Heat maps of TV / cable / digital shows around the country.
I’m frankly amazed that “The Voice” dominates North Dakota like it does.
Heat maps of TV / cable / digital shows around the country.
I’m frankly amazed that “The Voice” dominates North Dakota like it does.
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.
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?
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.
Many thanks to Aaron “Captain Capitalism” Clarey for his review of “Trulbert”!
For my part, I”m in the middle of “Reconaissance Man” and “Bachelor Pad Economics”. Reviews – and most likely a couple segments on the NARN – soon to come.
…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.
To: the owners of every single movie ticket website
From: Mitchell Berg, cranky consumer
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.
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).
To: Melodramatic Has-Been Celebs
From: Mitch Berg, Irascible Peasant
Re: Book Those Tickets!
We’ve heard it all before. Put up or shut up.
That is all.
…but I wasn’t aware there’d been a Four or Five.
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.
The last surviving credited cast member from the movie “Casablanca”, French actress Madeline LeBeau, has died. She was 92.
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).
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.
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.
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).
You walked in off of First Avenue in Jamestown, the sky still dark at 5AM, turned your key and tugged on an aluminum door frame that fit a little tight in its jamb, and stepped into a building that dated back to before 1900; on the main floor was White Drug – the first Whites in what is still today a major regional chain.
You walked up eighteen stone stairs to a small landing, turned left, and walked up six more, to a terrazzo-floored hallway. To your left was an insurance office, dark and quiet As you turned right, to your right was a law office of some kind. But you walked straight ahead, toward the rear of the building.
On the right, after the men’s room, was a soundproof aluminum door that led into a room not much bigger than a walk-in closet. We’ll come back to that.
Next to it? Through a couple of large glass windows, a room, jammed with antique electrical and electronic equipment; closest to the window, a large, battleship-gray control console, looking a little like the front of a 1940 Buick; a control panel built literally before World War II, all Bakelite knobs and control keys, a couple of exquisitely-balanced VU meters bouncing their stately way back and forth – very unlike the meters that accompanied the age of cheap stereo gear, all herky-jerky and frenetic. The meters seemed, themselves, to the throwbacks to a slower, more deliberate time.
To the right of the chair were two ancient turntables; to the left, a couple of bins of records. Behind it? Stacks of transmitter controls and reel-to-reel and cassette tape decks, and a couple of “plectrons” – basically 1960’s versions of what we’d call “pagers” in the 1980’s, before even the pager became passe; about the size of a late ’90’s IBM PC, they carried fire calls, for the city and rural fire departments. Each of the town’s volunteer firemen had one at home; the radio stations had ’em too.
Behind the stacks of gear? Stacks of albums. Thousands of them, tucked into wall shelves; stuff that’d be treasures today, sought after by rock and roll vinyl collectors (first-edition Beatles and Stones albums from the sixties), or retro collectors (obscure albums by Dean Martin, Perry Como, and even Lorne Greene); genres that haven’t shared shelf space in decades; modern jazz, forties pop, even copies of Devo and Ramones albums that snuck in there some how. There was no rhyme or reason. It was a huge jumble.
A door at the back led into the “closet” a few paragraphs back – the “newsroom”. A single steel desk and a couple of file cabinets and, to your left, chattering away 24/7, an AP teletype, sitting in a closet, churning through boxes of yellow-y fanfold paper a week; an endless rotation of international headlines, national news, North Dakota and Tri-State news, National and North Dakota/Tri-state scores, and of course weather. Forecasts updated hourly; extended forecasts and 24-hour temperature summaries; occasionally when things were slow, “lites” – funny stories – and, once a day around midnights, “pronouncers”, lists of phonetic pronunciations of names in the news (which were pretty vital, in 1980, as American newsmen learned how to convey news about Sadegh Ghotzbzadeh to the public).
Going to work on a Saturday morning at 5AM, the first job was to turn on the power to the transmitter and its remote controls; the transmitter was a mile and a half away, next to where the James River passed under I94, by the road to the State Hospital. You turned on the big box full of vaccuum tubes – the station was years away from going solid-state – and watched the needles climb into their nominal operating range, noting the readings on the transmitter log.
