Tag: Hollywood

Hollywood: The Scene That Celebrates Itself

 

Actor and comedian Ricky Gervais did the unthinkable Sunday night: he made an awards show interesting. As millionaire celebrities and billionaire moguls congratulated each other at the start of another tedious awards season, Gervais took a flamethrower to the house of cards.

In this room are some of the most important TV and film executives in the world. People from every background. They all have one thing in common: They’re all terrified of Ronan Farrow. He’s coming for ya. Talking of all you perverts, it was a big year for pedophile movies. Surviving R. Kelly, Leaving Neverland, Two Popes. Shut up. Shut up. I don’t care. I don’t care.

…You could binge-watch the entire first season of “Afterlife” instead of watching this show. That’s a show about a man who wants to kill himself ’cause his wife dies of cancer and it’s still more fun than this. Spoiler alert, season two is on the way so in the end he obviously didn’t kill himself. Just like Jeffrey Epstein. Shut up. I know he’s your friend but I don’t care.

We’ve got three compelling martinis to help you ease back into that first day back at work or school.  Join Jim and Greg as they applaud comedian Ricky Gervais for hammering Hollywood for its hypocrisy and self-importance at the Golden Globe Awards Sunday evening on topics ranging from Harvey Weinstein to Jeffrey Epstein to Chinese sweat shops.  Jim also urges President Trump to stop threatening to strike cultural sites in Iran because military targets make much more sense and discussing cultural sites could turn other nations against us.  And they cringe as the video of Julian Castro endorsing Elizabeth Warren comes across as inauthentic, with Castro coming to Warren’s house, telling Warren how wonderful she is, and Warren agreeing with him.

Hollywood Directors in the Golden Era: 3 Autobiographies

 

I picked Raoul Walsh’s “Each Man in His Time” (1974) off the shelves. I very seldom look at it; it’s one of the least re-read of my film books, scoring maybe one and a half re-reads in forty-five years. Walsh, born in 1887, worked as a young man for D.W. Griffith and his career as a director was already fifteen years on when sound came in. Amazingly, his work would span all the way from “Birth of a Nation” to the end of the Fifties. Walsh credibly manages to equate the end of his directing career with the end of classic Hollywood altogether, and ties in the deaths of Humphrey Bogart (1957), Errol Flynn (1959), Clark Gable and Gary Cooper (1961) as being the last of the major stars of the classic period.

Like many autobiographies, we can guess that some of these detailed memories were written years before Walsh turned 87, and I have no doubt that some or even a lot of it is exaggerated. But this is one of those books where you have to say “If even a third of this is true…” as Raoul Walsh stands on the set of “Intolerance”, rides with Pancho Villa, directs Fox’s first sound film, discovers John Wayne, has an affair with Pola Negri and about, oh, 500 other women, goes to the racetrack with Winston Churchill, becomes a regular guest at San Simeon, and takes Jimmy Cagney to the “Top of the world, Ma!” Quite a life.

Weinstein, Messing, and McCormack: A Study on Power and Control

 

“Will and Grace” was a TV show that aired about a decade and a half ago. It was based around the lives of four friends, two of whom were gay, living in New York. The show was funny; it was good, it made me laugh. NBC decided to bring it back, but this time their goal was to do as many seasons as they could bashing President Trump and his supporters. And bash they did, for three entire seasons. And it was as boring as can be.

Eric McCormack and Debra Messing play the title characters, Will and Grace. Now McCormack and Messing have both taken their roles as Trump bashers off the set and into the streets of Twitter.

There is a fundraiser in Beverly Hills for Donald Trump, and McCormack and Messing would have nothing of the sort in their backyard.

You Say You Want a Revolution, Part 3

 

In a recent post, we revisited fifty years ago, a cultural turning point with many similarities to today’s, a tumultuous, angry year when much of Hollywood saw mass audiences respond to Easy Rider and M.A.S.H. But inadvertently, it triggered a powerful law-and-order backlash whose inexhaustible fury would ensure that Archie Bunker, General Patton, Dirty Harry, Popeye Doyle, Vito Corleone, and Charles Bronson would provide the most iconic screen moments of the early Seventies.

To understate things, it sure seems today like a lot of people in this country, tens of millions of media consumers, are frustrated by their relative powerlessness. The Woke Market is not as big or bigger than the rest of America put together, and yet you’d never know that if you looked at a list of current films or TV shows. We can debate the reasons why, but there’s clearly an unsatisfied need to hotwire a path to cultural change, because whatever market mechanism is sending a corrective signal to the media, it’s not reaching enough of a real response.

