Hollywood gave the film Argo the Academy Award for best picture. But wait a minute! Did the film industry members who voted for it understand what the film said?
To rescue five Americans trapped in Iran and hiding out from the Islamist revolution, the CIA seeks help from Hollywood. The plan is to pretend to make a movie in Iran and then smuggle out the State Department employees (who have been given refuge in the Canadian embassy) as supposed members of the film crew.
BUT it is clearly explained in the film that the U.S. government knows that nobody in Hollywood will help since they don’t want to take a risk; cooperate with the CIA, which they regard as evil; or lift a finger to save the Americans. Only one man — an independent director — is enough of an outcast and rebel rogue to help. The film is thus not a celebration of Hollywood as hero but a condemnation of the town for its anti-patriotic, narrow selfishness. Naturally, nobody in Hollywood noticed this plot theme.
There’s a good parallel here with the kind of films Hollywood so often makes today which are consistent with this anti-patriotic theme. And, ironically, the Best Picture Oscar was handed out by Michelle Obama, backed by some soldiers in dress uniform. Yet here the irony builds. After all, it was the Obama Administration that did the opposite of Operation Argo: it refused to try to save four Americans, including the ambassador, who were killed in Benghazi.
So an award for a film about saving Americans is given by a representative of a government that did not save Americans in front of a cheering crowd of people who — according to that film — would have refused to help save Americans as both sides congratulate themselves on what great people they are!
Amazing chutzpah along with the assumption — almost totally correct — that no one would notice the hypocrisy.
Fixing a Big NFL Problem:
It has become fashionable of late to complain about the use of Native American names for football teams. One of those teams is the Washington Redskins.
But actually the Washington Redskins, the team of my home town which I still support, were not named originally after Native Americans at all. When the team originated in Boston in the 1930s it was named after one of the proudest moments of that city. Paralleling the theme of today’s Boston Patriots team, the Redskins were named after the Boston Tea Party.
Today’s PJ Lifestyle Bookshelf selection comes From Ed Driscoll’s “Far from Complete: Great Books Missing in the Kindle Format” article:
God’s Coach: The Hymns, Hype, and Hypocrisy of Tom Landry’s Cowboys, by Skip Bayless: In the last 15 years, sportswriter Skip Bayless tarnished his reputation by making an unsubstantiated claim that 90s-era Cowboy QB Troy Aikman was playing for the other team (IYKWIMAITYD) only to reemerge after years in the journalistic wilderness as a talking head on ESPN. But at the start of the 1990s, he wrote a pretty decent summation of the first three decades of the team that helped transform the NFL into America’s most popular professional sport. Bayless, then a Cowboys beat writer, wrote his first book in the immediate aftermath of new owner Jerry Jones acquiring the Cowboys and unceremoniously showing Landry, the Cowboys’ legendary founding coach, the door. God’s Coach ends up actually casting most of the blame for the Cowboys’ woes in the 1980s with the eroding skills of draftmaster Gil Brandt, but the revered Landry shouldn’t emerge unscathed for looking the other way while so much corruption tore his team apart. And Bayless’s prose makes this book an endlessly enjoyable guilty pleasure for NFL fans. I suspect it would get plenty of rereads if it ever appears in Kindle format.
Related at PJ Lifestyle on football:
Today, October 27, is National Pit Bull Awareness Day. Whether you are for pits or against them, it’s important to remember, in this election season, that these dogs were once a proud symbol of American virtue and valor, appearing in World War I propaganda posters as an emblem of our country’s courage.
All month long, dog advocates have been working hard to get the word out that at many animal shelters across this country, as many as 90 percent of the deserving dogs awaiting adoption are all-American pit bulls or pit mixes. And yet too often these dogs are overlooked or given a wide berth because potential adopters are so terrified by horror stories about pit bulls they’ve heard in the mainstream media — which, as we’ve seen before, doesn’t spill much ink on, or give much air time to, pits who perform heroic deeds or spread cheer at hospitals and nursing homes; sensational stories about dog attacks are deemed more “newsworthy.”
Surprisingly, one major mainstream media player has taken a huge step to help raise awareness of pit bulls: Hugely popular, handsomely compensated Sirius XM talk-show host Howard Stern, one of the MSM’s most powerful players (if not its MVP), leveled criticism at Philadelphia Eagles quarterback and convicted animal abuser Michael Vick over Vick’s decision to acquire a pet dog (the type and gender of which has not been revealed).
Here are some choice excerpts from Stern’s rant:
“Well, when I saw the news I was dumbfounded. It baffles the mind, really. Here’s what you gotta think: Everything has calmed down for this guy, he’s got his career back on track … things are quiet. So, instead of keeping things quiet, the way he should, he decides he’s going to get a dog. I mean, what the [expletive] is that all about? It’s like if somebody is convicted for being a child molester then moves next door to a playground — you don’t do it…. Michael Vick should never own a pet.”
