Saturday, January 28, 2006

Trailer Curmudgeons

I am not up to thinking tonight, so Libby and I will watch trailers that Hollywood hopes will entice you into seeing various summer films. Then we will say (potentially) amusing things about them.

Commence.

X3 (May 26): (See it now.) What can be said about a giant, blue, furry Frasier Crane that hasn't already been said? Frankly, nothing. So we won't touch on that, even though it's the easiest thing to make fun of. X2 was a fine superhero film, but this one has a trailer that sets up a theme for the big summer hits: WAY OVER-THE-TOP. L.A. is getting desperate. They want you to watch their movies. And if they don't, by God, they'll pummel you with sensurround.

Libby sez: I watched a cat drinking water for 90 seconds, and it was more entertaining than that trailer.

The DaVinci Code (May 19): (See it now.) So a mulleted Forrest Gump, Amelie, Gandalf the Grey, Doctor Octopus and Paul Bettany have teamed up with all-American boy Ron Howard to DESTROY THE VERY FOUNDATIONS OF WESTERN CIVILIZATION. The trailer tries to make this feel like some sort of riveting event that will turn into a work of sheer genius (and, to be fair, some pulp novels do work better on screen -- "The Godfather," anyone?), but mostly, it just feels campy. Big orchestral chords play at inopportune times (someone is taking a box out of another box! Spooky!) and a wailing soprano accompanies a man falling down a well. It all feels a little too reverential.

Libby sez: I'm so glad they decided to play this for laughs.

Cars (June 9): (See it now.) This is just a TEASER, so it doesn't really give away much. Basically, you get the sense that the movie is about cars. That talk. And, hopefully, don't sing. From anyone but Pixar, I'd be skeptical. From Pixar, though, I'm anticipatory. But, let's face it, they never have good trailers. And this is no exception.

Libby sez: Vroom, vroom, baby!

Stick It (Spring 2006): (See it now.) "Every day. . .I break the law. . .of GRAVITY."

Libby sez: "It's not called gym-NICE-tics."

Slither (March 31): (See it now.) I assumed this movie was about snakes. That was where I was wrong. This movie is about MAN-SLUGS. You can see where I was confused.

Libby sez: He (Nathan Fillion) is so pretty. Why is he doing this?!

(By the by, we've met Nathan Fillion. He can't ACTUALLY pilot a spaceship. Who'd'a thunk?)

Click (June 23): (See it now.) Somehow, it's wrong that Adam Sandler is playing family men. And being ensconced in terrible old-age makeup (let's save that for the cast of A Beautiful Mind, shall we?). And he's married to Dr. Kate Beckinsale? Not if he wasn't a millionaire he wouldn't be (though she married the director of Underworld, so I guess anything's possible). Anyway, this is a cool concept, and the joke about the "Beyond" being at "Bed, Bath and Beyond" is kind of funny. And a kid gets hit in the face. But, also, breasts jiggle, which seems to indicate this knows the demographic it's going for. Which is probably not my demographic.

Libby sez: She has nothing to say. She laughed really hard when the kid got hit in the face by the ball, though. So there's hope for this movie after all.

The Break-Up (June 2): (See it now.) See, the idea of an anti-romantic comedy is a good one. And Peyton Reed is a fun director. And Vince Vaughn is always a good time. But this trailer spends WAY too much time on a joke that isn't that funny. Though it does set up the premise of the movie. So that means this is probably a success. Clearly, I know nothing about marketing.

Libby sez: I would watch Vince Vaughn sort mail. And it's nice to see Jennifer Aniston have chemistry with someone after spending so many years with someone with whom she had none (Brad Pitt, she clarifies, not David Schwimmer. . .though she didn't have chemistry with him either. . .but he has a funny voice!).

Aquamarine (March 3): (See it now.) If you go to that link, you'll see a poster with three young teen girls lying non-chalantly. Then. . .if you look off to the right. . .you'll see Neil Young, looking for all the world like a creepy old man. Anyway. There are mermaids. And wishes. And hunky lifeguards. And all of the jokes from The Little Mermaid, recycled for a new generation. With 50% fewer singing crabs.

