Past performance is no guarantee of future results:
“There’s no reason for us not to shoot here, except when you do the numbers here and when you do the numbers in New Orleans, it is much more attractive financially,” Weinstein said in the Q&A on Saturday.
He cited the example of “Southpaw,” directed by Antoine Fuqua and starring Jake Gyllenhaal, as project that could have shot in Los Angeles were it not for the generous tax incentives in the Big Easy.
But Weinstein said that Los Angeles and California “doesn’t even have to give the same discount” to remain competitive, noting the cost and hassle of having to locate actors and other talent in New Orleans is an added expense despite their generous tax incentives.
“Please, whatever you can go with the governor,” Weinstein said to Ziffren, a friend of California Gov. Jerry Brown. Brown has not said whether he would sign proposed legislation to expand the state’s incentive program.
While we are on the subject of Piers Morgan, Harvey Weinstein was on his show last night, talking about his support for President Obama and the fund-raiser he held for him at his home last week. Weinstein echoed Warren Buffett’s call for the wealthy in the country to be taxed more — and said that he considers it an investment in the country, not an unfair burden.
Huh — I wonder what changed his mind on the topic. In order to keep Harvey’s standing amongst his fellow limousine leftists in Hollywood, we need to help him keep his original word and ask him to simultaneously fight against tax incentives for Hollywood studios, and additionally, to help campaign to repeal the Hollywood tax cuts. Not to mention help him to keep this promise as well.
A couple of weeks ago, a Slate authoress noted, somewhat astonishingly, that she had never seen Schindler’s List until very recently. As she wrote, it’s far easier to simply stream something light and fluffy than to rent something dark and serious:
Why did it take me so long? The reasons will be familiar to anyone who’s ever let a worthy but difficult film languish in its red Netflix envelope. You keep meaning to watch the movie, but when it comes time to nestle into your couch on Sunday afternoon, confronting the depravity of human nature somehow isn’t what you’re in the mood for. Why not put on The Grey instead and confront the depravity of computer-generated wolves?
Hey, if someone at Slate, where the highbrow pose is always in evidence, can cop to never seeing Schindler’s List, then I can confess to never having seen V for Vendetta until last month, when I rented it on blu-ray from Netflix.
Considering its popularity with the far left Occupy gang in the fall of 2011, I thought that I needed to take one for the team and finally watch the damn thing. (Spoilers to follow, but I don’t really feel too worried about giving away plot points from an eight-year old film.
I was actually surprised at how bad it was. I gave David Zucker, the director of 2008′s conservative American Carol plenty of grief — how did we get from the laugh-a-second seemingly effortless Airplane to this turgid piece of agitprop? But V for Vendetta is a painful reminder that forgetting one’s storytelling skills to grind out political agitprop isn’t just limited to the all-too-rare film from right. Vendetta was produced by the Wachowski brothers (err, actually brother and sister now….) who had previously created The Matrix, at least that film was loaded with kinetic energy and motion.
V featured loads of static shots as Hugo Weaving (the cheerfully sinister Agent Smith who guards the Matrix) under his immobile white polystyrene Guy Fawkes mask, recites pages after page of dialogue, which sounded like it was lifted whole from Howard Zinn textbooks.
John Hurt co-stars as Britain’s “high chancellor,” the film’s Big Brother-style Maximum Leader, an obvious nod to his role as Winston Smith in the movie version of Orwell’s 1984, and Natalie Portman plays The Girl, which adds to the feeling, as John Podhoretz perceptively noted in his review of V for Vendetta at the Weekly Standard, of the film being “an Atlas Shrugged for leftist lunatics:”
And just like Atlas Shrugged, V for Vendetta is an exercise in didactic propaganda in the guise of an adventure story meant to appeal to teenage boys and their narcissistic fantasies about being at the very center of the universe. Both works prominently feature a cool, beautiful, and skinny chick who throws in her lot with the nerds. In Atlas Shrugged, it’s the railroad manager Dagny Taggart who joins with Galt. In V for Vendetta, the beauteous waif Natalie Portman plays Eevy, who throws in her lot with V and falls for him even though he wears a ludicrous wig, minces about like the Olympic skater Johnny Weir, hands out flowers like Ferdinand the Bull, and is horribly burned.
Speaking for any adolescent male who feels self-conscious about his skin, V tells Eevy that she needn’t see his scars, because the face under his mask doesn’t represent the real him. V can go anywhere undetected and do anything, but oh, how lonely he is, sitting alone in his basement lair watching The Count of Monte Cristo and listening to music all by himself on his old jukebox, wearing his mask even in solitude. V for Vendetta began its journey to the screen as a comic book, and V is the ultimate comic-book protagonist–the Superhero loser.
Having recently re-read the Abolition of Britain, Peter Hitchens’ bracing 1999 book, which describes postwar socialist England as morphing into the decadent second coming of the Weimar Republic, it’s was impossible for me to accept the premise of V for Vendetta. Astonishingly, the 2006-era Wachowski brothers apparently see England in a few decades as turning into a Handmaid’s Tale/1984 style dystopia, in which Muslims, lesbians, and gays are rounded up and placed into Nazi-style camps for extermination and/or torturous experimentation, or both. V wears his ridiculous mask, we are told, because he was tortured at some point in one of these camps, and hideously burned beyond recognition in the process. (Naturally, he gets his revenge upon his chief tormentor midway through the film, who willingly accepts being murdered by V as penance for her past sins.
And Frank gets off a clever line when he writes that “the fraternity at Dartmouth which served as one of the models for ‘Animal House’ has of late become a kind of pipeline into the investment-banking industry” right after he quotes one of the movie’s most famous bits of dialogue—the part where one of the Delta House crew says, “You fucked up. You trusted us.” You can see the seeds of an interesting comparison there: If Animal House blurred the boundary between anti-authoritarian fun and entitled assholery, there are people on Wall Street whose rhetoric blurs the boundary between desubsidized deregulation and subsidized moral hazard. Frank, alas, isn’t keen on drawing that distinction either.
L to R: Breitbart, Glenn Reynolds, Driscoll at 2008 GOP convention.
Today is the second anniversary of the death of the ultimate happy warrior, Andrew Breitbart. I met and interviewed Andrew on several occasions from 2005 until his death in 2012 at age 43, which was the very definition of the phrase “untimely passing.” That year, shortly after he passed away, I dusted off the cassette tape of the first interview I had with Andrew, recorded a couple of weeks after meeting him for the first time at the PJM launch in Manhattan on November of 2005. We discussed his first book, Hollywood Interrupted, for quotes and background material for an article on Tinseltown’s woes that I was writing for Tech Central Station. What follows below is the post I wrote in 2012, when I originally ran that interview.
In retrospect hitching his star to Drudge was a brilliant decision. This was hardly a given in 1995. Political blogger Mickey Kaus, someone who understood the power of the Internet, recalled, “I first met Breitbart when he showed up at a panel I was on at UCLA. He told me he was the guy who posted items for Matt Drudge, and I immediately realized he was the most powerful person in the room. Nobody could understand why I was sucking up to the crazed hippie kid in shorts.”
The power of Drudge Report comes from the large audience it has generated. By 2007 it was regularly attracting over three million unique visits. The average visitor spent an incredible one hour and six minutes on the site, an eternity in Internet terms. The average visitor went to the site 20 times a month. The Washington Post, a popular link for Drudge, noted in 2006 that its “largest driver of traffic is Matt Drudge.”
Flash-forward to the fall of 2004, and Andrew’s behind-the-scenes power was very much in evidence, this time changing the face of television news. As Scott Johnson of Power Line noted at the start of the month:
I learned in the course of [my week-long visit to Israel in 2007 with Breitbart] that it was Andrew who changed my life in 2004, linking to our “Sixty-First Minute” post early that afternoon with the screaming siren on Drudge. He confided that Matt Drudge did not like blogs, but that he (Andrew) was a fan. On September 9, 2004, he was following the action online. Thank you, Andrew. Thanks for everything.
