Entertainment

Entertainment (20)

Movie Pass, a subscription based movie theater service exploded early last year when they offered a “$10 per month to see one movie per day” deal. Many thought it was too good to be true. And many NON subscribers to Movie Pass got high and mighty and wrote smug article, after smug article about how Movie Pass was going to crash and burn.

Well, they were all wrong. Movie Pass has actually been around for several years and it’s still here. Will it be here in five years? I don’t know. But I’m here to tell you that it’s currently still a good deal. It’s certainly not the sweetheart deal it once was, but it’s still good. And now, starting in January 2019, it’s going to get better. Again, not the sweetheart deal it used to be, but much better than the current, “Decent but kind of a pain in the ass” deal it is right now.

Movie Pass, currently, offers a subscriber three 2D movies per month for a $10 monthly fee. Which is a fine deal; however, Movie Pass chooses which movies you are allowed to see each day. And each day they offer a completely different selection. Which means you have to dig through their calendar and find the movie that you want to see. Then you note, “Oh, the movie I want to see is only being offered through Movie Pass at 4:20pm on Wed at a theater that’s 30 minutes away from  me. Well, I guess that’s when / where I’ll go see it then!”

So, you will (probably) still get to see the movie you want to see. But you have to put some legwork into it. This is a far cry from their initial “You can see one movie per day for $10 per month.” So, I can understand why customers were reasonably pissed off with terms of service change after change.

 

But most writers are clearly not subscribers to Movie Pass. So they’re smugly writing snotty hit pieces so if Movie Pass fails they can say, “I told you so! I knew it was going to fail! That’s why I never signed up!”

 

Um. Okay. You go ahead and do that then. I’ll be over here saving lots of $$$ by using my Movie Pass three times a month. Here are their new terms of service starting in January.

 

The Select Plan ($9.99 per month): Three movies a month but your choices are restricted to selections by Movie Pass that changes each day. This is exactly what Movie Pass has been offering since August.

 

The All Access Plan ($14.99 per month): Three movies a month and you can see any standard 2D screening of any movie in your area. This looks to be the best deal.

 

The Red Carpet Plan ($19.99 per month): Any three standard 2D movies per month plus one Imax or 3D screening per month. I don’t give a damn about 3-D movies. Perhaps you do and this is the plan for you but I’ll be sticking with the All Access. (Here’s how I feel about 3-D films).

 

This is exactly what they should have been doing since day one. Three plans. I don’t see why it took them so long to figure this out. Now, just as Movie Pass offered last year, the best deal out of a subscription will be if you pay for the entire year up front. For example: if you sign up for the one year All Access Plan you only pay $120.00. Which is a significant discount. But, obviously, that means you have to pay the full $120 up front. Which I’m fine with but some folks might not be. You won’t be able to sign up for the plan until January but Movie Pass has them displayed at their site here for you to check out.

 

Finally, does this mean Movie Pass will succeed brilliantly? I don’t know. But the bottom line is this - they are currently offering a really great deal (again). Even at $15 a month, as long as you see three movies per, you are saving a ton of cash. I paid about $120 for my yearly subscription to Movie Pass and I watched about 30 movies in 2018 with an average ticket price of $12 per. That’s about $360 worth of movies for $120.

 

So, if Movie Pass lost $240 on me alone, how does Movie Pass make money, or stay in business? Well - that’s not my problem. =)

 

But to give you a general example of how they (potentially can) make money: they are investing in feature films, they are looking into building theater chains, they are advertising specific movies to the customers, they are data marketing and mining. Here is a good piece about how they (potentially can) make money if you want to spend more time reading into it.

Again, I don’t claim to know how long Movie Pass will be around. But for now, Movie Pass is still a good deal. And the pain in the ass “we change what movies you can see every day” will go away if I upgrade my subscription for an extra $5 monthly fee.

 

Which I will totally do as soon as I am able.

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Why Disney movies highlight a parent death

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The Nutcracker and the Four Realms is Disney’s latest release, and not only are viewers anticipating a fairy tale story, dancing, melodious soundtrack and illuminating colors, but they are also expecting a parent to die or not be in the picture early on in the story.

It’s inescapable if you commit to emotionally investing in a Disney film.  And if you look closely, it’s more often the mother.

Why?  Well let’s first look at some of the classics.

1938  Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs – Snow’s biological mother died and is replaced by the Evil Queen, her stepmother.

 

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1941 Dumbo – our favorite elephant is parent-less in the movie.

 

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1942 Bambi – sadly, graphic content below….

 

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1950  Cinderella – the most famous princess to ever live is motherless in the movie and haunted by her big-footed step family.

 

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1951 Alice in Wonderland – its been postulated Alice was orphaned and taken care of by a governess.

1963 The Sword and the StoneArthur is a 12 year-old orphan boy.

1967 The Jungle BookMowgli is found parent-less.

1989 The Little MermaidAriel’s mother, Queen Athena, was killed, leaving her father Triton to raise her and her sisters.

1992 – Aladdin –  Princess Jasmine is motherless.

In Tarzan's, Lilo's and The Emperor's New Groove's Kuzko, all lost their parents.

In 1994 not a dry eye was in the house during the scene in which Simba loses Mufasa in The Lion King….

 

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1995 – Pocahontas – it’s revealed her mother had passed a while back.

And the most colorful and comical of the Disney films, Finding Nemo, wasn’t exempt either, with Nemo’s Mom being eaten in the opening scene.

So why all the gloom in nearly every Disney movie?

 

Multiple theories were brought forward by Disney producer, Don Hahn, in an interview to Glamour. The first was that Walt Disney tragically lost his mother when he was younger.

In 1938 the successful film producer, young Walt, purchased a home for his parents and when the gas furnace was faulty he sent his studio men over to fix it.  Unfortunately the repair was not adequate and it eventually leaked, and his mother, Flora Call Disney, soon died of asphyxiation.

 

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WALT DISNEY’S PARENTS:  GETTY IMAGES

 

It’s believed the grieving son found the interweaving of this tragedy into his work as a means to deal with his guilt.

The second theory is that Disney films wanted to mix fairy tale with the reality many children face, adding a sense of “realism” to the stories.

And final theory is Walt Disney wanted children to feel like heroes, and a film in which a child battles evil without the help of Mommy and Daddy infused a sense of empowerment to his target audience.

So the idea of celebrating the triumph of the quest of a parent-less child is probably more pervasive in these movies than the purposeful injection of a gory parental death.  Although this makes Disney movies more palatable, I’m still hoping Mufasa was only unconscious and recovered off the set when we weren’t looking.

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Daliah Wachs is a guest contributor to GCN news, her views and opinions, medical or otherwise, if expressed, are her own. Doctor Wachs is an MD,  FAAFP and a Board Certified Family Physician.  The Dr. Daliah Show , is nationally syndicated M-F from 11:00 am - 2:00 pm and Saturday from Noon-1:00 pm (all central times) at GCN.

 

The #MeToo Movement got its start in Hollywood, but the still-moving movement for equal rights for women got its start from Sidonie-Gabrielle Colette. Colette penned the bestselling series of Claudine novels under her husband’s name before breaking away to win the 1948 Nobel Prize in Literature for her novel Gigi. She was also an actress and journalist. She was the true genius behind her husband’s success and boldly challenged both the sexuality and gender identity status quos. Colette is the real Wonder Woman women deserve.

Colette is portrayed perfectly by Keira Knightley; it’s the best performance of her career. She truly is “the real Claudine” as well as the real Colette. Even while her husband received credit for the writing of the books, it was her who was credited with creating “a type.” Women upon reading the Claudine novels became Claudine—dressing like her, cutting their hair like her, even adopting her words as a regular part of their everyday vocabulary. Claudine was a literary phenomenon bigger than Harry Potter, and more in line with Madonna. Colette’s face was on hair products, cigarettes, everything.