Libby sez: This movie has sucked all of the joy out of being a mermaid. Another dream has died.

She's the Man (March 17): (See it now.) I find the IDEA of Amanda Bynes sort of entertaining. In practice, however, it's a lot more awkward and hard to watch. But she tries so hard. I'll give her a gold star anyway. At any rate, if you ever wanted to see a direct transplant of 12th Night set in a high school with Tobias Funke, this is the film for you (Mom).

Libby sez: Not quite Boys Don't Cry. Good luck with that Oscar, Amanda!

Superman Returns (June 30): (See it now.) I don't really LIKE Superman. He's probably the most boring of the superheroes, all straitlaced and uptight. But I really like this trailer. Supes, for better or worse, is American mythology, and this trailer gets that. Plus. . .Marlon Brando returns from the dead! And Bryan Singer is really, really, really good. He makes better movies than YOU make (unless you're Paul Thomas Anderson. . .and why are you reading this anyway? Go make another movie).

Libby sez: When's the next Batman movie coming out?

Anyway. . .that's all for now. If you like this enough, we can make it a semi-regular feature. But don't get your hopes up. Doing ANYthing for sustained stretches of time is hard on Libby.

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Two more films about religion in America. . .

Moses insists I put Crimes and Misdemeanors on here, and he's right. Even if it isn't your "traditional" religious movie.

And the indie film (just out on video) Junebug presents a family of "red-staters" who are proud of their faith and not afraid to show it (it's also smart about showing the ways the church functions as a social gathering place in a small town). It's even got a hymn singing scene that's not played for laughs.

Some people feel the film is condescending, but I was immensely moved by it. I think it has more than enough heart for all of its characters.

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Apologia. . .

I don't put as much effort into some of these posts as I should, so some end up quite scattered. I'll try to stop that, so you get better stuff.

And if you like The Office at all, check out this article about how the show's bit players became regulars.

I can't quite think of another sitcom that did this. Cheers did to a limited degree, I guess, with Cliff and Norm and Paul.

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You gotta have faith

Andy asks:

What shows would you nominate for "best portrayal of a Christian" (or most fair portrayal, perhaps?)? Best shows dealing with people of faith in more than a one-dimensional manner?


Well. . .that's a good question. But let's take a look at some recent trends, shall we?

Hanna Rosin has a piece over at Slate containing these thoughts. . .

Hollywood's latest spiritual awakening dates back a decade to the success of Touched by an Angel (1994-2003), the treacly show about a trio of angels dispatched to Earth to patch up domestic strife. (And this was itself a straight remake of Highway to Heaven.) But the shows have come a long way since then. Now Hollywood has done away with the heavenly intermediaries and the cheesiness; each season brings new characters who actually utter the dreaded G word as part of their normal harried life. In the FX show Rescue Me, the stressed-out firefighters are always experiencing crises of faith, holding their scruffy heads in their hands and praying out loud. For the scriptwriters and the producers, being so openly, conventionally, religious is a mark of their authenticity and great sensitivity. Writing a God-fearing character into a script these days gives you the right to feel brave and worthy, just as writing a gay character did a decade ago.


...

NBC sold the show as "provocative and edgy," and from the beginning it drew the predictable backlash—a few affiliates refused to air it, and Christian groups complained it was the "work of an embittered ex-Catholic homosexual," as the Catholic League put it. (Jack Kenny, the show's gay creator, based the show on his lover's repressed family—and made sure to say so in every interview he gave.) NBC will probably claim the show was just too controversial, but usually controversy makes for good buzz. Daniel was just boring, and for an obvious reason: Hollywood executives seem convinced that dinnertime at any religious home sounds like the 1992 Republican convention, with everyone screaming about gays and sex and other culture war issues. Kenny did to Daniel what other Hollywood executives do to TV presidents—made him a wuss who's soft on everyone and loves the environment. Jesus, meanwhile, was straight off the inspirational best-seller list: a friend who might seem flaky but always comes through with the hard truths like "Life is hard," or "Boy, you never know, do you," his response when they figured out Daniel's sister-in-law is gay.


Read the rest of the piece here.

