Hollywood types speak gauzily of their "art," even if nothing seems to fit the definition of some of this "art" better than "films almost no one wants to watch." Robert Redford became a hero of the "art" film world by founding the Sundance Institute in 1981, based on the call for "creative risk-taking" and "nurturing the diversity of artistic expression." But the search for risk-taking-cum-creative diversity is a hopeless free-fall into the abyss, and all too often, and too predictably, results in creative perversity. What Mapplethorpe brought to the photograph, Redford’s festival is now bringing to the silver screen.
The 2007 Sundance festival has reached a new low with a strange, yet highly publicized film called "Zoo." No, it isn’t about giraffes and hippos. "Zoo" is about "zoophiles" – you know, humans who like sex with animals. The documentary explores the activities of a group of men in the Pacific Northwest who engaged in bestiality. To be precise, they engaged in sex with Arabian stallions – until a man died from a perforated colon in 2005.
Sunday's episode of Showtime's drama centered around the lives of lesbians in Los Angeles, the L word, will feature the “Unauthorized Abortion of W,” a sculpture of a woman's body with an exposed womb displaying George W. Bush's adult face with each of his hands holding onto a rocket labeled “U.S. Air Force.” The rockets are angled to suggest they represent forceps. (Showtime is part of CBS.)
In a promo for the January 28 episode, character “Bette Porter,” the dean of a university's art school played by Jennifer Beals, tells a new character played by Marlee Matlin: “I'm bringing one of our biggest donors to tour the studio. There's a radical sculpture.” Through a male interpreter, the deaf Matlin character, whom the L word's Web site describes as “an artist whose work is politically incendiary,” observes: “He's not going to like that piece.” Porter/Beals confirms “no.” Then as a man comes into view, presumably the big donor, the camera quickly pans the figure of Bush in the womb as Matlin explains: “This is called the 'Unauthorized Abortion of W.'” Video clip of Showtime's promo for the January 28 episode (45 seconds): Real (1.3 MB) or Windows Media (1.6 MB), plus MP3 audio (275 KB)
Based on what Times Watch has read, “Friends of God: A Road Trip With Alexandra Pelosi,” the documentary on Christian evangelicals airing on HBO tonight (Pelosi being the daughter of you-know-who) seems more respectful than the contemptuous anti-Christian commentary it's generated, including a paragraph Thursday from television critic Alessandra Stanley.
NBC's Thursday night comedy "30 Rock" took some good-natured potshots at "NBC Nightly News" anchor Brian Williams in a scene that depicted his office as rife with liquor bottles, dirty underwear, pornography ("Junk in the Trunk") and wall graffiti declaring "Katie Couric Sucks." (h/t TVNewser.com)
Interesting panel discussion about "24" on last evening's Fox News Watch. On the one hand, lefty Neal Gabler actually defended the show. Mentioning that he likes Keith Olbermann "very much," Gabler continued:
"I disagree with Keith Olbermann in this situation. I look at '24' as being like a 527 [tax-exempt groups that engage in political activity]. It's bringing up that issue about terrorism, it certainly serves the Bush administration. But unlike the 9-11 show that was on ABC which specifically cited Bush as a great hero, this does not do that. It is entertainment, and I don't think it ought to be censored, or pulled off the air, or anything like that."
At the same time, Gabler later claimed: "I had dinner with the creator of '24' [note: IMDB lists Joel Surnow and Robert Cochran as co-creators. A well-positioned source informs me Gabler was referring to Surnow], and let me say, he was a right-wing fanatic. Let's not pretend that he isn't."
Last night ABC’s Boston Legal was packed full of political jabs. Lawyer Denny Crane (played by William Shatner) was placed on the "No Fly List" and when Alan Shore (played by James Spader) asked if Crane has called for help, his response was, "Well, I can’t get anybody. I called Tom Delay, his number’s disconnected. Foley has got his hands full, Frist said, "Don’t take it personally." I called Clarence Thomas; his office said he was indisposed." Shore then asked, "How you tried going right to the top?" Crane’s response was, "Cheney?"
Soon after, Shore described Crane to a Homeland Security official saying, "Mr. Murch... there is nobody more red, white and blue than this man here. He's for the death penalty. He's pro-life. He doesn't read newspapers. He's exercised every loophole to avoid paying taxes. He's even donated to. The Jack Abramoff ball."
Keith Olbermann is scared. Not by the threat of terrorism in the United States. But at the notion that "24" might be raising Americans' awareness of the threat. And he has singled out NewsBusters for the role it has played in highlighting the issue.
