Weekend Plans

In the not too distant future,
This weekend, AD,
my house will be all quiet,
except for my TV.

I’ll have MST3K on,
and I won’t even turn the volume down.
Won’t stop for rain or snow or hail
and all your calls will roll to voice mail

I’ll watch wretched movies,
the worst of all time (la la la)
Even “Manos Hands of Fate”,
though I might just lose my mind.

I keep in mind that his is time
that I can not ever get back,  (la la la)
As I’m sure I will be notified
by the silhouette backing track

(Ro Bot Roll Call)

Cambot!
Gypsy!
Tom Servo!
Croooooooooow!

If you’re wondering what I’ll eat and breathe,
and other logistic stuff,
repeat “MST is on Netflix”
And you will know enough,

More Mystery Science Theater, Three Thousand!

I’ll Have A Merlot With My Derangement This Evening

I caught this on MPR last week; arts reporter Marianne Combs’s piece on the new season at the Guthrie, featuring the new “Trump Derangement” theme:

This fall, the Guthrie will stage Lillian Hellman’s “Watch on the Rhine.” The show deals with the rise of fascism on American soil at the start of World War II, but Haj says it feels startlingly relevant today.

“There’s a line in the play that says something like, ‘We don’t send people back — we’re Americans. That’s not what we do.’ And that line was written in 1941,” Haj said. “The reason we do the classics is not to look at plays or stories under glass; it’s to understand that many of these classic texts have absolute resonances to our current times.”

The Guthrie follows “Watch on the Rhine” with Noel Coward’s “Blithe Spirit,” which at first might seem like a non sequitur. But Haj explained that Noel Coward, a contemporary of Hellman, wrote the play at the onset of World War II.

The message – “we, the Guthrie’s artistic directors, believe we’re living in times just like 11933 Germany; we believe our audience is like the British of 1940, who need something to take their mind off being firebombed every night”.

But don’t dare accuse anyone of Trump derangement!

The Delicious Dish

It’s fun to make fun of National Public Radio.

The upper-middle-class white liberal bias; the pretentious production style; the air staff’s frequently sloppy, mannered delivery; the unearned condescension to all other media; if you’re a radio person, the massive budgets and huge staffs combined with the often dismal state of practice of the radio craft; the complete inability to do a show off-script (listening to NPR reporters trying to ad-lib on the morning of 9/11 would have been funny under less dire circumstances) – I mean, Terri Gross is considered a brilliant broadcaster because…

…she can freestyle an interview (or at least be made to sound like she’s freestyling after repeated cycles of NPR’s obsessive editing).

It’s fun to make fun of public radio:

For all that?  There are shows I do like.  I enjoyed Prairie Home Companion while Garrison Keillor hosted it (while ignoring and mocking his puerile politics), and might like it even more with Chris Thile at the helm.  MPR’s news does an adequate job of seeking balance – not perfect, not great, but adequate, which means if you grade on a curve against other media they rate an A.   On Being with Krista Tippett can be an incredibly interesting show.

And then there’s been “Splendid Table“.   For a couple decades, now Lynn Rossetto Kasper has been hosting the show – and by “hosting”, I mean “saving it from the suffocating, self-parodying cliches that are most public radio”.    Rossetto Kasper brought an air of engagement, mirth…fun to  the show, and to a subject that inspires all too much leaden foodie navel-gazing.

Brought.

Rossetto Kasper is retiring from the show after 21 seasons.  She’s being replaced by Francis Lam, former top foodie at NYTimes Magazine and an accomplished chef in his own right.  He clearly knows his food.

I got my first, er, taste of Mr. Lam’s style this past weekend.  And it’s dreadful.

I’m going to put part of the blame on whomever produces and edits the show – and being an American Public Media (the production spinoff of MPR) joint, God only kjnows who that is, since like most APM shows it’s got a staff list longer than a Michael Bay movie.  But whoever it is who decided on Mr. Lam’s broadcast style seems to have given the directive; “Don’t just do public radio cliché; define and supercharge them!”.

A paraphrased, but typical, piece of a Lam interview:

LAM:  So tell us about [whatever].

GUEST:  I’m glad you asked.  It’s really about [interesting explanation redacted]

LAM:  Ah.  […several seconds of exaggerated pause, apparently to connote depth and thoughtfulness…].  Interesting.

So yeah, the editing was dreadful.

But Lam himself comes across as…oh, drat, now I have to go into my thesaurus to find new terms to describe the clichés of the public radio delivery.  Lugubrious?  Disconnected?  Stylized to the point of caricature?  I don’t know.

Maybe it’ll improve.  Maybe it was an isolated episode.

Or maybe, in the era of Trump, Public Radio is making a concerted effort to be more pompous, more caricaturish, and less accessible to the plebeians.

