This is going to be a very personal piece of me. Not because I am a film critic. Not because I thought of myself as being the next “Roger Ebert” (or Gene Siskel) for that matter. Not because, as of late, I have taken to blaming the Pulitzer Prize winning film journalist for everything that’s wrong with modern criticism. No, I will miss Roger Ebert the way I have learned to miss many things in the last 52 years—as parts of my past fading away into the infinite abyss of mortality and the uncertainty of my remaining time on this Earth. In many ways, he is me. In others, we couldn’t be more different.
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It must have seemed like the most brainless of no-brainer ideas. Stephenie Meyer, who turned a tale of adolescent angst and supernatural romance into the billion dollar franchise known as Twilight, had just seen her books made into a bevy of critically lambasted, but financially successful, films. Hollywood, ever vigilant to strike the cash cow irons while they are good and enflamed, swept in and took the author’s most recent title, a specious sci-fi work known as The Host, and rushed it into production. Without any established track record except for all the leftover Edward and Bella brouhaha, Tinseltown smelled a bit fat hit.
It starts with a scene of two young college girls, bored out of their minds. Sitting in one of those arena like classrooms, the teacher projecting everything they’ll need to know as part of a high tech Power Point presentation, they contemplate the next few days. “I need penis,” one writes in her spiral notebook. The other, drawing a rather large phallus in hers, mimes fellatio. As their fellow students sit back, dead eyed, these two twitter and tweak like a couple of sex starved meth birds. We soon learn that they are anticipating a road trip to St. Petersburg, Florida, a chance to pal around with two other female chums while drinking and drugging their way to some equally inebriated frat boy’s motel room. After that…well, anything goes.
It may be the first time in mainstream movie history that gore is getting the high sign from marketers. If you’ve been paying attention to the advertising for the new Sam Raimi approved remake of his classic Evil Dead, you’ll understand. Currently making the rounds is a commercial featuring nothing more than brief glimpses of the film and multiple reaction shots—teens, the target audience, and even a couple of older people offer up their first look faces as the trailer (one assumes, red banded) unspools before them. Mind you, we don’t see the splatter, but the implication is clear: the update of the classic ‘within the woods’ workout is one shocking, disgusting blood feast where body parts and arterial spray are beyond the norm. The grimaces and gasps say it all.
In a different universe than ours, the idea that the Academy Awards would one day be presided over by the likes of Seth MacFarlane would seem to be a godsend. A onetime insurgent in the Fox television conglomerate, MacFarlane is a guy who spun post-post-post-modern webs of non-sequitur animated bafflement into an empire of offensiveness. His favorite movie is The Sound of Music, he has a Broadway-ready singing voice, recorded a Grammy-nominated album of standards, is (for an animator) strangely comfortable before huge crowds, and his sense of humor ping-pongs from layered multi-referential ironies to vaguely cretinous bathroom stall jokes.
In other words, he ticks a lot of boxes, from purportedly shocking humor to bring in the young ‘uns to classic glitzy “That’s Entertainment!” revues that the old folks like. Of course, in reality, the young ‘uns barely know what the Oscars are and the old folks are DVR’ing NCIS.