Olbermann devoted a Countdown segment this evening to "24", suggesting that its two-night, four-hour season opener should have been sufficient to "scare or outrage you." Incomprehensibly, Olbermann complained that the show depicted various terrorist suicide attacks "not in places where these things already happened, but in a country called the United States of America." Is it possible that Keith Olbermann has forgotten 9-11?
Miami Herald TV critic Glenn Garvin is blogging from the annual Television Critics Association tour, and found some hot talk in recounting the Clintonista war against ABC's movie on 9/11.
Asked during his appearance on the TV critics' tour if he was embarrassed that the network had to "backpedal" on its Clinton-unfriendly movie The Path To 9/11, [ABC programming chief Stephen] McPherson took no prisoners -- particularly when it came to Clinton's national security adviser Sandy Berger, one of the film's chief critics. "We didn't backpedal," McPherson said. "We aired the movie. We didn't change anything for those guys. We aired it as planned on the dates that were planned. I mean, it's a little odd to have Sandy Berger telling you about what's truthful or not when he was indicted for stuffing documents into his pants on this very subject."
Cal Thomas had the line of the night on this evening's Fox News Watch. Here's how the conservative commentator explained Americans' dissatisfaction with progress in Iraq:
"Part of the problem here is we have Desert Storm with the 100-hour war. Everybody came home. There were victory marches, General Schwarzkopf leading. The press was full of stories: 'we finally got the Vietnam monkey off our back.' Now we're used to the very quick action. It's not going to happen, except thank goodness Jack Bauer is coming back to make it happen on '24' - that's what we're waiting for."
In his culture column this week, Brent Bozell unveiled a new study from the Parents Television Council (cleverly titled "Dying to Entertain") that found that the 2005-2006 TV season was the most violent in recent history. In fact, there has been a 75 percent increase in prime-time TV violence since the 1998 season. Some of the examples of creepiness and gore are pretty extreme. The other inspiration for the column is the debut of "The Sopranos" on basic cable at a price to A&E of 2.5 million smackers an episode:
The latest landmark (or landfill) in the TV world is the arrival of HBO’s pay-cable mob drama “The Sopranos” on the basic-cable channel A&E, where now virtually anyone with cable can watch. How carefully is this show with mature-themed sex, violence, and profanity vetted for general audiences? TV critics wailed that any snip is messing with the “artistic integrity,” but the Hollywood Reporter reassured fans that “a few judicious snips to a series can be made without snuffing its profane soul.”
Brent Bozell's culture column centers on a twisted little late-night Cartoon Network show called "Moral Orel." It's a vicious little claymation attack on Christianity that airs on "Adult Swim" 15 minutes after Sunday is over. Two weeks ago, it aired 15 minutes into Christmas with the first and worst episode: a Christmas special.
Right from the get-go, viewers learn that Orel’s parents are very phony Christians who hate each other, and their preacher, Reverend Putty, looking typically ridiculous in the phoniest of toupees, declares his gratitude to St. Joseph in his Christmas sermon for accepting the "unplanned birth" of Jesus, since it prevented them from the horror of being Jewish instead of Protestant. They worship at "God's Favorite Protestant Church."
Newspaper cultural critics often seemed to be bringing their politics and not just their artistic senses to the table when judging the "best" products of 2006. Friday’s Weekend section of The Washington Post compiled a set of lists of the best in art, music, and movies, and some of the Post critics were dropping some liberal (and radical, even Marxist) politics into their choices. The music critics were the most political. Curt Fields had two liberal/radical Bush-hater favorites on his Best list:
7. Dixie Chicks. The trio had several quality moments, including its defiant "Not Ready to Make Nice" single and the intriguing "Shut Up & Sing" documentary. But best of all was the way the Dixie Chicks appeared onstage at some of their live shows to the strains of "Hail to the Chief."...
9. The Coup, "Pick a Bigger Weapon." This Oakland, Calif.-based act mixes revolutionary politics, humor and sweet beats. Smart and catchy, a rare double. Plus, it has the song title of the year, "Babyletshaveababybeforebushdosomethingcrazy."
Atheist activist Sam Harris recently proclaimed on National Public Radio that America needed a lot more mockery of religious belief. "I think the criticism of irrationality just has to come from 100 sides all at once,” he declared. “In the entertainment community, maybe you'll just have people making jokes that are funny enough and true enough so as to put religious certainty in a bad light."
Harris said he’s been trying hard to make contacts among the mind-benders in the news and entertainment media to find those God-scorning people who feel “a profound sense of relief that comes with hearing somebody call a spade a spade.”