Let’s hope for improvement.

The Looooooser Is…

Joe Doakes from Como Park emails:

Wrong winner at the Academy Awards?  Should have kept the sealed envelope in a mayonnaise jar on Funk and Wagnall’s porch.  Then nobody would know the contents until revealed by Carnac the Magnificent.  Would have been a lot more entertaining.

 Joe Doakes

I’m not one of those sticks in the mud that swears off all Hollywood over a little matter of pervasive arrogant cultural bias…

…but I cant’ imagine much less entertaining than even a well-executed Oscar broadcast.

The Enemy Of My Enemy…Still Makes Me Feel Slimy

Lena Dunham.

On the one hand, she writes indulgent, entitle twaddle like Girls.  Including lines like:

… and the other thing about me is I give zero f***s about anything, yet I have a strong opinion about everything, even topics I’m not informed on.”

Which is simultaneously risibly vacuous and as perfect a sample of Urban Liberal Privilege as you can find.   (The phrase “Zero F****s Given” is a primary indicator of a deeply vapid person).

On the other?  She throws Paul Krugman under the bus.

Talk about a fight where there is no winner, except all the rest of us.

 

Diary Of A Burst Of Stifling Entitlement

A candid history of the soon-to-be-late HBO series “Girls”, starring, well, everyone involved in the show.

I’ve seen a grand total of five minutes of “Girls” – don’t ask – and won’t pretend to care for it any more than creator/star Lena Dunham or executive prod Judd Apatow will claim I’m supposed to.

But written in between the lines of the article is the extent to which Urban Liberal Privilege greases the skids of Hollywood.

Richie Guns The Motor And Fonzie Takes Flight

Joe Doakes from Como Park emails:

Lately, I’ve been watching the reboot of “Hawaii 5-0” on Netflix.  Started out as a typical cop show with the usual shoot-outs and chase scenes, but the real value of the show was the scenery.  No, not island volcanoes and surfboards; every dialogue scene featured the main characters standing on the beach talking in the foreground while bikini-clad hotties paraded behind them.  After a while, it became amusing – apparently the beaches in Hawaii have nothing but hotties.  Where are the pasty beach whales from Minnesota, desperate to get their 5-day tan before the vacation ends?

 Now that I’m into Season 3, the scenery has changed.  Lots of flying over rain forests and aerial views of high-rise hotels, nowhere near as much background beach action.  And the storyline has changed, too, not as many chase-them-until-you-shoot-them action scenes, more trouble-with-her-boyfriend and who-will-get-custody drama.  I started out watching Starsky and Hutch but now I’m watching General Hospital.

 I suspect it’s a deliberate shift away from Guy Show over to Chick Flick.  They’ve ruined it.  I’m done watching before they go full Law and Order, preaching the blessings of gun control, the evil of Christianity and the absolute necessity of whatever ‘right’ is the fad today.

Joe Doakes

I suspect a writers room full of people who want to write Something Meaningful.  With predictable results.

The Wise Celebrity

Cary Grant – one of classic Hollywood’s greatest actors, and a lifelong Republican – on expressing his political opinion:

“I’m opposed to actors taking sides in public and spouting spontaneously about love, religion or politics. We aren’t experts on these subjects. Personally, I’m a mass of inconsistencies when it comes to politics. My opinions are constantly changing. That’s why I don’t ever take a public stand on issues.”

Smart guy.

The Good Hollywood Liberal

In the wake of the left’s disgraceful self-clowning at the Golden Glob Awards, the right’s perception of the Hollywood Liberal may be at Peak Meme.  And for good reason.

But Christian Toto, writing in the National Review about filmmaker Peter Berg (no relation) cautions on the danger of painting with too broad a brush about “Hollywood Liberals”.

The lesson?  We need a brush exactly broad enough.

Bringing A Nail Clipper To A Gunfight

Hollywood is threatening a strike until Donald Trump retires…

…well, OK.  Not “Hollywood”.  Just some actors.

Brad Pitt, Amy Adams, Dakota Fanning and Ralph Fiennes are among the A-listers…

…who are not mentioned anywhere in the piece about the supposed strike:

Rosie O’Donnell, Debra Messing, Ed Asner and Michael Shannon are among the dozens of artists, entertainers, and activists who have attached their names to an effort calling for a month-long protest to stop President-elect Donald Trump.

Those are the four they led with?

Rosie O’Donnell, whose picture s in the DSM-V under “delusional?”

Debra Messing, who turned all that “Will and Grace” star power into one entire season of The Starter Wife on the USA Network before it got tanked?

Is Ed Asner really still alive?

And…Michael who?  Wasn’t he “Lord of the Dance” 20 years ago or something?