Colette wasn’t always an empowered author, though. The film tells a most intriguing and often hilarious story of her growth from quiet, heterosexual housewife and letter writer to emboldened, bisexual novelist/actress and happy divorcee. She might not have been violated sexually like those women in Hollywood who spearheaded the #MeToo Movement, but she was violated by men nonetheless. None more so than her husband, who repeatedly used her writing to dig himself out of debt, going so far as to lock her in a room for four hours to write words he’d later claim as his own using the status quo and not his ego as the reason her name could not accompany his on the manuscripts.

Colette constantly challenged the status quo, whether it was women writing or the generally-accepted running around of husbands with mistresses and looking-down upon of wives doing the same. "Infidelity is a matter of gender to you?" Colette angrily asks her husband, Willy (real name Henry Gauthier-Villars, portrayed very well by Dominic West), at one point. She eventually falls in love with a transgender woman, Missy. When her husband refuses to acknowledge Colette's insistence that Missy be referred to as "him" instead of "her" despite Colette correcting him three times, you see exactly how far ahead of her time Colette really was. It would sicken her to see Donald Trump's administration looking to change the legal definition of gender back to what is or isn't swinging between your legs rather than what you see yourself as regardless of genitalia

Colette includes one of the funniest montages you’ll see in cinema and doesn’t dull with dialogue. The conversation, especially with her husband, comes more quickly and more wittily as Colette’s character grows more and more emboldened. The moment she becomes aware of her genius isn’t as celebratory as the moment she allows herself to embrace it and enjoy it without her husband. Like a perennial, Colette blooms every year, but it takes years to fully realize her radiance.

Critics (86 percent fresh on Rotten Tomatoes) and audiences (75 percent like it) alike are loving Colette. It deserves better than the $3.7 million its made at the box office. With Colette, the New York-based Bleeker Street has given women, especially those brave women of Hollywood, the #MeToo movie their movement deserves. Reward them for doing so and you’ll be rewarded yourself.


If you like this, you might like these Genesis Communications Network talk radio shows: The Karel Show, Erskine Overnight, The Lounge, The Debbie Nigro Show   

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More underappreciated horror films for Halloween

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Spooky, spooky, scary, scary!

 

It’s that time of year again - where pumpkins are carved up, gutted and massacred. Where kids dress up and beg for candy - from strangers! And let’s not forget - Halloween just wouldn’t be Halloween without at least one news site running a, “Watch out for razor blades in those apples” story.  (Hint: You’re more likely to get mauled to death by a goat then you are to get a razor blade in your apple).

 

And that means there will be an inevitable flood of lists of movies to watch for Halloween! Hell, even I wrote one last year called Underappreciated Horror Films for Halloween. I took the idea that most such lists have all the usual suspects: take your pick of a franchise - Nightmare on Elm Street, Child’s Play, Paranormal Activity, Scream, Friday the 13th, Saw, Halloween, Hellraiser, [Insert Random Name] of the Dead, etc., etc. Throw in the obligatory mention of The Exorcist, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and The Shining, add another Stephen King adaptation for good measure, class it up with some vintage black and white: Creature from the Black Lagoon, Dracula, Frankenstein and toss in whatever is currently hip and popular with the cool kids these days, such as -- It Follows and Babadook.

 

Great! And done!

 

But, also, kind of boring.

 

And so I’m back with another list of underappreciated horror films for your Halloween viewing terror! Don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of movies in the aforementioned list that I adore. But there are a lot of great horror movies that slip under the radar. If you are a true horror film aficionado there probably won't be much here you've not heard of. But for most movie folk this should be a nice list of underappreciated horror films you may dig.

 

The trailers were meticulously screened to avoid spoilers. No, seriously. I watched multiple trailers for all of these movies and selected ones that were cool but vague and non spoilerific!

 

Also, I just recognized that this year AND last year - most of my film selections were written by men, and all of them were directed by men. Hmm. I'll make sure future lists have more diversity. So, I'll work on that.

 

With that being said, some of my new favorite underappreciated films -- presented alphabetically:  

 

Better Watch Out (2016): The movie's tagline says it all: On a quiet suburban street, a babysitter must defend a twelve-year-old boy from intruders, only to discover it's far from a normal home invasion. So, very true. =) Better Watch Out is a delightfully sinister Christmas horror film! The three young, unknown (to me) actors: Olivia DeJonge, Levi Miller, Ed Oxenbould are all well cast and will probably go on to bigger and better things (a quick IMDB search tells me they have). The film was mildly loved by critics but largely ignored by audiences. I haven’t found a trailer that didn’t ruin some of the film’s surprises so I would ignore them all if I were you.

 

The Blackcoat’s Daughter (2016): Often described as a "slow burn of a film," a phrase I typically dislike, because most folks equate that wording with, “Boring, but kind of interesting.” Instead I would describe The Blackcoat’s Daughter as a dark atmospheric exploration of loneliness. With some devil worship. The ending appears to have been largely misunderstood by critics and reviewers alike and without spoiling anything, I will say that any other interpretation other than, “holy fucking evil tragedy,” is wrong.  All three of the female actors Emma Roberts, Kiernan Shipka and Lucy Boynton do fine work but I would say Kiernan Shipka pulls off an extraordinary take on the affected, especially since I always found her younger years as an actor on Mad Men, fairly inconsistent (she played young Sally Draper). Originally released as, “February” the film has been renamed for streaming and DVD.  Official HD trailer for the Blackcoat’s Daughter.

 

Bone Tomahawk (2015): Kurt Russell. Sweet mutton chops. Western. Bloody vengeance. You read that right! Bearing the same badass mutton chops he flaunted in Tarantino's (kind of overrated) Hateful Eight, Russell steals the show as hard as nails Sheriff Franklin Hunt. The over all plot will certainly be familiar to anyone who’s seen a western before, but the tone of the film works well and carries the story to an effective, brutal ending. Nominated for and winner of - multiple indie / horror awards including the Independent Spirit Award, the Saturn Award and the Fangoria Chainsaw Award where Russell won for Best Actor. Official trailer #1 for Bone Tomahawk.

 

Compliance (2012): Based on the shocking true story, Compliance is a fairly accurate recreation of truly fucked up events that unfolded in the back of a Kentucky McDonald’s. Much like 2011's Martha, Marcy, May, Marlene the film is a non supernatural psychological thriller but, in essence - is a real horror film. There doesn’t have to be a supernatural presence, or a murder, in order for a movie to be down right chilling and horrific and Compliance is both. The premise of the film: A man, claiming to be a police officer, calls a fast-food restaurant and convinces the manager that one of her employees is a suspect and that the manager must strip search the employee. She complies. It gets worse from there. Compliance premiered at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival and was … controversial to say the least. Audience members walked out because they found the movie too disturbing and then there was some kind of screaming match during the film’s Q&A all about the nature of compliance. Ann Dowd, as the manager in question, was nominated for all sorts of acting awards - winning the National Board of Review.  Official trailer for Compliance.

 

Creep / Creep 2 (2014 / 2017): Writer / actor Mark Duplass, arguably the king of all fucking independent films in the last fifteen years (though he did not invent mumblecore films with The Puffy Chair in 2005 as many have implied, that was Andrew Bujalski with Funny Ha Ha in 2002). Anyway, Duplass pulls off another charming mumblecore-esq role as - the creep? Or is he? Also, this is one of the rare gems where the sequel might be better than the original. Both are found footage films with all the pratfalls that entails but are relatively short at 80ish minutes each and can be watched in one creepy evening. Official Trailer for Creep. And hey now, don’t go watching the Trailer for Creep 2 until you’ve finished Creep!

