Thursday, July 16, 2009

7-16-09 Hollywood has Nothing to Fear...Except Fear Itself of Course.

A ha!!! Yes – Surprise – it's a SECOND blog entry today!

Over the course of the last day, Twitter has been…well…atwitter with people who have just gone off about the worsening problem of the "reboot/rehash/remake" disease that has infected the very soul of what used to be a pretty wacky and original place. Yes – I used the word "original." There was a time when Hollywood used to produce some pretty creative things. Sure they produced a lot of crap too – but back then, at least it was creative crap.

So imagine how thrilled I was to read this blog: (Once again I must thank my Twitter acquaintance "Broadus" who said he wanted to read my thoughts on this piece.) So please do yourself a favor and read this! Not only did it have me weeping with laughter, it also had me shedding bitter, bitter tears.

Jay Black, the comedian and author of the eloquent article puts forth...

(*mumble* phloxing grammar – an hypothesis? A hypothesis? Huh – according to the little green thing in Word it says it's "a hypothesis". Yes, "a" before a consonant "an" before a vowel. Duh, Ter.)

...a hypothesis that television sucks big donkey Richards because there simply aren't enough good writers out there; that they have reached a critical mass so to speak, and not only are all the good writers being used, the "suits' have backfilled the void with the leftover crappy writers.

While I laughed all the way through his article, I simply can't agree with this statement. I think there are hordes of incredibly talented writers that just can't get a job. And while I can see his point that the expansion of available channels should actually bring more opportunity to the writers/actors, etc – I'm afraid it all rolls right back around to the same problem that's affecting ALL of Hollywood – fear of the new, the original and the untested.

It really does all come down to money and, using Mr. Black's own method, I'll be working off of two axioms here:

1) Studios aren't openly willing to pay anyone for anything and
2) They only spend money either due to desperation or because they are legally required to do so in some instances.

I know of many, many incredibly talented people…writers, producers, actors – all of whom would love to just get a crack at a role, or having their script produced or a studio buy their show, but the studios simply haven't shown much of an interest in original works, original looks or original ideas.

They fear originality for originality equals risk, and in the post Enron/Sarbanes-Oxley world in which we live risk = possible failure and possible failure = potential shareholder lawsuit and potential shareholder lawsuit = death. And using the ever-loving transitive theory, since death must be avoided "at all costs" therefore originality must be avoided "at all costs."


(I also joked that maybe the really good writers know better than to waste their time putting forth their creative efforts knowing that they'll either be shot down – OR WORSE – losing all control over their creations to some set of paid hacks who assure the soul is surgically removed from most work, so they're not even trying to sell their wares anymore and learning how to enjoy their work by sharing it on the net…GASP…for free.)

I'm sure it's different for the actor – those who would love to stretch their creativity by playing a role – ANY role, as long as it's a challenge.

OMFSM – Another tweet from Broadus produced this gem of an interview: (Ahem, Ms. Megan Fox! You may want to read this! You could learn a lot from this woman!)

Damn, what a gorgeous woman…in more ways than one.

Ms. Okonedo speaks directly to the heart of the problem I think – there is a lot of phlox out there. She's incredibly forthright to be able to tell the powers that be "no" when she's offered that stuff too. She's also built a reputation for taking meatier and better-written roles too. She wields a power that very few actors hold – the ability to say no and still know that they will be sought for another role in the future. She and others like her are simply THAT GOOD.

All of the actors I personally know don't get that luxury. They're faced with either not working – or taking that role in the poorly written dramedy, or cry with joy when they land a commercial, something – just something that gives them a few things more on that resume and headshot. There's simply not enough "good stuff" out there to be able to say no to. It's not that those people aren't capable of being "THAT GOOD" they just don't have the material that allows them to show it.

Mr. Black has a lot of great points but I don't think expansion of the market has caused dissolution of the talent-pool.

When studios stop producing scripted shows in order to save money and they turn to filming "unscripted" dreck – that is what I believe is television's greatest problem. It's not that there are less good writers – the good writers just aren't being used!

Yes, we're getting a lot more material thrown at us as viewers but we're just getting less material that has a plot. We're not getting more dramas, comedies or musicals – we're getting American Idol; Big Brother; Big Brother After Dark; Ghost Hunters; Haunted Castles; Haunted Ships; Haunted Pool Halls; Dark-Haired Survival Guy; Lighter-Haired Survival Guy; Nasty Chef Yells at Poorly Trained Food Service Industry People; Deadliest Catch and Ice Flow Truckers of the South Pacific (where I understand driving a truck on an iceberg is really dangerous!)