Then, you went into the newsroom, and gathered up the 100 feet of fanfold copy that had streamed out overnight. You rolled it up, hauled it through the studio, and into a room on the other side, with a table that seated eight people, and a small remote control board with a “1931” date stamp on the back, all brownish-red burled metal and impeccably-balanced bakelite knobs, nursed along year to year by a patient engineering staff and a famously penurious boss. Although you didn’t know what “talk radio” was yet, and neither did anyone else, it was where the station’s owner and the news director hosted a one-hour daily talk show, five days a week, with guests from around town.
You sat down at the table, and started ripping and sorting the wire copy. National news, regional, local, sports and weather – you’d wind up reading a little of each several times over the next ten hours. With a little practice, you could flense 100 feet of wire copy down into neat stacks in a half hour, stack them into newscasts – you’d have full-hour news, weather and sportscasts at 6AM, 7AM and noon – buy a coke from the vending machine next to the boss’ office (across and down the hall), and wait for 5:50AM.
Then, it was time to flip the “Plates” control to “on”; this sent power to the transmitter’s final output stage. It was accompanied by a buzzing, and smell of ozone, as vacuum tubes engaged and power and signal started moving through the wires. You took readings voltage and wattage readings from the output stage and antenna, wrote them on the transmitter log, “signed on” the station with your signature on the log…
…and pulled out tape the tape cartridge that would accompany your signon.
The clock ticked to straight-up 5:55AM. You flipped the key on the main board mike to “on”, and read – or, after a few Saturdays, recited – the sign-on script that had ushered the station on the air seven days a week since 1949.
At this time, radio station KEYJ in Jamestown, North Dakota, begins the broadcast day. KEYJ operates at a frequency of fourteen-hundred kilocycles at one thousand watts daytime and 250 watts at night, by authority of the Federal Communications Commission, and is owned and operated by KEYJ Incorporated of Jamestown, North Dakota.
We invite you to stay tuned to KEYJ for the latest in news, weather, sports, and information. Good morning!
You then punched the “start” button to your tape cartridge machine – a “Cart”, which looked and functioned just like an eight-track tape – which launched the National Anthem. At the end of which, you read the day’s forecast and long-range forecast, which took you to the 6AM newscast from Associated Press Radio.
And your day began.
That was how I spent my Saturday mornings in high school – at a little 1000 watt AM radio station; on the air from 5:55AM to 3PM; hours of news and info at 7, 8 and noon; “Trading Post” (a half-hour swap and shop show) at 10, and usually a taped Class B high school game of some sort or another after 1PM.
KEYJ launched a lot of careers; many of the biggest names in North Dakota radio started at KEYJ. Not just North Dakota, either – Terry Ingstad, known to a couple generations of LA listeners as “Shadoe Stevens”, started there in the sixties; his youngest brother, Dick, a year a head of me in high school and a good friend, showed me the ropes when the boss and longtime owner, Bob Richardson, finally hired me in August of ’79.
KEYJ was sold to a group of slickee boys who tried to run it like a major-market station – including firing all the locals, including me, and changing the call letters to the charmless “KQDJ” – and failed in about a year. More management teams came and went; the station changed hands many times, became a satellite oldies station, moved out of the old office above White Drug to a soulless little shack on the south hill, and finally became an “ESPN Sports” affiliate – like many small stations today, it has no local staff; it’s basically a computer in a closet, like Hillary’s email server, pumping digitally-sequence product and commercials to the transmitter (which is still in the same place, at least).
Like so much of the radio industry, it’s dead to me today.
Claudia Lamb writes about the implosion at once-great KGO in San Francisco – once the WCCO of the West Coast. It illustrates a lot of what has ailed, and ultimately destroyed, most of the radio industry in the past 20 years, taking it from a thriving industry to a drain-circling corpse (outside of certain niche markets, like Spanish, Sports and conservative talk).
Worth a read.
First, let me establish a couple things.
I’ve never really been into comic books. It just wasn’t really a thing when I was a kid. I won’t say “you stopped reading comic books when you were 12” where I came from. But I guess I did.
And while I am a pretty “live and let live” kind of guy, who is perfectly fine letting people have their own foibles and peccadilloes, I’ve always found over-the-top comic book fans inscrutable. That’s a polite way to put it; I’m tempted to mock intolerant people who get into holy wars about the DC and Marvel “universes”.