Gotta Move Fast

My piece earlier this noon hour, about the complete collapse of Jessica Chastain’s anti-2nd-Amendment melodrama Miss Sloane, reminds me of a problem that’s emerged this past year.

Sloane was the second movie in the past 12 months involving an issue in which I’m fairly intimately involved, and that I’ve actually wanted to go to a theater to see (the other  was the hilariously-mistitled Truth, which passed unlamented by anyone but the left’s movie critics in the winter of 2015), albeit only at a second-run theater like the Riverview; I’m not gonna give Hollywood the satisfaction of paying full price to watch its propaganda.

Either, it seems, did anyone else.  Both movies disappeared from box offices faster than the Vikings left the playoff race.

The “problem”?  They leave the theaters before I can get around to going to review them.

It’s a smile problem, in the great scheme of things, but still.

“We, The Undersigned…

…group of actors – people who earn an intermittent living acting like people we’re not, who almost universally live in a place and culture, Hollywood, that has no bearing on the objective reality most Americans live in – who are mostly famous for playing roles in a series about a fictional, utopian, creepily big-brotherish universal government, playing to a fan base that has treated us and the franchise (of, let me repeat, fiction) in which we acted like a pseudo-religion, which has continued to keep many of us paid via two generations of fan fairs and other residuals, ask  you, the people of the real world, to take our political advice seriously“.

I guess there’s a reason I’m not in PR for the Screen Actors Guild.

Open Letter To Every Single Movie Ticket Website

To: the owners of every single movie ticket website
From: Mitchell Berg, cranky consumer
Re: Huh?

All,

I went out on your website – which one doesn’t matter, because you’re all pretty much the same – last night to try to buy a ticket to “Sully”.

Ticket prices are insane – I get that.

But below the ticket price, you added a two dollar “convenience fee”.

For two dollars, I’ll stand in the line for 40 seconds. I shut off the browser and went to the Riverview Theater to see “Blazing Saddles”.

But I had a brilliant idea. Stop charging the “convenience fee” to buy the ticket. But start selling concessions online, have them ready at a “will call” window for concessions when I get there, and I will pay the two dollars not to stand in line for my damn popcorn..

See to this.

That is all.

On My Wish List

Springsteen’s autobiography is due in stores shortly.

And at least one reviewer raves.

I do love this particular pull-quote:

“One of the points I’m making in the book is that, whoever you’ve been and wherever you’ve been, it never leaves you,” he said, expanding upon this thought with the most Springsteen-esque metaphor possible: “I always picture it as a car. All your selves are in it. And a new self can get in, but the old selves can’t ever get out. The important thing is, who’s got their hands on the wheel at any given moment?”

In Born to Run, the Bruce in the driver’s seat is often the kid or the conflicted young man who cowered or sulked in the presence of his father, Doug. The Springsteen catalogue abounds with songs about difficult father-son relationships, such as the recriminatory “Adam Raised a Cain,” the rueful “My Father’s House,” and the valedictory leaving-home ballad “Independence Day” (“The darkness of this house has got the best of us”), the last of which Springsteen introduced to the Gothenburg crowd as a song about “two people that love each other but struggle to understand one another.”

Book going on sale soon ?   I’ll be there on time, and I’ll pay the cost.

For the book, I mean.

(Not a Bruce fan?  Get your own blog).

Breaking The Silence

Sometimes, you hold a secret that’s so inflammatory, so divisive, so certain to lead to sturm und drang, that you just hang onto it.  You keep it bottled up inside, and let it fester, for months, years, even decades.

Sometimes you take those secrets to the grave.

But sometimes – rarely, but it blessedly happens – something allows you to break the silence, and let the secret out, and let the truth be known.

This is one of those times.

Madeline LeBeau

The last surviving credited cast member from the movie “Casablanca”, French actress Madeline LeBeau, has died.  She was 92.

LeBeau, in a still from a scene cut from “Casablanca”

The cause was complications from a broken thigh bone, her stepson, documentary filmmaker and mountaineer Carlo Alberto Pinelli, told the Hollywood Reporter.

Ms. LeBeau (sometimes credited as Lebeau) was the last surviving credited cast member of “Casablanca” (1942), which the American Film Institute lists as the second greatest movie of all time. “Citizen Kane” is No. 1, according to the film preservation group.

She played Rick Blaine’s (Humphrey Bogart) jilted girlfriend in the early part of the movie…:

I have no idea where the subtitles come from. Bizarre.

…and then reappeared during the famous “La Marseillaise” scene:

(Along with her husband at the time, Emil the Croupier, who hands Major Renault his winnings at the end of the clip).