The problem is that people of faith want to see people of faith on TV who are near-saints. They don't want to see the Christians who get sidelined by Vanity Fair; they want to see the ones who make it all the way to the end of Pilgrim's Progress.

The problem with all of this is that complication makes for good drama. And when you make broad, sweeping generalizations about large groups of people, it ends up being just as condescending as making fun of them (think about the trend a few years ago in Hollywood where every film had a "magical Negro" who showed the white characters how to be better people -- Lost is doing a nice subversion of this with Mr. Eko, who is treated as this stereotype by all of the characters but doesn't deserve that treatment since he was formerly a crime lord). And, to be fair, Hollywood did have its share of religious characters back in the day who existed solely to help the hero pray and didn't seem to have lives of their own.

But it's a tricky row to hoe. People of faith don't want every representation they see of themselves on TV to be sanctimonious and holier-than-thou. But, at the same time, the mass media has to deal with the Pat Robertsons and Jerry Falwells of the world who use their podiums for so much bluster. And if we want people of faith as heroes, they need to have complications to overcome, struggles to endure (unless we want to do Touched by an Angel all over again).

The biggest problem (and I touched on this earlier) is that Hollywood just doesn't GET religion in America. This is because the people who work in TV and film come largely from the East Coast and West Coast. On the East Coast, the church/synagogue/other house of worship increasingly stands for a social institution rather than a religious one. In addition, many of the younger generations have fallen away (think of the way religion is portrayed on Gilmore Girls -- for the titular Girls, it's non-existent; for the grandparents, it's a way to keep in touch with a social network). On the West Coast, religion has increasingly become a very personal thing, a very emotional experience. While these are deeply unfair generalizations, these cultures give rise to most of our "Hollywood types."

But to the rest of the country, church is a place where one gets social AND spiritual AND emotional fulfillment. When church just isn't important to characters, it rings false to these people. And this is where we find an increasing disconnect.

So that brings me to my list. . .

The Hills on King of the Hill seem to have a healthy religious life. One couldn't call them evangelical, exactly, but they attend church regularly, and are not denigrated for it. Similarly, all of the characters on The Simpsons have some sort of religious affiliation.

Lost deals with issues of faith fairly, I think, which is natural since all of the characters are trying to atone for past misdeeds. In addition, the show has been showing the dichotomy of when faith becomes fervor in the Locke/Eko relationship.

Scully on The X-Files was a practicing Catholic, and that was a neat twist to her traditionally skeptical character. It also made for some of the series' best episodes.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer, for a show by an atheist, had an oddly Judeo-Christian afterlife system, though little to no mention was made of any sort of religion. Firefly, from the same creator, balanced an atheist with a pastor and made both of them interesting and vital characters.

Battlestar Galactica, while adhering to no creed in OUR world, features a president who makes decisions based on her faith (which are often right), raising that particular issue, while the Cylon enemy believes in one true God.

But you'll notice that these shows are all animated or genre shows. It's easier, somehow, to deal with these issues through some sort of prism of removal. It's much harder to find straight sitcoms and dramas (especially in our modern time) that deal with these things. But there are a few.

As mentioned above, Rescue Me deals with issues of faith, though I think it does so much better than the author of that article does. Hannah on Everwood is a practicing Christian who refuses to have sex before marriage (much to her boyfriend's chagrin), but the situation isn't played for laughs. Six Feet Under featured a gay Christian who reconciled both sides of his personality (and kicked off a character type). And there's Angela on The Office, who is played for laughs, but also has very real feelings that are easily hurt. My Name Is Earl features karma in a really non-specific sense. And 7th Heaven is just awful.

I'm sure I'm missing several (and I'll get to the biggest one in a bit). There are lots of religious experiences that would make for good series that haven't been plumbed yet. What about a show set in the African-American church community (it's been decades since Amen), which shows how important that community is as a social unit (and has lots of great gospel music)? What about a show about missionaries? What about a show about Jains, trying to avoid stepping on bugs?

Unfortunately, shows about religions don't do well in the ratings. There's just too much surrounding them FOR them to do well. Controversy tends to spring up around them easily. Better to just homogenize.

Which brings me to Ned Flanders, whom many evangelicals have glommed on to.

