Space Ramblings

Category Archives: Pop Culture

Is Newsweek Completely Losing It?

Okay I get that buying a news magazine in 2010 was maybe not a great investment. Newsweek was always the weekly version of USA Today a glossy and content free list of things to read about while waiting at the dentist. Okay. So why resurrect it as a crazy boring version of itself?

First we get a cover story of Mitt Romney performing a dance from the Book of Mormon. Bigoted? Yeah. Imagine of Joe Lieberman was on there as a character from Fiddler on the Roof or Obama acting out a part in Porgy and Bess. Then follow it up with a photoshopped cover of Kate Middleton and Princess Diana.

There’s something about the stench of desperation from a major brand name magazine that’s unappealing. It’s like a presidential candidate who suddenly decides to show off his juggling skills. And now Newsweek is starting to look like a better photoshopped Weekly World News.

Maybe Schwarzenegger Should Just Retire?

Being involved in a new Stan Lee cartoon is like parachuting on to the Titanic. It’s not really a great move. And can Arnold Schwarzenegger get any more cartoony than he already is? Hasn’t he been playing out a cartoon character of himself in live action format all along.

Then there’s the dignity question. Schwarzenegger ran for Governor of California after a string of bombs or underperforming movies. He didn’t have it then, so he probably doesn’t have it now either. And he’s older and less in shape. Okay so a cartoon character dodges that bullet. It lets him voice a permanently younger version of himself. But where’s the audience?

This just looks like an 80’s cartoon, complete with bad rap and dated visuals. And who exactly is the audience? Does any 9 year old really want to see this? Most adult cartoons are self-mocking, but this doesn’t seem to be. It’s unintentionally funny. And a 3D feature film based on this? No way.

Love him or hate him or yawn at him, Schwarzenegger has done what few have. And there’s no reason for him to go back and do this. He had a legendary movie career and he made the leap to governor. He can’t keep on playing action roles and he can’t do serious parts. He doesn’t need the money and might as well just enjoy the retirement.

Julie Taymor Steps Out

Julie Taymor got her reputation by taking the Lion King and adapting it into an unconnected show that was exotic enough that no one asked any inconvenient questions. Then she tried to do the same thing to Spider-Man, not set in Africa, but her own crazy version of Spider-Man, that was more about her, than about Spider-Man. If the production hadn’t been completely mismanaged, if performers weren’t getting hurt and Turn Off the Dark had original music for people to walk away with, she might have gotten away with it.

But it didn’t and she didn’t. Spider-Man is still one of the more popular comic book characters around. Tossing around symbolism and expecting people to feel humbled by the experience worked for The Lion King, but it was never going to work for Spider Man. People know who Spider Man is and they expect him to show up. Not Arachnia.

After all these years, Julie Taymor showed she never had a feel for the material. She wanted to make a show about the idea of Spider-Man, rather than about Spider-Man. Her idea of Spider-Man. And that’s where she went wrong.

Katie Couric as the New Oprah? Bad Idea

I don’t know why Katie Couric kept trying to reinvent herself, but if she’s serious about trying to replace Oprah, it’s a bad idea. Bad for her anyway. A salvation for CBS News which may be able to replace her with a less expensive personality who might bring some credibility back to the evening news. But Couric is as unqualified to be Oprah as she was to be Dan Rather.

The monster here is the Today Show, or that particular incarnation of it when it was such a dominant force boosting the careers of everyone associated with it and moving them up the Peter Principle career ladder. Its success made Bryant Gumbel think he was such a hot commodity that CBS thought buying him would let them beat Today. Didn’t work. Katie Couric’s Today presence made CBS think that audiences would follow her to the evening news. Didn’t happen either. Let’s not forget Jeff Zucker, the ultimate Today success story.

Katie Couric worked on Today because she was bland. Her voice went in one ear and out the other. That’s exactly why she doesn’t work on the news. And she’s just as qualified to be Oprah, who for all her obnoxious antics has a personality (even if it’s fake), Couric doesn’t. She’s a cheerleader who made a fine career of being pretty and reading things off a screen. She works in that narrow role of being someone it’s okay to listen to in the morning before you’re completely awake. She would be perfect doing commercial voiceovers. That’s it.

Why Keep Katie Couric?

As Couric’s contract comes up, CBS has the chance to dump the blond albatross around its neck. Couric’s huge contract didn’t lead to big ratings. And Couric’s presence on CBS Evening News and on 60 Minutes has hurt CBS’s once solid news programming credibility. Couric was a mistake, the question is will CBS have the guts to dump her.

Keeping Couric means negotiating a pay cut. And that would be an admission of failure from Couric’s people and from CBS. But paying her another 15 million or giving her a raise would be nuts. Getting rid of Couric would give CBS a shot at revitalizing the brand again. This time with a more serious news personality. Someone who will actually go on the spot and has the cred.

Lara Logan is an obvious name being kicked around, if only for the contrast with Couric who is not a journalist, takes no risks and doesn’t know anything her earpiece or teleprompter doesn’t tell her to say. But there are plenty of others. Dumping Couric would be an admission of failure, but keeping her would mean paying a fortune for third place.

The Profitable Celebrity Breakdown

You’ve got to give Charlie Sheen credit for one thing. The profitable celebrity breakdown, a monetized twitter account and selling tickets to a live show, Sheen is making money off his public breakdown. Sure he’d be making more money if he’d skipped the crazy stuff and was just cashing 2 million per episode paychecks. A lot more money. But still Charlie Sheen has become famous in a way that he never was before. A year ago he was another 80’s actor who had settled down to show up in a sitcom. He was Jim Belushi. Now he’s on everyone’s mind.