But along the way, Breitbart also took detours into other ventures, such as helping to build the architecture of the Huffington Post, and co-writing, with Mark Ebner, their 2004 book Hollywood Interrupted. As I mention in the podcast below, I met Andrew in person for the first time the week of November 14th 2005, during the launch week of PJ Media in New York. After we both had returned to California, on November 28, 2005, I interviewed him by telephone for an article I was working on for Tech Central Station, now called Ideas In Action TV.com, aboutHollywood’s box office woes, which was published a week later and titled, a la Woody Allen, “Hollywood Ending.”
I loved Hollywood, Interrupted, and I was certainly aware of Andrew’s backstage work at the Drudge Report and the celebrity-oriented Huffington Post. So I definitely wanted to get his take on how the movie industry, a medium that we both loved, had been utterly transformed, and not necessarily for the better, since its golden era of the 1930s through the mid-1960s.
This interview was originally recorded onto a cheap mono tape recorder, originally for the purpose of pulling quotes for my Tech Central Station article. And while I’ve done a considerable amount of restoration work (employing both extensive amounts of Izotope’s RX audio restoration software and the noise gate plug-in built into Cakewalk’s Sonar program), it’s still much cruder sounding than the podcasts and radio shows I’ve produced for PJ Media in the years since. But with Andrew’s passing, I thought it would be worth sharing. So apologies for the sound quality, but I think hearing Andrew riffing on the topic of how the Hollywood of old became, as he would say, Interrupted, is well worth listening to.
There are several observations that Andrew makes here that have withstood the test of time. Early on, there’s a grimly hilarious remark by Andrew concerning his ailing grandmother, who emitted a piercing primal scream of terror, whenever anyone attempted to change the TV channel from her beloved CBS, the only channel she apparently ever watched, in sharp contrast to today’s world of hundreds of cable and satellite channels and millions of Websites and blogs. At about 17 minutes into the interview, he mentions the punitive liberalism and growing nihilism of Hollywood’s product, the latter of which being a topic I discussed extensively with Thomas Hibbs last month, the author of the definitive look at Hollywood nihilism, Shows About Nothing. And two minutes later, Andrew makes a great observation on the popularity of today’s show-biz-oriented reality TV shows as a sort of payback by the American people for today’s drug-addled screw-up stars abandoning the glamour they maintained during Hollywood’s earlier era. Near the end of the interview, you can sort of hear the Big Hollywood Website starting to coalesce in Andrew’s mind; a topic he and I would discuss a few years later on PJM’s Sirius-XM radio show in 2009.
A transcript of this interview, which I originally typed up in 2005 as raw material for my Tech Central Station article, and thus paraphrases some of Andrew’s more stream of consciousness remarks, follows on the next page.
Click below to listen to the podcast:
(28 minutes long; 26 MB file size. Want to download instead of streaming? Right click here to download this week’s show to your hard drive. Or right click here to download the 8 MB lo-fi edition.)
Since in the past, a few people have complained of difficulties with the Flash player above and/or downloading the audio, use the video player below, or click here to be taken to YouTube, for an audio-only YouTube clip. Between one of those versions, you should find a format that plays on your system.
At the risk of agreeing (slightly) with Alec Baldwin, he actually may have been onto something, but given his own raging anger at stewardesses, Starbucks baristas, his former fellow MSNBC employees, the Blogosphere, Henry Hyde, and anybody who’s ever looked at him funny, he’s not quite the right messenger. But at the 25 minute mark in a recent “GLOP” podcast (Jonah Goldberg, Rob Long and John Podhoretz) at Ricochet, the infinitely more genial Rob Long and John Podhoretz pointed out the flip-over that’s occurred in the way that show business and politics are covered by the media.
First, Podhoretz mentioned that in the 1930s and ‘40s, Hollywood benefited from being on the opposite coast from New York, then as now the central hub of American news. News traveled much slower, and Hollywood agents could hand out press releases about their stars, stage publicity photos, and carefully control their image. The studios also employed “fixers” such as the MGM duo of Howard Strickling and Eddie Mannix, who helped tamp down damaging stories concerning stars through a variety of generally unsavory methods.
There was no Blogosphere and Twitter, which Baldwin has used so effectively to shoot himself in the foot. And there weren’t paparazzi at every corner photographing stars pumping gas, coming out of gyms, or drunk at bars, and engaging in non-Hays Office-approved activities in general. As Rob Long noted, and he’s right, today, Hollywood stars and fashion models are covered far more brutally than people with real power — politicians — are in Washington:
What’s interesting is that the adversarial relationship with press right now in Hollywood – not the press so much, but the tabloid-y, TMZ-style press is pretty strong. It’s a weird world – you go out to dinner here, and you walk out of dinner and there are dudes standing on the curb, or sometimes in cars across the street with giant telephoto lenses, and it’s weird. You get a sense of how strangely adversarial that relationship must be. And you’re right – back in the old days, it was very cozy, and in fact the press felt like another arm of the studios. But you want to talk about politics – you go to Washington DC right now, and it’s the other way around. It’s like the old Hollywood press when they’re writing about this president – it’s fawning, and controlled, and the big studio, which is the White House, sort of lets them know what they’re supposed to say, and keeps all the bad news away.
Plus the media view themselves in as loving terms as Hollywood celebrities once did. As we noted yesterday, Ronan Farrow is about to receive “the Walter Cronkite Award” after hosting his MSNBC show — ostensibly a news and opinion show — for three days. Today Ace links to a recent post by Erik Wemple of the Washington Post, headlined sarcastically, “American journalism, brimming with once-in-a-generation talent”:
The Post announced the hiring of the New York Times’ Catherine Rampell and called her “one of the smartest, most original journalists of her generation.” Uh-oh — she may have to compete with Politico’s Todd Purdum, who at the time of his hiring was “one of the most perceptive reporters and elegant stylists of his generation.” Politico is full of generational leaders, too, as Editor-in-Chief John Harris said of “Playbook” author Mike Allen: “One of the most exceptional journalists of his generation.” (Allen has a more humble view of himself as “one of Washington’s top journalists.“). Politico Magazine editor Susan Glasser was feted upon her hiring last year as “among the most respected thinkers and editors of her generation.” As opposed to Steve Coll, who was hailed as “one of the most experienced and respected journalists of his generation” upon being selected as dean of Columbia Graduate School of Journalism. Coll has written a great deal about the war on terrorism, so he’s doubtless familiar with the work of Gregory Johnsen, who, upon his selection as a BuzzFeed Michael Hastings fellow, was celebrated as “one of his generation’s wisest and most original voices on national security.” Both Coll and Johnsen, in turn, would be familiar with the work of John Pomfret, who over a quarter-century, per a Post memo, became ”one of the great foreign correspondents of his generation.”
Much more after the page break, including cameos from Monty Python’s Eric Idle, and Ted Nugent.
Ronan Farrow’s team is trying to protect the precious new MSNBC host from probing questions about his dysfunctional family. Reporters are being ordered to sign a form pledging they will not ask Farrow, the son of Mia Farrow and Woody Allen (or possibly Frank Sinatra), personal questions if they want to attend a benefit where he will be honored Wednesday night.
Farrow — who has publicly stood behind his sister Dylan’s accusations that she was sexually abused by Allen when she was 7, and tweeted about the abuse allegations during the Golden Globes — is receiving the Cronkite Award for Excellence in Exploration and Journalism at Reach the World’s 14th annual benefit at the Princeton Club. Reporters have been issued a tip sheet that includes stern “conditions” not to ask anything about Allen.
“The theme of the evening is global education and service,” it says. “All press are required to stay strictly on message. Any press who ask guests or Mr. Farrow about off-message topics will be immediately escorted out of the event.”
The New York Post’s Page Six ends on this unintentionally Orwellian paragraph:
Yale grad Farrow has an impressive résumé that includes work for UNICEF and Hillary Clinton. But while journalists are banned from asking questions as praise is poured on Farrow for his own excellence in journalism, would he submit to such rigid interview stipulations from guests on his own fledgling show? We doubt it.
