Thursday, March 27, 2008

The shoe, the other foot, and the blacklist

Consider this plot line from a film currently under development: Powerful figures consumed with greed, engage in nefarious schemes and seek to silence underdog critics through intimidation and blacklisting.

Hmmm, you say. Could it be...

A story of shadowy government figures waging a covert war for oil and the plucky/smokin' hot whistle blower out to stop them? Nope.

A cautionary tale of soldiers who dared speak the truth about American war atrocities and the plucky/smokin' hot reporter who gave them a voice? Not even close.

Oliver Stone's yet-to-be released bio-film of a plucky/smokin' hot George W. Bush (working title: Nixon, The Sequel)? Good guess, but no.

Enough of that...No, the plot line above is roughly that of a screenplay (and the concomitant controversy) in the works about the Sundance Film Festival, Miramax Films, and the murky world of indie movie making. The script is based on a book by Peter Biskind entitled, Down and Dirty Pictures, which supposedly offers the not-so-pretty truth about Robert Redford, Harvey Weinstein and other Hollywood A-listers. Apparently the book did not go over well with the people who care about such things. Since I am not one to be included in that group, I won't try to judge whether the book's critics are on the mark. And actually, the book's (and the potential film's) veracity makes no difference to me, and is secondary to the point of this post.

Rather, the goal here is to frolic in the fun of some old-time Hollywood hypocrisy. I'll let entertainment writer, Roger Friedman, do the heavy lifting. Since his short article on the subject is too priceless to chop into standard blogbits, I've pasted the whole thing below. My favorite passages are highlighted. As you read through the piece, ask yourself the following question: "Is this how the Bush Regime fascists treat film artists producing works critical of them?" (Yeah, I know you know the answer, but humor me and ask it anyway.)

Hollywood Assassination: Secret Screenplay 'Exposes' Indie Film World

There’s a secret screenplay going around Hollywood for casting, but it’s not likely one of the major players will touch it with a 10-foot pole.

The script is for a film version of Peter Biskind’s critically panned, much-loathed,
bitter "expose" of the Sundance Film Festival and the indie film world called "Down and Dirty Pictures."According to the script, it’s written by a newcomer named Joshua James and will be directed by someone called Kenneth Bowser. The listed producer is Kevin Scott Frakes and the film company that’s going to make this thing is Palm-Star Entertainment.

But really, the movie these people should have made is called "You’ll Never Eat Lunch or Any Meal or Ever Work in This Town Again."

That’s because Biskind’s book was unkind and inaccurate appraisal of the Sundance Film Festival, Redford and the old Miramax Films, including the Weinstein brothers.

Biskind, I’m told, is taking the stance that he’s "horrified" by the making of his book into a movie. But on the Palm Star Web site, he’s quoted: "Behind the cameras with the giants of the indie film scene in the 90’s was almost as exciting as what was in front of the cameras. It’s a subject that demands to be made into a feature film."

Well, Biskind is wrong. No parodies of Hollywood ever have been successful or even partially interesting to the general public, with maybe the exception of Robert Altman’s "The Player." Otherwise, the audience is not even remotely compelled to figure out what’s going on. Witness the recent debacle of turning Art Linson’s memoir, "What Happened Next," into an unfunny comedy starring Robert DeNiro.

When it debuted, ironically, at Sundance, no one laughed. It still has no distributor.

Those who’ve seen the script for "D&D" say that Redford, Weinstein and many other key Hollywood power players are depicted — and none too kindly. What are these Palm Star people thinking, really? This is the kind of idea that sounds good late at night but should have been dismissed the next morning.

And who would you hate to be more? The actor hired to play Redford or Weinstein? They have to be the least-desired parts ever offered for casting, with the exception of Mark David Chapman in the new John Lennon assassination film, "Chapter 27."

Goodness me. That last graph is especially frightening. I wonder if Benicio del Toro had that problem on his two latest projects (here and here).