Brent Bozell's entertainment column this week focuses on a Simon Dumenco column in Advertising Age magazine demanding the resignation of FCC Chairman Kevin Martin because he's too cozy with "ultra-conservatives" who want the FCC to uphold broadcast decency standards in any way:
If Dumenco wants to play Donald Trump and fire assorted government officials that bring him displeasure, perhaps he shouldn’t start with Mr. Martin, who is merely enforcing the law as it stands. Memo to Mr. Dumenco: If Martin refused to enforce decency provisions, then he would be in violation of the law.
The premiere Sunday night of the second season of Showtime's week-long mini-series, Sleeper Cell: American Terror, gave time to two characters espousing how President Bush and the CIA were behind the 9/11 attacks. The eight-part series, airing for an hour at 9pm EST/PST (with an 11pm EST/PST) repeat every night through this Sunday on the CBS-owned network, picks up after last season which ended with an undercover Muslim FBI agent at the last-minute thwarting a plot to explode a nuclear device at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles.
In the newest episode, a woman who appears to be the girlfriend of one of the plotters who escaped capture (and she may not even be aware that he's a terrorist), arrives at his safe house and after the two have sex, as they sit on the kitchen floor eating from one plate, she propounds that “every time we have sex, it's like the ultimate f*** you to Bush, Cheney and the whole 9/11 plot. I just keep picturing Giuliani and the rest of those assholes supervising the whole thing from that $15 million bunker on the 23rd floor of Building 7. You know that's where they broadcast the homing signal from, make sure the planes would hit the towers." The terrorist man, a Bosnian, adds: "I know, and the Pentagon was actually hit by a CIA Global Hawk drone so the administration could start an endless war and turn America into a police state."
ABC's Kate Snow is apparently no fan of Larry David's HBO original series. On this morning's GMA Snow was unable to curb her enthusiasm at the prospect of a presidential run by Hillary Rodham. In to discuss an indication that Hillary might soon be announcing her candidacy, Snow, literally wriggling with excitement, gushed to Robin Roberts:
"It’s the latest sign that maybe, just maybe, we might have a woman trying to run for president of this country.”
Snow claimed that by the end of the week Hillary would be calling on all top New York Dems "not to tell them that she's running, but to get their advice and support, if she goes for it." Right. Shy, retiring Hillary, not telling her Dem minions anything. Just asking advice. Say, why not call it a "listening tour"? Video clip: Real (2MB) or Windows (1.3MB) Plus MP3 (204KB)
As the movie "The Nativity Story" premieres nationwide today, one underreported story is the city of Chicago choking on a promotion for the movie at its annual Christmas festival. That sounds sort of funny, trying to ban the Christ from the Christmas event, especially when Chicago (government and media outlets alike) so aggressively welcomed the Gay Games this summer. The Chicago story hasn't emerged yet on ABC, CBS, NBC, NPR, The Washington Post, The New York Times, or USA Today. (Exceptions are Fox's John Gibson and Glenn Beck on CNN Headline News.) Robert Knight of the MRC's Culture and Media Institute offered his view over at Human Events:
The Christkindl, or Christmas Fairy, is welcome at a Christmas festival in Chicago. So is Santa Claus. But a film about the birth of Jesus has provoked city officials to lower the boom.
Chicago officials deny actually ordering Christkindlmarket officials to cancel an exhibit of “The Nativity Story.” They just sort of asked them to dump it, kind of the way Da Bears ask an opposing runner to gently drop to the turf. Dose Bears would be embarrassed, however, by the sheer cowardice and political correctness on display this week in Chicago’s Daley Plaza.
As Matt Drudge reported earlier, actor Danny DeVito seemed drunk when he went on an anti-Bush tirade on ABC’s The View on Wednesday. DeVito recounted how he last visited the White House during the Clinton years, warmly noting that "the place was, had that kind of Clinton feeling, you know," before denigrating President Bush as "numb nuts" (or something like that — ABC bleeped over the last part of that word).
DeVito then began what was supposed to be mimicry of Bush, making a variety of weird sounds and facial expressions. It’s impossible to really capture DeVito’s performance in words (he’d admitted he’d been up partying all night with George Clooney), so I’ve posted a short video of one of his more explosive moments. Video Clip: Real (1.97 MB), Windows (2.26 MB), MP3 (338KB)
We lead fairly schizophrenic lives during the Christmas season in America. Our popular holiday rituals are bifurcated between the sacred and the secular; between the very worldly commercial extravaganza of Christmas as offered by our department stores – when they have the guts to employ the word “Christmas” – and Christianity celebrating the birth of Our Lord.
