And Now The Oscars Might Have No Host At All…

So Sayeth Variety:

Another option being tossed around is not having any host at all, but rather “a bunch of huge celebs, something ‘SNL’ style, and buzzy people” to keep the show moving, the insiders said. A stunt like a group monologue was floated, one source added.

What’s interesting, aside from the nap I’m going to need because I’m so tired of being right all the time, is that they’re blaming Kevin Hart for not standing there like a man at a mark, with a whole army shooting at him:

One top talent rep wondered why the Academy didn’t more thoroughly vet the host, particularly given that Hart has been asked about some of these jokes in the past.

“My clients are bummed. They’re bummed Kevin didn’t stay the course and serve as an example. It dampens the experience, hopefully [the Academy] can pull it together so we can focus on the excitement,” said the rep.

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Why, that looks suspiciously like confirmation of the thing Kevin Hart said when he “passed on the apology”. You know, the fact that he’s been asked about this stuff before, has dealt with it, and doesn’t want to deal with it again. But… if they knew that, then why would they offer him the host job, with no seeming plan in place for dealing with the predictable outrage?

They weren’t planning on the outrage happening, now were they?

Was this the plan?

  1. Hire edgy (but non-threatening) comic to host.
  2. Wait for someone to notice past edginess, which does not jibe with present edginess requirements.
  3. Issue ultimatum that he apologize for past edginess.
  4. ???????
  5. Edgy (but chastened) comic hosts new Super-Rainbow-Friendly Oscars. PROFIT!

I think that was the plan. Then again, if they’re seriously considering turning the Oscar’s into a SNL-style group-hosting madness, they might not know what “plan” means. Then again, if they actually do that, I might actually watch the Oscars this year, just to taste the sheer horror of it.

Probably not, though.

Do the Oscars Really Need a Host?

So here’s how the Kevin Hart thing went down:

  1. The Academy (whoever they are) offers a comedian a job being meh funny for a few hours while pretty people in gowns walk across the stage to announce other pretty people in gowns and then give each other shiny statues.
  2. Activists on Twitter (whoever they are) digs back through his tweets and his standup routine from ten years ago and discovered stuff that was not all about the LGBT community.
  3. The Usual Call for Apology is issued.
  4. Comedian posts video stating that he’s Moved On from That Time, and everyone else should.
  5. This is Not Good Enough.
  6. Comedian posts another video declining to apologize on the grounds that he’s Addressed This Before.
  7. This is Super Not Good Enough.
  8. Comedian announces that he’s declined the gig, whereupon he apologizes.

Other than the apology coming after the point when it might have done any good (not really, though), this is obligatory. The only question is how soon we’ll get the Burned by Oscar Controversey, Comedian Mounts Comeback narrative. My guess is next year, depending on whether his next flick with The Rock performs above or below box office expectations.

The obvious question now is, who hosts now? The more interesting question is, why anyone? I’m completely serious. The perennial complaint of the Oscars is they go on too long. What better way to slice the Gordian knot of technical awards and laundry lists of people to thank than removing the superfluous element of what’s ostensibly an award show?

All the introductory elements of the show can be handled by one of those navel-gazing retrospectives. All the introducing can be done by some red-carpet casualty who’s not up for any awards (that’s 90% of what happens now anyway).

All hosting the Oscars gets for you is the harrumphing consensus that you should never do it again, partly because one of your weak one-liners Offended someone, and partly because you’re Not Billy Chrystal, who remains the only acceptable Oscar host (along with Zombie Jonnie Carson) in the eyes of people who care about such things. And there’s a low six-figure paycheck, which sounds nice from where I sit, but I don’t have to pay for Southern California real estate or Hollywood divorce lawyers.

Skip it, give the people their statues, and let’s get on with the mindless speculation about what’s gonna go up next year.

Ace Of Spades Does “The Other Side of The Wind”

ie9ybrhceuuozazbrohuAs part of a retrospective on Welles for its weekly movie post.