Marshall Herskovitz, writer, director and producer (thirtysomething, My So-Called Life, Dangerous Beauty), drops by to talk about how he got his start in Hollywood, when he decided he’d rather fail and leave the business than keep writing things that didn’t feel like him, the TV movie that kick-started his and partner Ed Zwick’s careers into high gear, and what kind of reboot he would do for thirtysomething if the opportunity arose. Learn why he, Ed, and Winnie Holzman wound up sobbing when they had to do the DVD commentary for the My So-Called Life pilot, why they were terrified of Claire Danes, and why the way we define risk is so destructive in our society. Marshall shares how making Dangerous Beauty (one of Bridget’s all-time favorite films) was his all-time favorite experience in the business, what the film meant to him, and the reason for its incredible longevity after initially bombing at the box office. They discuss everything from the extreme the changes in the movie and television industry in the last 10 years, to the truth about climate change, how Democrats are getting the messaging wrong, the difference between investment and cost, and how the economy is like a bottle of wine. Don’t miss Bridget’s story about Jared Leto and Marshall’s story about Brad Pitt.

Silver Screen? Or Distant Mirror?

 

Half a century ago, as the final year of the Sixties unfolded, Hollywood studios looked at the youthful trends of the previous year and loaded themselves up with inexpensive campus political dramas, left-wing fare that would be ready for release in the spring and summer of 1970. “The Strawberry Statement”, “The Revolutionary”, “Revolutions Per Minute” and “Zabriskie Point” were one-sided bets on what audiences at the dawn of the Seventies would be eager to pay for—sympathetic, appealing violent dramas and coarse comedies about campus rioters who sleep around and curse a lot. To the chagrin of Hollywood planners, who were usually stuck with two-year lead times on feature film projects, they bet wrong. There will always be an audience for violent drama and coarse comedy; it was the “rioters” aspect, the anti-police violence as entertainment that proved to be an astoundingly tin-eared wrong step on Hollywood’s part. It would cause an enduring, decades-long counter-reaction that at the time was dismissed as a transient “backlash”.

The Vietnam War was still near its height as springtime ’70 brought on the protesting season, as it’s been in much of western Europe since the 1830s or thereabout. The first Earth Day was planned for April 22, and would be the most peaceful of the year’s mass demonstrations. The campuses were already primed to explode. Mine literally did in March, when a homemade bomb killed its radical builder and leveled a Greenwich Village townhouse. When President Nixon announced an incursion into Cambodia—okay, raids, an invasion, let’s not be too fussy—the semester was nearly over anyway and many campuses, although non-violent, were also non-functional. When four students were killed at Kent State University on May 4th, school ground to a halt all over the country.

You Say You Want a Revolution, Part 2

 

Here’s what this post, and last week’s post are about: The cultural changes in the media that Ricochet readers don’t like didn’t happen by pure accident. They took decades. We propose equally patient, persistent, but ruthlessly effective efforts to push culture in another direction over the next 20-plus years. We are chewing over how to create or capture a big chunk of tomorrow’s media and the arts. It’s a myth that nothing can be done about the entertainment business. Success is Hollywood’s definitive history teacher.

@drewinwisconsin raises a tough point. He said, “So that’s probably why it’s important to try to change or break the current system rather than try to build an equivalent system that will have no users. Consider how much power and scope Google+ had, and it still couldn’t survive against Facebook. And that’s Google — already a malignant influence.”

How the Nerds Took Revenge

 

We were all once nerds, or cool kids, jocks, bullies, dorks, AV cart-pushers, theater geeks, motorheads, preppies, break dancers, valley girls, wastoids, heshers, skaters, surfers, outcasts, and teacher’s pets. Microchip technology was nascent as we learned the term “hacker” from Matthew Broderick changing his grades via modem, while Anthony Michael Hall demonstrated how hyperactive geeks could end up with the Homecoming Queen.

We delighted in watching nerds take revenge. After all, those narcissistic jocks deserved it, which became an oft-repeated trope in many films of the 1980s. The smartest, but most socially awkward would exact vengeance on anyone who previously shunned them, both men and women. While comedic in tone and extremely satisfying to watch at the time, there’s no doubt that said retribution has since morphed into something darker; the entitled psyche of yesterday’s and today’s disenfranchised.

Many eggheads of our youth now run the world’s most valuable technology platforms. With great power came their real-life payback to manipulate people and greater society. As we debate whether the centralized platforms need to be broken up as the FAANGs openly admit to controlling free speech for political purposes, (see Google’s Plan to Prevent “Trump situation” in 2020), quietly they have been steadily using their clout and muscle to turn us all, including their own colleagues, into chattel. Not to suggest every executive in Silicon Valley behaves this way, but many do. With more wealth than most people can earn in ten lifetimes, the enlightened ones turn coworkers into prostitutes by attending tech orgies; a gateway for those who want to advance their careers. The titans of Silicon Valley, well-known people, use sex for sport all while publicly advocating #MeToo and other woke platitudes to an enabling media salivating at any opportunity to interview tech icons.

