Right-wing pundit Michael Medved’s career would make for a fascinating biopic.
He started back in the 1970s as the co-author (with his brother) of books on bad films, The Golden Turkey Awards and 50 Worst Films of All Time. While I can’t say their books were terribly deep (as Keep Watching the Skies once pointed out, how can Plan Nine From Outer Space win the Worst Film Ever Golden Turkey when it wasn’t even listed as one of their 50 worst?) but they were genuinely funny. And writing funny stuff about bad films is tougher than you might think (I’ve read enough bad attempts to know).
Then he switched to straight film critic as one of the rotating roster PBS brought into staff Sneak Previews after the original hosts, Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert, had left for their own syndicated show. It turns out that being snarky about bad films did not gift him with a flare for intelligent film criticism otherwise.
Then he switched again to become a right-wing film critic, the only critic I’m aware of who thinks Hollywood worries too much about art and not enough about cash. Because, you see, wholesome films make more money than sex and violence (his figures have been questioned; I don’t know who’s right), so the only reason Hollywood has for not being G-rated is that it wants to create Art, which means Perversion and Filth (Modern Art=Filth has been a criticism for well over a century).
And now, apparently he’s a straight right-wing pundit, which, perhaps inevitably means he’s anti-gay. And at the recent CPAC conservative event he asserted that “there has never been a state in this country that has ever banned gay marriage,” Medved said. “That is a liberal lie.”
If you’re wondering how he managed to pull that one out of his butt, it’s simple. In a previous column on the topic he said that “Proposition 8 did nothing to interfere with gay couples in registering for state-recognized civil unions, participating in church or civil ceremonies consecrating their love, forming life-time commitments, raising children, or concluding comprehensive contractual arrangements to share all aspects of life and property. The proposition simply says that government will not get involved in any of these private or public processes by calling such relationships a marriage.”
In the first place, this is splitting hairs way too finely: Yes, gay people can get married anywhere, just not a marriage that’s legally recognized. Oh, and they can just sign a few papers to get all the legal benefits (short answer: that’s a shit-ton of paperwork and it still won’t get the same benefits).
Oh, and according to the column, stopping homosexuals from getting married actually protects them from government oppression, so it’s for their own good. And besides (yes, this old warhorse) they can marry anyone they want of the opposite sex, just like straight people! So there’s really no oppression.
Like I said, a fascinating biopic. But a rather unappealing protagonist.
Right-wing pundit Michael Medved’s career would make for a fascinating biopic.
Ever see the show Leverage? One of the world’s top insurance investigators and a handful of top crooks (burglar/enforcer/hacker/grifter) work together to take down criminals the law can’t catch. One of the show’s shticks was that the hacker, being a gigantic nerd, would give them cover names such as “Emma Peel and John Steed.”
A number of people asked John Rogers, the show-runner for the series, how come nobody ever caught on (though one person did in one episode). His response: what seems obvious to Internet geeks (holding that anyone who bothers to visit his blog is presumably some degree of geeky) isn’t common knowledge to the rest of the world.
It’s a good point to remember. Not everyone has the same pop culture references. And not every fictional character should, either. One of the problems I had with Junot Diaz’s The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao was that while I can buy Oscar’s constant geek references, I didn’t believe in the narrator tossing LOTR references out all the time. Likewise, I have some trouble with Harry Dresden squeezing in as many geek references as he does since he never seems to read comics, just make references. And I really, really don’t believe he’d know the Evil Overlord List—that’s the kind of thing I think of as only serious Internet geeks (including, obviously, myself) knowing about (maybe I’m wrong and it’s on everyone’s lips, but I don’t think so).