His opinion matches my own. It’s an odd little movie, ambitious and self-referential, with an element of satire, both of Hollywood culture in the 70’s and of the art-house trends of that decade. The film within the film, which has the same title, is colorful and stunning to look at but also incredibly basic, to the point of being plotless. That’s a pretty strong critique of what avant-garde cinema tends to do, which is to say, spin its wheels fast enough to dispense with such pedestrian things as narrative, and then to expect plaudits for it. Which it usually gets, because, as the main movie demonstrates, everone wants to act like they’re in, even when nothing they’re looking at makes any sense at all.

Is it as good as Citizen Kane? I don’t think so, but what is? Not that I accept the notion that Kane is the Greatest Movie Ever Made, (because what does that even mean?) but it is a good movie. Kane tells a man’s story, beginning to end, and in the process of doing that leaves open the notion that for everything we know about him, there was more, a core of him that he alone will take to the grave. It’s watchable and provocative.

This doesn’t rise to that height. It lacks the Everyman subject. Movies about Hollywood are inevitably more interesting to people who are in Hollywood than the rest of us, and while it’s certainly fun to see Welles pronounce a plague on all their houses (if in fact that’s what he’s doing, but I think that’s there), there’s a kind of been-there-done-that to such a message. The provincialism of the elite is a well-mined subject.

But that’s just my opinion. There’s a larger value to the work that makes it worth checking out:

This is like discovering that Emily Dickenson had a complete collection of poetry hidden under her mattress since her death, or da Vinci had created another masterpiece but no one had laid eyes on it since the 16th century. This is akin to finding a trove of Greek drama previously unknown to exist, or a lost Shakespeare play.

I’d advise looking at the accompanying documentary, They’ll Love Me When I’m Dead, as well.

Why Vice is Writing About Astrology

Apparently it’s 1971 or something, because Vice UK has a whole subsection of Astrological blather. It’s tongue-in-cheek, but also not:

But that’s not what brought me in. What brought me in was this exercise in Making Astrology Woke: Why Straight Men Hate Astrology So Much.

Astrology give Teh Marginalized a means of control and order in the cishetcarnophallocentricpatriarchy, you see.

To understand your and others’ personalities, to try to predict the future: ultimately, it’s grasping for control, when we have none. Women and queer people are drawn to astrology because it offers community and refuge, something to lean on during a time in which religion has taken a backseat. In a heterosexual patriarchy, cis-het men arguably have less to seek refuge from.

Do you ever notice how paragraphs of this kind can be, and regularly are, written about almost anything? Today it’s Astrology, yestrday it was Yoga, tomorrow it will be the new Woke edition of the I Ching. Always with the same rhetorical point: this new thing is better because the Right Sort of People are doing it, and the Wrong Sort are the ones who disparage it, because that feeds their Wrongness. We’ve gotten to the point where the derpy advice columns that have been sitting in the back of your newspaper for a century and more are being turned into a badge of #thestruggle by trowelling a pile of Frankfort School Crit-Theory manure all over it. Welcome to 2018.

What does my horrible self think of astrology? Not much, by which I mean, I don’t think about it a lot. Astrology is a means of organizing random data to create a map of your persona with concomitant suggestions as to when you should do stuff.

Is it valid? Shrug

Is it harmful? I can see if you took it way too seriously, it could be. I don’t know how many people do.

To me it’s like Jungian archetypes or Freud’s id, ego and superego: a heuristic of human impulses and needs. If you find it useful, go nuts. Just don’t expect anyone else to go for it in the same way.

And if you insist on making a shibboleth out of it, don’t be surprised at how those in the out-group react.

Someone Hold Dan Akroyd Down and Make Him Stop Babbling About Ghostbusters 3

Let. It. Go.

For over two decades there was talk of a third Ghostbusters movie, but that particular phantasm never materialized. Instead we got 2016’s Ghostbusters, a reboot of the property with an all-new cast that suffered all kinds of controversy and ultimately failed to be a hit at the box office. That seemingly killed another Ghostbusters in that continuity, but perhaps it opened the door for a true Ghostbusters 3. In fact, Ghostbusters 3 is currently in the works according to Dan Aykroyd, who said:

The same nonsense he always says, it’s being written, he’s hopeful, he thinks Bill Murray will want to, blah blah blah.

