Archive for November, 2007

Lame in 2007: MPAA Ratings (#23)

Thursday, November 29th, 2007

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Lame because: Spending 2007 on piracy-sniffing dogs, party-décor enforcement, cosmetic reforms that fixed almost nothing and other idiotic decisions (like the PG-13 rating for Beowulf, which hides the details of genitals yet shows the details of decapitation and impalement), the MPAA's had another great year of demonstrating what it's all about: Being useless. Anyone who's been to a movie theater in the past 12 years knows that the 'R' rating is a joke, and anyone with any critical capacity knows that the MPAA is tougher on sex than violence. And, to paraphrase Dean Wormer in Animal House, useless, hypocritical and stupid is no way for a lobbying group and ratings board to go through life. In the MPAA's vision of how things should be, a parent could, hypothetically take their teenager to see the R-rated Hostel II -- but not the NC-17 Lust, Caution. Because the MPAA thinks teens should be able to see (to quote the MPAA's own rating) "torture and bloody violence, terror, nudity, sexual content, language and some drug content," but kept from seeing "explicit sexuality." Ahhhh, the values of the MPAA: A woman being butchered alive is more suitable for teens than a woman having an orgasm. Oh, this year also saw the head of the National Association of Theater Owners ask that the major studios -- which fund the MPAA -- quit releasing unrated DVDs, or at least market them less fiercely. It seems releasing unrated DVDs makes a mockery of the ratings system (which the major studios fund), harms the finances of theaters (which don't bother enforcing MPAA ratings any more than they bother with encouraging quiet, properly maintaining their projection equipment or making sure the film's shown in the correct aspect ratio) and encourages people to wait for the DVD, which is bad for NATO's bottom line. Because, hey, you don't want to see the movie the director made at home -- you'd much rather go to the theater and see the version of the movie that was altered and cut based on the approval and standards of an unelected, anonymous and unaccountable group of randomly-chosen Judeo-Christian parents, right? Right?

How to turn it around: I don't think you can, so let's just do the right thing: Get rid of it. There's no reason for having the MPAA as a ratings board, and if the major studios want to lobby Washington , they can do that through well-greased mechanisms of the multi-national conglomerates that own them. If parents want to know if their children should see a movie, they can see it themselves. Or read about it themselves. Or check in with privately-run websites like Common Sense Media. Or go with their kids. Or wait until it comes to DVD and watch it with their kids then. Or some other form of responsibility and self-awareness. The secret and subjective MPAA forces filmmakers through hoops in the name of protecting a 'values'-driven vision of American society that dates back to before the '60s, and a theater-driven vision of the entertainment business that dates back before the VCR. Considering all of the MPAA's evils -- toxic nostalgia for a long-lost (or never-was) era, hypocrisy and phony morality -- the only thing I can think of that's worse than all of the above is playing along with the people behind them them.

Next up: We GET IT already!

Where did they rank?

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Lame in 2007: Celebs and Bad Behavior (#1!)

Thursday, November 29th, 2007

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Lame because: With DUIs, divorces, scandals and private travails for many stars and starlets this year, I can easily tell you the worst thing about bad celebrity behavior in 2007: The fact that people care about it. Lindsay Lohan may have appeared in more mug shots than films this year, but whether you feel bad for the suffering of a troubled young lady or laugh at the comeuppance of a spoiled young starlet, it's not your business either way. Acronym-heavy, content-light sites like TMZ and Perez Hilton and Yahoo's LOL (no links, because they don't deserve them) are turning the web into the mental equivalent of a supermarket tabloid -- but without the quality writing and comforting smell of newsprint. Our culture treats famous people almost like zoo pandas -- but while we watch pandas to see if they screw, it seems that we watch celebrities only to see if they screw up. Sure, famous people can do stupid things. So can you or I, but without the joy of camera people watching us waiting for when it happens. Everything a performer should be expected to show to the public takes place in their work, and showing any interest in what an actor or actress does outside of the credits of a film is -- and I mean no offense here -- a sure and certain proof that you have an I.Q. lower than your belt size unexplored interior life.

How to turn it around: Like booze or smokes or pills, the first step to quashing celebrity culture (which, really, is an oxymoron) is to walk away. And never go back. And if you see a friend surfing TMZ or OMG or Perez Hilton, be supportive and sympathetic and tell them why they should stop. And if that doesn't work, secretly screw up their router software and disable their web access: Not only are you cutting off their supply, but learning how to fix it will at the very least give them something to think about other than the private lives of people they're never going to meet.