Like Star Trek fans writing each other out of their wills for preferring “Next Generation” over the Gene Roddenberry original, or Star Wars fans literally – I’m not making this up – screaming in anger over George Lucas’ re-editing of the Cantina scene in Srar Wars. I’ve always found the obsessions of fanboys worth a chuckle: “Comic Store Guy” may be the only character on The Simpsons that really sticks with me; he’s so brilliantly dead on, I can practically smell the waves of postadolescent funk rolling off of him. There just isn’t much in comic book “culture” that’s ever interested me. (Except, of course, for The Flaming Carrot, which was a glorious spoof of comic book “culture”, and Queen and Country, which was just cool. Shut up).
And adaptations of comic books? X-Men? Captain America? Iron Man? Avengers? I’ve never watched any of them. I really just don’t care.
So I’m probably as surprised as you are that I ever tuned in AMCs “The Walking Dead”. Moreso, in fact; I’ve always hated the horror genre, zombie movies in particular.
But I binge watched the first four seasons on Netflix; for seasons five and six, the weekly installments are just about the only thing I ever watch on my actual TV anymore. It’s generally more or less capably written, frequently well acted, and by hook or crook generally winds up being a fairly addictive watch, even for this famously nonaddictive viewer.
But the most interesting thing about The Walking Dead is it’s timing. Think about previous shows that won the title of “number one show on television”; they cover a wide stretch of the media waterfront, obviously, but most of them have something to do with the mood of the nation at the time.
And for the last six years, the most popular show on American television is about a small group of misbegotten friends and neighbors surviving a civilization-ending catastrophe. In the age of Obama, the number one show through most of the administration has been about complete, absolute, existential collapse.
And so I watch.
A cliffhanger out of a mole hill: if you have been near a browser or television for the past few weeks, don’t kid yourself; you’ve heard people talking about TWD’s season six finale, last Sunday night.
There has been much Sturm und Drang about the episode; superfans, especially the ones who go back to the comic book, have referred to it as a “jumping the shark” moment.
Of course, they tend to be the same people who get disappointed by episodes where there is more story and less chopping off zombie heads, so I take that with a grain – no, a block – of salt.
So I won’t go that far. Fact is, I expected a lot from last Sunday’s season finale – and year in, year out, the show has delivered.
But I have a couple of big beefs with the story, anyway.
The first is with the idea of the Omniscient Villain. To fully explain this, I have to throw out a bunch of spoilers – so I won’t.
But the worst, dumbest, most insulting overstretch of the imagination and over suspension of disbelief?
One of my favorite characters is Abraham – a grizzled veteran of combat, not just against zombies but against actual armed, trained humans.
The season finale asked us to accept the notion that a supposedly seasoned veteran of actual armed combat, would accept the idea that, although the party is at war with a large, powerful, human enemy (not to mention a countryside awash in zombies), he would allow Rick to load the entire group, including the sick pregnant girl, into a Winnebago – a flimsy, unreliable, unarmored, heavily-glassed-in vehicle that is the absolute worst combat vehicle ever designed – and blunder around the post-apocalyptic countryside, like they’re Chevy Chase on the way to Wallyworld, with no scouts, no reconnaissance, no mutually supporting teams, no overwatch?
Not only did I not buy it, I groaned out loud. These idiots survived the apocalypse for two years?
This is what happens when comic book writers take over.
Note to producer Scott Gimpl, if you happen to be reading this: it was a terrible ending to a good season. Don’t do it again.
Asher Edelman – the “inspiration” behind Oliver Stone’s character “Gordon Gecko”, played by Michael Douglas in the move Wall Streetˆ…
Of course he is.
For roughly the everyeth year in my life in a row, I skipped the Oscars last night. But I did catch a little bit of Chris Rock’s opening monologue. And he had a couple good ones:
But Alan West notes another inconvenient truth; while this year was a slow one for black nominees, African Americans over the past 20 years have actually won “Actor/Actress” and “Supporting Actor/Actress” statues exactly in proportion to their share of the population:
The problem isn’t that black people are underrepresented at the Oscars. The problem is that the narrative needed a chanting point for February.