Hollywood Conservatives

 

On the radio: President Calvin Coolidge, being welcomed to Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios by Louis B. Mayer.

He was born Lazar Meir. By the time he was America’s highest-paid man and the most powerful Hollywood boss in history, he’d done more than anglicize his name; he set the standard for a pioneer generation of studio chiefs who believed in America with the fervent, grateful conviction of people who’d seen the worst of what the Old World could do. Mayer kept a plaster elephant on his desk as a playful, or sometimes a not-so-playful reminder that MGM’s boss was no New Dealer. He was a delegate to the Republican national conventions of 1928 and 1932 and the state chairman of the California Republican Party in the early Thirties. He wasn’t alone, of course. There were always some Republicans and conservatives in Golden Age Hollywood, though those terms don’t always line up with our present-day understanding of them; stars like Ginger Rogers, Fred MacMurray, Barbara Stanwyck, and Robert Taylor, writers like Morrie Ryskind. There’s a scholarly monograph waiting to be written about that forgotten history, but this post isn’t it. With the greatest respect for the people and events of that era, there’s little or no living connection with the people and the issues of today. What has Hollywood Conservatism been in our own times? How is it organized, and by who?

Blacklist! Hollywood Communists 4

 

Stars Face Blacklist” screams the headline. Most people who’ve heard of the blacklist will immediately think of Joe McCarthy in 1954, of witch hunts and ruthless right wing inquisitors. But look again: the headline is from 1945, the earliest known use of the term in Hollywood. It’s the Hollywood Left threatening to boycott non-striking actors—in other words, it’s the opposite of what you’d think. A lot of what people know about that period just isn’t so. Communist writer Lillian Hellman later called it “Scoundrel Time”. But a far better writer, Mary McCarthy, famously said of Hellman, “Every word she ever wrote is a lie, including “and” and “the””.

This is the second half of the story begun in Hollywood Communists 3. In The Road to the Blacklist, we described how Party-backed union leadership tried to push out workers from other unions, and how those bloody labor wars turned most of Hollywood against them. It was a genuine case of revolt, led by the actors, and it caused a generation of liberals to break with the Reds who presented themselves as friends and allies before and during the war. By 1947 the mutual process of kicking out the infidels was in full swing on both sides of the Red line. Mere lily-livered socialists not up to backing tough new Party policies were expelled. On the anti-Communist side, union members who’d proven themselves faithless to IATSE had some explaining to do. It was not always a gentle process but it was overdue.

ACF Critic Series #27: Classical Music and Evil

 

Today, I am joined by Theodore Gioia for a conversation on how classical music became the favored soundtrack for evil, villainous masterminds. What happened to classical music in Hollywood! How did we get from classical music ennobling movies and deepening characterization — to Hannibal Lecter murdering people to Bach’s Goldberg variations! We start from his fine essay over at The American Scholar. You can also find more of his essays over at his site!

Hollywood Communists 3, Part 1: The Road to the Blacklist

 

You look at news film of a violent event and it’s chaos; in the blur of shaky, confused images it’s hard to tell who is hitting who, who is on which side, and who started the riot. But sometimes you can learn a great deal going over it frame by frame. You see the subtle flash of a concealed knife, a face in the distant background being shoved out of sight, and a group of men who always seem clustered around someone getting a beating. Suddenly you can see what really happened as it was experienced on the ground, in the middle of the fight. Run the film again. Now it all seems so obvious; why didn’t you see it the first time?

In Episode 1, early Hollywood was undergoing the tumult of entering the sound era, then the Depression, and the left wing of the labor movement began a war between film craft unions that mirrored the harsher, more realistic conflicts that were beginning to seep onto the silver screen. In Episode 2, we took a close look at one specific case study, the Disney strike of 1941, how it was a high water mark of forced organizing, the backlash it caused, and what the longer range consequences were. Now, in Episode 3, we get to the main event, the top bout of the fight card, the real story of the Hollywood blacklist, told in two parts. As before, a number of sources will be pulled in, but the most useful source on this controversial period is Kenneth Lloyd Billingsley’s “Hollywood Party” (1998, Prima Publishing). He didn’t just do a “conservative” job; he wrote a detailed, definitive, nailed-down final chapter in this sorry saga that should receive more attention from film historians.

You probably know what the Hollywood blacklist was, although it lasted less than a decade and ended more than sixty years ago. It’s legendary; you have to at least heard of it. It’s one of the central events of the Crucifixion pageant of the American Left, remembered as a senseless random political purge of all our most talented writers, the Hollywood Ten. The punishment that Joe McCarthy and the American Right shoved down Hollywood’s throat for the sins of being for civil rights and world peace. These people were never Communists, and so what if they were? A generation of idealistic Hollywood acting and writing talent, working so industriously for years within the studio system, went down the drain, hauled off to jail, driving cabs and pumping gas instead of creating the healing works America so badly needed and so badly lacked in our backward, frightening postwar era.