And would Farrow “submit to such rigid interview stipulations from guests on his own fledgling show?” Depends on how powerful the guest is. This is the network that has voluntarily read real-time “corrections” from the Obama White House on the air; these are the blinders that everyone at MSNBC dons when discussing President Obama. Why wouldn’t someone whose show began there a week ago assume that the same rules apply to him, when receiving an award for his “journalism?”
Ronan Farrow, best known as the estranged son of Woody Allen, debuted his new show Ronan Farrow Daily on MSNBC Monday by praising news heroes he “watched growing up,” including Edward R. Murrow and Walter Cronkite.
Walter Cronkite left the CBS Evening News in 1981. Edward R. Morrow hosted See It Now from 1951 to 1958 and Person to Person from 1953 to 1959. He died in 1965.
Since Farrow was not born until 1987, he must be thinking of others he might have seen growing up.
Not to mention, Cronkite and Morrow each knew how to tie a necktie, and to wear one on the air, unlike Farrow, who looks and sounds like a 15 year old in a high school journalism video production, while dropping improvised “you guys” clangers as he reads the text on his teleprompter in the clip at Big Journalism.
Update: Do not miss the photo of Ronan’s set in a post today by the Daily Caller’s Christopher Bedford, who writes, “No one really knew who he was until October, and we still haven’t met anyone who knows why he’s on TV. But pasting the school you went to on the wall is best reserved for the home office.”
President Obama paid tribute to Ramis’ movies, saying that he and Michelle were “saddened” about his passing and said that when they watched his movies they “didn’t just laugh until it hurt. We questioned authority. We identified with the outsider. We rooted for the underdog*. And through it all, we never lost our faith in happy endings. Our thoughts and prayers are with Harold’s wife, Erica, his children and grandchildren, and all those who loved him, who quote his work with abandon, and who hope that he received total consciousness.”
Talk about missing the message entirely. While the Ghostbusters were ultimately able to overcome the EPA, as personified by William Atherton’s Walter Peck character, as slimy as any of the ectoplasms they battled, and save Manhattan, I’m sure Obama’s EPA-on-steroids would have squashed their business as easily as any coal plant. Better the city destroyed, than the government actually losing a battle:
As he wrote in the 1998 book Stolen Valor, (excerpted here) in the 1980s and ’90s, former Vietnam war vet B.G. Burkett spent years and a fair amount of resources fighting the myth of the crazed Vietnam vet. In the 1970s, and early ’80s, that character was a stock figure promulgated by Hollywood in films ranging from Taxi Driver to the Deer Hunter to the first Rambo movie, and as the baddie-of-the-week in numerous TV crime dramas. It wasn’t until the mid-1980s that finally, TV series such as Magnum P.I., the A-Team, and Miami Vice finally made Vietnam vets the good guys. (As Ben Shapiro writes in Primetime Propaganda, Magnum’s producer Donald P. Bellisario, a former Marine Sergeant, treated Thomas and T.C. and Rick as the equivalent of World War II vets who had simply done their tour of duty, and were now using their skills to solve crimes in Hawaii.)
So, 12 years on, it’s finally considered okay to turn a 9/11 survivor into a movie villain. A plane hijacker, no less.
I guess it was inevitable. You can’t make a Muslim the bad guy, because that’s racist. Why not make it a victim of Muslim terrorists? Who’d be expecting that? How edgy and daring. Move over, Rod Serling!
Speaking only for myself, I’d been planning to see this movie. Now I won’t. Ever.
Treacher concludes “Up yours, Universal Studio.” Their decision to sign off on this film is all the more remarkable considering that all of the ’80s crime dramas I mentioned above that helped to rehabilitate the rep of the Vietnam War veteran were produced by — you guessed it — Universal Studios.
As Turner Classic Pictures recently noted, in the 1970s, Universal was the last studio more or less making the assembly-line product of the old Hollywood Studio system. By now though, all of major studios bear the names given to them by their founders decades ago during Hollywood’s golden era, but those people shuffled off this planet long ago — along with their pro-American worldview.
“Good-bye, Public Life,” swears Alec Baldwin, which will of course, last as long as his multiple earlier promised retirements from Twitter, but is a lot more fun to read. (Language alert: expect plenty of swearing from Baldwin and others in this post.) The whole thing is a classic, beginning with the first line. As Slate’s Dave Weigel (who’s no stranger to public meltdowns himself) tweeted, “‘I flew to Hawaii recently to shoot a film, fresh on the heels of being labeled a homophobic bigot’ goes in the #humblebrag hall of fame.”
After numerous paragraphs in which you can almost hear the steel balls clicking back and forth Queeg-style in Baldwin’s hands, my favorite is this passage:
In the New Media culture, anything good you do is tossed in a pit, and you are measured by who you are on your worst day. What’s the Boy Scout code? Trustworthy. Loyal. Helpful. Friendly. Courteous. Kind. Obedient. Cheerful. Thrifty. Brave. Clean. Reverent. I might be all of those things, at certain moments. But people suspect that whatever good you do, you are faking. You’re that guy. You’re that guy that says this. There is a core of outlets that are pushing these stories out. Breitbart clutters the blogosphere with “Alec Baldwin, he’s the Devil, he’s Fidel Baldwin.”
Broadway has changed, by my lights. The TV networks, too. New York has changed. Even the U.S., which is so preposterously judgmental now. The heart, the arteries of the country are now clogged with hate. The fuel of American political life is hatred. Who would ever dream that Obama would deserve to be treated the way he has been? The birth-certificate bullshit, which is just Obama’s version of Swiftboating. And all for the electoral nullification that seems like a cancer on the American system. But this is Roger Ailes. And Fox. And Breitbart. And this is all about hate. It’s Hate Incorporated. But the liberals have taken the bait and run in the same direction—and it’s just as corrosive. MSNBC, in its own way, is as full of shit, as redundant and as superfluous, as Fox.
I think America’s more fucked up now than it’s ever been. People are angry that in the game of musical chairs that is the U.S. economy, there are less seats at the table when the music stops. And at every recession, the music is stopping.
As someone who spends his days pointing out the excesses and hypocrisies of old media, I’m not unsympathetic to complaints regarding how toxic the overculture has become in the last 25 years. But perhaps someone who took to the airwaves of NBC 16 years ago to ostensibly brew up a public murder of a 74-year old Congressman isn’t in the best position to deliver this message.
Not to mention a person who asked in 2011, “What Changes Will We Make After the Giffords Shooting?”, before deciding the best choice of action was apparently to take to Twitter to call a journalist — a profession that Baldwin has attempted to dabble in himself — “a toxic little queen,” whom Baldwin threatened to “fuck…you…up,” before thinking the better of his actions, because, “If put my foot up your fucking ass, George Stark, but I’m sure you’d dig it too much.”
Linking to yesterday’s 5,000-word from Baldwin, Jim Treacher quips “to me, the funniest thing is that the piece is titled ‘I Give Up.’ He gives up! After everything he’s done for you, America, you treat him like this?”
In the same piece, Baldwin refers to “Andrew Sullivan, Anderson Cooper, and others in the Gay Department of Justice,” and to “an F-to-M tranny” who said something he didn’t like.
Does all that stuff make him a homophobe? I have no idea. I can’t read his mind, and I doubt that even he knows for sure. He doesn’t know what he’s going to do or say until it’s already happening. All I can go by are his words, and he’s said a lot of crazy stuff about gay people. It’s always educational when an uber-lib starts spouting off like Archie Bunker.
Media Matters “reporter” Luke Brinker writes, “Daily Caller gossip scribe Betsy Rothstein used the transphobic slur ‘tranny’ to describe transgender activist Janet Mock, defending Piers Morgan against charges that his February 4 interview with Mock sensationalized Mock’s story and stating Mock’s new memoir wouldn’t ‘even exist if she had not been born with a penis.’”
Guess what? Not everyone is offended by the word. Not even drag superstar Ru Paul. In fact, Media Matters would do well to have Paul come and visit and stop being so tightly wound. As Paul once told HuffPost, “It’s ridiculous! It’s ridiculous! I love the word ‘tranny.’ And I hate the fact that [Lance Bass] apologized. I wish he would have said, ‘F–k you, you tranny jerk!’”