Hollywood hasn’t been so split on this question. It is firmly ensconced, and comfortable, in the secular world. Year after year, it offers commercial Christmas movies this time of year, with Grinches and Rudolphs, good Santas and Bad Santas, the Kranks and the Muppets. We’ve been Scrooged, been on Christmas Vacation, and taken rides on the Polar Express. We’ve seen the Christmas-as-a-backdrop movies like “Home Alone,” which, like so many others, might offer something about the Christmas “spirit” but wouldn’t dare to touch the Birth of Christ itself.
Sometimes, from the wilderness outside that insular liberal bubble known as PBS, the self-congratulations reaches new levels of absurdity. PBS is so insular that it hires bloggers to promote PBS documentaries, even PBS documentaries that lionize PBS programs.
I speak of this blog post: PBS has hired bloggers to comment on its programs on a site called "Remotely Connected." Paid blogger Levi Asher promoted a documentary on the PBS show "Sesame Street," or more precisely a promotional film on how Sesame Workshop markets international versions of "Sesame Street." [CORRECTION: Asher and the other PBS bloggers are not paid. See statement below.] The documentary series is titled "Independent Lens." I have no earthly idea how a somehow-edgy "independent" filmmaker makes a film glowingly recounting how Sesame Workshop, the global conglomerate, is foisting its "Muppet catalysts for social change" on the world for profit. But Asher loves the whole promotional circle:
In his culture column this week, Brent Bozell takes apart a Wall Street Journal op-ed by NBC chieftain Robert Wright, entitled "Federal Censorship Commission," warning that the threat of fines from the FCC has created a “climate of self-censorship,” an unmistakable “chill in the airwaves,” in which “the viewing public is the biggest loser.” In reality, the FCC moves extremely slowly (it's still puzzling over scenes on "NYPD Blue"), and the networks see them as a nuisance for their lawyers to bore to death with motions. Bozell writes of Wright:
He lauds his own talent at prediction, and how he warned in the same newspaper in 2004 that the titans of “creative integrity” in Hollywood would look less obscene than those who would urge the government to punish the broadcasting of obscenity. (How Orwellian: freedom is slavery, and opposing obscenity is obscene.)
In his culture column earlier in the week, Brent Bozell looked at the new NBC hit "Heroes" and how it draws in youngsters, but might carry a few too many sleazy adult twists for a young-skewing superhero series:
People who do a lot of business travel find themselves killing time by watching a lot of airline movies. Since the flying public includes a lot of children, the movie studios courteously provide the airlines with the movies edited for sex, language, ultra violence, and the like. And here’s the curious thing: I’ve never watched one of these movies and concluded at the end that it was cheapened by a lack of “gritty” (and I’m being kind here) material. Never in my life have I met a fellow passenger who suggested as much.
As the media crow about Democrats taking the reins of power on Capitol Hill, if you need a giggle, it's worth a rewind to the "Saturday Night Live" satire of MSNBC's "Hardball" on the October 28 show -- the same one with the fake Halloween GOP ads with Witchy Hillary and Count Obama. Chris Matthews (played as usual by Darrell Hammond) and Howard Dean (played by Jason Sudeikis) are expressing amazement at how pro-Democrat the polls are turning out:
Matthews: “Alright, I assume you've seen the latest poll, which has your party with an astonishing 55-point lead over the Republicans.”
Dean: “Life is good, Chris.”
Matthews: “But what amazes me is the internal numbers. I mean, the public now favors the Democrats in every issue. Even national defense.”
Dean: “I know, Chris. It's crazy. We can't be trusted on national defense.”
In his culture column this week, Brent Bozell wonders why on Earth the GOP doesn't have the wherewithal to attack the sleaze in Hollywood entertainment? Polls show a sizable majority are disgusted. But maybe it's because Hollywood is the big Democratic beehive you don't want to disturb. Or maybe by picking on TV network entertainment divisions, you're also picking on TV network news divisions. Or fussing about indecency makes you look square to independents? Whatever the reason, it's another season of never mind:
Looking back at the fall campaign, it’s yet another cycle in which the Republican political brain trust sidestepped the issue of America’s growing concern for indecency oozing out of almost every perfumed pore of Hollywood. This time it may have been the fatal mistake.
The gossip site Gawker reports CBS is trolling on Craigslist for that reliable species of American weirdo, the traditional family-values Christians who have Islamophobia:
Do you get nervous when you see a Muslim on an airplane? Have your opinions about Muslims changed since September 11? Do you have family or friends that get nervous around Muslims?
A NEW CBS SHOW SEEKS New York families who have traditional family values but are uneasy around Muslims.
The show will profile families in different communities across the country. This one hour documentary-style series from the producers of "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition" and "Deal or No Deal" will take a look at the people and cultures that make up America.