“This is no different than Rihanna getting back together with Chris Brown. You sit there and go, What kind of crazy move is this?”
“Get the dog away from him. There should have been something written where he could never own a dog. You know, it’s like if I was convicted of taking five Koreans and locking them in my basement and making them sex slaves, then I get out and the first thing I do is move a Korean in with me.”
“Isn’t there someone in his life that says, ‘Listen, Michael, You’re a dopey guy, you’re a big, dumb [expletive] jock. You’re a football player. Let me think for you. You cannot have a dog. You can’t have a cat. You can’t have a hamster, you [expletive]! You blew it. If you really want a pet, it’s not in this lifetime. And your kids when they get older can get one.’”
“I mean, no one sits this guy down, from a p.r. standpoint? This [expletive] guy should not be around dogs. He’s got a hostility to these dogs. I don’t know what happened in his life, but he shouldn’t be allowed to be near a … it’s crazy.”
“I mean, why would he stir this up? He’s insane. This guy’s insane, that’s all. Of course he’s insane. Who could look at a little dog and kill it? That [expletive] maniac.”
Stern was, of course, responding to the outrage felt by many of this country’s animal lovers, who were appalled to learn — via a Twitter photo of Vick’s young daughter doing her homework at the family kitchen table, an image that was quickly photoshopped to redact a telltale box of Milkbone biscuits in the background — that Vick is now a dog owner again, despite having pleaded guilty, in 2007, to the federal felony of dogfighting. Among Vick’s more heinous acts during his stewardship (if such it may be called) of Bad Newz Kennels was — by his own admission — hanging, electrocuting, drowning, and savagely beating dogs to death.
I’m no fan of Michael Vick, as I’ve made clear before. Quite the opposite, in fact. But I distinctly recall Howard Stern singing a distinctly different dog tune back in 1988 or 1989, long before he signed his famously lucrative 2006 satellite deal, back when his base was the radio station WXRK.
The National Football League issued a statement today confirming what anyone who’s not a Seattle Seahawks fan and who wasn’t masquerading as a professional football official already knew; Seahawks wide receiver Golden Tate committed blatant, obvious, and criminal interference on the last play of the game that cost the Green Bay Packers the contest.
As for the other egregious error by the Pop Warner officials — the sure interception by Green Bay cornerback M.D. Jennings — the league stood behind the decision of the referee who decided that one hand by Tate on the ball constituted “simultaneous possession,” despite the fact that Jennings was clutching the ball to his chest and clearly had sole possession of the rock.
For those who missed it, a brief summary:
On the final play of “Monday Night Football,” Russell Wilson heaved a 24-yard pass into a scrum in the end zone with Seattle trailing 12-7. Tate shoved away a defender with both hands, and the NFL acknowledged Tuesday he should have been penalized, which would have clinched a Packers victory. But that lack of a call cannot be reviewed by instant replay.
Tate and Green Bay safety M.D. Jennings then both got their hands on the ball, though the Packers insisted Jennings had clear possession for a game-ending interception.
“It was pinned to my chest the whole time,” Jennings said.
Instead, the officials ruled on the field that the two had simultaneous possession, which counts as a reception. Once that happened, the NFL said, the referee was correct that no indisputable visual evidence existed on review to overturn the touchdown call.
That’s nonsense. Replays clearly showed Jennings in possession of the ball before Tate managed to get a hand on it. By the time the referee sauntered over to take a look-see, Tate had wrapped both hands around the ball — while it was still glued to Jenning’s chest.
In a perfect metaphor for the abysmal officiating that has plauged the games this season, the referee raised both arms to signal a touchdown for Seattle while the line judge, who was actually closer to the play, waved his arms to stop the clock — a signal for a change of possession. Here’s the pic:
Steve Sabol, the scion of the founder of NFL Films, passed away yesterday at 69 of a brain tumor, an age that’s far too young to die these days. I grew up about 20 minutes from the NFL Films offices in Mt. Laurel, NJ* and in 2003, took a tour of their ultra high-tech facilities — which make the Bridge of the Starship Enterprise seem laughably antediluvian in comparison — as part of the research that wound-up doing double-duty at the start of the following year for articles in Videomaker magazine and Tech Central Station. The other half of my prep work for those two articles involved interviewing Sabol on the phone. As he told me at the start of our conversation:
Steve Sabol: There’s an old Indian proverb that I’ve always believed in, and that’s ‘tell me a fact, and I’ll learn. Tell me a truth, and I’ll believe. Tell me a story, and it will live in my heart forever’.
And that’s been one of our mottos, is telling a story. And the story telling is basically done through the editing. It’s the cameraman’s job to come back with as much material—story telling shots, action shots—as he possibly can. Then it’s up to the editor to tame and to shape the raw vision of the cameraman.