To: Etan Cohen and Mike Judge, co-writers of Idiocracy
From: Mitch Berg, uppity peasant
Re: Your Blinding Flash of Epiphany
Etan and Mike,
I’m a conservative in Saint Paul. Looking at my city government, I thought it was a documentary when I first saw it.
That is all.
Bernie Sanders is proud to call himself a socialist. He’s happy to continue the ideological legacy of Mussolini, Peron and Hugo Chavez.
I know I’m not the only one who sees the photos of his campaign rallies, and imagines them debouching out onto the street to look for pockets to pick and (fill in the unfavored minority) to beat up.
And yet, I can’t help watch this spot and think “hell yeah!”
It takes my (far and away) favorite Simon and Garfunkel song, and wraps it around a whole lot of stirring images, and says absolutely nothing, and says it with glorious style.
Of course, it’s dishonest. Bernie Sanders loves “America”, provided it acts like Sweden (or like Sweden did, until recently). But it’s not Swedes he’s trying to convince to vote for him.
But who cares, really? I want fill up a bathtub with this ad, and soak in it for hours. The imagery, the videography, the intersection of picture and sound – all of them are absolutely glorious.
Glorious pictures and sound have a long history, of course. We’ve seen that before; all the way back to Triumph des Willens (Triumph of the Will), the signature movie by Leni Riefenstahl, the greatest female filmmaker of all time (that’s gotta sit just wonderfully with the Feminists) – a film (as opposed to a TV spot) that punches a lot of the same buttons.
And no, I’m not comparing Sanders to Hitler, at least as far as the whole “genocidal madman” thing goes.
But there’s little content.
There’s very little substance.
But oh, lord, the imagery and sound and cinematography. Is it any wonder that a nation of low-information voters turned out in droves back then, just as Sanders hopes they will now?
Joe Doakes from Como Park emails:
Al Sharpton is upset the Oscars didn’t recognize a Black actor. It makes the awards “fraudulent.”
For crying out loud, how dense are they? There’s an award for every category down to Junior Lunch Caterer’s Assistant, why not add one more?
And let’s be blatant and clear about it – this is not an award for excellence, those awards went to Best Actors. This is an award to shut up critics.
“Ladies and Gentlemen, this year, the ‘Token Award for Black Actor’ goes to . . . .”
It’s all about “sending messages”. `
I saw 13 Hours over the weekend.
Worst Fears Not Realized: I’ve been rooting for this movie for a long time – ever since I met “John “Tig” Tiegen (Dominic Fumusa), and Mark “Oz” Geist (portrayed in the movie by Dominic Fumusa and Max Martini, respectively), and got a chance to interview them on my show last year.
But when I saw that Michael Bay was directing it, I felt my hope curdle into a icy ball of despair. Bay was behind the loathsome Pearl Harbor and all the bad Transformers movies that followed on after the good one. (Of course, he also did The Rock and the very underrated Pain and Gain, so perhaps I’m being a little harsh on the Bayver).
But while it included some of Bay’s signature moves – the MTV-era editing, the slow-mo explosions, the Die Hard-style wisecracking between battle scenes – it all actually worked well. And sometimes superlatively – as in a scene when a group of State Department employees in an armored Mercedes are getting shot at at point-blank range by a group of locals. Really, really stunning sequence.
But the movie largely focused on the story. And it’s there that things get interesting.
The Story Behind The Story: The movie, of course, is about one of the most controversial events in recent years – the September 11, 2012 attack on the US diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya. During the attack, the US Ambassador, a State Department communications staffer, and two CIA security contractors were killed. The situation could have gotten much worse but for the team of CIA contractors – ex-military men working as guards for the CIA compound – who responded, defending the State Department compound for 13 hours, until a scratch team of American intelligence and military led a friendly Libyan militia to the rescue.
The controversy – for those of you who’ve been asleep for the past three years – is over whether a “stand down” order was given to successive levels of potential US paramilitary and military response, from the contractors on the scene all the way up to the Air Force in Italy and the 10th Special Forces group in Croatia. If so, of course, then the Ambassador and the contractors were left dangling for half a day without any government support. The Administration and the CIA have angrily denied it; Hillary Clinton said it made no difference at this point; the contractors on the scene all swear by it.
