Hollywood Playbook: Wednesday's Top 5 News Items

Hollywood Playbook: Wednesday's Top 5 News Items

1. Critics Pummel Cesar Chavez Biopic

For critics to murder “Cesar Chavez” with a 46% Rotten rating, this thing either has to truly suck or be a little too Catholic for critical comfort. Everyone knows that politically correct films are given all kinds of breaks by critics who like having their personal political sweet-spots hit. Look at how many of those objectively awful anti-Bush/war flops in the mid-aughts skated by.

Using words like “flat,” “pedestrian,” and “lifeless,” Variety, The Village Voice, and The Hollywood Reporter all blistered director Diego Luna’s  look at the Mexican union organizer. Taking in the pans, it looks as though Luna was a little too reverential for their taste.

The Village Voice is especially brutal but sums up the negative reviews:

Luna’s Chávez is a Catholic saint, not just in his religious faith but also in his dedication to the idea that mortification of the flesh is the key to a paradisiacal future. The film begins with Chávez leaving his cushy job as the national director of a Latino civil rights group, where he wears a suit (but no tie) to work; he’s soon toiling in the fields despite his chronic backaches to gain the trust of the workers. Moving his wife and eight children into a three-bedroom house in the farm towns also means holding back his own kids’ prospects to provide better opportunities for the farm workers’ children. “The kids here are idiots,” complains his son Chato (Maynor Alvarado), suddenly the target of anti-Mexican slurs. …

Luna’s Chávez isn’t a man of contradictions. Nor is he a man of action. He merely suffers: beatings by angry white farm owners, unkind words from an increasingly rebellious Chato, agony from spectacular protests like a 25-day fast and a 300-mile march. The film doesn’t seek admiration for his deeds or his force of will, only sympathy for enduring the kind of physical pain the Jackass crew used to undergo every week for MTV. …

There are intimations of suggestions of allusions to the media-savvy ideologue that Chávez actually was. (As the rightwing press is still fond of pointing out, the union man occasionally agitated against immigration, fearing that scabs would undermine the effectiveness of his strikes, and even reported a few undocumented workers who wouldn’t join his campaigns to INS.)

I spent ten years living on the border of Monterey Park and East Los Angeles. Cesar Chavez is a god in East L.A. One of the main boulevards is named after Chavez and many of the businesses I frequented had posters of Chavez (and Jesus and Mary and Edward James Olmos and Julio Cesar Chavez) on the walls.

As a director, Luna might not have been interested in deconstructing his hero. And myth-making is a perfectly acceptable cinematic art form, the gold standard being John Ford’s 1939 masterpiece “Young Mr. Lincoln.”

Critics today, though, who probably feel inadequate and ashamed when a film extols the virtues of heroism, decency, selflessness, and sacrifice, bristle at such things as “simplistic,” “old-fashioned,” and “one-dimensional.” They want to tear down goodness to feel better about themselves.

Cesar Chavez is like Malcolm X and  Muhammad Ali to me: someone I mostly disagreed with but still admire.


2. Vladimir Putin wants all Russians to be tough like Steven Seagal

This is a terrible Washington Post click-bait story that focuses on celebrity instead of the real news, which is Putin attempting to return Russia to the Stalin-era workout regimes. That might sound like a small thing — it was voluntary under Stalin and is voluntary under Putin — but it is part of a larger puzzle that reveals Putin as the former-KGB captain he is.

You can also tie the Seagal story to Russian laws that make public displays of homosexuality illegal.

Culturally, I think, Putin is trying to protect and promote male masculinity, which is under assault in countries like the United States. That is a worthwhile goal; he is just going about it in sinister, Statist ways.


3. Russell Crowe Crybabies: ‘Noah’ Criticism as ‘Bordering on Absolute Stupidity’

“Noah” star Russell Crowe sounds like he’s gunna cry:

We’ve had probably over a year now of very harsh criticism from a bunch of people who have put their name and stamp on an opinion that’s not even based on the movie or seeing the movie, just an assumption of what it could be or how bad it could be or how wrong it could be in their eyes, which I think quite frankly is bordering on absolute stupidity, because now, I think, people are seeing the movie and they’re realizing how respectful it is and how potent it is.

First off, shut up.

“Noah” is facing sight unseen about a millionth the criticism “The Passion of the Christ” did sight unseen. The whole idea of the tens of millions of dollars studios pour into publicity is to create “buzz” — to get people talking. If, sight unseen, people were saying NOAH LOOKS FREAKING AWESOME!, Crybaby Crowe wouldn’t consider that stupid.

Secondly, what does Crybaby Crowe expect when he says things like….

You come out of this movie and you want to talk…about our stewardship of the earth, our relationship to animals, what is spirituality, who am I in this world[.]

…or when the film’s DIRECTOR declares “Noah” the “least biblical film ever made.”

During his “Good Morning America” appearance, Russell Crowe also pretended he met the Pope and was invited to do so.

I think considering the controversy around this movie, it would have been so easy for the Vatican to rescind that invitation and just let it be that way, but the kindness to actually let the invitation stand, I thought it was just so consistent with who he’s been.

The Vatican might call that statement a lie.


4. Wow! Amazon Dumps Some Cable Programming, Ramps Up Original Series

What is interesting about this story is that it shows that Amazon Streaming doesn’t believe it needs cable content to remain viable. Amazon has already released 10 original shows and just ordered four more.

The loser here is Scripps and Discovery, who just lost $11 million in expected licensing fees.

The dozen or so multi-nationals who produce 90% of our news and entertainment content must be freaking. Pay TV is already losing subscribers, Netflix Streaming alone expects to be in 50% to 80% of U.S. households in the next ten years, and now a major Streaming provider is saying they don’t even want a big chunk of cable content.

Man alive, $11 million is nothing to Amazon.

This is a message, not a business decision.

Amazon is putting content providers on notice that they don’t need their content.


5. Jimmy Fallon Is YouTubing ‘The Tonight Show’

Just an observation, not a judgment: Under Fallon the “Tonight Show” is now all about producing a nightly YouTube video that can go viral and sometimes get a lot more views than the “Tonight Show” has viewers.

Whole new world.


Quick Hits

Hollywood Already Exploring a Malaysia Airlines Movie

AMC Theaters CEO Calls Obamacare Delays ‘Troublesome’

Virtual reality headsets pose (very) long-term threat to the theatrical business

Indiana Jones 5 Could Be a Reboot

‘Lost’ cast explains the whole series in 30 seconds


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