A lot of people in contrast use mainstream TV or sports (for example) as metaphors and references, but I rarely run into that, even in contemporary fantasy. Not that having characters who read fantasy or watch SF movies is implausible, and sometimes it works great (the Middleman TV show, for instance), but other times it feels like all the characters share a very narrow range of taste (the similar problem in future SF is having everyone fixated on the past)
The flip side is when a character announces he sees everything in, say, terms of movies, but his observations don’t live up to that. The protagonist of Le Divorce opens by saying she’s a film student who sees everything as a movie, but that’s never brought up again (at least not before I gave up on the book midway through). Likewise Trent in Dying Is My Business comments that much of what he knows of life comes from watching old movies, but it never feels that way (as someone who really does see a lot of stuff in comic-book terms [case in point] I use myself as a measure, rightly or wrongly).
In working on Southern Discomfort, I’m trying to get away from that. Of course, it’s 1973, so speculative fiction isn’t anywhere near as mainstream as I think it is now. Lord of the Rings gets mentioned quite a bit, but that silly TV show Star Trek? Not so much. Many more characters have seen the Beverly Hillbillies (after all at the time The Beverly Hillbillies was way more popular). And yes, some sports references, though they don’t come naturally to me.
One thing I have to keep in mind is that even though the show is set in 1973, the characters’ lives go back much further. My protagonist Maria was born in 1946, the beginning of the baby boom. She grew up with Milton Berle and I Love Lucy on TV, discovered Dr. Kildare and the Twilight Zone in her teens. Joan Kirby is 18, so her childhood TV is more Hanna-Barbera cartoons. Maria crushed on Sinatra, Joan went for the Beatles (despite her father grumbling their hair was too outrageously long).
How much of that will make it into the story, I don’t know yet. But it’s good to keep in mind.
Actually this is just a fascinating story: A man in 1830s Massachusetts was assaulted, then jailed, because he wore a beard (Seriously. That was it). The kind of thing I’m not sure anyone would believe if we wrote it into a historical or historical fantasy novel.
•Kristine Kathryn Rusch looks at how readers break down: Avid genre readers, frequent genre readers, occasional genre readers, as well as different types of fans and priorities (the genre, the author, the price [I depended entirely on used book stores when I was in my twenties]). Even though I don’t have a book backlist to market (nothing but Philosophy and Fairytales at the moment), the analysis is fascinating.
•Great photographs of our past and the unsung woman who took them.
•Mari Ness wonders if the sea of criticism on the Internet is affecting her writing, making her second-guess herself. I agree with her, sometimes it is intimidating, especially given that no matter how brilliant we may be, someone’s going to hate our work and snark about it. But there’s no way out but through.
•Demand Media (yes, the ones who employ me) suggests that tight focus and specialization is the best way to survive in the digital age. I’m not sure the Internet has changed the level of specialization that much, actually: well before online magazines I wrote for trade journals such as Painting and Wallcovering and Gulf Coast Condo Owner.
And I’m not sure niche publications can really replace broader newspapers. I’ve worked for newspapers devoted to strictly local-government news and it’s hard to make the numbers crunch. The mix (schools, local profiles, government, crime) may still be more effective (this is a subjective opinion, not based on in-depth analysis).
•A look at whether Gannett is making paywall-controlled Internet access profitable. In general, it’s not doing as badly as it would be without the paywall …
THE SAVAGE SWORD OF CONAN Vol. 2 collects fourteen stories from Marvel’s b&w Conan magazine of the 1970s. As such, it suffers from the same problem I always have when Marvel condenses magazine-sized pages down to conventional comics size—the captions are almost unreadable, and there’s a lot of captioning. That said, this was well worth reading, mostly due to John Buscema’s absolutely awesome art. Seriously, who needs to read words when he and inker Alfredo Alcala have so many gorgeous pictures of aging cities, sinister citadels and ominous jungles to gawk at? The stories (adaptations by Roy Thomas) are a mixed bag. Some such as “Devil in Iron” and “People of the Black Circle” adapt Howard’s a-list work to great effect, while others adapt unpublished or non-Conan material much less effectively. “Horror From the Red Tower,” for instance, is a very awkward story—the mid-story course change feels like two different tales mashed up together. And like a couple of others in the book, it has the scheming and intrigues between largely uninteresting political factions that detract from the story rather than add to it.Overall, a winner, though the art in “Red Tower and “Shadows in Zamboula” makes it very obvious how heavily Howard played on Scary Black People tropes (you’ve been warned).