In The Closet

While Hollywood (a wholly owned subsidary of the American Left) toes the left’s designated political line, they get almost…conservative, sometimes, when the proverbial chips are down:

On some issues, Hollywood can be downright right-wing. From the value of guns in The Walking Dead to the honor of police in countless dramas to the importance of family in most sitcoms, there is a lot more conservatism, broadly understood, on TV than conservatives or liberals ever notice.

And so it is with abortion. With the exception of Maude (an awful left-wing 1970s TV show)  and some “edgy” HBO series, there have been no major sitcoms in which a character has had an abortion.

I’d add Neve Campbell’s “Julia Salinger” from Party of Five which, it’s alarming to note, was 22 years ago.

Why? Well, one reason is abortions aren’t funny. There’s no reason to write a storyline in which a character gets pregnant only to decide later not have a baby. That’s not a punch line, it’s a tragedy. Even the very liberal Mindy Kaling, star and producer of The Mindy Project, says the show won’t touch the issue of abortion — and Kaling plays a gynecologist.

And so while politics is downstream of culture, at least some part of the culture business finds it in its interest to remember that most people are, broadly, conservative.

Fear The Walking Dead: Exit 288

SCENE: The prairie.  It’s the dead of winter.  The sky sweeps above in 180 degrees of piercing blue, studded with a few isolated scudding clouds, pale with the reflections of frozen ice crystals in the air, as the very humidity itself is frozen.  The wind is light – 10 mph – as it sweeps across the plains.   As far as the eye can see, there is snow.  

A squad car rolls up a four lane freeway.  Behind the wheel, Officer Tom CHRISTIANSON, a Barnes County sheriff’s deputy, sails briskly up the road, his whoopie lights turned off.  CHRISTIANSON, a trim, purposeful man in his late thirties, looks tired, even a little haggard, but his eyes are focused and fierce.    The camera briefly focuses on a green freeway sign:  “Fargo 72; Valley City 12”.  And then another:  “Exit 288 – No Services”.

CHRISTIANSON slows and pulls up behind a Ford F150 Club Cab, which is idling on the shoulder of the eastbound lane just east of the exit  He climbs out of his squad car, dons his stetson, and walks up to the pickup, his breath steaming in the bitter cold as it blows away.  

Jake and Donna STADEL, a thirty-something couple, are standing by the tailgate.  Jake is carrying a hunting rifle; Donna, a long-barreled hunting shotgun.   CHRISTIANSON shakes Jake and then Donna’s hands.  

CHRISTIANSON:  Jake.  Donna.

J STADEL:   Deputy.

D STADEL:   Tom.

J STADEL:   So is it true what they’ve been saying?

CHRISTIANSON:  (Shakes head in a way that says “just a little numb from fatigue and confusion”).  No idea.  Last thing anyone knows is that all the TV and cable networks went off the air.

J STADEL:   Did you see that one live newscast where they…

D STADEL:  …overran the news crew live on the air, on camera…

J STADEL:  In the middle of that riot?

(All three go silent, shaking their heads, wincing in horror at the horrid memory).

CHRISTIANSON:   Yep.  I did.

J STADEL:   So they’re saying they (thumb points over shoulder, off-camera to the right) are pretty much everywhere these days?

CHRISTIANSON:   The whole east coast.  All of California.  The whole deep south.  Even the desert southwest.  The last ham-radio transmissions say they’re pretty much the only thing left walking in those parts of the country.   There’s a few survivors, I suppose, but they’re few and far between.

J STADEL:  Jeez.

D STADEL:  God.

CHRISTIANSON:  Yep.

J STADEL:  So we’re…

CHRISTIANSON:  Us and South Dakota, northern Minnesota, Montana, the U.P,. Alaska, Manitoba and Saskatchewan and parts of Alberta, Russia, Finland…

(All three shake their heads as the thought trails off).

CHRISTIANSON:  Well, thanks for calling this in.  Let’s get to it.

(Camera pulls back and pans right, and we see a large herd of zombies trailing off to the east, perhaps two hundred of them – all of them frozen stiff; a few jerk fitfully about and hack and gack feebly; most are utterly frozen.  The three grab machetes and axes, and walk toward group and start hacking).

CHRISTIANSON:  You still doing poker on Friday, Jake?  (Grunts has he hacks off a frozen head)

J STADEL:  Oh, ya.  You betcha. Won’t be there until after Shania’s basketball game.  (Plunges knife into zombie skull)

CHRISTIANSON:  How’s the team doing this year?

D STADEL:  She’s finally getting enough playing time.  Now we just gotta get her chemistry grade up…  (Smashes a head with an axe)

CHRISTIANSON:  I had to take away Ashley’s X-box…

(Fade to black over mundane small talk as the three matter-of-factly go about lopping off frozen zombies).  

(And SCENE)