When The Simpsons started, Ned was clearly the butt of the joke: the too-perfect neighbor who had a great wife and kids, a job he loved and a great faith. He was also an evangelical Christian. As time has gone on, though, Flanders has been allowed to grow as a character. He's a good guy, but he gets tested. He's lost his wife. He gets angry. He gets hurt. And he has to deal with Homer Simpson.

Sure he comes under fire for satire now and again (EVERYone does on The Simpsons), but it's easy to see why so many evangelicals like him: He's a real human being. A DECENT human being. And that's a lot more than you're going to get on most other sitcoms (just look at how Family Guy plays Peter's Catholic father for laughs).

While we're at it, some films that explore religion in America successfully (and this is by no means a complete list). . .

--The Apostle (I still can't believe Robert Duvall lost the Oscar).
--Hell House (A fascinating documentary that hasn't been widely seen).
--Close Encounters of the Third Kind (Weird psuedo-mysticism, but COMPELLING pseudo-mysticism).
--Most of Scorsese's output is deeply influenced by his Catholicism.
--Bruce Almighty (okay, I'm kidding).
--King of Kings and Last Temptation of Christ (Nicholas Ray's version of the story of Christ is the best American-made straight-telling of the Gospel, even if it's overlong; Scorsese's film is not for everyone, but provides a fascinating view of Christ filtered through an American lens).
--The Ten Commandments (Cecil B. DeMille's premium grade cheese says something about the mindset that led to the mega-church).
--Kundun (a gorgeous film that somehow gets into the RHYTHM of Buddhism).
--It's a Wonderful Life
--A Charlie Brown Christmas
--Terrence Malick's films seem influenced by Eastern religious rhythms.
--Pulp Fiction, surprisingly, is mostly about finding a path of righteousness (okay, that's not surprising if you've SEEN the film).

So there's a few.

Get cracking.

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Friday, January 27, 2006

Jeremy is in Egypt? When did this happen?

Olde-tyme college pal Jeremy Fugleberg is in Egypt for some reason.

Okay, okay, okay. He's studying there.

But it's more fun if you think he's a spy.

Check it out here.

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Thursday, January 26, 2006

10 Reasons You Should Watch Battlestar Galactica

Let's get something out of the way right away: Yes, it's set in space and yes, it's a remake of a terrible show from the 70s (that was apparently based on the Book of Mormon in some way, though I haven't seen enough episodes to know if this is true or not).

Also, I know it airs on SCI-FI, which is where good television usually goes to die.

But Battlestar Galactica is one of the best hours on TV right now. And here's why.

10.) The Music. Like nothing else you've heard on TV before. Odd instruments make cameos. An entire orchestra broods behind them. All of this to accompany space battles.

9.) It never had a sophomore slump. With a lot of shows, all of the craft goes into the first season. When season two rolls around, everyone's so tired, they don't give it as good of an effort (see: Desperate Housewives, The O.C., numerous other programs). But you don't need to worry about that with this show. It's had one miniseries and 29 episodes and has yet to produce an outright dud so far. Even the show's worst episodes offer up fun pieces of the puzzle.

8.) The incomparable cast. This is one of the best ensembles on television right now. In the first season, it had some weak links, but in season two, they've all stepped up to join the rest of the wonderful actors in this show. Sure it's got Edward James Olmos. But it's also got complete unknowns from Canada. CANADA!

7.) It expects you to keep up. Here's where I'm going to turn a lot of you off. If you've never seen this show before, it's hard to just jump right on in and know what's going on. There are SO MANY characters and so many plot threads. And all of them are fully developed in each and every episode. That said, if you pay attention, you can get the gist of what's going on. You could also ask a friend for help or find an online recap or something.

6.) It won't get canceled. For now, at least. It's ratings are quite good, and season three is on the way.

5.) It's a space show that has little to nothing to do with space. Every episode has a big space battle, and the thing DOES take place on a giant spaceship, but most of the time, the show focuses on politics, military arcana and building tension. It's like 24 and The West Wing (the good years) had a dour baby and they sent it into space.