Hollywood Communists part 2: The Disney Strike

 

Strikers confront non-strikers at the front gate of Walt Disney Studios, June 1941. News photo via El Lado Oscuro de Disney. All rights belong to copyright holder. 

Los Angeles is a modern city, a big postwar suburb with few visible traces of its long past. Hollywood doesn’t have monuments, and on its streets there’s little sense of history. But then, like a face in the crowd suddenly snapping into focus, you realize that history is staring at you, that maybe the town’s biggest secrets aren’t even secrets at all, just hiding in plain sight.

By the Time I Got to Hollywood, the Communists Were Disappearing

 

Lester Cole, member of the “Hollywood Ten”, on the Moscow River with our Soviet guides/handlers. July 1985, weeks before he died. 

Maybe I should explain that title. I’m talking old school, OG, bottled in bond Hollywood Communists. Stalin, that kind of stuff. I’ve known a few. This begins a short series of sketches and book reviews about their lives and times in motion pictures.

In the beginning, and for decades thereafter, there were virtually no Communists in Hollywood. Surprised? The early film industry didn’t take itself very seriously and was apolitical both on screen and off. Hollywood was a more seasonal, fly-by-night business in those days, with hiring subject to things like weather and the number of hours of daily sunlight, not to mention the often erratic economic conditions of the employers. Film production wasn’t yet factory-like in the silent days; then, as now, most cast and crew members were freelancers, subject to frequent layoffs and long gaps between jobs.

Member Post

 

I’ve finally seen this movie, which is supposed be the movie that A Star is Born used as its inspiration. While the premise is similar, I would say that to go beyond saying that the first version of a Star is Born may have been suggested by this movie is stretching things. They are two […]

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The Real Story Behind ‘On the Basis of Sex’

 

The new highly publicized movie “On the Basis of Sex” offers a somewhat fictionalized account of the early professional life of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Intermingled with her life story, the film presents an idealized narrative of her early legal crusade against gender discrimination, fought in part with her late (and most devoted) husband, the eminent tax lawyer Martin Ginsburg.

Ginsburg argued or participated in several of the early influential cases on sex discrimination and went on to found the Women’s Rights Project at the American Civil Liberties Union. When she started teaching, she was one of only about 20 female law professors in the United States.  She was very much a pioneer in the women’s rights movement, motivated by her own life experiences. She had on numerous occasions been rejected from positions solely on grounds of her sex, notwithstanding her great academic distinction, and was well aware that similar obstacles fell in the path of other women who sought to make a career in the law. The film goes into these issues in depth, but I shall not dwell on them here. I am a lawyer, not a film critic, so I will comment only on Justice Ginsburg’s substantive arguments against gender discrimination

Most legal writers support Justice Ginsburg’s position that both the Due Process and the Equal Protection Clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment prohibit government discrimination on the basis of sex. I offer a split verdict on her legal efforts and of those who followed in her path. I think that she was right on the early cases that sought to get rid of senseless distinctions based on gender.  But as the law subsequently developed, she and the courts pushed the crusade too far, creating new forms of gender imbalance that the law should have resisted. Failure to understand the economics of discrimination have led courts to impose new versions of the very discrimination that the law is intended to eliminate. In general, truly competitive markets do a better job in rooting out gender discrimination than government regulation.

Member Post

 

The 90’s came and went. The priestly abuse scandal came, went and returned. Little was done to fix the problem. As has been discussed here, those who tried to act meaningfully were marginalized. Now, of all people, it looks like Francis is taking action. https://nypost.com/2018/12/03/pope-francis-says-gay-men-shouldnt-join-catholic-clergy/   Preview Open

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Gosnell Red Carpet Premiere (VIDEO)

 

Our latest episode of Whiskey Politics (video below) joins the stars on the red carpet premiere of the movie Gosnell, The Trial of America’s Biggest Serial Killer. The script was written by our good friend @AndrewKlavan and stars Dean Cain and Nick Searcy, who also directs. This movie shouldn’t have happened as Hollywood blacklisted any investment, all distribution channels and social media banned any advertising (such as the trailer below). But with crowdfunding and years of dedication, the movie will be released tomorrow across the country. The movie was very good and compelling. It’s handling sensitive issues in a way that makes the audience think, while not gratuitously showing scenes none of us would want to see. It’s appropriate for kids, although that will be a tough discussion on the ride home. If you enjoy Law and Order, you will sink right into this. 

This week Bridget Phetasy interviews Rosie Moss, actress, waitress, Bar/Bat Mitzvah coach, Hebrew school teacher, very busy human. Rosie shares her first experience on a network show in an episode of The Connors. She and Bridget discuss traversing the chasm between your dreams and reality, the curse of always wanting more, why the people you surround yourself with are what make you successful, and how touch football saved her.