The movie plays a little peek-a-boo with the issue, but for one key episode; as the State Department and CIA staffers on the scene ask, then beg, for support, we are treated to scenes of CIA contractors being held on their leash; F16s in Italy sitting on the runway, unmanned; Green Berets in the Balkans, sitting and waiting.
Why? That question is left danging out there.
And two of the conservative reviews I’ve actually read mirror the controversy; Armond White thinks Bay defers to entertainment over substance, using the tension as just another showy Michael Bay editing trick. Cranky T-Rex at Hot Air thinks it’s a feature, not a bug:
Bay and screenwriter Chuck Hogan wisely avoid having the story they are telling sidetracked by political concerns. Instead they are able to hammer home the horrible truths about Benghazi that have thus far been written off as Republican political pandering.
Of course, this blog’s standard procedure is to assume all bureaucrats are lying, so you know where my money is.
The movie has been portrayed as a challenge to the inevitability of Hillary’s coronation. I’m way too cynical to think the American people are that perceptive – but hope springs eternal.
Brothers In Arms: The casting, of course, was interesting to say the least.
For starters – if there’s one actor in Hollywood that’s benefitted from being utterly and completely typecast, it has to be Max Martini, as Mark “Oz” Geist.
I interviewed Geist last year – and met him, shortly after that, at an event on the 13 Hours book tour – which was the first time I’d heard that the book was going to become a feature film (which shows you how closely I follow all things Hollywood.
And while I can’t honestly say I thought “Max Martini would be the perfect casting choice to portray Geist”, it all made perfect sense, personally as well as in terms of resemblance, in the actual movie.
Of course, the casting of Jon Krasinski as the pseudonymous and fictional “Jack Silva”, portrayed as a former SEAL colleague of Tyrone “Ty” Woods (played by James Badge Dale, of Longmire fame) is a little riskier. I thought, going in – “Jim Halpert as a SEAL?”
It’s not Krasinski’s first take at a military character (he played a bit part in Jarhead, in 2005), but it’s his first since he became “Jim Halpert” in The Office, one of the best sitcoms of the century so far. Did he blast out of the typecast?
Yes and no – and to the extent that he didn’t, that’s OK, since he’s not in the movie to portray a real former SEAL with a striking resemblance to a sitcom character; he’s basically the audience’s third-person-omniscient stand-in in the story.
Does he pass as a SEAL? Well, he doesn’t pass as the Hollywood stereotype of a SEAL – which is probably a good thing.
So yes, it took me a bit to get past the habits picked up in 11 years of watching The Office (and yes, I’ve seen every episode, at least in the first seven seasons, at least a few times, and yes, it’s better than the Brit version), but I pulled it off.
(The film’s other Office alum, David Denman – who played warehouse worker and Pam’s first fiance “Roy”, plays the real-life David “Boon” Benton, and passes pretty easily as a former Airborne Ranger).
Conclusions: As filmmaking craft? It was great bit of filmmaking. The things that play as whiz-bang cliches in most Michael Bay movies generally work, here.
Acting? It never stretches credulity.
Well, I’ll let you watch it, and leave it to each of you to figure out what you think about it.
Worth seeing in a theater.
When a great actors dies? Well, that’s Sheila O’Malley’s turf. And she’s got Alan Rickman’s obit over at rogerebert.com. I loved the graf about my favorite Rickman film, Truly, Madly, Deeply, which was his American big-screen follow-up to Die Hard:
Rickman could have had a nice career playing villains. But 1990’s “Truly Madly Deeply”, directed byAnthony Minghella, upended expectations. Rickman played Jamie, the ghost of Juliet Stevenson’s dead lover. Stevenson’s character had been grieving the loss for a year, and one night she sits down to play the piano. As she plays, a cello suddenly starts up off-screen, and “Jamie,” who had played the cello in real life, is seen sitting behind her. The reunion that follows is one of such wrenching emotion that it puts “Ghost” to shame. It’s barely romantic. They clutch and hold, they weep and coo, they sob. As “Jamie,” Rickman is both hilarious (he’s always freezing, always cranky) and tragic (if she can’t let him go, then he really can’t let her go.) An entire new world opened up for Alan Rickman, at least in terms of the audience who had only seen him in a gigantic blockbuster as a multinational terrorist-villain. When Jamie says to Nina, “Thank you for missing me,” his tone is quiet and thoughtful, but Rickman filled the line with a sense of almost humility: “This fabulous woman grieved ME this intensely? I have this much value?” His line-reading cracks open the heart of the film.
