Monday, August 15, 2005

My Big Fat Whale-rider Can Get Bent Like Beckham

There's a genre of movies I hate. The plot goes something like this: young, sweet girl, part of a foreign culture or subculture, follows her dreams and clashes with the partriarch of said culture for violating its traditions, suffers cruelty at the misguided patriarch's hands, but reacts with love; teaches crusty old patriarch to open his mind with her tenacity and sweetness.

It's the plot of "My Big Fat Greek Wedding," "Bend it Like Beckham" and "Whalerider," which my wife made me sit through tonight. It was less cheesy than the other two I mentioned, but went WAAAY overboard on the cloying pathos of our heroine being born a girl in male dominated society and being constantly snubbed by her grandfather, the tribal chief, whom she idolizes. My wife said I'd missed the point, which was that she didn't let the mistreatment get to her or feel sorry for herself, but followed her inner voice that led her to her destiny.

All three of the above movies are independent and two of them were foreign films that took the U.S. by storm. There has to be someone going around to foreign cultures ripe for exploitation and teaching screenwriting workshops to their native sons and daughters. The advertsising material probably says something like "learn the surefire formula for success in the U.S. indie market."

Jon Stewart IV: Worst Interviewer Ever

For some reason I feel the need to point out that Jon Stewart doesn't write the Daily Show. I think most people know this on some level, but somehow, the fact that its his mug delivering the best current events jokes on television -- with perfectly cut footage from the news channels the previous day -- makes people forget that there's a staff of writers working their asses off to get him those jokes by rehearsal (and who fine tune those jokes all the way up to his 5 p.m. taping). The only parts of the show that belong to Jon are the asides between jokes, and the parts of the interviews that don't come from the blue cards.

Lately, he's been straying from the blue cards too much, with absolutely disastrous results. Worst yet: his interview with Andre 3000 on Thursday. The rapper-producer-visionary who is the more creative half of Outkast is also proving to be a fine actor. The way he dresses, talks, moves and interacts with people is, by itself, fascinating, yet Jon managed to make his interview forced and boring.

It started out OK: Jon noticed that he had his cell phone with him, and he said that it was like his security blanket, so Jon took it away, then gave it back. Andre further explained that he uses it to write down ideas when they come to him, such as the quirks and traits of the interesting characters he meets, such as the way the water purification guy who was at his house cleared his throat at odd intervals.

At this point, the interview could have become genuinely fascinating; I would have asked more about what he's learned observing people, or who are some of the people he's observed. Jon, on the other hand, saw pure gold in the topic of water purification.
Jon:"What was the water guy doing at your house? Do you know what I think gets in water? Mouse poop?"
Andre: "I'm sure there are all kinds of poop in there, but....
Jon: "Really? What kinds of poop?"
ANdre: (hiding his annoyance) "Well I don't know. I'm not a poopologist" (mild laughter).
Jon: "For all of you young people looking for a major, poopology is a fascinating field." (forced laugher from the ditto-heads)
Jon: (sweating) "So this film looks good. In the clip we saw you really hit that guy."
(Good Jon! That's like the Chris Farley show. "Remember in that clip we just saw, where you hit that guy?That was awesome!)
Andre: (visibly annoyed)"Yes, I popped him one."
Jon: "You really looked angry"
Andre: "Yes, my character was angry."

Jon Stewart is not a skilled interviewer, possibly because his own ego is too big to really focus on another human being. Of course, he's now the main ingredient of the Daily Show brand, so he has the equivalent of tenure in the television world. Everyone from Maureen Dowd to Jonathan Alter routinely congratulates him on his brilliant one-liners, forgetting, if just for convenience sake, that they're the work of an underpaid writer.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Peter Jennings Coverage: New Low for FOXNEWS

I really should be finishing my will for my Wills and Trusts class, but I just have to express my outrage while it's fresh. Martha and I learned about Peter Jennings on Sunday night; right after we'd popped our video out, I saw a news flash about the Israeli Prime Minister resigning and flipped to CNN. At about Midnight EDT, they had a live report on Peter Jennings' death. It was genuinely moving; they had a live phone call from Aaron Brown, who kept it together enough to express some really classy and heartfelt condolences. Shooting completely from the hip, he humbly expressed gratitude for all Jennings had taught him and expressed his sympathy for Jennings' kids Lizzy and Christopher, telling them how proud he knew their father was of them. (This is especially classy considering CNN is not owned by the same conglommerate as ABC) We then switched to ABC, where they'd rousted Barbara Walters and Diane Sawyer out of bed; I can't stand either of them, but they were appropriately human. (Charlie Gibson was still glib and wooden)

Just to piss myself off, I switched to Fox News (I had to check the sattelite TV pamphlet to even find it. Martha went to bed). There was nothing on screen or on the tape below the screen, indicating that they hadn't even heard. On the "Big Story," was still, incomprehensibly, that girl missing in Aruba. I honestly cannot bring myself to care, even though I've seen every single dance recital she's ever done and could pick her out without the aid of that stupid highlight.. (Especially after those damn dance recitals). I'm sorry for her parents' loss. No one should ever have to go through that, but seeing it every damn time I'm on a treadmill at the Y blocks my natural sympathies.

Anyway, yesterday, while I was at the Y, Shepherd Smith finally did a short report on Peter Jennings saying "he was often accused of a liberal bias, which he denied." I can't begin to comment on how inappropriate that was the day after Jennings died -- especially since FOXNEWS is the only one to ever accuse him of having a liberal bias -- but that's not the capper.

The capper is, today, on the FOXNEWS website there was a "news story" examining whether Jennings death (combined with Brokaw and Rather's retirement) signals the end of Network news and the supremacy of 24-hour cable news stations. The only source commenting in the affirmative was Fox's own Eric Burns!

Here we have a 24-hour cable news station using its own commentator to further its own interest, then calling it a news story! Regardless of how lacking in class or basic humanity it is to say something like that so soon (or at all), it is not news! How could it possibly be considered noteworthy that a FOXNEWS commentator declares FOXNEWS supreme?! My head hurts at the thought that FOXNEWS is the most watched news channel.

On one hand, we have CNN, who shows class and humanity when an accomplished man in their field, albeit a competitor, passes on. On the other hand, we have FOX who shows a missing girl's dance recitals, then, the next day, accuses the accomplished man in their field of bias. Not that I love CNN, by any means, but the comparison is startling.