Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

Archive for the ‘Movies & TV’ Category

Cyd Charisse and Fred Astaire in “The Band Wagon”

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And now, as was often said in Monty Python, for something completely different:

Written by LeisureGuy

18 April 2019 at 9:34 am

Posted in Movies & TV, Video

It’s official: I’ve changed my goal to 8000 steps per day

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The Nordic walk is only a portion of that, of course, but a pretty good portion (about 7100 steps) is the Nordic walk. Additional steps are from around the apartment, shopping, etc. I usually go well above 8000.

And I thought “The Highwaymen” on Netflix was quite good.

Written by LeisureGuy

30 March 2019 at 5:52 pm

“Pacific Heat”: perhaps a specific taste

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But I like it. On Netflix.

Written by LeisureGuy

24 March 2019 at 8:35 pm

Posted in Movies & TV

Two recommendations from Kevin Kelly

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Via a newsletter:

Two notable Bollywood films give you that special dose of outlandish song, dance and rom-com drama that you expect with a Bollywood extravaganza, plus they advance a vital social cause. And they will give you deep insight into today’s India. Both films are about a maverick who takes it upon himself to undo an entrenched detrimental Indian custom. Interestingly, the same Bollywood super-star, Akshay Kumar, plays the protagonist in both films, which are based on true stories. Toilet: A Love Story is the movie version of a real guy who tried to put toilets in his home against the wishes of the village, and his wife is pressured to divorce him for this affront, and how this became a national campaign. Padman is the true story of a guy trying to get Indian village women to use sanitary pads instead of being quarantined outside during menstruation. He invents a way to make the pads cheaply, which he tests on himself. (!!!) His wife also divorces him. But all ends well in both films — it’s Bollywood! There is a third film, a straight documentary about the real Padman, called Period. End of Sentence. This won an Oscar this year for a documentary short. Quite inspirational. All three films can be streamed on Netflix with English subtitles. The first two are painless entryways into Bollywood.

When researching a product online, type in the item in Google and then add “vs”. Google will auto-complete with the most popular, and highly rated, alternatives, and the top link will educate you quickly. Then “vs” autocomplete the new item and you’ll have a good sense of the field.

Written by LeisureGuy

24 March 2019 at 5:38 am

Posted in Daily life, Movies & TV

“But I’m not a lawyer. I’m an agent.”

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David Simon, a former reporter on the Baltimore Sun and the creative force behind the series “The Wire,” writes on his blog:

Just over a quarter century ago, when I was a young scribbler traipsing around the metro desk of the Baltimore Sun, I had an early opportunity to learn a lesson about money, about ethics, about capitalism and, in particular, about the American entertainment industry. And Dorothy Simon, she raised no fools. I only needed to learn it once.

I learned about something called “packaging.”

And now, finally, my apostasy from newspapering having delivered me from Baltimore realities to film-set make-believe, I am suprised and delighted that many of the fellow scribblers with whom I share a labor union have at last acquired the same hard, ugly lesson:

Packaging is a lie. It is theft. It is fraud. In the hands of the right U.S. Attorney, it might even be prima facie evidence of decades of racketeering. It’s that fucking ugly.

For those of you not in the film and television world, there is no shame in tuning out right now because at its core, the argument over packaging now ongoing between film and television writers and their agents is effectively an argument over an embarrassment of riches. The American entertainment industry is seemingly recession-proof and television writing, specifically, is such a growth industry nowadays that even good and great novelists must be ordered back to their prose manuscripts by book editors for whom the term “showrunner” has become an affront. A lot of people are making good money writing television drama. And so, this fresh argument is about who is making more of that money, and above all, where the greatest benefits accrue.  If you have no skin in the game, I think it reasonable, even prudent, to deliver a no-fucks-to-give exhale and proceed elsewhere.

