of one-actor-upstaging-another he and Cage would have engaged in.
In short, Herzog's previous venture into the mainstream, the Sam Fuller-influenced RESCUE DAWN, is definitely superior. And there's a new DVD release of the original THE BAD LIEUTENANT--waiting to be bought, as well as a reminder of what Ferrara could achieve before his artiness descended to look-what-a-deep-thinker-I-am fare like THE FUNERAL and THE ADDICTION.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Oprah Winfrey will end THE OPRAH WINFREY SHOW after 25 years in 2011.

Read Nikki Finke's blow-by-blow account of Oprah's decisionmaking, plus a comment Oprah allegedly made regarding Southern California vs. Chicago:

THE OPRAH WINFREY SHOW started out as an imitation of the interviews-plus-let-audience-ask-some-questions format which made Phil Donahue a success. And, in the early seasons, Oprah exuded an Everywoman appeal (at one point, the show used the song "I'm Every Woman" for its theme) which made it easy for audiences to identify with her.

As the years went on, Oprah became super-rich and the self-important, lording-it-over-everyone aspects of newfound superwealth permeated the show (with a low point being her on-air scolding of the Paris department store Hermes for apparently not knowing who she was). Also there was her tendency to lapse into a sort of vocalese (JUUUUULIIIIIA ROOOBBEEEERRRTTTSSS!)--with her delivery of the line "I'm having a Martha Moment!" (prior to Martha Stewart's jail time and her Mark Burnett-assisted comeback as a rival daytime host) being particularly memorable in the wrong way.

Having said that, the show had its moments of insight/watchable guests-and-experts over its two-plus decades. And, through the Book Club, viewers were exposed to both writers they weren't familiar with plus great novels they may not have read otherwise.

So let's see what the Discovery-affiliated Oprah Winfrey Network will offer longtime fans/newcomers in 2011.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

NEWSWEEK, Sarah Palin and the tendency of magazines to go for the "gotcha" photo.

Here's a link to Evan Thomas' NEWSWEEK article about Sarah Palin; Thomas pines for a legislative environment where "moderate" Republicanism rules over the visceral, primeval don't-think-it's-bad-for-you ethos of Ms. Palin and her acolytes:
And Thomas also engages in more dumb revisionism where Ronald Reagan is now considered a "great" President.

But, Thomas (plus the more intelligent Christopher Hitchens article undone when Hitchens lurches for his trademark bellicose atheism at the close) gets undone by Jon Meacham and NEWSWEEK's choice for a cover photo.

As for the controversial cover (which was from a photo shoot for a fitness magazine), it shouldn't be surprising that magazines still desire the "gotcha" cover--a practice that hasn't really changed since TIME's infamous darkening of O.J. Simpson's photo a decade and a half ago.

And here's NEWSWEEK justifying the choice:

To me, the really offensive photo is in the print edition of the magazine--and it's more due to the context which the magazine intended.

There's a shot of Ms. Palin giving a campaign-trail speech in October of 2008--but all you see are the back of her legs and her high-heeled shoes and two young male volunteers gazing up at her.

And NEWSWEEK, given the Palin-as-substance-free-beauty nudge-nudge of the cover photo, seems to want readers to think of the two male supporters as staring at a woman onstage in a strip club.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Most overwrought film-critic pull-quote of the year so far.

"It looks right in your eye and tells the truth."--Rex Reed, THE NEW YORK OBSERVER


None of the above.

The quote is being used for Fox Searchlight's awards-nomination ad campaign
for......(500) DAYS OF SUMMER.

Yes, that's right. The overrated, style-trumps-substance (500) DAYS OF SUMMER.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Re the end of Aerosmith as we know them.

Steven Tyler's recent announcement that he's leaving the legendary band Aerosmith--plus Joe Perry's "we're looking for a replacement lead vocalist" tweet on Twitter--will probably cause both fervent and casual fans to say "uh-oh."

To me, Aerosmith carrying on without Tyler would be akin to The Rolling Stones without Mick Jagger.

I'm assuming that Perry thinks that soldiering on with a ringer lead vocalist is financially viable since bands like Journey and Foreigner (the latter called "faceless" by ROLLING STONE) have drafted sort-of-soundalikes and have continued their careers (though on a second-tier, we-know-we're-an-oldies-act basis).

At this point, Perry and the rest of the band would be better off persuading Tyler to do a career-spanning-with-special-guests farewell show (which can be further monetized by DVD and/or pay-per-view). Then, the remaining members should retire the name and regroup if they so choose.

As long as they decide on a name other than The Joe Perry Project.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

THE JAY LENO SHOW: insert your punchline here.

At this point, I'm wondering if NBCUniversal still thinks the continuing spectacle of THE JAY LENO SHOW (which now seems so hamstrung due to apparent restrictions on booking guests, it's turning to members of the George Butch Jr. family and the lame-duck California Governator) is worth the effort because it keeps Leno from being a competitive late-night force on some other network.

A modest proposal: do away with guests altogether and cut the show to a half-hour--giving network affiliates some slight relief and an earlier start on late news.

This way, Jay can merely do his monologue--plus all the hoary, fan-pleasing old bits (Jaywalking, Headlines, etc.). And maybe someone at NBCUniversal can strongly insist that he dump the sour "smirking about being gay" schtick that seems left over from, say, the latter years of THE DEAN MARTIN SHOW--yes, that may mean getting rid of the demeaning, ridiculously stereotyped "Ross The Intern."

Or, if NBCUniversal really wanted to save money, they can turn the new soundstage over to another tenant and just tape Jay doing his Sunday evening joke tryouts at the Comedy and Magic Club in Hermosa Beach. Five half-hour timeslots filled just like that.

[UPDATE 11/9/09: A better proposal might be to move Conan O'Brien to 10:00 (where his younger-skewing demographic may be more compatible with some of NBC's primetime lineup) and call Conan's show EARLY TONIGHT. This can allow Jay to return to 11:35 and keep doing the same old stuff; it could even be rebranded as TONIGHT SHOW CLASSIC.]