Now – I know the writers of these "unscripted shows" don't get paid diddley for their work and I can't imagine that a majority of the people in them are now suddenly members of SAG…

I would have hoped that with the influx of cable channels that we would be able to see a greater degree of opportunity for the writer/actor/electricians/musician/set-builders etc – but when Hollywood realized it could bypass the unions and make money hand-over-twisted claw by avoiding having to hire anyone but a camera operator, a boom operator and maybe a few grips…yeah – cheap to make and huge on the profit ratio.

Sorry Mr. Black – I think the Earth is swimming in talented people and you're definitely one of them.

I just think Hollywood is dying from its own fear.

7-16-09 Memories of Apollo 11, Strong Men and Little Plastic Monkeys

Tomorrow begins a week-long celebration of the 40th Anniversary of the Apollo 11 mission. It'll be a time where someone (who's old enough of course) will likely ask you (if you're old enough of course) where you were when you watched Neil Armstrong set foot on the surface of Earth's moon.

I was young – merely 4 ½ years old – but I can tell you exactly what I remember.

Oddly, I remember a lot of scents actually; the bar reeked of scotch, whiskey, bourbon, Chanel No. 5, Aqua Net hair spray and decades of cigarette and cigar smoke. I recall wooden paneling, black vinyl stools and a few small, curved booths. A tiny black and white television was hung precariously from the corner of the bar and I distinctly remember a lit aquarium with several colorful fish in it.

I was sitting next to my mother who was nursing a Manhattan. She was wearing her favorite avocado-green outfit – a tight fitting skirt and matching ¾ sleeve mini-jacket. My father was standing next to her, allowing me to have a barstool all to myself. He was wearing what every other man seemed to wear in the late 1960s – a black suit with a pencil-thin black tie. There were a lot of men in the place and those who weren't wearing the "black suit," were all in military attire. I remember sitting next to a tall gentleman on the stool next to me and he and my mother both worked to assure I didn't fall off the stool. I remember playing with the little plastic drink animals and the bars of ribbons the man had on his jacket. They were so pretty and because I kept reaching for them over his pocket, he willingly removed them from his coat. I decorated myself with them and used them as "jumps" for the little plastic animals that the bartender had crowded into my Shirley Temple – never realizing they were his military decorations.

You see – we were at the Officer's Club at the local Military Base.

The bartender, the officer sitting next to me and my parents sweetly kept me entertained even though their eyes were really glued to the television.

At that time my father had already been retired from the Air Force for years – hence the reason for his civvies – but when it came time for the moon landing he wanted to be with others who, like him, understood what Collins, Aldrin and Armstrong were doing. He himself had been accepted into the Mercury program as a flight surgeon long beforehand, but he didn't pass the final physical and not only did he lose out on a career in space medicine, he was forced to retire from the USAF altogether.

It broke his heart, but he took another path and he practiced medicine for the civilian population until he retired in 1997; but he still loves everything and anything to do with the aerospace industry and I can safely say he's the reason why I love it so much.

And it all goes back to that smoke-filled bar.

It was the first time I ever remember seeing him (or any man for that matter) cry.

Just before Armstrong set his foot down on the powdery surface of Luna, the man sitting next to me, stood – lifted me up and sat me back down on his lap and whispered in my ear, "Pay attention Terry – this is history."

So of course I set down my little plastic monkey and watched the TV with the rest of the silent crowd – but when I heard my dad actually sniffle and then saw him wipe his eyes? I thought something was horribly wrong.

Maybe for him there was more to it than seeing humans break free of the planet and touch truly foreign soil – maybe for him there was a touch of regret in his eyes. I don't know, I was too young to have understood it, but even if he did regret not becoming a part of the program, he's the kind of man who would never reveal such things to me or to the rest of the family - it would have been a sign of weakness in his eyes.

I remember my mother had tears in her eyes too and the man who was holding me tightened his hug. All I saw was a bunch of blurry images on the TV screen. But just as my concern began to grow, the place erupted in cheers and applause, hollering and laughter…it was so loud! Mom turned and kissed me; took me onto her lap and the man who had been holding me hugged her tightly. Dad shook his hand and the two men laughed as my dad pulled out his box of Eric cigars and they lit up in celebration.

That's what I remember.