If, on the other hand, you are my brother or sister in the Writers Guild of America — East or West, it matters not when we stand in solitarity — or conversely, if you are a grasping, fuckfailing greedhead with the Association of Talent Agents, then you might wanna hang around for this:

Here is the story of how as a novice to this industry, I was grifted by my agents and how I learned everything I ever needed to know about packaging.  And here is why I am a solid yes-vote on anything my union puts before me that attacks the incredible ethical affront of this paradigm. Packaging is a racket. It’s corrupt. It is without any basis in either integrity or honor. This little narrative will make that clear. And because I still have a reportorial soul and a journalistic God resides in the details, I will name a name wherever I can.

*           *           *

To begin, I wrote a book. It was a non-fiction account of a year I spent with a shift of homicide detectives in Baltimore, a city ripe with violence and miscalculation. Published in 1991, “Homicide: A Year on the Killing Streets” was repped by my literary agent at the time, an independent attorney who I found because his other clients included some other ink-stained newspaper reporters. Late in 1987, the Baltimore Police Department agreed to let me into its homicide unit for a year beginning that January, so I needed to quickly acquire an agent to sell the project to a publishing house and secure an advance on which to live while I took a leave-of-absence from my newspaper. This agent — and damn, I wish I could name the goniff, but I later signed a cash settlement that said I wouldn’t — was the first name that came to me. I did not shop around; I was in a hurry.  My bad.

Three years later, with the book ready to publish, this shyster suggested to me that he was entirely capable of going to Hollywood with it for a sale of the dramatic rights. And knowing less than a bag of taters about Hollywood, I was ready to agree until my book editor, the worthy John Sterling, then helming the Houghton Mifflin publishing house, told me in no uncertain terms that this was a mistake.

It was customary, John explained, for even the best literary agents to pair with a colleague at one of the bigger entertainment agencies and split the commission.  My literary agent would give up half of his 15 percent to the other agency, but he would gain the expertise of an organization with the connections to move the property around and find the right eyeballs in the film and television industry. So I called my agent back and insisted.

With some initial reluctance, he eventually chose to go with Creative Artists Agency — one of the Big Four, as they call the largest entertainment entities repping talent, and an agent in CAA’s literary division by the name of Matt Snyder.  After making the deal with CAA, my literary agent called me back and said it was customary for me to give up a larger percentage commission as I now had two agents working on my behalf.  How much more? He suggested that he should keep his 15 percent and I should pay CAA an additional 10 percent. So a quarter of the profits from the sale of book would now be siphoned to agency commissions.

I called back John Sterling and asked:  Is this right?

John nearly dropped the phone. No, that is not how it works. Again, he explained that my literary agent was supposed to split the existing 15 percent commission on the book with CAA. The literary agent was supposed to keep 7.5 percent and give the other half to CAA, which in no way was entitled to any cash above and beyond that split.

I called my agent back. No, you split the existing 15 points, I told him. He threw a few chunks of pouty guilt at me, but I shrugged him off. This first attempt at a grift should have warned me, but hey, I was young.

Advance the story a couple months later:

CAA has sent the book to about a dozen A-list film directors, where it lays in their offices like a stale bagel, unloved and unsold. No one can figure out how to transform a year in the professional lives of a half dozen Baltimore death investigators into a feature film. Matt Snyder is bereft of a next idea. He does have one small-option offer from a small indy company. I get on the phone with a producer there and ask for his credits and it’s pretty clear, even to me, that it’s short money for a project that probably goes nowhere.

I call Snyder back.

Hey, I wonder aloud, how about Barry Levinson? He’s from Baltimore. He makes movies. Maybe he’ll like it. Did I mention he’s from Baltimore? Have you seen DinerTin Men?  I sure do love me some Diner. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

20 March 2019 at 7:30 am

The Marines don’t want you to see what happens when propaganda stops and combat begins

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Above is the trailer for Combat Obscura, and below is the full documentary. Alex Horton reviews the movie for the Washington Post:

Marines pass a joint to one another in the dark void of southern Afghanistan and, in crackling night-vision green, the question arises: Did they think they would ever be stoned within range of enemy fire?

The grunts take a moment to contemplate the infinite chasm between what the military wants you to believe happens in war, and what unfolds in just another night in combat.

