03 February 2004

Going Back to My Roots


--OK, finally saw a clip of Other Jacksons Gone Wild featuring JT. Definitely not an accident. I will say I honestly believe that MTV and CBS didn't know that was going to be part of the act, as Jackson has acknowleged. Yeah, MTV tries to skirt the boundaries, but always on its own network. There's no reason for them to offend the entire Viacom conglomerate during what amounts to a family show. Doesn't make sense. What does make sense is that Janet Jackson is a fading Superstar with a new album coming out and she desperately need the publicity. End of story.

Here's something that pissed me off though. I was watching The O'Reilly Factor late last night. I usually disagree with much of what Bill puts out there but I respect the fact that he's well educated and deals in facts--almost all of the time. Last night, he laid into MTV and Hip-hop in particular, saying that everyone involved in each was a weasel, they contribute nothing positive to the culture, and that he was sure that Viacom was going to go in and clean house and that this would be the end of MTV.

On the contrary. His guest, a media expert, pointed out that it's great publicity for MTV. O'Reilly noted that they don't need any publicity, that they are huge on their own and their network of fans would be there without this. What Big Bill refuses to realize is that people who have moved away from MTV or were not yet fans will at least tune in for the next few weeks to gauge MTV's reaction. In that time they'll land even more viewers. Sure, they might get hit with a million dollar fine after the FCC investigation, but in the end everyone is going to come out on top. Except Janet, who might be done.

Anyway, I wanted to address O'Reilly, so I sent him this email today. Mind you, anyone who knows me knows I am mostly anti-rap, anti-Hip-Hop.

"While I too thought the Super Bowl Halftime Show was deplorable and ill-conceived, I want to take issue with your assessment of MTV And Hip-Hop as a whole.

I personally can't stand 99% of Hip-Hop, but my dislike for it does not incline me to negate it as an art form. Your comments pertaining to the genre seem to stem from prejudice rather than fact, and from referencing isolated incidents rather than a general effect on the culture. I would assert that the children who quote lines from songs and from Hip-Hip slang inappropriately were more products of awful judgment and misguided or ineffectual parenting than a media brainwashing. There are millions who listen to this music and conduct their everyday lives as considerate, respectful citizens.

Isn't it possible that you are, like many in your age bracket, simply out of touch with popular culture? Seems to hearken back to all the adults governing your generation who thought that the swaying of Elvis's hips or the guitar work of The Beatles branded Rock and Roll with the Sign of the Devil. Didn't most of the early rockers end up OK?

I hardly ever agree with your opinions but I respect you mightily. I think that Hip-Hop often carries incendiary messages, but I also believe it's up to the parents to make their kids understand the difference between good usage and bad, between careful understanding and careless application. It's difficult to hold artists responsible for someone mistaking their intention--entertainment--and labeling the whole of the community as reprehensible because a few listeners happen to be morons."

Maybe I'll make the show.

--Did anyone notice that the date today is 02/03/04? Nice.


Was thinking last night about what snobs media critics are. A person finds their niche, be it music or literature or film, and through learning becomes an expert. However, what happens too often is the critic becoming jaded and taking him or herself too seriously.

You see it happen most often with Music and Film critics. You read their reviews in the paper or in a magazine and you can tell that they're giving The All-American Rejects album a negative review because it doesn't stack up to Revolver. It's pathetic, because any idiot can tell that The Rejects aren't trying to measure up to the Beatles--they're just trying to put out a record that sounds good and people enjoy on some level.

I made a promise to myself long ago not to become one of these people. I would consider myself a rough expert in film, and as such I would never make a comparison of Dumb and Dumber to Dances With Wolves. It's impossible, but you see people do it all the time. I think critics get into a trap of thinking that every movie has to be another Oscar contender, when half the time the general public doesn't even want to see an Oscar contender. Sometimes, you just want to have fun. Therefore, I am going to break down the four levels of Hollywood: Flicks, Movies, Films, and Cinema. Each has its good, bad and awful, and each holds a cache of favorites to choose from.