A sample of his Shakespearean work:
RIP, Alan Rickman.
Over the weekend, I went out looking for a movie to watch. I don’t go to a whole lot of movies, but I’d heard that Truth, the mash note to Mary Mapes and Dan Rather, staring Cate Blanchett and Robert Redford (someone I dimly remember being a star when I was in grade school) had been out for a couple of weeks. So I tried to find it on a screen somewhere in the Metro. It wasn’t so much out of interest, or any expectation that the film would be anything but a rhetorical tongue bath for Rather and Mapes from their BFFs in Hollywood.
But the collapse of Rather (along with the Gordon Kahl shootout) is one of two major news stories where I’ve been, if not “involved”, at least watching from the sidelines rather than the bleachers; John Hinderaker and Scott Johnson were co-hosting the NARN at the time they broke the story; the show on the Saturday following the seminal “Sixty First Minute” posting at Powerline was one of the most intense programs I’ve ever been involved in in my life.
I couldn’t find the movie. A month after release, after a disastrous opening (one of the 100 worst wide-release openings in history), I couldn’t find it anywhere. The shamefully revisionist retelling grossed a little over $2 million on a budget of $11 million. “Lucy Ramirez”, Bill Burkett’s fictional source for the fraudulent documents, is easier to find than a screen playing Truth. 
Now, even the critics thought the movie adequate at best, for starters. But is the fact that it’s also basically unvarnished American progressive propaganda part of the reason it tanked so very very badly?
Tankage: I don’t expect much from our self-appointed coastal “elites”. Most of them serve only as warning signs about the diminishing value of an “elite” education.
But I have always counted on Hollywood, if no one else, knowing how to protect its own market.
Apparently, not so. More and more, Hollywood seems to find its ideology – at the corner of which is preening contempt for everyone who lives between the Hudson river and the Sierra Madre – more important than its bottom line.
And this seems more clear than ever, given last weekend’s box office results; three other “can’t miss” movies open to results anywhere from bad to disastrous. None of the movies were especially political – but their stars certainly took an ill-advised run at it.
“Secret In Their Eyes”, vehicle for Nicole Kidman and Julia Roberts (a pair of women most famous for being redheads married to vastly more talented men back in the 1990s, both of whom have been flexing their hatred for conservatives, Republicans and Christians on overdrive for years) opens to less money than the Northern Alliance earns on a typical weekend.
And the latest Seth Rogen movie – whose name elludes me, but was probably about being really drunk – tanked with a bullet not long after the notoriously self-impressed Rogen erupted in an obscene tirade against Ben Carson for, presumably, leaving the plantation.
Most shockingly? The “can’t miss” final episode in the Hunger Games franchise came in about 20% below expectations.
Why? Well, maybe this:
A mere ten days before the film’s release, Lawrence went so far as to expose her anti-Christian bigotry, telling Vogue magazine that Christians are “those people holding their crucifixes, which may as well be pitchforks, thinking they’re fighting the good fight. I grew up in Kentucky. I know how they are.”
“I know how they are”.
Presumably she means “like a bunch of undergrad Social Justice Warriors out seeking confessions from politically incorrect professors”.
Anyway – these, along with the almost complete lack of box office interest in non-Hurt-Locker-related left-wing propaganda using the War on Terror as a stage, especially compared to efforts like American Sniper, Zero Dark Thirty, Lone Survivor and Act of Valor, which treat war as complex and horrible, but somehow fail to show Americans and American troops as bloodthirsty racists savages, make me wonder – does Hollywood really not care about the market as much as it does carrying the hard-left’s water?
Yes, it’s a partly rhetorical question.
 I know, I know – it was one one screen at the Lagoon – the art-house multiplex over in Uptown. That may actually reinforce my point.