NBC's "Saturday Night Live" featured some fake Republican ads that were either intended as a) a dead-serious mockery of the GOP exploiting the terror threat and socially liberal causes or b) something so over the top it was just funny to everyone -- or maybe a little gross. About 18 minutes into the show came Robert Smigel's "TV Funhouse" cartoon feature, with President Bush discussing GOP ads. First, Smigel had his Bush introduce the authentic RNC Osama-"real stakes" commercial. Then, he had Bush say that if anyone was offended, the new ads were more festive and fun.
The first one had a Ted Kennedy photo mocked up as a vampire, saying with a Transylvania accent "I vant to cut and run!" Then bin Laden came into the picture and Kennedy was tongue-kissing him. Then "Count Obama" rose up (like Kennedy, an Obama pic mocked up with pointy ears and fangs) and said like the Count on Sesame Street, "One gay marriage... two gay marriages...three gay marriages..." Then it had real audio of Ken Mehlman saying this message paid for by the RNC, with his little picture on the bottom, just like the real ad shown first. Video (1:15): Real (2.04 MB) or Windows Media (2.33 MB ), plus MP3 audio (356 KB)
Sometimes, leftists make arguments that are just too odd to take seriously. On the blog News Corpse (an appropriate location to discuss whack-Bush movies, perhaps), there's great gnashing of teeth over CNN and NPR deciding not to air commercials (oops, that would be "enhanced underwriting" at NPR) for the Bush-assassination film "Death of a President."
CNN issued a brief statement that virtually admits its intention to censor, saying that…
“CNN has decided not to take the ad because of the extreme nature of the movie’s subject matter.”
By basing their decision on the movie’s “subject matter”, they have installed themselves as the public’s nanny. They believe that they are in the best position to decide for us which subjects matter. While they are a couple of yards further over the line than NPR, the public radio network’s excuse is not much better:
Hollywood has always been run by those on the left, but before the 60's and 70's, executives knew that their films had to appeal to mainstream America. That all changed when Hollywood decided to no longer censor itself, and directors got a free reign to turn movies into left-wing advocacy films. As a result, Hollywood has suffered ever since, with more empty theater seats every year.
It's gotten so bad that famed director George Lucas no longer thinks that making big-budget movies is even a viable business model.
As a company town, Hollywood has always tilted to some extent or another to the left, but the studio heads who ran it from the 1930s through the 1950s understood that its product must resonate with the American public as a whole to make money, regardless of their filmmakers' personal politics. Or as Sam Goldwyn is frequently attributed as saying, "Pictures are for entertainment, messages should be delivered by Western Union".
For Hollywood, the late 1960s began to mark a retreat from that philosophy. In a Wall Street Journal piece a few years ago, Michael Medved used the mid-1960s transition from the Hays Office, which acted as an industry-wide censor, to the G/PG/R/X ratings system we now take for granted, as being, effectively, the end of the golden age of movies. And, as Medved notes, that change influenced not just Hollywood's content, but its box office returns as well. Medved writes that in 1965, "44 million Americans went out to the movies every week. A mere four years later, that number had collapsed to 17.5 million":
Brent Bozell's culture column this week focused on two Washington Post articles from black staff writers who were moms horrified by the current state of hip-hop music and its effect on their children. Lonnae O'Neal Parker wrote broadly in "Why I Gave Up On Hip-Hop," but the other seemed very narrow-minded:
Natalie Hopkinson saw it in a different, more racially conspiratorial light. She wrote about how she reacted in horror when a middle-aged white female professor of hers said her five-year-old son Maverick was a fine boy and added, "I just can’t wait to watch him grow up and see his wonderful career as a rap star."
The horror was understandable, but the edge of paranoia creeped into the article. Hopkinson didn’t think the remark was innocent, but "confirmation" of a "conspiracy to destroy black boys," citing an author named Jawanza Kunjufu. (His book by that title is harsher. He calls it "genocide.")
The Disney movie ‘102 Dalmatians’ should be R-rated instead of G, two anti-smoking activists insist. Not because they antagonist was a demented woman bent on turning cute puppies into a fur coat. Nope. Cruella De Vil’s real crime was smoking.
“Movies that depict smoking are the single greatest media threat to children say two prominent doctors,” ABC’s Heather Nauert warned her “Good Morning America” audience.
Nauert’s October 10 story focused on two activists who call for the Motion Picture Association of America to automatically assign an R-rating to movies with any smoking in it. Yet in her story, Nauert left out how biased her sources were as well as failed to balance her story with any criticism of the doctors’ claims.