“You think the Marine Corps is a bunch of perfect people who don’t do anything bad, don’t curse, and they’re just really squared-away killers,” one man says to another. “The Marine Corps is filled with the most f—– up individuals I’ve ever met.”

He takes a drag. “Just like me, you know?”

The Marine Corps, like other service branches, dispatches its media wing to curate its own version of war. Everyone knows the deal: The good will be widely distributed, and the violent, the illegal, the inexplicable are wiped from existence.

But the THC-laced epiphany halfway through the documentary “Combat Obscura,” directed by former Marine videographer Miles Lagoze, is something different.

Grunts posture and brood about war in the way they have seen men do in films, mindful that every second could be recorded. In this way, the camera documents reality as it simultaneously creates a version of it — a mix of therapy, confessional and a mirror held up to young, grime-streaked faces.

And it reveals shimmers of brutal honesty perhaps only possible when a Marine records comrades overcome with an urge to speak freely, confident that what they say would be too honest, and too raw, to ever find its way to an audience.

So why not be real?

“It replicates the rhythm of an actual deployment,” Lagoze said of the manic and at times confounding flow between scenes. “The chaos, the mixed emotions, the paradoxes.”

And yet, the footage found its way out of Afghanistan, and the Marine Corps has fought to keep it under wraps.

The Corps has good reason.

The brass covets images of fresh-faced grunts handing coloring books to kids with a wink and a wave, along with Marines parroting the Pentagon’s vague and confident optimism of elusive victory to come.

Lagoze had marching orders to deliver such video.

But the rest of the war unspooled in spurts of gore and mind-bending boredom over eight months, much of it recorded by Lagoze and his fellow cameraman Justin Loya while assigned to the 1st Battalion, 6th Marines, in 2011. In one of the few title cards at the beginning of the film, he announces: “We filmed what they wanted, but then we kept shooting.”

The documentary . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

16 March 2019 at 11:06 am

With Michael Jackson, It’s Different

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Josephine Livingston writes in the New Republic:

On the fifth anniversary of Michael Jackson’s death, a quote from Nas appeared in a Rolling Stone piece by the writer Touré: “When I got the news, the weather around me immediately changed drastically,” the rapper said. “It suddenly rained so hard. Wind blew like crazy. Clouds did something different. It was as if you felt him leaving the world.” Nas spoke about Jackson as if he were a god. (The article is headlined “Michael Jackson: Black Superhero.”) Quoting an array of African American luminaries on Jackson’s legacy, Touré explained just how much he meant to black people, and how rapidly his “Wacko Jacko” label was fading away after his death. Free of the mockery he experienced in his lifetime, Jackson was finally taking his rightful place in the canon of American icons.

Nowhere in Touré’s article is there mention of the multiple accusations of child abuse that were levied against Jackson—accusations that have gained new life with the release of HBO’s documentary Leaving Neverland, which chronicles, in excruciating and credible detail, Jackson’s abuse of two boys, Wade Robson and James Safechuck, who have now come forward as adults. Touré’s omission is especially notable when you consider that he is a principal talking head in the other recent documentary about a serial abuser who was hiding in plain sight: Surviving R. Kelly, which chronicles, in excruciating and credible detail, the R&B star’s alleged abuse of numerous women and underage girls. That Touré, who unlike so many others wasn’t fooled by R. Kelly, got caught up in Jackson hagiography suggests that there is something fundamentally different about his case—that he is too important to too many people to give up easily; that there is something about Jackson that makes us all a little confused.

As the evidence presented in Leaving Neverland reverberates through the media, the reaction has been oddly muted. In The New York Times, Wesley Morris wrote a moving account of seeing through Jackson’s “magic trick” at last. Slate published a series of articles reckoning with his life and legacy, with Carl Wilson writing, “There are plenty of Jackson songs that will feel radioactive from now on.” Jackson has a few prominent defenders, like Wendy Williams, and legions of civilian fans who point out that a documentary is not the same thing as a conviction. Still, the atmosphere has not been filled up with the kind of debate or commentary that accompanied the controversies surrounding R. Kelly, Harvey Weinstein, or Woody Allen. The predominant sense is of baffled silence, as if the magnitude of Jackson’s crimes is so great that it hushes all else. What, really, is there to say? The boys were so young, and they loved him so much.