But back to Keith — note that after previous complaints from Keith Olbermann and Rachel Maddow — both while still under his employment — here’s yet another MSNBC vet who has no qualms dumping on channel president Phil Griffin:
Phil Griffin is the head of MSNBC, and when I saw that Griffin didn’t have a single piece of paper on his desk, meeting after meeting after meeting, that should have been my first indication there was going to be a problem. Phil is a veteran programmer who knows well the corridors and chambers of television programming—and couldn’t give a flying fuck about content. All he wanted to talk about was Giants tickets, Super Bowl tickets, restaurants, movies. The conversations about the set, about the physical production of the show, cameras, lighting—it seemed like he wanted to get those over with as quickly as possible. He didn’t care. He had four monitors on the wall. They were all on, muted. He never listened to them. He never watched them.
And as Allahpundit notes, “Here’s the good stuff. Note that this isn’t the first time that someone close to MSNBC has accused Rachel Maddow of basically running the network. One of Eliana Johnson’s sources told her the same thing last month. That was dismissed at the time by lefties as conservative hyperbole designed to pin the egregious nastiness of other MSNBC hosts on its biggest star, but now here’s Baldwin relaying a comment to the same effect”.
After quoting Baldwin railing against Maddow, who he says, “viewed me as the equivalent of Mel Gibson,” and Baldwin claiming that a source told him, “You know who’s going to get you fired, don’t you? Rachel. Phil will do whatever Rachel tells him to do,” Allah adds:
That’s the second liberal celebrity in four days to attack MSNBC for becoming as stupid and sensationalist as their worst caricatures of Fox. Bill Maher called Maddow out to her face on Friday night over the network’s weird obsession with Christie’s Bridgegate scandal. (Actual quote: “If it was a Democratic governor not close to New York City, the media capital, would we be talking about it?”) It’s interesting that the Maddow era, which was supposed to be a wonky low-key alternative to the scenery-chewing days of Olbermania, is beset by so many controversies — hosts flying off the handle, reporters hyperventilating over minor scandals, people getting suspended and even fired. Second look at Olby?
That depends on Phil, doesn’t it? In 2008, Olbermann infamously told the New Yorker,“Phil thinks he’s my boss” — before eventually proving it by handing Keith his pink slip. Would Phil be ready to think he’s Olbermann’s boss again anytime soon?
As the late Andrew Breitbart once said after MSNBC was caught lying about the Tea Party (I know — shocking, eh?), “It’s not your business model that sucks, it’s you that sucks.” Baldwin, and NBC’s continuous reliance upon him in various capacities — including an upcoming Law& Order SVUguest-starring role even after losing his MNBC gig — lives out that aphorism daily.
Harold Ramis, whether it was in his early role of the brilliantly-named Moe Green, the station manager of SCTV (and behind the scenes, where Ramis served as the show’s first head writer), or in his roles as Bill Murray’s brainier foil in Stripes and Ghostbusters, or as the director of Groundhog Day and other comedies, brought a particularly witty touch to the comedy of the mid-’70s through the 1990s, and beyond. It’s more than a little shocking to hear that he’s passed away at age 69.
Ramis, a longtime North Shore resident, was surrounded by family when he died at 12:53 a.m. from complications of autoimmune inflammatory vasculitis, a rare disease that involves swelling of the blood vessels, his wife Erica Mann Ramis said. He was 69.
Ramis’ serious health struggles began in May 2010 with an infection that led to complications related to the autoimmune disease, his wife said. Ramis had to relearn to walk but suffered a relapse of the vasculitis in late 2011, said Laurel Ward, vice president of development at Ramis’ Ocean Pictures production company.
Ramis leaves behind a formidable body of work, with writing credits on such enduring comedies as “National Lampoon’s Animal House” (which upon its 1978 release catapulted the film career of John Belushi, with whom Ramis acted at Second City), “Stripes” (1981) and “Ghostbusters” (in which Ramis also co-starred) plus such directing efforts as “Caddyshack” (1980), “National Lampoon’s Vacation” (1983), “Groundhog Day” and “Analyze This.”
Previously he was the first head writer (and a performer) on Second City’s groundbreaking television series “Second City Television (SCTV)” (1976-79). More recently he directed episodes of NBC’s “The Office.”
RIP, Egon. Perhaps the surviving Ghostbusters can let us know how you’re doing on the other side.
His Ghostbusters fought an overbearing Environmental Protection Agency; his Delta House fought a corrupt university and its rich, white, joyless know-better frat boys (who now write for Business Insider); his servicemen fought the bureaucracy of the military (and for their country); his meatballs and caddys fought the snobs; his weatherman fought his own urban snobbery and narcissism.
“In the span of just six years, Ramis brought us ‘Animal House,’ ‘Caddyshack,’ ‘Stripes,’ ‘Vacation’ and ‘Ghostbusters,” Nolte adds.
Twenty years before he died at the age of 597 years old*, legendary Stalinist Pete Seeger told the New York Times, “I like to say I’m more conservative than Goldwater. He just wanted to turn the clock back to when there was no income tax. I want to turn the clock back to when people lived in small villages and took care of each other.” He’s not alone amongst his fellow leftists for harboring such back-to-the-future reactionary beliefs. Economically, the entire ideology is hard captive to a cargo cult mentality that ping-pongs back and forth between the let’s break out the shovels and build the Hoover Dam and roadways mentality of the FDR era, and the build nothing nowhere, save the snail darter and and delta smelt mentality ushered in by 1970′s first “Earth Day.”
In the late 1990s, when cable modems ushered in 24/7 Internet access, I used to find Salon and Slate virtually interchangeable; they were both establishment liberal, but the veneer of literary competence helped to make the socialism relatively palatable. However, while Slate has remained relatively sane, particularly after it was bought by the pre-Bezos Washington Post, in recent years, Salon has gone completely off the rails, personified by the non-stop racialism of “editor at large” Joan Walsh, whose recent book was titled, What’s the Matter with White People?
Somewhere, there is some poor person whose job it is to sell the concept of ‘bidets’ to the American public. That person is right now feeling an inexplicable kinship to the author of this article: look, another advocate for a nice idea that does not sell! Seriously, it’s been my experience that when you start talking about pursuing a marketing strategy that have First, reeducate the public into liking your product as a hidden first step, things are unlikely to end well.
Perhaps it lies in updated vertical integration models inspired by the old studio system — say what you will about the old system, but everyone working within it got paid and lots of great films got made.
Say what you will about the old system, but people were chronically underpaid, the top brass running things routinely trampled quality into the dirt, and a godawful amount of utter dreck got made. Which, astoundingly, is more or less Salon’s complaint about the current system.
And perhaps none of these suggestions hold the answer, but we need ideas because, whatever the answer is, it can’t simply be to unquestioningly make more features.
…Leaving aside the fact that the first part of this sentence effectively alerts the reader that he just wasted five minutes of lifespan that could have been more profitably spent watching Adventure Time, the question is duly begged: why can’t people unquestioningly make more features?
Peggy Noonan watches House of Cards and writes, “it’s all vaguely decadent, no? Or maybe not vaguely. America sees Washington as the capital of vacant, empty souls, chattering among the pillars. Suggesting this perception is valid is helpful in what way?”
No one wants to be the earnest outsider now, no one wants to play the sober steward, no one wants to be the grind, the guy carrying around a cross of dignity. No one wants to be accused of being staid. No one wants to say, “This isn’t good for the country, and it isn’t good for our profession.”
And it is all about the behavior of our elites, our upper classes, which we define now in a practical sense as those who are successful, affluent and powerful. This group not only includes but is almost limited to our political class, Wall Street, and the media, from Hollywood to the news divisions.
They’re all kind of running America.
They all seem increasingly decadent.
What are the implications of this, do you think?
They’re making their videos, holding their parties and having a ball. OK. But imagine you’re a Citizen at Home just grinding through—trying to do it all, the job, the parenthood, the mowing the lawn and paying the taxes. No glamour, all responsibility and effort. And you see these little clips on the Net where the wealthy sing about how great taxpayer bailouts are and you feel like . . . they’re laughing at you.