Next up: Your turn to vote!
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Shocker of the Day: Brad Pitt Turns 90, Swears Off Nude Scenes

Thursday, November 29th, 2007

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Listen up ladies (and gay men everywhere) -- Brad Pitt wants you to know that he will not be performing any more nude scenes for the remainder of his career. Get that? His reason: "I don't want to be embarrassed when my kids get old enough to see my films. I can't see any more nude scenes [in my career]." Should we go the whole moment of silence route? Is it worth it? During his interview with the BBC (via People), Pitt's eyes were clearly on the future. "I figure I've got very few films left. Who knows how many I'll get to do now, so I want something I'm interested in. Otherwise, I don't want to bother. I think it's a younger person's game." Is it just me, or does the guy sound like an over-the-hill actor approaching his 90th birthday. Dude! Lumet is 83-years-old and he's opening up his films with Marisa Tomei doing it doggy-style! Get a grip Pitt!

Oh, but we're not done. When asked whether the gang would reunite for another Ocean's flick, Pitt replied: "There's no more. I think we need to put away childish things." Childish things? Is this the same Brad Pitt we all grew to love and adore? The Ocean's films were simple, funny and enjoyable -- is Pitt trying to say that comedy is childish? Fortunately, his old lady Angelina Jolie isn't done rolling around with younger men, while playing with big toys. Her next film, Wanted, finds the gal blowing up all kinds of nonsense. Oh, and she also voices a character in the animated (and childish) flick Kung Fu Panda. Note to Pitt: For the sake of your children, loosen the hell up.

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The 50 Smartest People in Hollywood?

Thursday, November 29th, 2007

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We always hear about the dumb Hollywood types -- whether they make a shockingly inane statement, air their personal laundry for all to witness, or wreak havoc on the world with their bad boy/girl ways. But we don't always hear something about the smarties in Hollywood. I guess it's just not as much fun. But have no fear -- Entertainment Weekly has just released their list of The 50 Smartest People in Hollywood. Take a second to imagine who you'd include, and then continue below.

It's a list of varied rationale -- some smarts come into what they studied in college, or the politics they champion, while others seem to be there just for their success. But shock of all shocks -- if you head over there to check it out, the first face you'll see is Ben Affleck. I bet in the times of JLo and Gigli, no one ever thought he'd make it onto a smartest-of-Hollywood list -- especially over so many others. As for the others, it should come as no surprise that there are many more behind-the-scenes names than actors and actresses. You'll spot people like Diablo Cody, Gustavo Santaolalla, and Thelma Schoonmaker as well as big-names like Cate Blanchett, Angelina Jolie, and Ben Stiller.

It's interesting. I'm not sure I agree with the spin, but these are definitely a collection of successful people. We'll just have to wait and see if they can hold onto these smarts in the years to come. And shouldn't the true test come in the form of an appearance on Are You Smarter Than a Fifth Grader? But what do you think of the list? Do you agree with the placement? Who should be taken off? Who should be added?
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Barry Bonds Gets an Indictment and His Own HBO Film

Thursday, November 29th, 2007

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Variety reports that HBO Films will bring the Barry Bonds story to their network. San Francisco Giant Bonds recently broke baseball's all-time home run record, "allegedly" lied to a jury under oath concerning his use of performance-enhancing drugs, and was indicted on federal charges. Say it ain't so, Barry! HBO has purchased the rights to Game of Shadows: Barry Bonds, BALCO and the Steroids Scandal That Rocked Professional Sports, which is said to paint Bonds as "a gifted player who made a Faustian bargain to increase his power." Ron Shelton will adapt the book with John Norville (co-writer of Shelton's Tin Cup) after the WGA Strike. Shelton is also set to direct.

Ron Shelton is a terrific writer/director of sports movies when he's on, but he doesn't have the greatest batting average. Bull Durham, White Men Can't Jump, and Tin Cup are classics of baseball, basketball, and golf film, respectively. But Cobb? Play it to the Bone? The dreadful Hollywood Homicide (not a sports film I realize, but so bad I had to mention it)? Hopefully the Bonds film will be one of his "hits." I always find it interesting when movies are made about figures who are not only still alive, but still going strong. It just seems like it'd be...awkward for all involved. Who do you think should play Barry Bonds? Shelton regular Kevin Costner? I kid, I kid. Do you think they should get a newcomer or go for a star? And which star?

