Jun 28

We get what we deserve

Grown ups
used to blame Hollywood producers, directors and actors for causing the dumbing
down of America. But, after reading Stephen Holden's scathing review of the
latest, mindless movie from Adam Sandler, I realize we have no
one to blame but ourselves. We get what we deserve.

discussing the dreadful content of 'Grown Ups,' Holden opines, 'The movie is
symptomatic of a social attitude that might be called the security of incompetence.
There's something reassuring about a bad movie that doesn't ask you to think or
feel or even pay attention; we can all be happy D-minus students huddled
together in communal self-disgust in a D-minus world.' That, my friends, is an
A-plus observation.

pabulum served up by the likes of Sandler, Stiller and their ilk is atrocious.
But, the great, unwashed masses pay to see it, so why shouldn't they continue
churning out one tired wretch of a movie after another?

feel the exact same way about Howard Stern and his T&A/flatulent-obsessed,
shock jock peers. My business partner, Ed, will sometimes liken my caustic
comments to Stern, but I prefer to see myself taking the higher, satiric road
of, say, a Johnny Carson or Don Imus. Their wit carries a rapier-like message
with it. Stern's content, on the other hand, is exactly like Sandler's flicks:
one doesn't need to think or feel or even pay attention to it.

so, the ongoing dumbing down of America continues. There are myriad reasons why
our country is on an increasingly steep downside of greatness. One can argue a
lack of political leadership, a loss of confidence in business & industry
and a complete betrayal by the church. But, one should not overlook the
contributions made by the entertainment industry.

There's a reason moronic comedians such as Adam Sandler have become multi-millionaires.
And, that reason is staring right back at you in the mirror.

fault lies not in our stars (Hollywood, or otherwise), but in ourselves.

May 05

Hooray for Hollywood

Guest post from Gaetano LePoer

May 5
Throughout my life my passions have been sports, American history and the movies. This past week, in “
Wizard of Oz”-like fashion, I got to see behind the proverbial curtain of Hollywood.

My bucket list includes being in a Hollywood movie. With that in mind, I went to an open casting call for background actors for the upcoming HBO miniseries “Mildred Pierce,” a remake of the original starring Joan Crawford who won an Academy Award for her role. Amazingly I was selected. The five part miniseries stars Kate Winslet and Guy Pearce and is a 1930s period piece that takes place in Los Angeles. Part of the movie, however, was being filmed in Peekskill, New York.  

As I prepared for the shoot, I knew the days would be long. After an initial report for wardrobe fitting and a 1930s era haircut, I had a 5:30 a.m. report for my first day on set. The folks who manage the background actors prepared us by running through our cues and pointing out where we needed to walk, stop, talk, etc. Their job is to synch the movements of the background actors to the main scene inside. My scene took place in a restaurant and my role was to walk outside on the street. During the eight to 10 takes for each scene, we’d repeatedly hear, “Cut!” “Reset!” “Let's do it again!” And then came my big break. The production team requested a “Lawrence Tierney” type – an old school, tough guy – to  stop near the front door of the restaurant while smoking a cigarette and talking to a friend. After a few hours of shooting, it happens. If you are a background actor and they are sure that you are going to be seen in a particular scene, you are finished. They don't want the same background characters showing up in later shot. 

While the directors, principal actors, wardrobe team, makeup people and set designers are true artists, I was shocked at the number of ne’er-do-well’s that were all over the set. The grips, best boys and gaffers are like a group of renegades from the used car business. As Howard Cosell would say, “they were the sleazy underpinnings” of a Hollywood movie. It really broke my expectation of the beauty of the Hollywood set. It was fun, but if there ever is a next time I will be prepared for the “Dark Side” of the business. In a sense, a movie is sort of like a hot dog – I still love them but I don’t ever want to see how they are made

Jun 09

Variations on a theme

What would happen to a public relations firm if they kept providing the same solution over and over? For that matter, what would happen to any company that kept re-cycling the same old, same old?Comedy_2

Answer: they’d lose clients.