What happens to a nation whose elites laugh at its citizens?
What happens to its elites?
Ask Rome, or post-Revolutionary France, or Weimar, or even postwar England.* But then, a lot of us didn’t need a fictional TV series to tell us that Washington was decadent and corrupt, when we saw the warning signs five years ago of a half-term senator running for the presidency after palling around with race baiters, former terrorists, and eco-cranks. Back when others were writing this:
The case for Barack Obama, in broad strokes:
He has within him the possibility to change the direction and tone of American foreign policy, which need changing; his rise will serve as a practical rebuke to the past five years, which need rebuking; his victory would provide a fresh start in a nation in which a fresh start would come as a national relief. He climbed steep stairs, born off the continent with no father to guide, a dreamy, abandoning mother, mixed race, no connections. He rose with guts and gifts. He is steady, calm, and, in terms of the execution of his political ascent, still the primary and almost only area in which his executive abilities can be discerned, he shows good judgment in terms of whom to hire and consult, what steps to take and moves to make. We witnessed from him this year something unique in American politics: He took down a political machine without raising his voice.
A great moment: When the press was hitting hard on the pregnancy of Sarah Palin’s 17-year-old daughter, he did not respond with a politically shrewd “I have no comment,” or “We shouldn’t judge.” Instead he said, “My mother had me when she was 18,” which shamed the press and others into silence. He showed grace when he didn’t have to.
Sorry Peggy, you were completely bamboozled, to borrow from one of the favorite words at the time of a remarkably decadent elitist. Or you were a knowing enabler yourself. Pick one.
Update: In the above passage, Noonan writes, “No one wants to say, ‘This isn’t good for the country…’” At Ricochet, Rob Long responds, “Except, maybe — and here’s my early political prediction — whoever wants to win the White House in 2016. These feel like titanic issues to me. Big issues. Reagan-in-1980 kind of issues.”
The late Gene Siskel once said that the test of a good movie is whether it is more interesting than simply watching a documentary about its cast having lunch. Does that same basic concept work in print form? A pair of recent articles on two less-than-successful films from Universal made during Hollywood’s fallow post-Easy Riderspre-Star Wars period are far more enjoyable than the actual films they’re describing.
First up, The Digital Bits DVD and Blu-Ray review site looks at the 45th anniversary of Bob Fosse and Shirley MacLaine’s 1969 musical Sweet Charity, with an emphasis on its roadshow engagements — which is a reminder of what was lost, for better or worse, with the coming of Jaws, Star Wars, and the modern film distribution method:
Two months after sneak-preview screenings in Phoenix and Chicago, Sweet Charity had its world premiere in Boston on February 11, 1969 (several weeks ahead of opening in New York and Los Angeles). Although the Boston engagement played the Saxon (and is identified as such in the engagements listing below), the premiere event was held simultaneously at the Saxon and Music Hall.
The roadshow engagements of Sweet Charity were big-city exclusives that preceded general-release exhibition. Out of hundreds of films released domestically during 1969, Sweet Charity was among only seven given deluxe roadshow treatment. Much like a stage show, they featured reserved seating, an advanced admission price, were shown an average of only ten times per week, and included an overture, intermission, entr’acte and exit music. Many of the roadshow presentations of Sweet Charity were screened in a 70-millimeter (blow-up) print with six-track stereophonic sound and were promoted as “70mm/Panavision with Full Dimensional Sound.” Souvenir program booklets were sold, as well.
What follows is a (work in progress) list of Sweet Charity‘s domestic theatrical “hard ticket” roadshow engagements, arranged chronologically by date of premiere. The duration of the engagements has been included for some entries to illustrate how unsuccessful the film was compared to most 1960s era roadshow releases, especially in comparison to Funny Girl and The Sound of Music.
* * * * * * * *
Coate: Would the roadshow exhibition concept work today?
Hall: No, because audiences now expect instant access, to which the slow, staggered, exclusive release pattern is antithetical. Studios also desire rapid release because of the threat of piracy.
Holston: I doubt it. It is now possible to purchase tickets in advance for the initial showings of some films, but those tickets are not for specific seats and you don’t get deluxe programs and overtures and intermissions. Ever since Billy Jack and Jaws, people are used to seeing a new film immediately somewhere in their vicinity. Instant gratification. Today no one’s going to drive into a city to see a movie that won’t come to the suburbs for months or a year — if it’s successful. That’s what happened with the likes of West Side Story, Cleopatra and The Sound of Music. Plus, there are hardly any huge art deco movie theaters left in inner cities. As I researched my book I realized that roadshows and movie palaces existed symbiotically. The roadshow depended on palatial theaters—and big premieres. Not to mention concentration of people in cities. Suburbs, cars, and mall theaters helped kill the “experience.”
Kennedy: I don’t think so. Roadshows played hard to get, beginning in big cities on single screens. Today we know most all movie will be available in many forms via the home markets, TV, streaming, etc. Roadshows were based on limited opportunity to see them before they disappeared into the vaults. Opening a huge movie on a handful of screens and withholding it from a larger audience for weeks or months has become too risky. When roadshows were not well received, word of mouth killed them. Now with thousands of screens showing the same “blockbuster” in its opening weekend, audiences are lured in before negative word of mouth spreads. Maybe that’s changing, too. Nowadays audiences text and tweet “this movie sucks” far and wide before its first matinee is over.
Wikipedia notes that Sweet Charity “cost $20 million to make, but made only $8 million at the box office, which nearly sank Universal Pictures.”
As books such as Peter Biskind’s Easy Riders Raging Bulls, and The Studio by John Gregory Dunne documented, Hollywood studios tried to constantly repeat the blockbuster success of the Sound of Music throughout the rest of the 1960s, with ever-diminishing results. During that period a group of Young Turks infiltrated the system and influenced by both the FrenchNouvelle Vague, and their own experiences on Roger Corman’s B-movies, began producing deliberately cruder and more violent fare, such as Bonnie and Clyde and Easy Rider, eventuallyto the point where Steven Spielberg’s Jaws, George Lucas’ Star Wars and their combined effort, Raiders of the Lost Ark were B-movies and ’30s-style Republic Serials done on a grand scale, with state of the art special effects.
Found via Kathy Shaidle, this Turner Classic Movies article on Universal’s 1977 film disaster film Rollercoaster makes two key observations: the first is that Rollercoaster is the exact same plot as Universal’s previous disaster film, The Hindenberg. (Same writers, too — Richard Levinson and William Link, who created the Columbo TV series for Universal.) The other observation is that Universal’s disaster films were the last redoubt of the Hollywood studio system that began in the 1920s and ’30s:
The disaster films of the 1970s marked the death rattle of the Hollywood studio system and served as the establishment’s rebuttal to the youthful excesses and longueurs of the New Hollywood. While Robert Altman, Hal Ashby, Martin Scorsese, Francis Ford Coppola, and Peter Bogdanovich were breaking the rules, journeymen such as Ronald Neame, John Guillermin, Mark Robson, and Jack Smight were put to work making The Poseidon Adventure (1972), The Towering Inferno (1974), Earthquake (1974), and Airport 1975 (1974). Disaster pictures were not only a response to such personal, indulgent films as Harold and Maude (1971), The Last Picture Show (1971), and McCabe and Mrs. Miller (1971) but served as reminders of how the studio system worked best, as a well-oiled machine, with a capable director communicating with equal dexterity between his actors and technical staff, while honoring the dictums and caprices of the front office. Special effects and big box craftsmanship to one side, the allure of the disaster cycle lay in its revolving cast of aging Hollywood A-listers – Charlton Heston, Paul Newman, Steve McQueen, Shelley Winters, Gloria Swanson, James Stewart, William Holden, Joseph Cotten, Dana Andrews – whose onscreen deaths (or the threat thereof) added instant production value.
Another of these selfless efficiency directors was James Goldstone, whose seminal work was in episodic television. (In 1966, Goldstone helmed the second pilot for Gene Roddenberry’s Star Trek, the one that sold.) The son of an entertainment attorney and talent agent (whose clients included Elizabeth Taylor and James Thurber), Goldstone directed few feature films, and his presence in a credit crawl invariably meant the producers wanted to save money by employing someone who could deliver the goods while creating as little trouble as possible.