4.) The incomparable Mary McDonnell. I know I singled out the cast already, but McDonnell (who is good in nearly everything she does) is creating a character unlike any we've EVER seen on television. She's a strong woman, uncompromised, who never lets her emotions get the best of her. As each season goes on, more and more layers are peeled away.

3.) Even the deus ex machinas are good. The last episode ended with an unlikely cure for cancer. But the way that cure was obtained altered at least four core relationships among the characters and set up dozens of new storylines. When's the last time Criminal Minds did THAT?

2.) This is what the apocalypse feels like. BSG is maybe the only television show in history (maybe the only work of filmed entertainment) to show what it would be like to be one of the last survivors of a cataclysmic event and make it make sense. The human race, down to its last remnants, is desperate. But that desperation fuels laughter, tears and a host of other emotions. You're watching a show about KILLER ROBOTS IN SPACE and saying. . ."Yeah. I could see that happening."

1.) It's the smartest political show in a long while. Most political shows choose a side. The Aaron Sorkin West Wing was liberal. So is The Daily Show. The Fox News network is conservative. Commander-in-Chief is about how the president likes babies. But this show can't be easily defined. Its complex and twisty story allows you to feel sympathetic for villains, lets you root for aggression and throws up all sorts of current events in a new context. And the show can't be easily defined as left or right. It's portrayed war protestors as people who aid the enemy but has also portrayed torturers that way. In a time when it's hard to find anything that even approaches political subtlety, BSG offers up twisty moral conundrums on a weekly basis. And it's a show about KILLER ROBOTS IN SPACE. I mean. . .HONESTLY.

Oh. . .and. . .

1a.) It introduced the word "frakkin'" into the general lexicon. Awesome?

So by all means check this out Friday night. I will be!

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Everybody's going home again

So what?

Was the most influential television show of the last 20 years Ed and NOT Seinfeld or The Simpsons or NYPD Blue or The Sopranos like we all thought it was?

I mean. . .nobody even WATCHED Ed (well, I did, but I'm a freak), but the general themes of a guy who's ready to settle down and/or a guy coming back home after a lengthy absence are EVERYwhere this season and next pilot season (go over to futoncritic and count ALL of the pilots in development about screenwriters who have to go home and discover themselves. . .I dare you).

Consider. . .

--"How I Met Your Mother"--Twentysomething guy decides he's ready to get married and shoos the single life away. This is generally seen as a good thing.

--"Love Monkey" -- Thirtysomething guy is beginning to get tired of the dating scene. Could it be he's ready to settle down with his longtime friend? America hopes so!

--"Crumbs" -- Screenwriter comes home to his crazy family to discover himself, get his writing mojo back.

That's three selected AT RANDOM. And MY pilot script features someone coming home (though they're not a screenwriter, thank goodness) after a long time away.

Clearly, we all feel the need to find home and/or companionship (or at least everyone at the networks does).

Or we all really liked Ed.

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Stop saying long sentences are run-on sentences they aren't run-on sentences

I should really stop promising to do things, shouldn't I?

One of the things I've noticed when reading Amazon.com user reviews (I know. . .I lead an exciting life) is that any book (usually a scholarly work) which has long sentences is accused of having "run-on sentences." This simply isn't the case.

I know it's not very interesting to be angered by this, but it does sort of annoy me to see this clear misnomer. Are the people of the world's education systems just letting all of us down?

A run-on sentence is when you run two sentences together without providing any connection in the way of punctuation or a cunjunction or what have you. They can be awfully short. The dog hates the cat it is mad. That was a run-on sentence.

But the first sentence of the Declaration of Independence is not.

When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.


Yeeeeah! That's not even a COMPOUND sentence. It's a COMPLEX sentence to be sure, but there's only one proper sentence in there, which boils down to "respect requires."

But, see, nobody knows that. So they think Tom Jefferson was dumb and couldn't write.

It sickens me that I'm good at this. But you need people like me if you expect to decipher this bastardized language.

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Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Mergers Aplenty

So what happened with the WB and UPN was not TECHNICALLY a merger. And I guess the Disney/Pixar thing wasn't either. But I liked the title. So. . .yeah!