So, how do actors such as Will Ferrell, Ben Stiller, Adam Sandler, Steve Carell and Mike Myers keep getting away with it? And, how does Hollywood, in general, keep getting away with it?

Myers did breakthrough work with the first Austin Powers movie. But, since then? Ugh. Now, I’m seeing billboards for yet another 1960s-themed flick from Myers. This one is The Love Guru and is obviously based on the exploits of the late, and not-so-great, Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. Can’t these guys come up with something better?

Carell, meanwhile, is in a re-make of ‘Get Smart.‘ Gee, that sounds riveting. For his part, Ferrell re-cycles the same basic character in movies covering ice hockey, basketball, weddings and god knows what else. But, new? Original? Nope. Not from Ferrell. And, not from this group. And, yet, Myers, Stiller, et al, are the leading lights of the Hollywood comedy genre.

It’s sad that they consistently re-cycle mediocre content. It’s sadder still that Americans accept such mediocrity.

So, here’s my question: the business world won’t accept re-cycled drivel. And, Hollywood’s a big business. So, why are they the exception to the rule?

Feb 29

No apology necessary for not apologizing

Stanley Bing’s blog about the inadvisability of apologizing makes some smart, savvy and, as always, funny
points about a recent tempest in a teapot at Maxim Magazine.

In a nutshell, Bing argues that Maxim management called unnecessary
attention to a blunder by publicly apologizing for it. Lots of Bing readers disagreed, though, and believed it disingenuous to not apologize for the transgression.

Well, yes and no.

Bing is right that Maxim did escalate an otherwise forgettable event with its printed apology. And, Bing’s readers are right to say that apologizing is the only ethical and transparent thing to do in this crazy, post-Enron world in which we live.

Bing’s point, though, is that formulaic crisis management isn’t ALWAYS the smart solution. In fact, Hollywood’s version of crisis management is so pathetically predictable that the apology is seen as the sham it really is.

Bing is a top corporate strategist in ‘real life’ and would, I think, argue for a full apology and complete transparency if a Fortune 500 company were to find itself between a rock and a hard place. That said, I do think there are many shades of grey in any crisis and, sometimes, just sometimes, not apologizing is the way to go.

Feb 04

Hollywood’s new blood sport: dead pools

The freak show that is entertainment news seems dead set on debating who will die first: Britney orBritney2

Feigning concern, reporters, commentators and talking heads (and it’s getting increasingly difficult to tell one from the other) vie with each other for the latest ‘unauthorized’ videos or inside peaks at the two tortured starlets.

‘Brit’s a threat to herself and those around,’ waxed one pundit. ‘Farah’s courage in the face of certain death from cancer is laudable,’ sighed another. Faux feelings, to be sure. And, yet we stare intently as the news media chop block one another to get the latest, greatest videos of each failing (and fallen) star. The ratings, one would assume, must soar in direct correlation to each celeb’s descent into hell.

Who’s to blame for this macabre dance? It certainly wasn’t always this way. The 24/7 news cycle is one obvious culprit since it needs constant news to feed hungry viewers and listeners. Then there’s the perpetual dumbing of America, with each new reality show slightly more idiotic than its predecessor. And, let’s not forget America’s increasingly manic obsession with Hollywood itself. It’s a toxic combination that seems to just spiral more and more out of control each day.

Once upon a time, I thought this to be a uniquely American phenomenon. But, now, when I travel overseas, I routinely see Hollywood gossip leading the local newscasts. In fact, the lead stories on Arusha, Tanzania, TV sets on January 1, 2008, were (in order):

– Britney’s latest breakdown
– Benazir Bhutto’s assassination
– Civil unrest in nearby Kenya

The dead pool descriptor seems to work equally well for the Hollywood circus and the slow, but steady, death of responsible journalism. And, it seems to me we’re all to blame.