The Hollywood studios had enough troubles in the late 1960s and pre-Star Wars 1970s, to the point where to some in the movie industry, it very likely looked as if the genre wouldn’t survive. (MGM effectively went out of business during that period.) I think they can be forgiven for wanting to work with craftsmen “who could deliver the goods while creating as little trouble as possible.”
“You Wouldn’t Believe What I Saw in the Dachau Gift Shop,” is the memorable headline atop a new article by Jeffrey Goldberg of Bloomberg.com. Immediately below said memorable headline is is an even more memorable photo that Goldberg took at — and here’s a phrase you rarely hear all that often — the Dachau Gift Shop — the gift shop at the Dachau concentration camp, which he had recently visited:
Before I go any further, a confession: This photograph would get me fired by the Associated Press, which has strict rules about manipulating imagery. I manipulated this image by moving the Philip Roth biography to the spot just below the Woody Allen biography in order to intensify the deep ridiculousness of a concentration camp gift shop selling biographies of Philip Roth and Woody Allen. The Roth biography had previously sat on an adjacent rack, alongside biographies of Albert Einstein and Sigmund Freud.
I visited Dachau one afternoon during the Munich Security Conference with a friend, Fred Hiatt of the Washington Post. Visiting Dachau seemed like a particularly appropriate thing for us to do: At a panel discussion about Syria the previous night, a succession of very powerful people argued that they, and the governments and institutions they represent, are powerless to stop Bashar al-Assad from murdering Syrian citizens with whom he disagrees.
At this discussion, Anne-Marie Slaughter, the former State Department official, became exercised, comparing this attitude to the indifference of the world to the Holocaust as it was taking place. “In the United States, we often ask, ‘Why didn’t Roosevelt bomb the trains?’ We aren’t very different,” she said.
I should underscore that this discussion about the West’s powerlessness in the face of fascist evil was taking place in Munich.
Though I am sometimes critical of attempts to compare current-day atrocities to the Holocaust, Slaughter’s analogy seemed appropriate. The Holocaust is the Holocaust, a sui generis, industrialized and scientifically advanced attempt — and a partially successful one — to exterminate an entire ethnic group without regard to nationality or borders. But Slaughter is right to argue that Syria exists on the same continuum of horror and that the response of the so-called civilized world should be a source of shame.
And note that Farrow co-starred in Allen’s 1989 film Crimes and Misdemeanors, which was Woody’s movie-length apologia for the same Nietzschian Will to Power that fueled those who built Dachau in 1933. And Crimes and Misdemeanors also ties into the placement of Philip Roth in Goldberg’s photo. As Goldberg very likely knows, the two men have long had strangely intertwined and feuding professional careers. Claire Blume played the spouse of Martin Landau’s coldly-plotting lead character in that film, and would be married to Roth for six years, beginning the year after Crimes and Misdemeanors’ release.
The Hollywood Reporter’s new feature on the film, set for a March 28 release, details the behind-the-scenes wrangling between the film’s director and the studio, all with an eye on the people of faith curious to see the story on the big screen. Test screenings haven’t softened worries that spiritual audiences may not embrace what they see.
Further, THR spoke with several people who saw an early test screening in Southern California’s Orange County and who identified themselves as religious. One viewer, who declined to give his name because Paramount required him to sign a nondisclosure agreement, echoed the sentiments of others by criticizing the depiction of Noah as a “crazy, irrational, religious nut” who is fixated on modern-day problems like overpopulation and environmental degradation.
Charles Krauthammer once quipped that radical environmentalism posits itself as the successor religion to Christianity. And as the late Michael Crichton observed in 2003, “I think that you cannot eliminate religion from the psyche of mankind. If you suppress it in one form, it merely re-emerges in another form.”
Is Paramount rooting for the flood? If so, it’s yet another example of what Fred Siegel described in 2010 as “Progressives against Progress.” No word yet if John Holdren, Mr. Obama’s “Science” “Czar” has signed off on the overpopulation theme of Paramount’s new film. Hopefully though, the upcoming film will at least have better special effects than the last time Paramount broached that particular eternal hobbyhorse of the far left.
Of fallen idols and the culture of celebrity, Kathy Shaidle writes that “This topic has been the abiding preoccupation of my life.” And the definitive intersection between the two themes is in the form of Woody Allen and his worshipful fans.
Allen has had multiple apogees in his career. The true peak of his career was the period in the late 1970s between the Oscar-winning Annie Hall and its quasi-sequel, the commercially highly successful Manhattan. His next film, Stardust Memories, effectively destroyed his reputation in America for many years, which had only begun to be salvaged in the late ‘80s with such winning films as Hannah and Her Sisters, Radio Days, and the aforementioned Crimes and Misdemeanors.
In the Federalist this week, Stella Morabito explores the Nietzschean “God Complex: Why Hollywood Thinks Sex Crimes Are No Big Deal.” Along the way, she describes, in chilling detail, how standing at another apex in his career, Woody Allen decided to leap into the abyss, and tossing his family in as well, in the process:
Today’s elitism and cult of celebrity are a deadly combination, a dangerously slippery Nietzschean slope. When massaged by adulation of the masses, the anointed are freer to adopt a proprietary attitude towards the lives of others. If you try to place checks on their power or insist on your own individual freedom, you become suspect and a threat. This is likely why the elites of our time push so hard for political correctness: to control what you may say, what you may do, and what you may think. Ultimately, this leads to dictating the personal relationships of everyone around them, adopting an attitude not unlike a high school queen bee.
Dictating Relationships Is What Little Gods Do
When Woody Allen decided that it was okay to indulge in a sexual relationship with his stepdaughter Soon-Yi Previn, he revealed far more than his contempt for traditional sexual taboos. He was making the narcissistic point that he was above it all, kind of like the attitude of the Judah character in Allen’s anti-Dostoyevsky movie Crimes and Misdemeanors. (Judah had a hit man kill his girlfriend before she could tell his wife about their affair. Judah felt some guilt, but then worked through it, and went on to continue enjoying his elitist professional life in Manhattan.)
According to the feature written by Maureen Orth in Vanity Fair after the scandal broke in 1992, Mia Farrow “made the discovery of Allen’s affair with Soon-Yi when she found a stack of Polaroids taken by him of her daughter, her legs spread in full frontal nudity . . . each managed to contain both her daughter’s face and vagina.”
How could Woody Allen take such liberties with a stepdaughter while enjoying international fame and adulation? Playwright Leonard Gershe, though a friend of Mia Farrow’s, was able to explain this seemingly Nietzschean phenomenon flawlessly:
Woody Allen is a chilling figure of power, a potentate of reel life who doesn’t seem to have to play by the rules. “This man is so exalted in the business—no one has the position he has. . . . I think when you get up into that stratosphere you no longer have to pay attention to the law of gravity. Regular morals, conscience, ethics—that’s for slobs like you and me.” The effect, says Gershe, “spills over into real life. He’s treated like a little god, and little gods don’t have to do what everybody else does.”
As the old cliché goes, “Pride Goeth Before the Fall.” But for many show business figures, their pride is compounded and reinforced by equally faulty media judgment. As I may have mentioned before, I’ll never forget, back when I was living in small town South Jersey, and read the Sunday New York Times each week to check in with the center of gravity of Capital-C Culture, the issue they devoted in February of 1991, between its cover and the actual story, to effectively craft an infomercial for both Woody Allen and Eric Lax, his hagiographer, who had a new, glowing biography of Woody due out later that year. Woody had just scored a big critical, and by those days rare commercial hit with his ode to Nietzsche, Crimes and Misdemeanors, and was about to head off to Hollywood to shoot one of the rare films he didn’t also direct, Scenes From a Mall, with his fellow ‘80s-era superstar Bette Midler. They would be directed by Paul Mazursky, and the screenplay was written by a fellow you may have heard of, called Roger L. Simon.
