Monday, February 9, 2015
I gave it my best shot.
Two or three, actually.
But I came up with the same feeling every time.
Having grown up with your music, my instinct, and ambition, was to applaud this performance as a wonderful bridging of the generations.
And I assume that's the spirit with which you entered into it.
But no matter how many times I watch the performance, I'm left with the same impression.
Maybe it's because the quality of your work and presentation through the decades so surpasses as lot of the contemporary banality.
Maybe it's because it's because the line between cool and creepy is so hair fine.
(Like when your very hip granny shows style by coming with you to the concert but makes you think twice as she bounces around bra-less in her Adam Lambert T shirt...)
Maybe it's because while I can appreciate what Rhianna brings to the culture, I can't get past hearing, and/or seeing, Kanye as anything other than a pretentious douche.
Or maybe it's nothing more complicated than the microphone mix that all but eliminated the sound of your voice from this "collaboration".
Resulting in what I saw and heard.
Not a collaboration at all.
But the musical equivalent of LBJ attending a Kennedy family picnic.
Sarah Palin speaking at a Hillary Clinton rally.
A cute poodle peeking out of Rihanna's purse.
Another lame attempt by Kanye to validate his faux cultural omnipotence.
With faux, token and Auto Tuned props to your musical stature.
Making you, if not his bitch, then certainly his musical trophy wife,
Yeah, I'm gonna go with the pretentious douche theory.
And look forward to the next "event" really being just that.
While, due respect, offering that, having grown up with your music, I'm pretty sure that John would have never let you live this one down.
Posted by Scott Edward Phelps at 12:49 PM
Saturday, January 31, 2015
"Freedom is the right to tell people what they don't want to hear...."
NEW YORK (AP) — First lady Michelle Obama urged Hollywood to give a more accurate portrayal of veterans and defended the Oscar-nominated "American Sniper," which has received criticism for its depiction of war.
Bradley Cooper, who is nominated for best actor for his portrayal of the late Navy SEAL sniper Chris Kyle, joined Obama and media heavyweights in Washington, D.C., on Friday to launch "6 Certified" with representatives from Warner Bros., National Geographic Channels and the Producers Guild of America.
The initiative will allow TV shows and films to display an onscreen badge that tells viewers the show they're watching has been certified by the group Got Your 6, which derives its name from military slang for "I've got your back." To be approved, the film or show must cast a veteran, tell a veteran story, have a story written by a veteran or use veterans as resources.
"We hope our country will welcome back our veterans — not by setting them apart but by fully integrating them into the fabric of our communities," Mrs. Obama said.
"While I know there have been critics, I felt that, more often than not, this film touches on many of the emotions and experiences that I've heard firsthand from military families over these past few years," she said.
Chris Marvin, managing director of Got Your 6 and a former U.S. Army officer and Blackhawk helicopter pilot, said their campaign isn't hoping to show veterans in a good light but in an honest one.
"Most Americans tell us that they only see veterans portrayed as broken or as heroes who walk on water in film and television," he said by phone. "We're missing something in the middle. Veterans are everyday people.
"They're your next door neighbor who helps you bring your garbage cans back when they blow away. They're your kids' fifth-grade math teacher. It's the person running for city council," he added. "You see them every day in your own life but you don't see them on film or television."
The Got Your 6 group was launched in 2012 to enlist Hollywood in the effort to discourage stereotypes and promote more accurate representation of the 2.6 million soldiers coming home over the past 10 years. Surveys have found that many Americans presume veterans suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder, are homeless or are addicted to drugs or alcohol.
The group has taken lessons from other successful efforts to change national viewpoints, including increasing gay rights, reducing teen pregnancies, encouraging colonoscopies, improving animal rights and reducing drunken driving. It has identified Hollywood as an engine of cultural change.
"This is more of a challenge than anything else. We're challenging the entertainment industry — myself included — to live up to the responsibilities inherent in the powers we have and with the reach that we have," said Charlie Ebersol, a producer and creator of the "6 Certified" program.
Mrs. Obama cited TV shows including "Nashville" and "Doc McStuffins" as ones that share stories of "our veterans in new and meaningful ways." She said telling veterans' stories honestly makes for "tremendous TV and movies" and "are good for business as well."
Ebersol had his own list of shows with positive veteran portrayals, including the Jay Pritchett character in "Modern Family," Sam Waterston's portrayal of veteran Charlie Skinner on "The Newsroom" and Seth Rogen's guest role as a veteran on "The Mindy Project." In all them, being a veteran wasn't their defining characteristic.
"We have a real opportunity to go way beyond the platitudes of the entertainment industry. We love to say, 'I support the troops!' and 'I've got a yellow ribbon!' but there's an actual, tangible way to make a difference. That's what the challenge is here."
In bureaucratic America, nothing springs to life faster than a good cause.
And, of course, a group, panel, committee and/or advisory board to lead the charge in the pursuit of said cause.
Hidden, of course, in the "whereas's" and "therefore's" of the proclamations and/or declarations of principles that trumpet the missions of the aforementioned group, panel, committee and/or advisory board leading the charge in pursuit of said cause is a more often than not obvious, but not necessarily noticed, inevitable conclusion.
The lack of need for the aforementioned group, panel, committee and/or advisory board leading the charge in pursuit of said cause.
Primarily owing to the lack of need for said cause in the first place.
In this case, the Got Your 6.
Now, if, at this moment, you're inclined to instinctively fire off some snappy/snarky/savage comment, opinion and/or retort, usually, but not always accompanied by the ferocious waving of your flag and/or the sounds of Lee Greenwood wafting in the background, angrily taking me to task for my lack of patriotism, please allow me this suggestion.