Sunday, March 23, 2008

China gets it right (sort of)

The Chinese government lashed out at critics today, with the bulk of the Red blast aimed at US Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi. When analyzed with a clear and sober eye, there's really not much to argue with. From the AP:

China Lashes Out at Critics Over Tibet Crackdown

The official Xinhua New Agency, meanwhile, published a commentary bashing Pelosi, a fierce critic of China who on Friday visited the Dalai Lama at his headquarters in India, where she called China's crackdown "a challenge to the conscience of the world."

Xinhua accused Pelosi of ignoring the violence caused by the Tibetan rioters."'Human rights police' like Pelosi are habitually bad tempered and ungenerous when it comes to China, refusing to check their facts and find out the truth of the case," it said.

"Her views are like so many other politicians and western media. Beneath the double standards lies their intention to serve the interest groups behind them, who want to contain or smear China."

Again, how can one possibly disagree that Speaker Pelosi is "habitually bad tempered" or that we are all out to smear the ChiComs and contain their ideology within its current border?

Anyway, Xinhua offered photographic proof to bolster their view of Pelosi's bad temper:

Others photos were provided in a press release to further document Ms. Pelosi's "unstable imperialist personality", including bewilderment with complexity:

...abuser of hallucinogenics:

...and as weak and frail as a Bulgarian grandmother:

Friday, March 21, 2008


After my wife and I were married in 1991, we settled down in the sleepy old river town of Alton, Illinois, about 15 miles north of St. Louis. We loved our seven years there: an easy going pace, beautiful old homes, stunning views of the Mississippi from high on the bluffs, and history galore (e.g., Lincoln and Douglas debated there and Father Jacques Marquette stared in wonder at the Piasa Bird in 1673.)

But Alton can be a pretty rough place for a city of 30,000, with more than its share of drugs, gangs, and drunken biker dudes roaring down the streets. Seriously...The place is a biker gang haven. Our first apartment overlooked the main drag and one of the main biker bars. (Imagine us on a hill looking down on the bar about 100 feet below.) As was typical one summer night around 1:00am, the bar closed and the roar of Harleys split the night quiet. Suddenly we heard the thunk of heavy metal hitting pavement. I looked out our bedroom window and saw a guy sitting in the middle of the street next to his overturned motorcycle. Apparently he had simply fallen over sideways. He rose, ambled over to the curb, and sat down. Not 30 seconds later a car pulled to a stop at the bike, as it was blocking the street. Two men got out and exchanged words with the biker, who remained at his perch. Both parties waved in a what I interpreted as a sign of agreement. The two men then righted the bike and pushed it to the curb, aside its recumbent owner. Handshakes were exchanged and the men drove away. A few minutes later, the biker righted himself and roared off in the direction of Godfrey, where the bars stayed open til 3:00. (I suppose colorful would be another apt adjective in describing Alton.)

All of that is just a bit of background to one of the most horrific stories I've had the displeasure of reading. No more commentary. I'll let the AP take over:

Torture death shocks Ill. town

ALTON, Ill. - Banished to the basement, the 29-year-old mother with a childlike mind and another baby on the way had little more than a thin rug and a mattress to call her own on the chilly concrete floor.

Dorothy Dixon ate what she could forage from the refrigerator upstairs, where prosecutors say housemates used her for target practice with BBs, burned her with a glue gun and doused her with scalding liquid that peeled away her skin.

They torched what few clothes she had, authorities say, so she walked around naked. They often pummeled her with an aluminum bat or metal handle.

Dixon — six months pregnant — died after weeks of abuse. Police have charged two adults, three teenagers and a 12-year-old boy with murder in the case that has repulsed many in this Mississippi River town.


[Police Lt. David Hayes] watched the autopsy and found her injuries disturbing. X-rays revealed roughly 30 BBs lodged in her. Deep-tissue burns covered about one-third of her body — her face, her chest, her arms and feet — and left her severely dehydrated. Her face and body showed signs of prolonged abuse. Many of her wounds were infected.

None of the injuries, Hayes said, proved singly fatal to Dixon. Her system already was taxed by her unborn baby.