His conduct was unspeakable—and when Walter Isaacson, then editor of Time, asked Allen about it, he replied, famously, “The heart wants what it wants.” He was 56 years old.
Really, what he was saying was this: I can because I can. Allen was an idol, perhaps the idol, of an entire class of his fellow New Yorkers, his fellow Jews, and his fellow skeptical liberals. There was almost nothing his admirers didn’t admire about him. They loved him because he was funny, because he wanted to produce serious art in the style of the great European filmmakers, and because he played jazz at a club every Monday night. They loved him for writing New Yorker stories, and they loved his relationship with Mia Farrow.
The year before the photos came out, Allen’s slavish biographer, Eric Lax, published a fulsome article in the New York Times Magazine about the wonders of Allen and Farrow’s coupledom, then 11 years in duration. It was “not a conventional union,” he said, pointing out that they lived in separate apartments across Central Park from one another. But, Lax wrote, in a rather striking passage, “Few married couples seem more married. They are constantly in touch with each other, and not many fathers spend as much time with their children as Allen does. He is there before they wake up in the morning, he sees them during the day and he helps put them to bed at night.”
Yes, Allen was even admired as a father. Later, when people accused him of pseudo-incest in his dalliances with Mia’s daughter Soon-Yi, his defenders would say he had barely known the girl, hadn’t spent any time with her, had had nothing to do with her. But that was not the impression Lax’s article, and other mythologizing portraits of prescandal Allen, gave off. No, the sense of this and other portraits-without-blemish was that Allen was practically perfect, a fully rounded human being with wit and gravitas, a moral sense, and deeply bourgeois values.
In retrospect, Allen’s response to the scandal was pitch perfect. He put his head down. He married Soon-Yi. He just kept working. He made movie after movie. What he had done was not exactly forgotten, but his unflagging industry eventually paid off with a reputational renaissance over the past decade. He was again becoming an idol—as was indicated by his decision to accept (though not in person) the Cecil B. DeMille Award at the Golden Globes in January. Big mistake, for that is what triggered the Farrow family’s wrath and has sunk his reputation yet again.
His characters often argue for moral order, but they never quite seem convinced that it’s needed. His alter egos may be saddened or bemoan the fact that life is without purpose, but they act accordingly. This topic is most notably in “Crimes and Misdemeanors,” in which a character decides to murder an irritating mistress and move on with consequence or remorse. Woody Allen will never confess his sins by making his own “Unforgiven.”
The least plausible aspect of his movies, though, is the casual way in which human beings move through their lives cheating, remarrying, and cheating again, with no emotional fallout. You don’t need to look further than “Hannah and her Sisters.” After characters contemplate some of most egregious acts of disloyalty against their own family, all ends without any residual problems that might pop up when folks dive into infidelity and divorce. When relationships do form in his films, they are unloving and unreal. The type of self-centeredness and vacuous concerns that dominate these relationships, ones that could only exist in an insulated world foreign to most decent adults. And his history of sexualization of children — jokingly, of course — has been with him an entire career. That doesn’t make him a pedophile any more than it does Nabokov. But considering the autobiographical nature of his work, it doesn’t dissuade you of the notion either.
Should we judge an artist’s work only by the quality of his art? Generally, yes. I don’t care much about how novelists or filmmakers or musicians live their lives. That doesn’t mean their lives don’t alter our perceptions. Pete Seeger was an apologist for Stalin. It matters. Phillip Seymour Hoffman, a massive talent, overdosed on heroin as his three young children played a few blocks away. That changes how we think about him. Our perception doesn’t alter the quality of art, of course. But it certainly can alter our perception of it. Especially when the ugliness of the real world starts to feel a lot like the art.
As Allen explained in a more recent interview in Commonweal magazine, it was the desire to explore this sense of existential meaninglessness that inspired him to make Crimes and Misdemeanors: “Some people distort [the meaninglessness of the world] with religious things. Some people distort it with sports, with money, with love, with art… but nothing makes it meaningful…. [E]veryone goes to his grave in a meaningless way…. [O]ne can commit a crime, do unspeakable things, and get away with it, and some of them are plagued with all sorts of guilt for the rest of their lives and others aren’t. There is no justice…”
There is no justice. From Plato’s sociopathicsophists to Friedrich Nietzsche’s ambition to “sail right over our morality,” this has been the conviction and the insight of the nihilist. These are Woody Allen’s philosophical compatriots.
I should note, once again, that this doesn’t mean he’s a sexual predator. Nothing in the outlook of a nihilist necessarily implies that he will engage in immoral actions.
All that nihilism implies is the absence of a compelling reason not to do so.
“Art is not a mirror held up to reality, but a hammer with which to shape it,” Bertolt Brecht was quoted as saying. God help us all if we get the world that Woody Allen desires.
“Leno is leaving the late night arena with huge ratings and the reputation of being the only host to treat President Obama like … the President of the United States,” Christian Toto writes at Big Hollywood,in a piece titled, “Goodnight, Jay: Leno Last Fair, Balanced Late Night Host:”
Recently, a few fellow comics have hit the president over the disastrous ObamaCare rollout. More often than not, Leno’s peers prefer to poke fun at a Republican, any Republican, rather than the most powerful person in the world.
So who is replacing Leno on NBC’s iconic talk show? Jimmy Fallon, the Saturday Night Live grad who once let Obama “slow jam” the news with his talking points during an election cycle and sat by while his band leader called Rep. Michele Bachmann a “Lyin’ Ass Bitch” via song.
Another SNL alum, Seth Meyers, is taking over the Late Night franchise from Fallon. Both comics served under Lorne Michaels, the SNL producer who recently admitted his show hits Republicans harder than Democrats.
We’ve certainly witnessed SNL go soft on Obama over the past five-plus years, be it via its sketches or the Weekend Update desk Meyers manned.
The irony is that Leno likely isn’t a conservative. He’s never admitted to being right of center, and during interviews with Republican guests he often sounds more like Jon Stewart than Ben Shapiro.
It will certainly be interesting to see what happens to NBC’s late night ratings in the post Leno-era. I’d quip that this is a huge opportunity for Univision’s late-night division, but in reality, it’s an opportunity for the actual English-speaking networks, but they’re simply not ideologically capable of pouncing. It’s unfortunate that both of his competitors on the other two original over-the-air ratings are as equally politically hidebound as Michaels and his stars, because there’s a huge opening here for a host willing to use a less plonking and predictable approach than reactionary “liberalism.”
Back in a November issue of National Review On Dead Tree, Charles C. W. Cooke had a terrific article titled “Revolution in Dotage,” which appears to be inside the subscriber paywall, but in any case, here’s the gist of it, and how ideology can kill humor right in its tracks. (See also, that recent BuzzFeed-Gawker attack on Jerry Seinfeld that Roger L. Simon wrote about yesterday.)
If the Left is going to insist on having its opinions on all facets of life, and on backing its opinions up with force, couldn’t we at least insist that they be interesting, and that the influence that the movement has won not be used to alleviate what H. L. Mencken described as “the haunting fear that someone, somewhere, may be happy”? Take almost anything regarded as both “fun” and “American” and you can all but guarantee that the modern Left has a problem with it.
Local control? Dangerous — people will make the “wrong” decisions. Individualism? That’ll lead to greed. Religion? What if you believe things that aren’t true, or disapprove of behavior we like? Rap music? Careful of those misogynistic lyrics! Alcohol? Too much is bad for you and, besides, the socialized costs of treatment require us to remind you of this at every opportunity. Flying? Hurts the environment. Cars? Same thing, I’m afraid. Jokes? Every one of them has a butt, so careful whom you offend! Guns? Dangerous! Race? Well, everything is racist. Averages? Lead inexorably to stereotypes. Football? Violent, patriarchal, and perilous.
And don’t even get them started on smoking.
Even hugs have come in for condemnation in recent months. In October, Slate’s Amanda Hess bothered to write a column advising against the “awkward, falsely intimate power plays” that she believes plague Americans greeting one another across these 3,000-something miles.