Honestly, I can't possibly see how I could be affected by the Disney purchase of Pixar, aside from the fact that I might get to finally see Toy Story 3, so I'll just leave that alone (honestly, putting John Lasseter in charge of Disney animation as a whole is a smart move, even if Disney paid WAY TOO MUCH).

But for anyone hoping to break into the TV writing business such as myself, the process by which two giant conglomerates smashed together two creative, scrappy netlets and (like so much Play-Doh) forced them to mold together into the CW is frightening.

As a TV viewer -- heck, as a casual observer of the TV business -- this is an exciting time. The CW promises to take the two networks' strengths (the proposed Tuesday lineup of Gilmore Girls and Veronica Mars is the best lineup in the history of history) and create a network that is solid all around. Neither has been able to break out like it had hoped it would, and now they can take chances they just couldn't before.

In addition, people like my mom can finally watch Everybody Hates Chris or Veronica Mars and see what the fuss is about. Even though the CW is only in 48% of the country right now, that will change and fast.

If I were NBC, I would start getting nervous about my fourth place position. Even though I have the Olympics.

But look how many more writing, acting and directing jobs were eliminated by this. A TERRIBLE show like One Tree Hill still employs a lot of creative and talented people. And when that show goes away, they all flood out into the marketplace, looking for new jobs. So it gets more intimidating for a wee spec monkey such as myself.

But, if you don't got the cojones, you don't got what it takes.

So I've been told.

This is not to speak of the many, many, many people who had hoped to get new shows on UPN or the WB and will find themselves with AT MOST four open slots to look at (that's assuming that the only truly "on the bubble" shows like Everwood all get canceled). So you're going to see fewer new programs, especially with the new show promised to the Gilmore Girls' creators (which I would bank on seeing at midseason now) and the Aquaman pilot that everyone's been so excited about.

But there are still more questions. Will either network try to get its canceled shows on cable networks owned by its conglomerate? Will this hasten the rush to get shows up and running on iTunes? Is this just the herald of more mergers to come in the future? FoxBS? ANBC?

And would CBS REALLY pick up Everybody Hates Chris?

Naaaaaaah.

While we're on the subject, if you're interested in how the business of TV works, The Futon Critic is maybe the best site out there for keeping track of those sorts of things. It's a titch hard to navigate if you don't know what you're looking for, but that's part of its charm.

Zap2It has an excellent proposed schedule for the CW that would satisfy most of my desires.

And you can download Miss America, courtesy of Music You (Possibly) Won't Hear Anyplace Else.

And some crazy kids really, really, really want a second season of the short-lived show (that turned into a movie) Firefly.

So who's going to be the first company to produce a show EXCLUSIVELY for DVD or iTunes? Fox, in particular, has a bunch of interesting stuff in its vaults.

Tomorrow: I'll jump on the bandwagon and give you reasons you should be watching Battlestar Galactica. Or do the cable list.

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Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Steve Urkel and the Come to Jesus Meeting

I got a couple of e-mails questioning me on whether or not Family Matters was actually a show about born-again Christians or just the vague sort of Protestants that TV usually enjoys. While the show never SPECIFIED for many of its characters, Grandma talked about being "saved" by Christ (which tends to be the delineation between "born-again" and other Christians). Even Urkel did towards the end of the run. Since the family's matriarch followed this religious creed, it's safe to assume she at least tried to get the rest of the Winslows on board.

The odd thing is that I was a member of an evangelical church at the time (and 12) and I don't remember a great excitement in the Christian community about how Family Matters had managed to subvert "liberal Hollywood" with its messages. This is probably because when I was growing up, the approach within the Christian community was to ignore the mass media as much as possible as it would only introduce us to sinful ideas (this, of course, has completely changed).

It's hard to write about evangelical Christians and popular culture because the two sides don't really understand each other at all. I don't want to be all red state/blue state (because that's so reductive. . .in reality, we live in the great purple U.S.), but the two communities (specifically, the Hollywood community which drives most of our mass entertainment and the evangelical Christian community which tends to drive our religious debates) are so very insular that they seem completely incapable of understanding each other.