Don’t.

Just don’t.

Ghostbusters was a good movie. A classic, even. Ghostbusters 2 was… enh. The cartoon was a cartoon. The reboot bombed. We don’t need another Ghostbusters movie. We don’t need to “save” the “franchise”. It’s not a fucking fast food chain, it’s a movie. Just one movie that was entertaining in 1984. The rest of the dreck that’s been built around it is forgettable and unimportant. Another movie is unnecessary and would accomplish nothing but spark unending debates and wearisome attempts at drollery by idiots on social media. 

The time and money spent on whether determining whether another Ghostbusters movie could be better spent on creating a genuine and new piece of entertainment that could itself become memorable and rewatchable over and over again. 

One of the obstacles preventing Ghostbusters 3 from happening over the years has actually been Bill Murray, who never seemed particularly interested– feeling that there was no way to live up to the original.

If this is true, then the world owes Bill Murray a debt of thanks. I’ve seen some people – like the Red Letter Media guys – blame Bill Murray’s intransigence for the existence of the reboot. That’s nonsense on stilts. Ghostbusters, but With Girls was fated to happen the day some idiot at Sony figured out he could shill some Pepsi and Papa Johns Pizza that way. They ran with it because reboots generate their own press, and controversies generate more. Because existing IP’s are the golden ticket for getting movie audiences in the door, right?

Right?

Bill Murray is right. No more Ghostbusters. No more dumb sequels, unnecessary reboots, and nostalgia pieces. Make something that doesn’t suck. Make art, you monkeys.

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Quick Review: The Outlaw King

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What the wags have called Braveheart 2 came out this week on Netflix, and being a medievalist nerd, I was all about it.

It is a more accurate film that Braveheart in several respects. For one, it gives us the real struggle Robert the Bruce had in claiming the throne of Scotland. None of this sudden Hollywood climax decision with a full army at his back for the Bruce: he had to claw his way to power, bearing a crown no one respected, hiding in the heather from his own countrymen for a number of years. For another, it’s depiction of Edward I of England is probably truer than the cartoon villain Braveheart gave us. If you loved Patrick McGoohan’s moustache-pulling (and who doesn’t? “The trouble with Scotland is that it’s full of Scots!” that’s A+ movie-villainry right there), you might not like the merely iron-fisted politician this film gives us. But Edward I of England wasn’t a cartoon, he was a real man, a puissant ruler and crusader, a man who struggled to restore royal authority after the turbulent reigns of his grandfather John and his father Henry III, and largely succeeded. Call out his excess in this if you like. Say that his cruelty to the Scots crosses the line into wickedness – I can’t refute it.  But he was a man, and not a devil, and this movie does him the courtesy of making that real. You may not recognize Stephen Dillane – Stannis Baratheon from Game of Thrones – in the part, but you will appreciate him.

However, when it comes to Edward II, I think the earlier film got it right:  the second of the Three Edwards (for a century, from 1277 to 1377, the King of England had the same name) seems to really have been a dilettante who had neither capacity nor wish to charge into battle at the head of an army. We see the younger Edward’s weakness in Braveheart, his terror of his father, and silent yearning to be utterly unlike him (a yearning that made him a poor ruler indeed). In this film, the younger Edward is just a bad chip off the old block.

The film doesn’t run the length of Braveheart, so it can’t spend the time building and enriching the emotional life of the characters. We don’t quite see Robert’s emotional motivation to rebel in the same way we saw William Wallace’s. Chris Pine holds more back than Gibson does, preferring to act with his eyes in something of a slow burn. How well he pulls that off is for the viewer to decide.

Bottom Line: it’s both less thrilling and less fanciful than Braveheart. It runs close to the truth, and is never boring. Worth a watch.