 

Hereditary (2018): Okay. I will go out on a limb and tell you that Hereditary is the greatest horror film of the last decade and might be my favorite horror film of all time. Criminally underappreciated actress Toni Collette turns in a powerhouse performance as artist Annie Graham. Her mother has just died and Annie inherits an enormous amount of emotional baggage the threatens her family and her very existential existence. Both Milly Shapiro and Alex Wolff, as her children, are equally mesmerizing. Ann Dowd, mentioned above in Compliance is as universally great as she always is. Hereditary drips with imagery & symbols and heavily explores themes of the title of the film - inheritance. A simple enough premise but executed with unbelievable skill in front of and behind the camera. I hesitate to use the word “masterpiece,” because the word is so over used, especially in film criticism. But, use it I shall because Hereditary is a domestic nightmare, horror masterpiece. Official trailer for Hereditary.

 

Green Room (2015): Like many movies on this list Green Room was a critic’s darling that underperformed at the box office. Staring the late, great Anton Yelchin and the crazy talented chameleon Imogen Poots. Seriously, I could not believe she was the same woman from the perfect Fright Night remake. The movie is about a punk rock band, the Aint Rights, who find themselves attacked by neo-Nazi skinheads after accidentally witnessing a murder at the skinhead’s club. And who plays the leader of the skinheads? Patrick Stewart, naturally. No, seriously, I don’t know what convinced him to play the role of a skinhead Nazi but the movie gods should be thanked that he recognized the greatness that was about the become the film Green Room! And it’s really, really great. Official trailer for Green Room.

 

Thoroughbreds (2017): The movie that made me ask, “Um, who the hell is that actress? Because in the next ten years she’s going to be recognized as one of the greatest actors of her generation.” The woman in question - Olivia Cooke. You fine folks might be all like, “Oh, the girl from The Bates Motel - and Ready Player One, yeah, she’s great!” Well, at the time I saw Thoroughbreds Ready Player One had not been released and I had not seen a single episode of Bates Motel - but you can be sure I binged it in the next few months. (And, it’s okay. Cooke's character is very under written and she's underused which is okay since she's not the lead, and the two leads are great in Bates Motel - but that’s another story). Anyway, Thoroughbreds is more of a super dark comedy than a traditional horror film, but they often go hand in hand. I mean, it is a film about murdering one of your parents but, like - in a hip, non trite way. #amiright? As much as I love Angela Bettis in May and Robin McLeavy in The Loved Ones, I think Olivia Cooke’s sociopathic Amanda is the new big girl on the block. Official trailer for Thoroughbreds.

 

And there we have it. Another list. Hopefully, you’ll see something here that interests you. If you like a lot of films on this list, perhaps check out my list from last year, linked above. More of the same - underappreciated gems.

 

This years tally of horror: An on screen body count of approx. twenty four but maybe as high as eighty (hard to keep track of as some of the serial killer movies are deceptive about victims). Three movies with decapitations. Two about demons. Two with bad parents. One about Christmas. One on tour. Three, perhaps four (number debatable) about serial killers. Four with female leads. Two found footage. One with Nazis. One based on a true story. And one starring Kurt Russell and those glorious mutton chops.

 

Happy Halloween!

 

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Better Watch Out (2016), an Australian Horror Comedy film directed by: Chris Peckover and written by Zach Kahn and Peckover.

 

The Blackcoat's Daughter (2016), an American Canadian supernatural psychological drama written and directed by: Oz Perkins, son of late Anthony Perkins.

 

Bone Tomahawk (2015), an American western horror film written and directed by S. Craig Zahler.

 

Compliance (2012), an american thriller drama written and directed by Craig Zobel.

 

Creep / Creep 2 (2014 / 2017), American independent found footage horror film directed by Patrick Brice and written by Mark Duplass and Brice.

 

Hereditary (2018), an American supernatural horror film (masterpiece!) written and directed by Ari Aster. His first feature film.

 

Green Room (2015), an American horror film written and directed by Jeremy Saulnier. Also - fuck Nazi’s.


Thoroughbreads (2017), an American black comedy thriller written and directed by Cory Finley. Starring crazy, madman genius young actor Olivia Cooke.

 

Musicians are athletes. They have talents that can’t be coached but must be practiced to reach their potential. They are expected to perform at the highest level both in practice (in the studio) and in games (on stage in front of thousands of paying customers) despite grueling travel and publicity schedules. And they both exert energy performing with no guarantee of success.

Musicians’ success ultimately depends on their ability to play, which, like athletes, is dependent upon their health. And while musicians’ careers might not be as short as athletes’ careers on average, they’re equally dependent upon talents that inevitably diminish with age. But what are the sports musicians play on stage when it comes to comparable caloric exertion? That all depends on the genre of music they're playing and how they're playing it.

The Research

My research started with 28 musical performances in 27 days, beginning with Earth, Wind & Fire at the Minnesota State Fair on Aug. 26. From there I flew to Las Vegas for Mariah Carey at Caesars Palace on Sept. 5. A week after returning to Minnesota, I was headed to Chicago for Riot Fest, featuring a three-day lineup spanning almost every musical genre over the last 70 years.

The late 1950s rockabilly and ’60s rock & roll of pianist Jerry Lee Lewis gave way to metal/punk pianist and professional partier Andrew W.K. Fittingly, Elvis Costello and the Imposters played songs from the new wave he helped build and Blondie brought ashore to the states throughout the 1970s, riding the wave to the top of the charts in both the U.S. and U.K. in 1980 with a cover of The Paragons’ “The Tide is High.”

Blondie also served as a reminder that the political, electronic punk group Pussy Riot has Debbie Harry to thank for not only popularizing female punk voices but feminism as a whole. And while Bad Religion wasn’t the first band to get political with their lyrics in the 1980s, their popularity certainly made it a staple of the punk genre, paving the way for acts like Pussy Riot to draw attention to political corruption with their music. Pussy Riot did just that at Riot Fest, calling for justice after a longtime member and activist with the group was poisoned, perhaps for uncovering information regarding the deaths of three Russian journalists with whom he’d been working.

The ’90s were well represented by Lagwagon and Face to Face, and although Blink-182 had to cancel for health reasons, the lineup somehow got better with the additions of Weezer, Run the Jewels, and Taking Back Sunday. Blink’s absence didn’t mean pop punk of the ’90s would go unheard at Riot Fest Chicago 2018. Alkaline Trio announced their presence with a fantastic set just before Incubus reenacted the heydays of alternative rock that started in the late ’90s and continued into the new millennium.

If you thought Riot Fest was a punk rock festival, you’d be surprised to know that hip-hop acts have played the festival in consecutive years. The best performance of 2017 was provided by Prophets of Rage, a rap rock supergroup consisting of members from Rage Against the Machine/Audioslave, Public Enemy, and Cypress Hill. The performance unified very different genres and, as a result, very different people, but was especially emotional coming just months after Audioslave’s lead singer, Chris Cornell, committed suicide. Cypress Hill’s B-Real must have enjoyed the emotional and genre-defying performance he gave with Prophets in 2017, because he was back playing “Hits from the Bong” with Cypress Hill in 2018. Run the Jewels concluded the festival’s final day just as Prophets of Rage did the year before.

Cypress Hill might be playing the only sport for which cannabis is a performance-enhancing drug, but that doesn’t mean what they’re doing on stage (and off) isn’t athletic. Exactly how athletic is difficult to determine without primary research. Ideally, I would have slapped a Fitbit on the wrist of each musician before going on stage. Instead, we’ll have to rely on estimates of caloric exertion provided by sources I felt to be most reputable and accurate based on my own calorie counting. So what sports are some of music’s best athletes playing on stage?

Mariah Carey is the Babe Ruth of Popular Singing

Mariah Carey’s body might be enhanced in a Bondsian fashion, but her voice is Ruthian; it might be replaced with a recording on occasion, but never enhanced, only amplified. Mariah is the Babe Ruth of popular music for a lot of reasons, but mostly because she has done and continues to do something no one else in her sport has.