But there is perhaps another reason the chattering class has been so uncharacteristically quiet: Michael Jackson presents a case too extraordinary for the media to easily absorb and process. Jackson was not just a pop star: he was the pop star, the King of Pop, the most famous famous person. To try to cancel him would be to point out a criminal at the very heart of the entertainment industry’s belief system, and to remove the laurels of the most significant black artist of the pop age. To analyze the phenomenon of Michael Jackson properly would mean taking on the laborious task of figuring out how we—meaning society at large—ended up with the kind of entertainment industry we have. And it would mean admitting that the American dream—a rapid ascent to stardom on the basis of sheer talent—is hollow.

The work of undoing Michael Jackson’s place at the core of American culture has simply been too hard, for too long. We’d have to start with the man in the mirror, as somebody once said. That’s not easy to do. Much criticism has been leveled at the mothers of Wade Robson and James Safechuck, who allowed their boys to spend the night in Jackson’s bed and stay with him for days on end without a chaperone—days that were filled with ceaseless molestation. It is easiest to blame them, because they are ideal scapegoats for a universal affliction, which is that fame is so important in America that it can blind us to what is happening literally before our own eyes, to our own kids. Painting these boys’ mothers as monsters is the shortest cut to absolving ourselves.

Exacerbating our incompetence in this matter is a long tradition of racist and lazy reporting on Jackson, which undercuts the media’s basic authority on the subject. The very idea of condemning him feels like joining a rather horrible tradition. In the 1990s, it was normal to ridicule his face, even after he went on Oprah to say, “This is the situation. I have a skin disorder that destroys the pigmentation of the skin. It is something I cannot help, OK?” He told Winfrey, “I am a black American.” That didn’t matter to those who thought it was funny to say he looked like a white woman.

Racist coverage of Jackson also ended up enabling his crimes. The erratic character Wacko Jacko was defined primarily by Jackson’s supposed racial confusion (“Am I Black or White?” as the In Living Color parody song went), and it was Wacko Jacko who could plausibly claim to have an innocent relationship with all those boys. He was weird, he didn’t know himself, and his new apparent whiteness undercut the sense that he was a red-blooded adult. The lyrics to “Am I Black or White?” include the line “I’m still a virgin and I’m 33… And I hang out with Macaulay all night.” What Leaving Neverland reveals, to the viewer’s awakening horror, is that those boys he took on tour and trotted out for the cameras were, quite obviously, his boyfriends. How could we not have seen that?

Black celebrities have never been taken seriously the way white celebrities have, and scandals are the best place to see that prejudice in action. The alleged crimes of Kelly and Jackson are different, but the comparison is helpful, because Kelly provides a similarly warped paradigm: Jackson got away with it because nobody took him seriously, and Kelly, whose own former lawyer has called him “guilty as hell” of abusing underage girls, got away with it because nobody took the black girls he allegedly assaulted seriously.

We cannot trust Jackson or Kelly, or any of the music critics who defined their legacies for us. But who can you trust, besides the victims? Our imagination has been shaped by a racist mainstream press, the biased interests of a powerful music industry, and a moral obfuscation produced by that most intoxicating of drugs—fame. You may well have been lied to your whole life: about Michael Jackson and R. Kelly, yes, but also about the fact that no celebrity is quite what they seem. Famous people are personae, packaged and sold to you according to whatever standards of desirability are most profitable at that moment.

In this gargantuan mess of a situation, the fall of Michael Jackson contains the civilizational implications of a Greek tragedy. Harvey Weinstein, for example, was easier to interpret, neater in his moral typology: big bad rich man victimized weaker people, big bad rich man loses his wealth and status. In his case, we could at least convince ourselves that redemption was possible. But there is no narrative of righteous justice for Michael Jackson, not least because he’s dead. It’s too much to think about: too horrible, too unfixable. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

11 March 2019 at 1:22 pm

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