Monday, February 29, 2016

The post-Academy Awards post.

It came to us in the usual three-hour-plus format.  It began with Chris Rock saying a couple of genuinely incisive things (about racism from ostensibly progressive/liberal Hollywood and the In Memoriam segment being made up of African-Americans killed while on their way to the movies), which became subsumed by Rock's more reactionary side (bad, snide jokes about the nonappearance of boycotters Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith and a "well, you're saying that because you don't have a job" dismissal of people expecting Rock to dare to turn down his first Academy Awards hosting gig in over a decade to show solidarity with #OscarsSoWhite).

It continued with expected acting, directing and cinematography wins.  Taking time to wonder if Inarritu, whenever he wins again, will repeat the cycle of interviews rationalizing his work methods of being harsh to actors, crew, line producers, etc.

It had the moment where Cheryl Boone Isaacs, the AMPAS President, delivered a sort-of-corporatespeak speech which I interpreted as saying:
Each of you represent the Academy.  Don't be afraid to enact diversity when greenlighting movies, hiring actors and choosing crew members.

It had a rare moment when the Vice President of the United States introduced a song from a documentary about rape on college campuses by opining against rape and rape culture.  This is a notable PSA in an industry where young women and men are often viewed by (most often) men in various levels of power as attractive bodies which can be coerced into consensual sex--or, sometimes, raped outright (particularly when the powerful men can ensure few to no consequences for their behavior).

And, finally, as ceremony, it did its best to overcompensate (with appearances by African-American, Latino and Asian actors) for the kind of diversity not often seen on-screen or behind the camera in this year's nominated films.

Between last night and next year, some disgruntled rank-and-file Academy members will leap at the opportunity to continue complaining about Not Getting To Vote on maintaining what they hoped would be eternal Academy membership.

Also, the progressive people who run studios--plus the more conservative folks who work below-the-line on sets may be momentarily chastened, but less than eager to devote detailed thought as to who has a better chance of being hired and what movies get made.

Of course, this could lead to backsliding rationalized by "we have to have a blockbuster slate," "we can't make tentpoles with African-American actors as leads because of prejudice in [insert country here]," "it costs too much to market even mid-budget films," "we have to cast people with massive social media presence," "I don't want quotas in terms of crew hired" and "I didn't see it because they didn't send a screener DVD and the streaming link didn't work."

Safe to guess the hypotheticals listed above will continue as before.  And, alas, increasing the possibility of the hashtag #OscarsSoWhite becoming an annual occurrence.

Sunday, February 28, 2016

The pre-Academy Awards post.

1. Mary McNamara, in the LOS ANGELES TIMES, refers to Chris Rock as a cultural arbiter expected to explain #OscarsSoWhite to the national and international viewing audience tonight.  And, apparently, explain it just enough and make enough pointed jokes to make viewers welcome the "carry on as usual" traditional ceremony without having troubling subtextual thoughts.

2. Margaret Avery (nominated as a Supporting Actress for playing a lesbian in Steven Spielberg's blanded-out THE COLOR PURPLE, a 1985 release), was interviewed in today's Calendar section of the LA TIMES.  I'm old enough to remember Ms. Avery paying for her own campaign ads and being mocked for their content.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

The Billy Joel playlist: 1982-1993

1. Allentown
2. Pressure
3. She's Right On Time
4. A Room Of Our Own
5. Tell Her About It
6. Uptown Girl
7. The Longest Time
8. Keeping The Faith
9. Code Of Silence (w/Cyndi Lauper)
10. Big Man On Mulberry Street
11. This Is The Time
12. A Matter Of Trust
13. Shameless
14. The Downeaster "Alexa"
15. Leningrad
16. All About Soul
17. No Man's Land
18. The Great Wall Of China
19. River Of Dreams
20. Goodnight My Angel

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Prematurely eulogizing HBO's VINYL.

On paper, VINYL seemed surefire.  1970s rock and the record business examined through an East Coast lens.  Martin Scorsese and Mick Jagger as co-producers.  A cast including Bobby Cannavale, Ray Romano, Juno Temple, Olivia Wilde and Max Casella (channeling Joe Pesci).

And the Scorsese-directed pilot was generally good--though, at two hours, a bit less effective than the 90-minute opening episode of BOARDWALK EMPIRE.

Then, the second episode.

All the flaws (awkward time-shifting, overflowing cast,  off-kilter/unintentionally amusing imitations of Famous People, anachronistically backdating punk rock to 1973, an unfortunate re-use of the BOARDWALK pilot's kill-a-character-and-hide-the-body motif and general difficulty empathizing with most of the fuck-snort-and-betray male characters) of the pilot were magnified x100.

I'll probably struggle through the third installment, but VINYL has already become a white elephant on the scale of LUCK, which had the David Milch/Michael Mann pedigree--but similar problems with sprawling story plus not-interesting-enough characters.

And, as with LUCK, HBO has given VINYL two seasons as a declaration of faith in its A-list Talent.

Since VINYL, unlike LUCK, doesn't use horses in the show (with animal deaths causing premature cancellation), it's safe to expect the network to honor its commitment to a 21-22 episode run even if just a few hundred thousand people tune in or watch online.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

New poem: Jeb! Got A Gun: inspired by Aerosmith song.

Dum, dum, dum, Jeb! what have you done?
Dum, dum, dum it's the picture of my gun.
Dum, dum, dum, Jeb! what have you done?
Dum, dum, dum it's the picture of my Twitter gun

Jeb! got a gun
Jeb! got a gun
His whole world's come undone
From lookin' straight at Carolina sun
What did his daddy do?
What did Baby Brother put him through?

Jeb! got a gun
Jeb! got a gun
His dog day's just begun
Trying to get Trump on the run
Tell me now it's untrue.
What did his mommy do?

It's Jeb's last I.O.U.
Got a lot to lose.
Running for dynasty.
Stumbling in campaign shoes.

Run away, run away from the pain yeah, yeah yeah yeah
Run away run away from the pain yeah yeah
yeah yeah yeah yeah yeah
Run away, run away, run, run away yeah

[Frenzied guitar solo, then sound bytes of Trump/Cruz/Rubio/Kasich/Carson, then slow fade]

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Earth Wind and Fire plus Maurice White (solo)/Philip Bailey (solo) playlist.

1. Got To Get You Into My Life
2. Let's Groove
3. After The Love Is Gone
4. Serpentine Fire
5. That's The Way Of The World
6. Shining Star
7. September
8. Walking On The Chinese Wall (Bailey)
9. Children Of The Ghetto (Bailey)
10. Stand By Me (White)
11. I Need You (White)
12. Fantasy
13. Getaway
14. Boogie Wonderland

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

The Billy Joel playlist 1973-1980

1. Captain Jack
2. Stop In Nevada
3. The Ballad of Billy The Kid
4. Piano Man
5. Los Angelenos
6. The Entertainer
7. Last of the Big Time Spenders
8. Say Goodbye To Hollywood
9. Summer, Highland Falls
10. New York State of Mind
11. Prelude (Angry Young Man)
12. I've Loved These Days
13. The Stranger
14. Movin' Out (Anthony's Song)
15. Vienna
16. Scenes From An Italian Restaurant
17. Half A Mile Away
18. Zanzibar
19. Until The Night
20. All For Leyna
21. It's Still Rock and Roll To Me