I think this is why there's so much furor from religious conservatives over the media. Because the best representative they seem of themselves is Ned Flanders, they get angry. But Hollywood doesn't even underSTAND the religious conservatives. So they just make jokes about them. Simultaneously, the religious conservatives assume Hollywood is a land of godless hedonism (I've been there. It's actually pretty boring.).

So this is how we get things like the Parents Television Council, which tends to praise entertainment based on how bland it is.

What Hollywood doesn't understand is that the evangelical community just wants a place at the table. In addition to the gay best friend, it's safe to say they would like to see an evangelical best friend. And the two best friends could debate the destination of the gay best friend's soul. Or something.

And Hollywood just wants a little slack. Because the VAST MAJORITY of us out here in any urban area know gay people we don't feel threatened by, don't really care about intelligent design and see random acts of violence every day. In addition, any artist knows that the strictly religious model of narrative (namely, character is bad, character finds God, character is good) gets really boring after a while.

I'm trying REALLY hard not to patronize either side here because this is a debate that's filled with patronization, and the things we don't say say more than what we do say. I'll return to this topic in the future, but for now, I think it would be useful for everyone to take a deep breath and stop shouting past each other.

And I realize what I'm saying isn't new at all.

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Sunday, January 22, 2006

24 and Munich

I was thinking about something similar to this too, but I think Luke DeSmet hits it precisely on the head here.

The results of the Iraq war may be a good argument for administrative ineptness, but it seems odd to me that the perceived morality of the war relied so heavily on (largely) chance consequences independent of the administration’s actions or motivations.

My claim is not that we shouldn’t care about the consequences—or do our best to better them—of course we should. But any effective moral opposition to the war should hold steady even in the hypothetical scenario that the campaign was a success.

Imagine an alternate universe, filled with Jack Bauers, in which the war was not only successful but resulted in a safer, happier world. Bush’s actions and motivations would remain the same. Would the idea of a rogue superpower, exacting its will upon smaller nations through military might, be any more palatable?

What about one in which Bush had chosen the moral path and not gone to war in Iraq, resulting in a nuclear device detonating in Times Square?


There's a LOT more where that came from.

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More links!


Since this is another "Look at my friends' blogs!" post, I thought I would at least give you the Creepy Mario picture to stare at.

Anyway. . .

Prozac Rat is one of the finer bands of the Great Plains/Upper Midwest, making their way, the only way they know how. Lots of cool, vaguely experimental sounds. And I know both members!

Music You (Possibly) Won't Hear Anywhere Else is a collection of old-timey songs and sounds.

Those Transatlantics is one of the finer bands of the Great Lakes region. Lots of bright, summery pop. And I know the keyboardist!

Discuss.

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Another new voice

You can find Marx and Cola over in the links now. It's by some smart teenager from New Jersey with a lot to say about film and the like.

And don't worry, mom. It's just a quote from a film. He's not a diehard communist (that I know of).

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In defense of Full House. . .

Full House is a terrible show. It's got interchangeable characters (the only one who has more than one personality trait is Jesse, who has "hair" and "Elvis"), bad gags, uninspired direction and relatively poor acting (well, the three men are all pretty good, and Lori Loughlin was, at least, physically attractive).

But underneath it all is a rather unexpected undercurrent for an 80s family sitcom: Your real family is the one you make.

I could make jokes about how three single men were living together and seemed to have better relationships with each other than the women in their lives, but I don't think the show was a radical call for the recognization of homosexuals in America (as some have claimed), especially since it came from the same production house as Family Matters (which was one of the few shows in American television history to feature born-again Christians as something other than fodder for mockery -- granted, that was a terrible show too, but still. . .). But that notion at the center of the show is really kind of a radical one, and it's one that was picked up by a lot of shows in the 90s and on (especially Joss Whedon's shows, which made no bones about how the family you chose was stronger than the one you were linked to by blood).

Now, admittedly, Danny is the father of the three girls, and Jesse is their uncle (though he's not Danny's blood relation). But why is Joey there? He's just a good friend of the two other guys (and now I'm embarrassing myself).

Full House, at its core, argues that the American family is elastic enough to accommodate all types and all people.

Even those with bad Popeye impressions.

And that's why it continues to last like an irritating virus.

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