"The autopsy sort of indicates her immune system just shut down," he said. "It was not capable of fending off any more."
Evil. Pure, simple evil. No other word fits.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Meanness Personified

Late afternoons at the Scatmanse are spent relaxing, with me reading and the scatlings watching a video, coloring, running with scissors, etc. Today we enjoyed the wacky yet educational antics of Cookie Monster, Kermit, Grover and the other fuzzy wuzzy characters of Sesame Street. This particular DVD was a collection of songs and skits from the 1980s, the decade being obvious from the tight pants and mullets of the human characters. (To digress into a review of sorts, the bit with Robert MacNeil interviewing Cookie Monster, is pure comedy gold. The subject is "Cookiegate", in which Cookie Monster stands accused of eating Susan and Gordon's cookies. Kermit plays the smarmy lawyer whispering answers to his client. My kids wonder what the hell I'm laughing at. Alas, it seems the clip has been removed from YouTube.)

Anyway, the video has a segment of "People in the Neighborhood". Bob of course sings, meets various professionals and incorporates their jobs into the song. In this offing, the guests are Martina Navratilova (tennis), Barbara Walters (news correspondent) and Ralph Nader (consumer advocate). Yes, I agree that the "People in the Neighborhood" genre must have been reaching the end of its run on Sesame Street when this particular version was taped. But that's not the point here. Rather, let's focus on Ralph Nader's portion of the song. During the idle chit chat that always weaves its way into the presentation, Ralph offers a compliment to Bob on the snazzy red cardigan he's wearing. Bob replies that his aunt Mertle made it for him. "Well, has it been tested to make sure it's made properly?" asks Ralph. He then proceeds to yank off a sleeve, pop off all the buttons and scold Bob with, "Aunt Mertle knitted you a lemon".
At this point my daughter (aged 4) turned to me:

She: He's mean.

Me: Who?

She: Him. He ripped Bob's sweater. He's very mean.

Me: Yes dear. He is indeed.

Would you buy a used sweater from this man?

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Questions are raised

Not sure what to make of this, but I read somewhere that in an early draft of his Big Speech yesterday, Barack Obama referred to his grandmother as a rich, white (and possibly Jewish) banker who denied loans to blacks. Some analysts believe that the description may simply have been a margin comment left by one of Obama's proofreaders. But nonetheless, the rumor is intriguing.

Barack Obama's "A More Perfect Union" speech has raised questions about the depths of his grandmother's racism.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Oh oh, I know...It starts with M. Right?

Time for the Multiculturalism Guess That Word game! Below is a news story from the Daily Mail of London, as posted on Read and study it carefully. Then see if you can guess the one missing word that would provide clarity and meaning to an otherwise mushy exercise in multicultural Newspeak.

Good luck!

U.K. Eyes Forced Marriages in Students' School Absences

More than 30 children have been absent for at least two months from school rosters in an English city and officials fear they may have been forced into arranged marriages, The Daily Mail reported on Wednesday.

The 33 students have been absent without explanation from schools in Bradford, located in northern England, which The Mail reports has a substantial Asian population.

"It is a serious concern when any child, any single child, becomes unaccounted for," said Children's Minister Kevin Brennan, who on Tuesday released the findings before the Commons Home Affairs Select Committee, which is probing forced marriages in at least 14 other areas of the country.

A spokesman for the department of children, schools and families said forced marriages have been reported in Bradford, but there is no evidence the children in question had been forced to wed, The Daily Mail reports.

A Bradford schools spokesman said it is possible the children’s families had moved away and their parents failed to register them at their new schools, the story reports.

Three years ago the government instituted the national Forced Marriage Unit to combat "an abuse of human rights and a form of domestic violence."

Laws are going into effect this summer to let victims obtain court injunctions against anyone attempting to force them to marry, The Daily Mail reported.

In responding to the Bradford figures, Committee Chairman Keith Vaz said in The Mail story: "The figures you have given us quite frankly have shocked members of this committee just in relation to Bradford. This is totally unsatisfactory."

Still stumped? This photo from the Daily Mail provides a subtle hint...

Bonus question...Why does a Western nation need to have a national "Forced Marriage Unit"? (Yes. The answer does indeed relate to our missing word.)