The greatest athletes of all time separate themselves from their peers by being the only athlete in their sport to do something. Mariah has sung a G7 (a G-note in the seventh octave), which no other singer of popular music has done. She regularly reaches F#7 in concert (F-sharp, seventh octave), lifting people to their feet and putting smiles on their faces and tears in their eyes. I can personally attest to this, but I can only imagine men cried when Ruth allegedly pointed to the center field bleachers and then hit a homer there in what was a tied Game 3 of the 1932 World Series.

Barry Bonds hitting more home runs than Ruth, regardless of cleanliness, is as irrelevant to the greatest-baseball-player-of-all-time argument as Ruth’s all-time best 182.5 Wins Above Replacement (WAR) over his career because only Ruth has been both the best hitter and pitcher in his league over the course of a single season (so far).

Had there been an American League Cy Young Award in 1916, Ruth would have won it, but not by the margin he would have won the Most Valuable Player Award had there been one in 1920 (he hit 35 more home runs than runner-up George Sisler) and eventually did win in 1923 despite sharing the home run crown with Cy Williams (he reached base in more than half of his plate appearances and got all eight first-place votes).

While a 28-year-old Walter Johnson led the AL in wins (25), complete games (36) and innings pitched (369.2) in 1916, Ruth was the league’s best pitcher by any measure—new (Ruth had a league-best ERA+ of 158) or old (Ruth led the league with nine shutouts to Johnson’s three and allowed the fewest hits per nine innings pitched in the AL). And while Johnson's Senators finished last, Ruth led Boston to the American League Pennant (and, eventually, a World Series Championship) with 23 wins in a league-leading 40 starts and four other appearances accounting for more than 23 percent of his team’s innings pitched during the regular season (323.2, third-most in the AL). Two years later Ruth led Major League Baseball with 11 home runs along with Tillie Walker, but did so with almost 100 fewer at-bats. It was the last time Ruth would have more wins (13) than homers in a single season.

Using strictly vocal range as a means to determine popular music’s best singer would be like using batting average to determine baseball’s best hitter—it doesn’t tell the whole story. Ruth only led the league in batting average once, and his .342 career average is just tenth-best all time. Axl Rose might have the largest vocal range in the sport of popular singing, but the lowest note he sang (F1) is just one note lower than Barry White's lowest (F#1, or F-sharp, first octave). Mariah’s highest note is seven notes higher than that of her closest competitor.

Longevity matters in GOAT debates too, and Rose didn’t retain his vocal range for nearly as long as Mariah has. The one thing only Rose has done in the sport is so closely contested its baseball equivalent would be Roger Maris breaking Ruth’s single-season, home run record in the last game of the 1961 season, which was 10 games longer than Ruth’s in 1927, but resulted in Maris getting just seven more plate appearances than Ruth had to hit 60. Mariah is the GOAT because, at some point in her long career (like right now), she’s been both the sport’s best hitter of notes (vocal range) and best “pitcher” (highest or lowest pitch sung), and has done so convincingly and simultaneously.

Mariah’s relative dominance of her sport isn’t the only similarity she shares with Ruth. While Mariah isn’t “The Mariah” like Ruth was “The Babe,” her fans refer to her using only her first name with the assumption that absolutely everyone knows which Mariah is the Mariah. And like the Sultan of Swat, who went by his “stage” name of Babe over his given name, George, Mariah has earned a lot of nicknames, including “The Voice” and “Songbird.” So the relative fandom of musicians is also comparable to that of athletes.  

Mariah is beloved by her fans like The Babe was by kids. They defend her unconditionally because she is other-worldly in their eyes and ears. Any comparison to Whitney Houston is met with ruthless rebuffing comparable only to that of Michael Jordan fans fending off LeBron James comparisons as if they’re attacks on their religion or right to free speech. Ruth’s dominance of his sport allowed him to enjoy a long leash when it came to his off-field behavior, and the same goes for divas. There won’t be another Mariah, and there won’t be another Ruth—only imitators and imposters.

But Mariah isn’t popular enough to be the Michael Jordan of popular music, and she’s not burning comparable calories on stage as a basketball player does on the court. Few musicians are. Mariah Carey is playing baseball on stage, and she’s probably working harder than Ruth did playing the outfield, but not as hard as he did as a pitcher and hitter early in his career. Early in her career, though, her on-stage caloric exertion might have been closer to the caloric exertion of Ruth the pitcher/hitter.

If Livestrong’s estimates are accurate, Mariah singing while standing for an hour burns around 140 calories assuming a weight of 150 pounds. Healthy Celeb has her at around 148, which is reasonable given her five-foot, eight-inch height. Since she’s walking around the stage and doing so in heels, she’s probably burning another 200 calories per hour even if she’s lip-syncing. So that’s 340 calories burned per hour singing and moving around the stage (and crowd, which she did in Vegas), but we’re not considering her four plate appearances per game.

Mariah’s plate appearances are her wardrobe changes, each of which she knocked out of the park simply by being a knockout (thank you, gastric sleeve surgery). Mariah had four wardrobe changes during her Las Vegas show, all completed in three minutes or so, and while I’m sure she has plenty of help backstage, she’s still burning calories just as Ruth would even without swinging the bat. She might not burn a home-run-trot’s worth of calories changing clothes, but even The Great Bambino had a “courtesy runner” round the bases for him on home runs late in his career.

If we use an average of 3.5 minutes per wardrobe change given Mariah’s height, weight, and age, she likely burned another 20 calories or more changing clothes. And I think that’s a low estimate given her elevated heart rate going into the wardrobe change and the pressure of quickly completing the change. Keep in mind this estimate represents the caloric exertion associated with dressing and undressing with no stakes or complicated outfits. Still, that’s a total of 360 calories burned per hour on stage.

A non-pitching, non-catching fielder burns roughly 1,000 calories during a nine-inning baseball game. Another source estimates caloric exertion of non-pitchers and non-catchers at 305 calories per hour. An average game is over three hours long, so Mariah’s caloric exertion per hour on stage is comparable to that of a baseball player who isn’t pitching or catching. And her talent, longevity, and dominance of her sport is comparable to that of baseball’s best player.

Earth, Wind & Fire is the 1990s Chicago Bulls of Popular Music

Sinbad said prior to the Earth, Wind & Fire concert that I was in for a religious experience. He was absolutely right, but I didn’t think there would be so much movement on stage given the average age of the band members. I figured Philip Bailey’s voice would have regressed at the age of 67; I was wrong. I couldn’t imagine bassist Verdine White moving as much as he did at 67, and longtime percussionist/vocalist Ralph Johnson, also 67, didn’t miss a beat or note. It was one of the best performances I’ve ever seen, and I can only imagine had I ever seen the Bulls of the ’90s, I would have cried tears of joy at United Center just like I did at the Minnesota State Fair.

Earth, Wind & Fire has as many Grammys as the 1990s Bulls have championship rings (6), and like the greatest NBA dynasties, still has a big three in Bailey, White, and Johnson. Even Michael Jordan had Scottie Pippen and Dennis Rodman/Horace Grant. Earth, Wind & Fire not only has a big three, but nearly as many touring members as an NBA team (9). And they likely burned comparable calories as the Bulls roster on any given night.

Johnson alone likely burned more than 300 calories in an hour of drumming. White’s bass playing and dancing given his slenderness likely resulted in excess of 250 calories burned per hour, and we know singers around Bailey’s size burn around 180 calories per hour if their standing while singing. So the three remaining original members of Earth, Wind & Fire likely burned 730 calories in an hour.