None of this, of course, is to say that conservatives are all radicals, nor that all conservatives want to be such. None of this is to suggest that all conservatives are in favor of the permissive society. None of this is to pretend that conservatives are incapable of being censorious — although they are almost certainly less likely to try to tell others what to do. But then, conservatives generally do not pretend to be exciting. As my colleague Jonah Goldberg has observed, your average leftist believes himself to be a “live-and-let-live sort of person who says ‘Whatever floats your boat’ a lot.”
To put it more bluntly, modern leftists seem still to believe that they are all Hunter S. Thompson — open-minded and rebellious outsiders who look on with disdain from the fringes of society. In fact, in their old age, they’re the old guy down the street, the guy who won’t stop telling you about the glory days 40 years ago — and who won’t give you your ball back either, lest you hurt yourself with it.
As original Saturday Night Live writer Anne Beatts liked to quip, “you can only be avant-garde for so long, before you become garde.”
Or Palace Guard, in the case of Leno’s successor and the other remaining late night hosts.
[S]omeone who could puncture the pretensions of the Intellectuals while staking his own claim to membership, witty, self-deprecating, absurdly egotistical, able to direct a movie, write a movie, star in a movie, and dash off New Yorker casuals in between. Now he is dead to me. I know, I know, it’s a he-said / little-girl said situation, and it’s ridiculous to think that a guy who made a huge romantic movie about a 42-year-old man sleeping with a high-school student and expected everyone to go along because he was the lech, and hadn’t he been playing the amiable wonderful lech all his life, the one we indulged and excused? And we did.
I hated “Stardust Memories” and it was never the same afterwards, and when he made a movie I liked it felt like a great drunken lunch with a friend you’d had a falling-out with. Radio Days, Purple Rose. “Hannah” made you remember how good you felt about “Annie Hall,” I think, even though it had horrendous dialogue and another old-dude-sleeping-with-young-woman theme we accepted because, hey, New York. Also, artists.
I just remember the scandal that broke in ’92, and I was in Manhattan at the time. Which was nothing like the Manhattan of the movie, since it was in color and Gordon Willis and Gershwin weren’t pitching in. “The heart wants what it wants,” he said at that press conference, and he meant that as a justification, not a confession of fallibility. I’m not going to hold it against the guy because he leaves his sort-of-kinda-not wife, but most men who stray have the decency to hook up with someone who’s at least on a different floor of your lover’s apartment building, to say nothing of her actual residence.
Every interview I’ve ever read has him as a Serious Man – oh, no quips, no jokes, aside from a mordant observation that fits in with the conception of good ol’ funny ha-ha Woody throwing out some high-falutin’ existential japes about the meaningless of it all, but that is who he is. There’s the Art, and there’s the Heart, and that’s all the justification the Ego and Id require, right?
Lileks concludes his article with a precrime confession of sorts from Woody in a 1976 People magazine article, which foreshadows both 1979′s Manhattan, and the Soon-Yi debacle. Similarly, an Esquire article today titled “Re-Watching Woody Allen” explores “The newly-chilling themes that you can see throughout his movies,” which is coming from an awfully ironic source. I remember very well in the 1980s, after Woody blew up his career as an American superstar with Stardust Memories. His domestic box office really was never the same afterwards, and fancy that: flipping the bird to your entire audience can have a punitive impact on your income — who knew? But New York-based media such as GQ, Esquire and the New York Times continued to heavily promote Woody as a cinematic artist worth seeing. Worth admiring. Particularly now that those Reagan-voting hicks in flyover country weren’t cool enough to watch his movies, completely forgetting who it was who blew up the bridge out of Manhattan and into the rest of America.
The best short credo of liberalism came from the pen of the once canonical left-wing literary historian Vernon Parrington in the late 1920s. “Rid society of the dictatorship of the middle class,” Parrington insisted, referring to both democracy and capitalism, “and the artist and the scientist will erect in America a civilization that may become, what civilization was in earlier days, a thing to be respected.”
For Woody, it’s a chance to practice a sort of sexual Nietzschianism, along the lines of the chilling confession at the conclusion of 1989′s Crimes and Misdemeanors from the wealthy optometrist played (brilliantly) by Martin Landau, who has just had his mistress murdered, when she threatened to wreck his marriage:
JUDAH: Now he’s scot-free. His life is completely back to normal. Back to his protected world of wealth and privilege.
CLIFF: Yes, but can he ever really go back?
JUDAH: Well, people carry sins around with them. I mean, maybe once in a while he has a bad moment but it passes. With time it all fades.
CLIFF: So then, you know, his worst beliefs are realized.
JUDAH: I said it was a chilling story, didn’t I?
CLIFF: I don’t know. I think it would be tough for somebody to live with that. You know, very few guys could actually live, you know, live with something like that on their conscience.
JUDAH: People carry awful deeds around with them. What do you expect him to do, turn himself in? This is reality. In reality, we rationalize. We deny or we couldn’t go on living.
CLIFF: Here’s what I would do. I would have him turn himself in. ‘Cause then you see your story assumes tragic proportions. In the absence of a god or something, he is forced to assume that responsibility himself. Then you have tragedy.
JUDAH: But that’s fiction. That’s movies. I mean, you’ve seen too many movies. I’m talking about reality. If you want a happy ending you should go see a Hollywood movie.
But that was the problem — we thought we were. By the early 1990s, we knew that John Wayne the actor was never as heroic as the Panavision John Wayne who seemed to singlehandledly win World War II and settle the American Frontier in the movies. We knew that Cary Grant offstage was a terribly confused, LSD-experimenting man with feet of clay, compared to the always-suave, confident, perfectly attired man on the big screen. And the generation of actors who replaced those original superstars were to a man, much smaller still than the characters they played. Except for Woody, who prior to staring down his self-created abyss in the late 1980s, seemed to be the last actor to merge on and off-screen personas into one.
It is clear from the context of Manhattan that we are never to question Ike’s character. In fact, the movie suggests he is a person of vastly better character than his friend Yale, because later on in the movie, after Ike has dumped Tracy and broken her heart, Yale steals a girlfriend from him. “You think you’re God,” Yale says when Ike upbraids him. “Well,” says Ike, “I’ve got to model myself after somebody.”
In the end, Ike returns to Tracy. He is upset that she is going to Paris for a few weeks. She tells him not to worry, she will be true: “You have to have a little faith in people.”
It is inconceivable that such a movie could be made today, in which a middle-aged man commits statutory rape-and is considered a moral exemplar to boot. And yet there was not a peep in 1979.
After his forensic deconstruction of Woody’s oeuvre, the Esquire author is quick to remind his readers that he’s no square. “Dylan Farrow’s letter, not anything said by Sarah Palin or any other Fox News commentator, is the most stinging indictment of Hollywood I have ever read,” he adds as an aside.
But Palin and Fox News and its viewers — AKA, you and I — saw through Barack Obama long before anybody at Esquire ever did, and gave up on Woody Allen far more quickly than anybody at Esquire ever did. So why does the magazine and its brethren keep getting things so wrong?
As an artist who is required to be loathed by anyone who writes an article for Esquireliked to say, “Check your premises.” The premises that power the collective Esquire worldview are over a century old. The premises that power Woody’s personal worldview are even older. When will they ever review theirs?
Glenn Beck is also a little nutty. You know, I mean, this Jared guy’s chalkboard in his basement, I’m not sure it wouldn’t look that different than Glenn Beck’s chalkboard. Yes, I think it’s disingenuous for the right wing, as I’ve heard them say today, that we can’t make any connection here or else the — or the false equivalency argument that I hear, you know. There’s a lot of nuts on the left, too.
Yeah, there are nutty people on the left, too. They don’t make threats. They don’t talk about guns.
Stand-up comic and Real Time with Bill Maher host Bill Maher really killed on Friday night with the penultimate joke in his “New Rules” segment. In an episode that featured an otherwise listless audience, the crowd roared with laughter when Maher joked that since the Grammy Awards featured the liberal dream of a mass gay wedding, conservatives should even things out with a mass shooting.
“Now that liberals have forwarded their agenda by inserting a mass gay wedding into the Grammys,” Maher said, “conservatives must match them tit-for-tat by having a mass shooting at the Country Music Awards.”