Hollywood’s Monster Parade: Scott Rudin

A little while back, I analyzed Kevin Spacey through the lens of one of an indie Hollywood navel-gazer, Swimming With Sharks. It was, I decided a window on Spacey’s soul, the self-justification of all immorality “It was like this when I got here.” But beyond that, the story had a mark of truth to it, in that it was describing a very real kind of office tyranny.

On a larger level, this piece of art from 1994 underlines the reality that Hollywood has always been this way, that Weinstein and Spacey and everyone else are just the current manifestations of an industry in which youth and beauty and popularity and every expression of the human soul is a commodity sold by the theater seat. Entertainment is high-reward, high-risk: and the wisdom of William Goldman: “Nobody knows anything”, means that you will lose money just as often as you gain it (even a piece of a sure-thing like Solo: a Star Wars Story, is looking like a big fat pile of disappointment for Disney). Consequently, someone who pays his dues and has a track record of bringing home the bacon gets a pass for whatever swinery happens behind closed doors.

The Darkness of Kevin Spacey: Swimming With Sharks and How Hollywood Breeds Monsters

Behold, the real-life Buddy Ackerman, Scott Rudin.

Most of it is what you would expect from “terrible boss”: screaming tirades, insults, throwing things, absurdly specific commandments, classic abuser behavior. But here’s the kicker:

Chellie Campbell worked as an assistant to Rudin and his boss at the time, television and film producer Edgar Scherick, from 1982 to 1984 in Los Angeles. Having worked with Rudin when he was in his early 20s, Campbell saw a different side of the producer than assistants in later decades. While Rudin was demanding and would yell at Campbell, Scherick’s constant angry outbursts were much worse, she said. She felt that Scherick’s actions signaled to Rudin that this type of behavior was acceptable. Campbell, who is currently 71 and a “financial stress reduction” coach, left the entertainment industry after working for Rudin and Scherick. She recalled the first job interview she had after leaving: “They said, ‘Well, the main thing we want to know is if you can work with difficult people.’ I burst out laughing. I said, ‘Let me tell you some stories.’”

“He would have been 23, 24, and had just come from New York, where he had gotten a very early start at age 16. He was very charming during the job interview. Very nice to me. I was about ten years older than him. I remember him asking if it bothered me that I was older than him. I said, “No, you’re a producer. I’m not. I’m happy to learn what you know.” I worked for him for about nine months and then I moved up to working for Edgar. I found much more anger and eruption from Edgar. He was so volatile. One time he jumped up on my desk, screaming at the office runner who did errands all the time. I had never seen people behave like that. And that was happening all the time. Scott, it seems to me, kind of got permission. These people are not alone in the motion-picture industry of being screamers.”

Vulture.com, “Scott Rudin, As Told By His Assistants”

Well, of course. He didn’t just decide to act that way; he learned that it would be acceptable, permissible within the entertainment industry. The hungry need the powerful, the powerful feed off the hungry. It’s a servile relationship by its very definition. The Law of Averages dictates that some will ride this to the extreme. It was always thus; it will always be thus.

Which is why that no sane person can read the ritualized outpourings of corporatized sentiment seriously:

“I want to say how much I respect and applaud the people that have spoken up about their experience working with Scott Rudin. It takes an enormous amount of courage and strength to stand up and state your truth. This has started a conversation that is long overdue, not just on Broadway, and the entertainment industry, but across all workforce. The most important voice we needed to hear from was Scott Rudin, he has now spoken up and stepped away from The Music Man. I hope and pray this is a journey of healing for all the victims and the community. We are currently rebuilding the Music Man team and are aspiring to create an environment that is not only safe, but ensures that everyone is seen, heard and valued. This is something that is and has always been very important to me.”

Hugh Jackman, in a statment that was totally not written for him, on Twitter.