Add the horn section with saxophonist, Gary Bias (217 calories per hour), trumpet player, Bobby Burns Jr. (273), and trombone player, Reggie Young (180), and total caloric exertion comes to 1,400. Two guitarists (217 calories burned per hour each) brings the total to 1,834 calories burned per hour, and background vocalists Philip Bailey Jr. and B. David Whitworth push the caloric exertion total to 2,134. Myron McKinley on keyboards (181) pushes Earth, Wind & Fire’s collective caloric exertion to 2,315 calories per hour. In the hour-and-a-half-long set at the Minnesota State Fair, the band probably burned close to 3,500 calories.

In comparison, if Jordan, Pippen, and Rodman played 40 minutes at their listed weights on Basketball Reference (1,523 calories burned), Toni Kukoc, Luc Longley, and Ron Harper played 30 minutes at their listed weights (1,200 calories burned), that would leave Steve Kerr 20 minutes (220) and Randy Brown 10 minutes of playing time (118). The 1997-98 Chicago Bulls would collectively burn around 3,061 calories per 48 minutes on the floor, or a bit more than 3,800 calories per hour. The vast difference in mass between members of Earth, Wind & Fire and the Chicago Bulls (Longley was listed at 265 pounds) could account for much of the difference in calories burned per hour.

Andrew W.K. is the Wayne Gretzky of Party Music

No one enjoyed sharing the puck more than The Great One, and no one enjoys sharing a party more than Andrew W.K. Party music is a broad genre and pretty much includes anything played with pace. And while Andrew W.K.’s success in his sport isn’t comparable to that of The Great One in his, there isn’t a single act out there that screams hockey like Andrew’s. Andrew W.K. shows are both pace-full and probably painful for Andrew, but he leaves it all on the stage (even blood sometimes) every night.

The first thing you’ll notice about Andrew W.K. when you see him live for the first time is his teeth. He has the biggest smile of anyone I’ve ever seen play music—so big, in fact, I thought he was high on cocaine. Now I know it’s the crowd that’s his addiction. I’ve never seen anyone happier doing their job than Andrew W.K., except maybe Wayne Gretzky after assisting a teammate on a goal. Gretzky loved assisting his teammates so much he has more assists than anyone else has points scored, and Andrew W.K. looks to simply assist the party-starting despite his early passion being fashion

We know playing piano burns around 181 calories per hour depending on size, but no one plays piano like Andrew W.K. The only person who did hasn’t kicked the bench out from under himself for quite some time. In fact, it took Jerry Lee Lewis almost five minutes to change jackets onstage after his band played for 15 minutes awaiting his arrival, but he’s 82 years old!

Assuming Andrew burns just 200 calories an hour playing piano and another 180 calories singing given his size (he’s a big man and wrote about working out for Vice amongst other things), that’s 380 calories per hour burned on stage. But Andrew W.K. moves about the stage more and more violently than Mariah Carey or Philip Bailey, so this estimate is more than safe given his hour-long, Riot Fest set.

Time on ice statistics are only available going back to the 1998-99 season, during which Gretzky averaged about 21 minutes per game. But that was his final season, so using playoff numbers might be a better representation of actual calories burned per game in his prime. In the 1993 Conference Finals Game 7 he played close to 24 minutes, and in the 1984 Stanley Cup Final Game 5 he played 23. Livestrong estimates caloric exertion for a 190-pound hockey player to be 700 calories per hour.

So in 22 minutes, Gretzky would burn a little more than 250 calories, but Livestrong notes that the intensity of hockey as an activity allows for calories to be burned well after coming off the ice. Kind of like Mariah Carey’s stressful, high-heart-rate costume changes, hockey’s shift changes results in hockey players continuing to burn calories even while resting. One study found that 10 men who completed an intense, 45-minute workout on a stationary bike burned an additional 190 calories in the 14 hours following the workout. So Gretzky and his linemates burning an additional 80 calories between shifts is reasonable, making The Great One’s total exertion 330 calories per game.

So I think I’ve at least proven that musicians (and singers are musicians because our voices are instruments) burn comparable calories performing on stage as athletes do playing sports, fulfilling the energy exertion requirement of athletes. Whether a musician’s talent and amount of practice required to perfect and preserve that talent is on the same level as professional athletes require more in-depth, accurate research. But if you aren’t considering the performance of your favorite band as an athletic endeavor, you might consider considering it.  

Honorable Mentions:

Pink Floyd is the 1956-66 Boston Celtics' Starting Five of Rock

The greatest rock band of all time last toured in 1994 with three original members and eight supporting members. That's enough people to match the caloric exertion of the best Boston Celtics teams. Although Pink Floyd was without their Bill Russell (Roger Waters), they still had a Bob Cousy (David Gilmour), a Tom Heinsohn (Nick Mason), and a Bill Sharman (Richard Wright). Waters returned for a reunion performance in 2005.

Pussy Riot is the 1952-60 Montreal Canadiens of Electronic Punk

Regardless of the lack of competition Pussy Riot has in its genre, they've dominated that genre for about as long as the Canadiens did the National Hockey League from 1952 to 1960, winning the Stanley Cup six times and finishing runners-up twice more. Pussy Riot's 11 members probably do enough dancing on stage to match the caloric exertion of the Canadiens of the '50s, too.

Run the Jewels is the LeBron James of Hip Hop

I know Run the Jewels consists of two people—El P and Killer Mike—but it takes at least two people to match what LeBron does on and off the court. Run the Jewels is not only as successful at selling records as LeBron is tickets, but all three of the group's records are critically acclaimed, like LeBron's off-court efforts.

I am probably like you in that - I hardly ever watch the Emmy Awards. And why is that? Well, for starters there was a run of 20 years where the exact same network shows won year after year. And if it wasn’t the exact same show it was, well, kind of the same type of show. Hill Street Blues, LA Law, NYPD Blue, The Practice, West Wing, the Sopranos. Seriously, that was like - 20 years! The same shows.

And what about those same 20 years in comedy? Well - Cheers, Murphy Brown and Frasier basically dominated from 83-98. Fifteen years and three shows pretty much won year after year.

And that gets pretty dull.

Don’t get me wrong. The morning after the Emmy’s I would always check in to see who won. But I don’t think I saw the show once between maybe 1988 and 2005. Or maybe I saw it once, or twice. But not often.

And that seems to be par for the course for most Americans. Now, keep in mind that the Emmy awards never kept track of viewers until 1990 and for about a decade viewership remained consistently within the 15-20 million range; however, ever since Ryan Seacrest took over the Emmy awards in 2007 (where The Sopranos and 30 Rock won top honors) the Emmys have struggled to get more than 12 million viewers.

There was one highlight in 2013 where show host Neil Patrick Harris brought in almost 18 million viewers (I watched that one!) but for the most part viewership has been declining for the past decade.

This seems odd to me. Once the “Golden Age of Television” began, about - ten years ago, I assumed that a wider variety of nominated shows would bring in a wider audience. For those not in the know, the “Golden Age of Television” has kind of universally been known as the rise of the cable programing and the decline of network TV all within the past decade.

Basically, all it suggests is that extremely high quality, high concept, original and sophisticated TV is universally found on cable stations these days, with the networks picking up a rare gem but usually floundering in the dark with dead fish, after dead fish.

Again, I assumed that a wider net cast by the Emmys would pull in a bigger catch. But, I was wrong. (And enough with the fish metaphors).

The most Emmy nominations by network for 2018 (2017 was similar with Netflix and HBO swapping places):  

  • Netflix 112
  • HBO 108
  • NBC 78
  • FX Network 50
  • CBS 34
  • ABC 31
  • Hulu 27
  • Prime Video 22
  • Showtime 21
  • National Geographic 17

 

Wow. So Netflix received almost as many nominations as all three major networks combined. Of course, with the amount of original content that Netflix pumps out, I guess I am not surprised (I confess I get a little overwhelmed when decided what to watch on Netflix). But still. How long are the networks going to broadcast the Emmy awards when the prime time networks hardly win any Emmys?