I remember it because I was told to remember it; that it was important – that it was history.

But I only realized how important it was by seeing how it affected my father. If something was important enough to make him cry…I knew it must have been pretty big.

I have never lost my love of the space program. I took pride in seeing the "Welcome to Downey – Home of Apollo" signs in my hometown. Sally Ride was and still is a personal hero, as is Gene Kranz. I try never to miss a shuttle launch. My husband and I frequently look for Iridium flares or watch as the ISS passes gracefully over our home.

The words "aim high" mean just as much to me as the words "go boldly" and they always will.

I never knew who the nice man was that told me to pay attention. He was certainly a decorated individual and had a comfortable lap and infinite patience with a 4 year old child. Alas, my father's cognitive skills have weakened and he no longer remembers much about that day so he is no longer able to recall who the man may have been. I regret not asking him sooner. My mother doesn't recall either, she only knew him as a friend of my father's from the Air Force. He was older than my father and I doubt that he's alive now, but I remember his kindness. To whoever and wherever he is – I'd like to thank him for helping me remember the day that man set foot on the Moon. Because of him, my memories of that day are filled with the happy thoughts of laughter, little plastic monkeys, mermaids and giraffes; military ribbons and realizing just how human my father really is.

Happy 40th Anniversary to all who worked on the Apollo 11 mission!

Aim high!

Friday, July 10, 2009

7-10-09 Megan Fox - A Cause or a Symptom?

I told you all in the last blog that Megan Fox, the hot starlet from Transformers 2 and several upcoming films, was a personality that was worthy of dedicating an entire blog post to…

Well she is.

She is that one enigma that both infuriates me and causes me to wonder whether or not I actually admire her.

She's gorgeous. She's smart. She definitely knows exactly what she's getting herself into and she's vocal about it; but I can't figure out if her career is a consequence of Hollywood's cesspit mentality or an ongoing reason for its continued existence.

I think it's both actually.

Ms. Fox was recently (a few weeks ago actually) given the opportunity to become the latest cover and interview focus for Entertainment Weekly magazine. I read the entire article three times.

She describes herself and all women and their sexuality as being "commodities" in Hollywood and she's only doing what she needs to do to be successful. And she's really successful, that's for sure. She also surmised that the reason why a lot of women hate her is because they must be jealous of her.

Now I will admit I wasn't born with the genes that make her so beautiful. So sure, I'm totally envious of her looks and how they give her the ability to make crap loads of money. But jealous? I don't think so. I can tell you I have a little more self-esteem than to crave to be her or worse, having to be in her shoes…and here's why: (thanks sevnson71)

It seems as though Michael Bay – the director for Transformers 1 & 2 required Ms. Fox to "audition" for her RECURRING role in the sequel by making her wash his car. And of course, he filmed the "screen test."

Michael Bay can try to call that an "audition" all he wants to and it really does prove Ms. Fox's statement that Transformers 2 was NOT about acting – because it's pretty clear her "audition" was not about her showing her acting talent, just her ability to do a Paris Hilton on Michael Bay's wet Ferrari.

I don't know who to feel sorrier for - Megan Fox because she's right; extraordinarily gifted actresses who do not posses a 22 inch waist line or women in general because we have to deal with guys like the ones who are commenting on that auto blog linked above.

It's disheartening really.

Ms. Fox: I have to say I really do appreciate your candor. I really do. You call it just like it is. It's honesty seldom seen in Hollywood. You actually know that you're selling yourself for money - just like every woman on the corner of Fair Oaks and Orange Grove. You're just prettier and you get paid a hell of a lot more than they do.

I've known a lot of hookers – I even liked a few of them. (I worked in a jail by the way.) There were even some that seemed pretty comfortable with themselves too and made no excuses for their lifestyle. They keep a lot of men off the street and busy for a couple of hours...just like your movies do. ;)

And you know what? I'm not jealous of them either.

I just feel like asking you to do one thing...just one thing...why don't you gain just a little more self-respect and next time some richardhead like Michael Bay tells you that he's not sure you're sexy enough for his film (when it's incomprehensible that you aren't) – would you do me and the rest of the world a favor and just kick him in the nards?

I'll contribute to your defense fund!

To everyone else...I would love to hear your answer to my question -

Megan Fox and actresses like her - are they merely victims trying just trying to get a break - or by allowing themselves to become objectified are they contributing to the continued subjugation of women in the entertainment industry?