I started out as an editor, and then became a cameraman. But that’s really job of the editor. It’s so critical, and it’s one of the most overlooked artforms or disciplines in filmmaking. Most people don’t understand about editing; they understand writing, they understand music, they understand cinematography. But when it comes to editing and the selection and order of the shots, that’s the key to storytelling.
Driscoll: Did being an editor first influence you when you became a cameraman?
Sabol: When I started out as an editor, and tried to tell stories, I realized that there were certain gaps; that you couldn’t tell a story with just action shots. You needed shots that showed the passage of time, the sun shining through the portals of the stadium. You needed close-ups to show the reaction of the players to the game. You needed shots of the audience and the fans. You needed locator shots as well call them, that set the scene. What’s the stadium look like? Is it a full stadium? Is it an empty stadium? And you need shots that can move the story along. It might be a pair of bloody hands. It could be cleat marks in the mud. It could be a crushed water bottle on the sidelines. It could be a flag whipping in the wind. These were all things that were in important.
I was an art major in college, and Paul Cézanne, the famous French impressionistic painter, once said that “all art is selected detail.” And I felt that that was one thing that was missing in sports films were the details. And when I began as a cameraman, that was all I shot, was the details. I filmed the first 15 Super Bowls, and never saw a play. But I could tell you what kind of hat Tom Landry was wearing, how Vince Lombardi was standing in the fourth quarter, if Bob Lilly had a cut on the bridge of his nose. Those were the things that I remember in the Super Bowl. I don’t remember any of the plays. I was just what we call a weasel.
Driscoll: What is a weasel?
Sabol: Well, we have three types of cameramen: we have a tree, a mole, and a weasel. A tree is the top camera. He’s on a tripod rooted into a position on the 50 yard line, and he doesn’t move. A mole is a handheld, mobile, ground cameraman, with a 12 to 240 lens, and he moves all around the field, and he gives you the eyeball-to-eyeball perspective. A weasel is the cameraman who pops up in unexpected places, to get you the telling storytelling shot—the bench, the crowd, all the details.
So those are the three elements. When you blend them together you get the NFL Films visual signature—when you blend together a mole, a tree and a weasel.
You have infinitely more than that of course – NFL Films revolutionized how sports are covered by film and television, and transformed the National Football League in America’s leading sport. And as Sabol told AP when his father was inducted into the NFL Hall of Fame, “We see the game as art as much as sport. That helped us nurture not only the game’s traditions but to develop its mythology: America’s Team, The Catch, The Frozen Tundra:”
When Ed Sabol founded NFL Films, his son was there working beside him as a cinematographer right from the start in 1964. They introduced a series of innovations taken for granted today, from super slow-motion replays to blooper reels to sticking microphones on coaches and players. And they hired the ”Voice of God,” John Facenda, to read lyrical descriptions in solemn tones.
Until he landed the rights to chronicle the 1962 NFL championship game, Ed Sabol’s only experience filming sports was recording the action at Steve’s high school football games in Philadelphia.
* * * * *
He was the perfect fit for the job: an all-Rocky Mountain Conference running back at Colorado College majoring in art history. It was Sabol who later wrote of the Raiders, ”The autumn wind is a pirate, blustering in from sea,” words immortalized by Facenda.
The Sabols’ advances included everything from reverse angle replays to filming pregame locker room speeches to setting highlights to pop music.
”Today of course those techniques are so common it’s hard to imagine just how radical they once were,” Steve told the AP last year. ”Believe me, it wasn’t always easy getting people to accept them, but I think it was worth the effort.”
Indeed it was. RIP, Steve Sabol.
* But then, all of South Jersey is 20 minutes away from the rest of South Jersey.
(Cross-posted at Ed Driscoll.com.)
Banning college football is un-American.
Being European, I can’t help but wonder over recent debates in the United States about the NFL and college football. Increasingly more analysts believe that these sports should be banned, or at least ‘reformed’. The latter of course meaning that they’ll lose what makes them unique and appealing to sports fans everywhere.
Now, make no mistake about it: I’m just as convinced as the average Joe that football is a very dangerous sport indeed. But why did this fact take analysts by surprise? Why do they make such a big issue out of concussions and other football-related problems? Is it a matter of them wanting to wash their hands in all innocence?
I still remember the first time I watched the NFL: I was shocked – shocked. These weren’t athletes, they were gladiators. Anyone not blind could see that they were out to hurt each other and that the crowd loved them for it.
Once I got into the NFL, I started watching college football too. It was just as great, if not better, simply because it’s less commercial. These youngsters were trying to prove themselves; they wanted to be the best they could possibly be, while hoping for a professional career in the NFL. They were willing to run through brick walls to reach their goals.
Of course, they too were taken off the field regularly. One had a concussion, another a broken leg. Some of the injured players were probably scarred for life. That much was clear.