Reality TV monetized the celebrity breakdown with an addiction show and humiliation versions of Big Brother for washed up celebrities like The Surreal Life. But you usually had to wait to do one of those. Now a celebrity melting down can take the show on the road. Why make people tune in to see an ABC or CBS news magazine, when they can go see the real thing live. It’s ugly and has the geek quality to it, the original chicken biting geek, not the one who has Star Wars figurines over his bed, but it pays.

This could open the door to live tours of The Surreal Life, in which washed up celebrities get up on stage and rant about things. That’s not really new. In LA that’s a one man or one woman show. But it’s never gone this high profile before.

Charlie Sheen’s Self-Conscious Breakdown

Charlie Sheen’s breakdown is unique because he’s self-conscious enough to generate memes and exploit them. We’re used to groggy celebrities issuing terse statements or brief rants, but the full court media press by someone who’s completely nuts is new. Combined with new media exploitation and monetizing. Mel Gibson and Tom Cruise at least knew to get enough of the spotlight and stay there. Britney Spears and Lindsay Lohan were silently deteriorating messed up people.

But Sheen is riding a high. Going cold turkey has kicked off a manic state. He thinks he’s invulnerable and he’s playing the joke, but he’s not in on the joke. He thinks that the joke is a Chuck Norris awesome thing, when it’s actually that he’s the joke because he’s mental. It’s like the way Shatner plays off his image, without really understanding his image.

But despite all that, Sheen looks less the villain, than ABC and every other network that has given his breakdown tons of coverage with no legit reason for it except that people will watch. Sheen is crazy, violent and a bigot… but he’s also nuts. And TV executives don’t have that excuse. Unlike him they know exactly what they’re doing and the moral compromises they’re making for the sake of ratings.

RoboIrony Dies in America

Whether you view Robocop as a commentary on Dirty Harry and modern automation, or Verhoeven’s take on him as an American Jesus, most Americans think of him as a robot that killed people in cool ways. And so Detroit’s getting a Robocop statue.

A Robocop statue is probably the last thing Detroit needs. The movie was about the collapse of Detroit, corporate takeovers of urban centers, decay and crime so pervasive that people were willing to lose their souls to survive. So far we’ve got two out of three. If Rocky at least honored Philly’s working class tradition of perseverance, Robocop is a commentary and not a good one.

So why then? Because irony is dead. It used to be that irony was a closed book to dumb people. Now it’s a closed book even to smart people. Once irony became meta, people began doing stupid things and calling them ironic. And now everyone is stupid. It’s the real Twitter effect. A stupid idea gets taken up, whether it’s Snakes on a Plane or Donald Glover as Spider-Man or Betty White on Saturday Night Live or a Robocop statue for Detroit.

Maybe when this statue goes up, Robocop can get credit for killing irony in America.

Kevin Smith Should Play Kevin Smith

Kevin Smith’s marketing plan for Red State is to use his own appearances to promote the movie. That’s not a bad plan, except that it’s promoting the wrong product. No one really wants to see Red State. If they did, Smith could have just taken it through the usual distribution route. As a horror movie without the Kevin Smith brand, it would be a non-event.

But what does Red State have to do with Kevin Smith? I don’t mean Kevin Smith the writer and director, but KEVIN SMITH the character. Kevin Smith is the guy behind Jersey Girl and Cop Out. KEVIN SMITH is the guy people pay money to watch. Red State seems a lot like Michael Moore’s own movie Canadian Bacon. And then Michael Moore realized that people wanted to pay money to see him. Not Michael Moore, the wealthy guy who has a crew film him yelling at banks, but MICHAEL MOORE, the character. And that’s what he’s been doing ever since.

Kevin Smith’s best career plan isn’t to make movies like Red State, but to make KEVIN SMITH movies. He already turned himself into a character in his more successful movies. Time to go all the way. Blur the lines between movies and reality. Documentary style footage. A character named Kevin Smith who’s also a director. What about a movie about making a movie and then having to distribute it yourself. I wouldn’t go see it, but it would be a lot more popular and entertaining than Red State.

The Return of Kevin Smith

It’s Kevin Smith and he’s back. Not that he ever really left. He’s back at Sundance with a new strategy that’s really old. He tried to go straight with mainstream movies like Jersey Girl and Cop Out. He even tried to be Judd Apatow with Zack and Miri. Red State is still mainstream, but as movies go it’s styled closer to Canadian Bacon.

But Smith knows it’s not about the movie anymore. It’s about him. Red State is nothing special, but Kevin Smith has been best at playing the character he’s created over these years. And Red State’s promotional program is not about the movie, but about him. Come see Kevin Smith. It’s the next best thing to giving up directing and just cutting to the chase and booking straight up appearances for himself.

Kevin Smith’s career, the successful part, was all about making movies that were him. Clerks, Mallrats, Chasing Amy, Dogma, it was all about making a movie you could identify as a Kevin Smith movie. But you can only do that so often. So now the movies will be generic, but they’ll be more about interacting with him than the movie.

And you’ve gotta give him points for figuring out how to harness the publicity whoring Westoboro gang to promote his movie. Is he promoting them. Are they promoting him? It’s both.

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