In the past ten years, all the best drama winners have been from cable stations (mainly AMC and HBO). Best variety show has been a cable show since 2003 (Comedy Central has dominated this category until HBO took over very recently).  Admittedly, 6 of the past 10 comedy winners were from the networks but that was because Modern Family won for 5 years in a row until Veep (HBO) took over for three years. Glancing over all acting categories I would say there is a pretty even mix of network to cable stations winning.

So, yes, there is a network that wins here there and everywhere but those number dwindle as the years pass. One doesn’t need to be a rocket scientist to see where this is heading.

Anyway, it has been reported everywhere that this year was the lowest rated Emmy awards ever. I don’t know why. Perhaps audiences have grown tired of the same old cable shows winning again and again. And I guess I can’t blame them. It’s the very same reason I stopped watching in the first place.

Also, it should be noted. I didn’t watch the Emmy awards this year, either. But the morning after I looked over the winners and I did watch the opening monologue, which I thought that was pretty good. So I attached it.

And for those that are interested in such things, here is a list of all the nominations and winners:

Outstanding supporting actor in a comedy series

Louie Anderson," Baskets"

Alec Baldwin, "Saturday Night Live"

Tituss Burgess, "Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt"

Brian Tyree Henry, "Atlanta"

Tony Shalhoub, "The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel"

Kenan Thompson, "Saturday Night Live"

Henry Winkler, "Barry" *WINNER

Outstanding supporting actress in a comedy series

Zazie Beetz, "Atlanta"

Alex Borstein, "The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel" *WINNER

Aidy Bryant, "Saturday Night Live"

Betty Gilpin, "GLOW"

Leslie Jones, "Saturday Night Live"

Kate McKinnon, "Saturday Night Live"

Laurie Metcalf, "Roseanne"

Megan Mullally, "Will & Grace"

 

Outstanding lead actor in a limited series or TV movie

Antonio Banderas, "Genius: Picasso"

Darren Criss, "The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story" *WINNER

Benedict Cumberbatch, "Patrick Melrose"

Jeff Daniels, "The Looming Tower"

John Legend, "Jesus Christ Superstar Live in Concert"

Jesse Plemons, "USS Callister (Black Mirror)"

Outstanding lead actress in a limited series or TV movie

Jessica Biel, "The Sinner"

Laura Dern, "The Tale"

Michelle Dockery, "Godless"

Edie Falco, "Law & Order True Crime: The Menendez Murders"

Regina King, "Seven Seconds" *WINNER

Sarah Paulson, "American Horror Story: Cult"

Outstanding lead actor in a comedy series

Anthony Anderson, "Black-ish"

Ted Danson, "The Good Place"

Larry David, "Curb Your Enthusiasm"

Donald Glover, "Atlanta"

Bill Hader, "Barry" *WINNER

William H. Macy, "Shameless"

Outstanding lead actress in a comedy series

Pamela Adlon, "Better Things"

Rachel Brosnahan, "The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel" *WINNER

Allison Janney, "Mom"

Issa Rae, "Insecure"

Tracee Ellis Ross, "Black-ish"

Lily Tomlin, "Grace and Frankie"

Outstanding supporting actress in a limited series or movie

Sara Bareilles, "Jesus Christ Superstar Live In Concert"

Penelope Cruz, "The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story"

Judith Light, "The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story"

Adina Porter, "American Horror Story: Cult"

Merritt Wever, "Godless" *WINNER

Letitia Wright,"Black Mirror (Black Museum)"

Outstanding supporting actor in a limited series or movie

Jeff Daniels, "Godless" *WINNER

Brandon Victor Dixon,"Jesus Christ Superstar Live in Concert"

John Leguizamo, "Waco"

Ricky Martin, "The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story"

Edgar Ramirez, "The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story"

Michael Stuhlbarg, "The Looming Tower"

Finn Wittrock, "The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story"

Outstanding lead actor in a drama series

Jason Bateman, "Ozark"

Sterling K. Brown, "This Is Us"

Ed Harris, "Westworld"

Matthew Rhys, "The Americans" *WINNER

Milo Ventimiglia, "This Is Us"

Jeffrey Wright, "Westworld"

Outstanding lead actress in a drama series

Claire Foy, "The Crown" *WINNER

Tatiana Maslany, "Orphan Black"

Elisabeth Moss, "The Handmaid's Tale"

Sandra Oh, "Killing Eve"

Keri Russell, "The Americans"

Evan Rachel Wood, "Westworld"

Outstanding supporting actor in a drama series

Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, "Game of Thrones"

Peter Dinklage, "Game of Thrones" *WINNER

Joseph Fiennes, "The Handmaid's Tale"

David Harbour, "Stranger Things"

Mandy Patinkin, "Homeland"

Matt Smith, "The Crown"

 

Outstanding supporting actress in a drama series

Alexis Bledel, "The Handmaid's Tale"

Millie Bobby Brown, "Stranger Things"

Ann Dowd, "The Handmaid's Tale"

Lena Headey,"Game of Thrones"

Vanessa Kirby, "The Crown"

Thandie Newton, "Westworld" *WINNER

Yvonne Strahovski, "The Handmaid's Tale"

Outstanding reality/competition series

"The Amazing Race"

"American Ninja Warrior"

"Project Runway"

"RuPaul's Drag Race" *WINNER

"Top Chef"

"The Voice"

Outstanding variety sketch series

"At Home with Amy Sedaris"

"Drunk History"

"I Love You, America"

"Portlandia"

"Saturday Night Live" *WINNER

"Tracey Ullman's Show"

Outstanding variety talk series

"Full Frontal with Samantha Bee"

"Jimmy Kimmel Live!"

"Last Week Tonight with John Oliver" *WINNER

"The Daily Show with Trevor Noah"

"The Late Late Show with James Corden"

"The Late Show with Stephen Colbert"

Outstanding limited Series

"The Alienist"

"The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story" *WINNER

"Genius: Picasso"

"Godless"

"Patrick Melrose"

Outstanding comedy series

"Atlanta"

"Barry"

"Black-ish"

"Curb Your Enthusiasm"

"GLOW"

"The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel" *WINNER

"Silicon Valley"

"Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt"

Outstanding drama series

"Game of Thrones" *WINNER

"The Handmaid's Tale"

"Stranger Things"

"The Americans"

"This Is Us"

"Westworld"

 

According to a recently updated information from the RIAA (Recording Industry Association of America) Thriller has been surpassed as the number one selling album of all time. Which, as an 80’s kid, makes me a little sad. =(

 

The last time the RIAA compiled data on this subject was way back in the ancient time of 2006, when digital sales were hardly a thing. Well, now the RIAA has caught up with the rest of modern society, added in digital sales, and updated the Best Selling Albums of All Time List for the first time in twelve years! And, to be honest, most of the results are not surprising, except, of course - for the ones that are totally surprising!  I’m looking right at you #9!

 

Before I reveal this list, allow me a moment to reminisce. I was in grade school when Thriller was released. We, and I mean every last kid, teacher, mother and grandfather was madly in love with Billie Jean and Beat It and Wanna Be Startin Somethin and The Girl is Mine and, of course, Thriller (The Lady in My Life - meh, not so much). But, mainly Billie Jean, Beat It and Thriller. Ahhhh - nostalgia. And youth and dancing in front of the mirror.

 

Oh, that’s right. I danced in front of the mirror to Billie Jean. For, like - years. #comeatmebro!

 

I guess new generations can express their childhood love for modern day pop tarts and boy bands - but their love is misplaced because Thriller is still the big boy on the block!

 

Only, not any longer.

 

But actually, it still kind of is because the new list CHEATS!!!!

 

You see, the new #1 selling “album” of all time is … a compilation of greatest hits. So, even though this compilation of greatest hits has now outsold Thriller by 5 million albums - Thriller is still the top selling, non compilation record of all time.