(EDITOR'S NOTE: The Listed are not intended to be my Top Five Picks in each category, but merely examples. I don't have the time, patience, or sanity to pick a Top Five in each.)

FLICKS--Generally end up being in the comedy or horror genre, with a few exceptions. Production values are not usually held in the highest regard, but you can often end up with some great individual performances or something that's so dumb you have to laugh at it.

1) License to Drive--I have referenced this before. No one will mistake it for a great film, but it's a riot. Nothing special but enough Umph to make you giddy.

2) Saving Silverman--Gets funnier every time I watch it. Absolutely dumb as hell but hysterical.

3) A Nightmare on Elm Street--Interchangeable with the Friday the 13th Series or the Halloween Series. Slasher flicks almost always lack good narrative qualities but you always come out having a good time. If gore and screaming are your thing.

4) The Goonies--See #1.

5) Office Space--Most of us have the DVD, but don't you end up watching it every f*cking time it's on TV? And did anyone see it in the theater? The trailer made it look horrible! It's an all-time favorite.

MOVIES--Like Flicks, but bigger. More attention to production value as the Action genre takes hold or a comedy with a tighter story and writing. Hard to find a decent drama in this category, still.

1) Top Gun--Come on, you f*cking know you love it. The one-liners are irreplaceable and the combat scenes are great.

2) Dumb and Dumber--Because the writing is so damn good and because Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels are perfect. Mark my words: good comedy is much tougher to pull off than good drama.

3) When Harry Met Sally--Romantic Comedies are the lowest form of entertainment on the planet, bar none. But this one will be the only to grace the list because of the great writing and performances. I will give an honorable mention to Serendipity.

4) Die Hard--Movies like this, Bad Boys, The Rock, etc. These types of action movies are casually referred to as "Popcorn Flicks", which just f*cking means "Fun Movies".

5) Finding Forrester--A drama with just the right touch of humor. Just not enough mojo to carry it over.

FILMS--Increased production values and careful attention to casting, direction, and cinematography. More drama than comedy. Many are adaptations of popular novels. This is where most Independent Films start to creep in, as typical Hollywood studios are reluctant to produce films out of their two prior comfort zones.

1) Gladiator--I believe that the death sequence at the end of this movie is one of the most beautiful things I've ever seen. Basically interchangeable with Braveheart in theme and scope.

2) The Sixth Sense--Brilliant writing, acting, and execution. Treads ground that few in the Horror genre have dared.

3) Lawrence of Arabia--Set the standard by which all current Epics are based.

4) Toy Story--Earns a place up here because the attention to detail is so great and the depth of meaning is even greater. Transcends age barriers as the humor, which has one meaning to the children in the audience, has separate meaning to the adults.

5) Chinatown--Probably the best screenplay of all time and technically perfect.

CINEMA--Here's where we get into more foreign films and avant-garde independents. Often an experimental piece that clicks with an audience. Very fine line between brilliance and muddled idiocy.

1) The Wild Strawberries--Ingmar Bergman's masterpiece. If you get someone to help you decipher the symbolism its impact is profound. However, finding Osama's cave is probably easier than finding that person.

2) 8 1/2--Fellini's masterpiece. F*cking weird, but again, if you can get a handle on the symbolism it's engrossing. Even if you can't, the photography is incredible.

3) Requiem For a Dream--The subject matter is horrifying and some of the visuals are pretty rough on the tummy, but I think this is an important and often overlooked film.

4) The Shawshank Redemption--Alright, I admit, it's probably more of a "Film", but goddamnit, it's my favorite and I think it's perfect.

5) The Graduate--Took chances that other films of its era didn't even think about. Still simple enough in all the right places to resonate with just about anyone.

Remember, you don't have to be a critical to be a critic. When you see a movie the only important thing is "Was I entertained?" If you weren't, the assessment ends there. If you were, go and compare henceforth and irregardless (you're welcome, T. Rich). No reason to be a brooding, bitter assh*le.