Honestly, who believes any of that is genuine? It’s all the same language that everyone is expected to say in these situations, as formulaic as a Marvel origin story. You could play Bingo with it: “respect and applaud”, “courage and strength”, “state your truth”, “started a conversation,” “journey of healing” “aspiring to create,” “everyone is seen, heard and valued”, YATZEE!. A bot could write this. Meanwhile someone Scott Rudin trained is already turning his own office into a tiny post-modern gulag. The “conversation” won’t happen. No one will be seen, heard, or valued. The Beat Goes On.

Therefore, what is the purpose of these outings? Is it just that it’s this one’s turn, like Harvey Weinstein before him? Or is it that, some reptilitian portion of the brain really likes these kinds of stories? Who doesn’t enjoy tales of monsters, get off on the vicarious thrill of power? And Hollywood has always loved the dark image in the mirror. Fear Us, For We Are Beasts, say the deracinated nerds who abuse each other for points before the gross. So, let this pig take the fall. He’s got it coming, and there will always be another one, and if there isn’t, we’ll make one.

Vulture – “Devouring Culture”. Indeed.

I Almost Saw “Tenet”, But Didn’t. Apparently I’m Not Alone.

My wife suggested we go see it, when we had a free evening. I was willing, but not enthusiastic. In the end, we ended up not doing that instead. The film had good word of mouth, and I know Nolan to be a competent director, but the excitement to do it wasn’t there. And according to Variety, my experience is microcosmic:

Christopher Nolan’s “Tenet” willed itself past the $300 million mark globally this weekend even as the overall domestic box office appeared to be on the verge of collapse.

Disney’s “Hocus Pocus,” a Bette Middler comedy that flopped when it was initially released in 1993, but became a cult hit on cable and streaming, almost matched “Tenet’s” grosses in North America and beat those of “The New Mutants.” Re-released just in time for Halloween,” “Hocus Pocus” picked up $1.9 million from 2,570 theaters. “Tenet” earned $2.7 million from 2,722 venues, pushing its domestic haul to a paltry $45.1 million. “The New Mutants” eked out $1 million from 2,154 locations, bringing its domestic total to $20.9 million

Variety.com, “‘Tenet’ Tops $300 Million Globally, but Domestic Box Office Is in Crisis Mode

Getting beat by “Hocus Pocus” (a film whose charms have always eluded me), is newsworthy enough, but the deeper question is why? There’s a whiff of a suggestion in the article that the Pandemic is to blame, but I’m not buying it? If people are willing to come out for a re-release of a Bette Midler cult hit, why not a buzzworthy film from a seasoned director? Is this just Millennial Nostalgia choking off the roots of everything else, like a weed?

Or is this the Uninteresting Name factor, as with “John Carter” back in 2012? I for one wondered what “Tenet” was supposed to refer to? A tenet of what? For whom? What kind of movie is this? Arty? Action? Arty-Action? The name doesn’t tell you anything. All we have to go on is director-name-recognition. And it appears Nolan is no Tarantino in this regard.

It might be that the pandemic suspicion is correct, in a different way. It might be that the habit of Going To The Movies is fundamentally altered, and we don’t go to the cinema anymore unless we really feel it’s “worth it”. Things were moving in this direction anyway, and the lockdowns didn’t help. Sure, “Tenet”, whatever it is, might be good, but I don’t know, and do I want to pay $40 to find out? I’ll just wait for it to stream.

The consequences of this are real. If Hollywood can’t sell a big-name director, with a lot of buzz, then their business model is fundamentally flawed.

How ‘Stranger Things’ Got Passed Around Hollywood

In the midst of fisking the usual gang of idiots about raaaaaaacism, Larry Correia lets drop an interesting factoid:

For a long time entertainment tried to lump as many customers as possible into one big box to provide dumb bland mushy product to. To make a living at this stuff you needed to sell to everybody, including the easily offended. Now, you just need to appeal to one group of fans, and what appeals to them might not appeal to everybody, but screw those guys. You can make what you want. Technology has evolved so that you can get your product right in front of your target audience. It isn’t just books either. Stranger Things got rejected by something like 15 networks for being too weird, and now it is a hit on Netflix.