WONDER WOMAN: Eyes of the Gorgon is part of Greg Rucka’s run (with various artists; book cover by JG Jones, all rights with current holder) which as I mentioned recently, reads much better than I expected. The first Rucka issue I read turned me off by referencing the god’s “portfolios” of control (it’s a common term in D&D and that did not give me a good feeling). As it turns out, his writing is as good as I’d heard, as Diana tries to avoid a Themiscrya/USA war while a scheming corporate executive resurrects Medusa to take Wonder Woman down. Rucka certainly does a better job mixing Olympian scheming with super-heroics than the current series.
I haven’t been impressed by Rick Remender’s comics work to day and UNCANNY AVENGERS: The Red Shadow (with art by John Cassaday) didn’t change that. As part of Marvel’s soft reboot, Captain America creates a combined mutant/super-hero team of Avengers to give mutants a more positive profile, only to encounter a Red Skull who’s had Professor X’s telepathic bits transplanted into his brain, empowering him to lead the latest anti-mutant hate wave. This bogs down in the usual mutant cliches, and I don’t see what this version of the Skull (a clone in suspended animation since 1942) brings to the table (I don’t know what last happened to the regular Red Skull, but I don’t believe for a minute there’s a death he can’t cheat.).
BATMAN: THE DARK KNIGHT: Cycle of Violence by Greg Hurwich and David Finch has the Scarecrow murdering children and launching a fear-gas attack on Gotham City for no particular reason other than he’s crazy. Oh, and crazy because of child abuse which is a horrible cliche. The revised origin of the Bat in the final issue in this collection didn’t work for me either—the Bruce Wayne shown investigating his parents’ death feels more like someone about to grow up into a millionaire playboy detective a la Lord Peter Wimsey than the Caped Crusader.
BPRD: Vampire by Mike Mignola, Fabio Moon and Gabriel Ba is a follow-up on Anders, the agent who in BPRD: 1947 gets possessed by the spirits of sister vampires. Tormented by the possession, he sets out on a vampire-hunting trip in Central Europe only to discover the opposition is, of course, tougher than expected. Middling for this mythos—at the climax, for instance, the art really left me confused who was fighting whom.
BATMAN: The Long Halloween by Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale got a lot of attention at the time as Batman in his early days tries to stop a killer systematically murdering members of Gotham’s top crime family, while coping with the rise of newer, more bizarre criminals. Meeting it for the first time now, I find it readable, but not memorable, with too many plot holes (why exactly does one man throw acid in Harvey Dent’s face in this retelling of Two-Face’s origin?) and some awkward art (the grotesquerie works on the villains, but not when Sale draws Alfred equally weird).
SAGA Vol. 2 by Brian Azzarello and Fiona Staples (cover by Staples, rights with current holder) continues the charm of the first volume as baby Hazel and her family struggle to stay one step ahead of their enemies (which now include Marko’s ex, Gwendolyn) while in flashback we learn how Marko and Alanna came to be a couple. A real winner.
Sticking Woody Allen’s neurotic nebbish in a Kafka style situation should be comic gold but SHADOWS AND FOG (1992) is only fitfully funny. As a killer stalks a fog-shrouded city, Allen discovers he’s been dragooned into the plan to capture the madman, but nobody tells him what he’s supposed to do, only that he’s not doing it. It’s funny, but the rest of the plot, a romantic triangle involving sword-swallower Mia Farrow, clown John Malkovitch and student John Cusack, doesn’t work at all. And the film ends so abruptly, it’s like Allen just ran out of time and wanted to stop.