Continue reading Barry Bonds Gets an Indictment and His Own HBO Film

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Funny Games – Trailer 1

Thursday, November 29th, 2007
  Funny Games - Trailer 1
In this provocative and brutal thriller from director Michael Haneke, a vacationing family gets an unexpected visit from two deeply disturbed young men. Their idyllic holiday turns nightmarish as they are subjected to unimaginable terrors and struggle to stay alive.
Directed by: Michael Haneke
Starring: Naomi Watts, Tim Roth, Michael Pitt, Brady Corbet, Devon Gearhart

Untraceable – Trailer

Thursday, November 29th, 2007
  Untraceable - Trailer
Within the FBI, there exists a division dedicated to investigating and prosecuting criminals on the internet. Welcome to the front lines of the war on cybercrime, where Special Agent Jennifer Marsh (Diane Lane) has seen it all……until now. A tech-savvy internet predator is displaying his graphic murders on his own website – and the fate of each of his tormented captives is left in the hands of the public: the more hits his site gets, the faster his victims die. When this game of cat and mouse becomes personal, Marsh and her team must race against the clock to track down this technical mastermind who is virtually untraceable.
Directed by: Gregory Hoblit
Starring: Diane Lane, Billy Burke, Colin Hanks, Joseph Cross, Mary Beth Hurt

The Diving Bell and the Butterfly – Trailer

Thursday, November 29th, 2007
  The Diving Bell and the Butterfly - Trailer
The remarkable true story of Jean-Dominique Bauby (Mathieu Amalric), a successful and charismatic editor-in-chief of French Elle, who believes he is living his life to its absolute fullest when a sudden stroke leaves him in a life-altered state. While the physical challenges of Bauby’s fate leave him with little hope for the future, he begins to discover how his life’s passions, his rich memories and his newfound imagination can help him achieve a life without boundaries.
Directed by: Julian Schnabel
Starring: Mathieu Amalric, Emmanuelle Seigner, Marie-Josee Croze, Anne Consigny

It’s that time… already

Wednesday, November 28th, 2007

The Hollywood awards season is like spring during global warming or the presidential primary season: it keeps starting earlier. With that, the Independent Spirit Awards are upon us, and Todd Haynes' quasi-Bob Dylan movie "I'm Not There" had the most with four. Here is the complete list.

Are the directors and editors on strike, too?

Wednesday, November 28th, 2007


As a show of solidarity with the striking writers of the WGA, America's actors are speaking out, in part, by making a series of online public service announcements called "Speechless." The gist is meant to be ironic: we're watching these little movies in the very medium whose space the writers aren't being paid to fill. By the clips are humbling, too -- please, please give us something to say because we're nothing without you.

To that end, Susan Sarandon and Chazz Palminteri go "blah-blah-blah" at each other in one clip (it's like something from "Outside the Actors Studio") and another consists of a long montage of actors (Marcia Cross, Demi Moore, Martin Sheen, et al.) holding a blank script, looking befuddled. Most of these are sloppily made and earnestly dull. Sean Penn talks, but we can't hear what he's saying. Ed Asner chews his lunch. And Holly Hunter dials up for a writer and gets an operator in Bangalore. (Oh no. Thanks to the strike, comedy's been outsourced, too!)

The actors' idea might be to make themselves seem boring and witless without writers. And so a curious empathy emerges: all the stars seem lost and intellectually underfed. You want them fed. Where is the Sally Struthers of the entertainment-industry malnourished?

One of the most effective (and persuasively heartfelt) documents to come out of the strike is "The Office Is Closed," an "Office"-ish explication from the writers of that show, which epitomizes the conflict since it's a big online hit. NBC even commissioned exclusive web content -- "webisodes." Listening to Mike Schur and Mindy Kaling makes a case for themselves as exploited laborers is a lot more convincing than not hearing Sean Penn speak. (There might be a few producers who'd consider that a reason to prolong this situation.Who knows?) The television writers have more 9-5-ish jobs and, on-average, make less money than their Hollywood counterparts. The effect on them -- and us -- is already apparent. They also don't seem as, well, vain as the rich, scriptless stars who've admirably risen to their defense.

(Behind the scenes, George Clooney and others have donated money to help the far less well-off survive the shutdown. And Barack Obama and John Edwards, who gave a speech on the picket line the other day, have threatened to pull out of next month's CBS debate if the strike hasn't ended. It's a classy if odd move. Was "The Late Show" staff writing their opening remarks? Edwards's appearance was like something out of John Sayles.)

The director George Hickenlooper is one of the folks behind this "Speechless" campaign, and he's vowed to keep it going until they get to about 50 -- unless, of course, the producers come to their senses first. The money people were guilty of plain-old avarice before. But allowing the strike to go on long enough for Hickenlooper's viral-video brainchild to swell to 50 is pure evil.