I double-checked to make sure that was true, and according to this article in Rolling Stone, Correia was low-balling it:

After they wrote the initial Stranger Things script, they never thought they’d have a chance at pitching Netflix; they thought it was only a place for established names like Orange Is the New Black creator Jenji Kohan and House of Cards producer, director David Fincher. Matt estimates the brothers were rejected 15 to 20 times by various networks, while other execs had balked at the idea that the show featured four kids as lead characters but that it wasn’t TV for children. “You either gotta make it into a kids show or make it about this Hopper [detective] character investigating paranormal activity around town,” one told them. Matt recalls replying, “Then we lose everything interesting about the show.” Some other people they knew in the industry understood their vision and helped connect them with Netflix. “There was a week where we were like, ‘This isn’t going to work because people don’t get it,‘” Matt says.

That’s the thing about the entertainment/content industry: they have to have product to connect with an audience, but they can’t know ahead of time what will, and there’s a cost factor with every bet. So if they gate-keepers don’t get it, viscerally, instantly, they assume that the disinterested masses won’t bother. Because the entertainment industry isn’t about connecting audiences and content, it’s about connecting audiences and content in such away that maximizing profit and minimizes loss. Thus, people are going to pass on things because they’re not getting it.

This message has been brought to you by trendiness:

Screen Shot 2016-08-19 at 4.13.59 PM

Let’s All Get Mad About the Oscars!

Or, you know, not…

Salon has decided that there’s nothing more important going on than taking apart the yearly market display of that Factory of Fabulous on the West Coast. First, the Onion tweeted something about a nine-year-old girl that, even if you get the joke, is absolutely dreadful. Then, Willa Paskin had that epiphany that progressives occasionally have: the realization that Seth McFarlane is kind of horrid.

The lady-dissing jokes didn’t stop with the ode to breasts: MacFarlane cracked that Jennifer Aniston was a stripper. He sexualized the young Quvenzhané Wallis: “It’ll be 16 years before she’s too old for Clooney,” which is, somehow, only the second most offensive thing someone said about the adorable 9-year-old last night. He also described Jessica Chastain’s character in “Zero Dark Thirty,” the ultra-driven women who through sheer force of will made the raid on Osama bin Laden possible, as “a celebration of every woman’s innate ability to never ever let anything go.”

All of which was fine when it was aimed at conservatives (Nazi Uniforms with “McCain/Palin” buttons, lazy insinuations of anti-semitism aimed at Rush Limbaugh) and conservative women (cheap shots at Sarah Palin’s mentally handicapped kid), but never mind, welcome to the party, Willa. Now you can freely observe that Family Guy Sucks at Political Humor. But then things get odd:

But even while Adele and Michelle Obama and Jennifer “Cinderella” Lawrence were creating the show’s highlights, Twitter was doing something even more unsettling than MacFarlane — it was going absolutely HAM on Anne Hathaway and Kristen Stewart, the one for appearing to care what we think too much, the other for caring way too little…(People even made fun of her for walking funny, until they realized she’s been using crutches after seriously slicing her foot. A perfect little encapsulation of what drives folks so wild about Hathaway: Last night she told Stewart to “break a leg … oops.”)

Yeah, people sure seem to care about celebrities, I guess. And when people care, they find themselves driven to all sorts of unpleasant emotions. Personally, Kristen Stewart’s semi-punk, “I refuse to pretty myself up for your amusement” persona is the only thing about her that registers on my radar screen. I was going to say “the only thing about her that I like,” but that implies that there are other things about her that I dislike. And I don’t. Because I don’t care. Yes, she doesn’t quite have a terribly broad acting range. So? I’m sure she’s got a career-bending Role You Won’t Beleive in her somewhere along the way.

As for Hathaway…yeah. Don’t care. Nothing against her, enjoy her work, cannot be bothered to comment on whether she’s too eager-to-please at the Oscars. Because I don’t watch the Oscars. Because the Oscars are a dreary display of semi-interesting people doing uninteresting things.