 

Make sense?

 

Anyway … here are the top 20 best selling albums of all time:

 

  1. The Eagles, Greatest Hits 1971-1975 (38 million).
  2. Michael Jackson, Thriller (33 million).
  3. The Eagles, Hotel California (26 million).
  4. Billy Joel, Greatest Hits Volume I & II (23 million).
  5. Led Zeppelin, Led Zeppelin IV (23 million).
  6. Pink Floyd, The Wall (23 million).
  7. AC/DC, Back in Black (22 million).
  8. Garth Brooks, Double Live (21 million).
  9. Hootie & The Blowfish, Cracked Rear View (21 million).
  10. Fleetwood Mac, Rumours (20 million).
  11. Shania Twain, Come On Over (20 million).
  12. The Beatles, The Beatles - "The White Album" (19 million).
  13. Guns N’ Roses, Appetite for Destruction (18 million).
  14. Whitney Houston, The Bodyguard (Soundtrack) (18 million).
  15. Boston, Boston (17 million).
  16. Elton John, Greatest Hits (17 million).
  17. Garth Brooks, No Fences (17 million).
  18. The Beatles, The Beatles 1967-1970 (17 million).
  19. Alanis Morissette, Jagged Little Pill (16 million).
  20. Bee Gees, Saturday Night Fever (Soundtrack) (16 million).

 

Before bearing witness to the brilliant magic of Disney’s live-action Winnie the Pooh reboot, Christopher Robin, I was given goosebumps by the trailer for Disney’s live-action remake of Dumbo. If you thought Disney was going to make money with its purchase of Fox’s Marvel Cinematic Universe or UFC, consider the money to made by remaking every classic Disney, cartoon movie.

Christopher Robin wasn’t just good. It was funny and heartwarming and transported me to another time and place like the tree transported Christopher Robin to the Hundred Acre Wood.

You can’t go wrong with Pooh. I’ve maintained that The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh is one of the funniest movies I’ve ever seen, and Robin retains that humor by keeping Pooh’s character, and all the characters of Hundred Acre Wood, consistently classic. All great reboots and remakes appeal to their longtime fans’ affinity for nostalgia by preserving the characters they grew up loving. I wrote about Solo doing so, and Robin is no exception.

Pooh, Piglet, Eeyore and Tigger might have shed their cartoon bodies for live-action “stuff and fluff,” but they are otherwise unchanged and equally enchanting--if not more so. I actually felt as childish watching the grown-up Christopher Robin as Ewan McGregor looked playing with his friends upon his return to Hundred Acre Wood. That feeling was mutual for much of the United Kingdom’s moviegoers over the Labor Day weekend, as Robin topped BlacKkKlansman at the U.K. box office. It was sixth despite being in its fifth week in the states.

Robin has recouped its $75 million budget and has nearly made as much on top of that as of this writing. The live-action remake of The Jungle Book made almost a billion dollars on its $175-million budget back in 2016. It stands to reason that Disney could use the same template to turn its longtime, cartoon assets into revenue generators once again, and they are. Not only did I see the trailer for the live-action Dumbo remake, but the rebooted Mary Poppins Returns also made an appearance, and while the original was a live-action film, it is indicative of Disney adding some cars to the seemingly endless train of Hollywood reboots and remakes.

In May 2019, a live-action version of Aladdin directed by Guy Ritchie will hit theaters, followed by John Favreau’s The Lion King in July and Milan in March of 2020. There is a score of reboots and remakes reportedly in the works at Disney, which should buoy its books well above water for a very long time. Imagine, a live-action reboot of The Rescuers and The Rescuers Down Under or, as I pitched to my sister during the trailers prior to Robin, a live-action remake of The Great Mouse Detective. Disney’s options are vast given the improved technology around visual effects, so it doesn’t have to rely on comic book movies to make its money in theaters.


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Multiple sources are reporting that Louis CK made a surprise appearance at the Comedy Cellar in New York City on Sunday night. You may or may not know that at the height of his career Louis CK was accused of sexual harassment by multiple women. He sidestepped and denied the allegations for many years, finally telling the NY Times in 2017 interview:

 

“I’m not going to answer to that stuff, because they’re rumors. If you actually participate in a rumor, you make it bigger and you make it real … (CK then was asked, “So they’re not real?”) …  They’re rumors, that’s all that is.”

 

Well, CK denied the “rumors” for years. Until too many women came forward and then he admitted that “These stories are true.” He was immediately fired from multiple shows, lost deals and had his recent film, “I Love You, Daddy” pulled from distribution. A film he wrote, directed, produced and starred in. The film also starred Chloe Grace Moretz and John Malkovich. The unreleased film is about an aging filmmaker (Malkovich) with an appalling sexual misconduct past and his new relationship with seventeen year old Moretz who happens to be Louis CK’s daughter. It’s unreleased but folks have still seen it. I mean, hell - I’ve seen it. And to be honest - it was okay. It’s even been nominated for awards! True story - the Alliance of Women Film Journalists gave it nominations and an award - winner of the Most Egregious Age Difference Between The Lead and The Love Interest Award and nominee for the Hall of Shame Award!

 

Way to go Louis! =)

 

Anyway. You can imagine the shit storm of negative social media and press Louis CK was going to get when he made a walk on surprise appearance. Keep in mind that Louis CK often did walk on performance in the past to the sold out room (115) of the Comedy Cellar. It’s just that this was the first one since the allegations broke almost one year ago.  

 

Apparently, audience reaction was fairly positive. His fellow comedians performing that evening said it was “classic Louis” and “quite good.” Cellar owner, Noam Dworman verified that he received one complaint email but also, several supportive emails. So, it sounds as if the walk on show - was fine.

 

But for the most part celebrity reactions have been uniformly disgusted. Comedian Kathy Griffin tweeted: “You know how many talented women and POC comics are knocking on doors trying to get some time in front of audiences or powerful people in this business? And Louis just gets to glide back in on his own terms? Gosh, does it payoff to be in the boys club..the white boys club.”

 

Top Chef host, Padma Lakshmi tweeted: “Not falling for this Louis CK "triumphant return" narrative after years of him humiliating women who worked for & with him.”

 

I would even go so far as to say the vast majority of coverage of Louis’s surprise set was negative. Very, very outraged and negative.

 

But Louis was not without his supporters. A few fellow (male) comedians voiced approval. Marlon Wayans said, “It’s nice to see Louis out of comedy jail.”  SNL actor and Emmy host Michael Che had a lot more to say.  

 

He mocked the twitter outrage with, "'OMG! Can you believe that guy went on with his life?! (Yes, I can.)”

 

But Che’s main point was that the outrage was more about fame obsession gone wrong. Che wrote:

 

"What’s interesting to me about these articles against Louis CK performing again, is how important fame is to people. A lot of what I read says that CK shouldn’t get to be a ‘famous’ comedian anymore. Because to them, he’s still winning. Isn’t that strange? Meaning he can be shamed, humiliated, lose millions of dollars, lose all of his projects, lose the respect of a lot of his fans and peers, and whatever else that comes with what he did. But since he can still do a comedy set for free at a 200 seat club a year later, it means he got off easy. THAT’s how coveted fame is. Just because it looks to you like someone is 'getting off easy' cause they still have the perks you would kill to have, doesn’t make it so."

Okay. Maybe. Those are some fair points that I hadn’t considered.

I would push back though, that Che doesn’t seem to mention the shame, humiliation, loss of $$$ and loss of projects that all of the women suffered due to CK’s actions, the subsequent cover up and the strong arm harassment tactics to get the women to just shut up. A lot of them left comedy because of it. How are we to value their loss of $$$ and loss of careers. How do we offer them their “comeback?” Is that even a thing? Are you allowed a comeback for something you dropped ten years ago due to harassment against you? I mean, you might not even be good at it any longer - because you haven’t done it in ten years! So, what should we allow your “come back” to be? A check? How much should it be worth? Should it be based on the overall value of what you lost? How do we calculate that? Is your only “payment” from this ordeal that Louis CK no longer gets to work in comedy? Is that fair for all parties involved?