Impressively cast though, with David Allen Stiers and Kurtwood Smith as schemers, Madonna as an acrobat and Kathy Bates, Lily Tomlin and Jodie Foster as hookers. “I’m not incompetent! I don’t know enough to be incompetent!”
OMAR (2014) is a Palestinian wannabe terrorist in love with his fellow revolutionary’s sister who discovers that a traitor in the ranks has sold him out to the Israelis. And the Israeli, in turn, are quite determined to use him as an informer on his own people. The film works much better than, say, the American Extraordinary Rendition because the focus is on the character dynamics, so the arrest is only part of the obstacles encumbering the love affair. Very good—I’d suggest Spy Who Came in From the Cold as a double feature, as both involve men caught in a vice between two equally ruthless powers. “That’s what they want—paranoia.”
The second season of IRON MAN: The Armored Adventures has Tony, Rhodey and Pepper (here teenagers) still reeling from the discovery their friend Jin is the ruthless Mandarin. As Jin gathers the alien rings that will give him absolute power, Tony contends with ruthless tycoons Obadiah Stane and Justin Hammer, rival geniuses Doctor Doom and the Black Panther and Hammer’s cadre of super-villain employees. I thoroughly enjoyed it.
ROCKY AND BULLWINKLE wraps up its fifth and final season with some outstanding episodes, most notably an arc where Bullwinkle’s skills as a footballer may save Wossamatta U from going under (the jokes about colleges prioritizing sports over academics would be just as relevant now, I’m sorry to say). If not quite as good as previous seasons, it’s still vastly livelier and more watchable than a great many shows in their last days.
As you probably know, Woody Allen’s step-daughter Dylan Farrow accused him of abusing her back in the 1990s. With one of his movies up for several Oscars, she repeated her charges in the New York Times recently.
I’ll be reviewing one of his movies in the next post, so I’ll take a moment to say yes, I would assume he did it. I don’t know if the evidence is enough for me to vote guilty in a court of law (as Echidne puts it, the fact there are far more child-abuse cases than false accusations doesn’t prove anything about a specific charge) but as a private individual, my opinion is Yes.
Other than that I don’t have any deep insight, but one thing I strongly disagree with is the insistence that if you look at Allen’s history it’s screamingly obvious. He dated a 17-year-old when he was in his forties, ergo, child rapist!
Umm, no. Even if dating a 17-year-old in a consensual relationship presses the creepy button, it’s not somehow a logical companion to child abuse. In fact the whole idea that it’s somehow obvious in hindsight feels like the reverse of the “Woody Allen isn’t the child abuser type”—i.e., there must be signs that clearly show his true nature. As if the absence of signs would somehow be a point in his favor. I honestly don’t think so.
That said, given how often Allen’s films reflect his life, it’s hard not to look through them for signs of abuse. And as this Esquire story points out, there are jokes about child abuse in several Allen films.
Does that prove anything? I don’t think so (please note, that’s not to say the jokes are therefore acceptable). As the abuse survivor and writer Louise Armstrong has pointed out, for a long time father-daughter incest wasn’t considered such a bad thing. In the 1950s and 1960s, the prevailing psychiatric view was that it was really quite harmless (it was only the shame society inflicted on the children that made it so traumatic); I’ve read books written much later that explain it’s really rather beautiful, because the father and daughter are seeking comfort in each other’s arms when Mom is cold and bitchy and distant. I still see references to the “incest taboo”; as Armstrong says, taboo isn’t a word for something bad, it’s a word for something naughty. Something you’re not supposed to do but won’t hurt you if it does.
Allen’s certainly old enough to have absorbed that view. Not that it makes the jokes any more palatable, but it’s like the rape joke in Play It Again Sam, something lots of people would have found perfectly acceptable at the time he wrote it.
So maybe the sex abuse references mean nothing. Then again, maybe I’m wrong and it is Allen’s id coming out to play. I imagine I’ll be watching out for possible examples in future movies as I work through his films.