I love this country just as much as you love this country, I support the men, women and their families who give time, energy and, too often, their lives in service to this country as much as you support them and I don't need to hear your rah rah, blah blah, love it or leave it bullshit now or anytime in the future.
Because what I'm talking about here has absolutely nothing to do with patriotism.
And has everything to do with political correctness.
I haven't seen American Sniper. Probably wont until it shows up on Netflix.
No reflection at all on the content of the film.
I just don't go out to the movies much anymore.
I don't know what I will think of the movie until I see it.
There is, though, one thing that I am rock solid, bet the farm, absolutely sure that I do know.
It's a movie.
From a book.
Neither of which required, or shall ever require, a group, panel, committee and/or advisory board to lead the charge in pursuit of the cause.
Let alone legitimize them.
Or the cause.
See, here's the thing.
It's a free country.
And free is like pregnant.
No such thing as "a little bit".
And I don't need or want to seek approval from a group, I don't need or want to hear endorsements from a panel, I don't need or want recommendations from a committee and I damn sure don't want or need to see a ribbon, medallion, logo and/or Good fucking Housekeeping Seal on a motion picture to help determine whether I want to see it or not.
What, ideally, I do want is to be left alone to use my intelligence, common sense, core values and/or basic humanity to determine what I want to see and how I will feel about it once I see it.
And, not for nothin'.....but, ideally, that's what I want for you, too.
I don't care what the MPAA thinks about movies.
I don't care what the Parents Television Council thinks about TV shows.
And I don't care if Got Your 6 approves or disapproves of the content of a film.
I'm smart enough, old enough, wise enough and in sufficient control of my faculties to determine for myself whether a film, TV show, book, recording, et al moves me, inspires me, offends me, repulses me, angers me, delights me.....
...and whether it is a classic of its category.....or a stereotype I have no interest in endorsing.
Truth is, I can't, in fact none of us can, tell the difference between that which moves, inspires, delights and that which angers, offends or repulses unless I have free, unfettered, unbiased, unequivocal access to all.
Those who chafe at the idea of government regulation or, for that matter, regulation in general too often overlook a key element in the discussion.
Swords cut both ways.
Even the swords of freedom.
Especially the swords of freedom.
Singer/writer Steve Earle once said to me that Nashville record producers had an annoying habit of always asking to be pitched songs that were "up-tempo, positive...up-tempo, positive...".
Steve's take on it was "if you're doing that all the time, you're not painting a complete portrait because, let's face it, life ain't always up-tempo, positive...sometimes, it's down-tempo, negative..."
I'm not interested in cinema that perpetually portrays the military in a negative light.
Nor am I interested in cinema that perpetually portrays the military in a positive light.
I am interested in cinema that moves me, inspires me, offends me, repulses me, angers me, delights me.....
...and whether it is a classic of its category.....or a stereotype I have no interest in endorsing.
I am interested, it turns out, in the freedom to make up my own mind.
Freedom in the purest sense of the word.
So, thanks anyway, Got Your 6.
Come to think of it, neither do the veterans.
We've got their 6.
Posted by Scott Edward Phelps at 6:52 AM
Sunday, January 18, 2015
Yada yada yada.
Blah blah blah.
Or, lest we be accused of a lack of diversity.....
Black, black, black.
When the Oscar nominations were announced Thursday morning, it didn't take long for people to notice that for the first time since 1995, every single one of the 20 actors contending for the prestigious award were white. There was also not a single woman represented in the writing or directing categories.
The hashtag #OscarsSoWhite began trending almost immediately as more and more critical thinkpieces were released discussing the lack of diversity in this year's race, and particularly the glaring snubs of Selma, the biopic about Martin Luther King, Jr.
On Friday night, the film academy president Cheryl Boone Isaacs responded to the backlash in an interview with The Associated Press, saying the all-white acting slate has only inspired her to further push for diversity in the Academy, but that she remains proud of this year's nominees.
"In the last two years, we've made greater strides than we ever have in the past toward becoming a more diverse and inclusive organization through admitting new members and more inclusive classes of members," said Boone Isaacs, the Academy's first black president. "And, personally, I would love to see and look forward to see a greater cultural diversity among all our nominees in all of our categories."
But while Boone Isaacs insists that the academy is "committed to seeking out diversity of voice and opinion," according to a survey conducted by The Los Angeles Times, the academy is nearly 94% white and 77% male with a median age of 62.
Speaking of the controversy over Selma failing to earn Ava DuVernay a directing nod or star David Oyelowo an acting nod, Boone Isaacs insisted this wasn't a reflection of a strong racial bias in the academy. "What is important not to lose sight of is that Selma, which is a fantastic motion picture, was nominated for best picture this year, and the best picture category is voted on by the entire membership of around 7,000 people," Boone Isaacs said.
She also said the academy is proud of all their acting nominees and that the five men up for best actor - Steve Carell, Bradley Cooper, Benedict Cumberbatch, Michael Keaton and Eddie Redmayne - "are all at the top of their game."
"There are quite a few actors this year at the top of their game," she said. "There are five nominees and this year; these were the five."
Sometimes, in this life, things are, by nature and necessity, complex.
This is not one of those things.
If we mean what we say when we say that we aspire to not judge by the color of skin......
Then we should not judge by the color of skin.
Whether it's the more abstract judging of one's place in society.
Or the simpler judging of one's performance in a motion picture.
Put even more simply....
Color should not prevent one from being nominated for an Oscar.
Nor should it assure one of a nomination, either.
There's really no such thing as a double standard with only one side.
It's a clear as black and white.
Posted by Scott Edward Phelps at 5:15 AM