*shrugs*

I mean, you can be cynical and say that had the women not been subjected to sexual misconduct and harassment - maybe they still wouldn’t have had “what it takes” to become a famous comedian. Okay. Well, what if some of them did have “what it takes.” Maybe one of them had the potential to become the next Tiffany Haddish (only the greatest female comic working today!).

Oh, man. That hurts my soul a bit. To think that a comedy powerhouse like Tiffany Haddish could have been lost to us because of sexual misconduct and harassment. That could have happened. And maybe it did.

Look, maybe Louis just “tried it out” to see what the reaction would be. And now that he sees the overwhelming negative praise, he won’t try it again. Or at least not for a long time.

Maybe he’s working out new material and planning a big come back and doesn’t care if social media is angry. We have no idea what Louis CK is thinking or if he has done anything (or nothing) to right some of his wrongs.

But something tells me - we’re about to find out.

 

Not only is Hollywood remaking and retelling the same fictional stories, but stories based in fact are also being retold because we keep repeating history. Exactly nothing has changed since Spike Lee’s Do the Right Thing was released in 1989 except, maybe, racial tensions becoming more tense. Black Americans are still being killed by racist cops and white supremacy groups are growing in numbers, getting mainstream support from the President of the United States and are killing way more Americans than Islamic Extremists. The Klan is back with a vengeance, and BlacKkKlansman isn't shy about sharing that fact.

BlacKkKlansman tells the true story of a black police officer in Colorado, new to the department and first of his kind, going “undercover” as a Ku Klux Klan supporter to investigate the “organization.” After cold-calling the Ku Klux Klan utilizing “white voice” not unlike black comedians Richard Pryor, Eddie Murphy and Dave Chappelle, Ron Stallworth boasts to his precinct chief that he can speak both “the King’s English” and jive in order to infiltrate the local chapter of the Klan and determine the organization’s intentions and dangerousness while also getting an inside look at the college’s Black Student Union, who invited a Black Panther to speak in town.

The year is 1979 in Lee’s rendition of this true story, but the actual events occurred in 1972. Changing the date allowed Lee to reference then trendy blaxploitation movies and the KKK’s supposed support of President Richard Nixon’s re-election. It might look like 1979 on screen, but if you read just the script’s dialogue, you’d wonder whether it was 1979, 1989 or 2019.

Lee makes multiple references to current events throughout the film, making a comment on our time more so than a comment on the times in which it’s set. Stallworth is accused of naivety by a fellow officer when he says, “People would never elect a man like David Duke President.” Yet people elected Donald Trump, who called some white supremacists at Charlottesville’s Unite the Right rally “good people.” Good people, however, don’t discriminate as to whom they are good.

Duke, satisfyingly portrayed by Topher Grace, has a gullibility and all-around lack of awareness about him that somehow makes him not only tolerable but hilariously cartoonish. Duke was obviously concerned with how the film portrayed him, afraid that he’d come off as stupid. Lee didn’t care even though Duke told the real-life Stallworth that he “always respected Spike Lee.”

Duke also delivers a line drawing from current events in one of his many phone conversations with Stallworth, saying he wants “America to achieve its greatness again,” another obvious reference to the President's popular, campaign slogan, “Make America Great Again.” I suspect Duke and Trump share the same idea as to what constitutes this country’s greatest greatness, and if it’s not pre-Civil War, it’s at least a time when white people didn’t have to share anything with black people except the air they breathe.

Do the Right Thing, like BlacKkKlansman, was inspired by actual events. Black kids were indeed chased out of a pizzeria in New York City. Whether the boycott of said pizzeria actually occurred and resulted in a riot destroying the pizzeria is unknown. What is known and is made abundantly clear in BlacKkKlansman, is that the hostility and contempt underlying race relations in America have persisted if not worsened since 1989 despite BlacKkKlansman taking place 10 years prior. BlacKkKlansman transcends time in that sense, but it doesn’t attempt to transcend race despite an obvious opportunity to do so.

Stallworth is portrayed by John David Washington, who does the character justice by conveying both the gumshoe’s greenness and opportunistic, entrepreneurial spirit despite an obvious internal struggle between the black cop walking the beat and the black man longing for and working toward justice for his black brothers and sisters being killed in the streets by racist cops.

Stallworth doesn’t let anything stop him from pursuing his passion project. He is not the easily distracted Mookie of Do the Right Thing. Stallworth is as motivated as they come, and to him, the fact he’s black doesn’t mean he can’t infiltrate the local KKK chapter. There are more than enough white officers to serve as his stand-in, but it would take the right kind of white officer to infiltrate the Klan. Sure, the Colorado Springs Police Department, like most American police departments at the time, had more than its fair share of racist cops. But a racist cop could still give himself away as a cop despite the depth of his racism.

Enter Flip Zimmerman, a Jewish detective who wasn’t raised Jewish. Zimmerman is aptly portrayed by Adam Driver, who is almost too cool when accused of being a Jew at gunpoint by a member of the local KKK chapter. The Klansman is so concerned over Zimmerman’s bloodlines that he demands he take a lie detector test, but Zimmerman’s partner comes to the rescue just in time. Or does he? Zimmerman later alludes to the fact that he’s never really given his Jewish heritage much thought until now, but that doesn’t mean he could pass a “Jew detector” test at gunpoint, even if he wasn’t raised Jewish.

Despite the engaging performances of Washington and Driver, Lee misses an opportunity to make BlacKkKlansman a little more enjoyable and, dare I say, feel-good, by focusing on growing relationships between characters at the expense of others, and that’s likely by design. Lee doesn’t make many feel-good films, but Do the Right Thing certainly does a better job developing the relationship between Mookie and Sal than BlacKkKlansman does for Ron and Flip. Washington and Driver give fine individual performances, but their time on screen together isn’t ample or dramatic enough for their characters’ relationship to grow throughout the film like Mookie and Sal’s relationship does in Do the Right Thing.

Besides length, there’s really no reason not to give Ron and Flip a few moments to convey the growth of their work relationship. Any good film requires a hero to overcome conflict and grow as a person. The same goes for the relationships between characters. They too need to grow and motivate the action and change of the characters, and the relationship between Ron and Flip leaves much to be desired.

Not once do I remember Flip irate despite the danger Ron’s created for him. He’s the one risking everything while the “Black Klansman” sits safely at the other end of a telephone making friends with the grand wizard of the KKK. In fact, the film should have been called BlacKkKlansmen, because Flip is one half of the Black Klansman and has more at risk than Ron.

At first, Stallworth is completely careless when it comes to his new partner’s life, and there’s never really a moment where Stallworth shares a realization of and appreciation for the white man taking all the risk while the black man remains safe on the other end of a telephone. Just because Zimmerman’s white doesn’t mean the Klan won’t kill him. This missed opportunity for Lee to display the dynamics influencing the relationship between Stallworth and Zimmerman is one that could have contributed to the film’s drama and the characters’ respective growths throughout the film.

But Driver seemed emotionally unavailable and barely vulnerable throughout the film, whether he was undercover or not. He had his guard up at all times, and that could be his interpretation of the character, as an undercover detective should probably have his guard up at all times. Or his lack of emotional range could be due to a lack of chemistry with Washington, which would explain Lee's limiting their relationship's screen time. Washington doesn't give Driver much to work with in Flip's most vulnerable moment, but if the scene in question is not ad-libbed, the script doesn't give Driver much to work off of either.

Driver might be a victim of pigeon-holing on a Napoleon Dynamite scale, where regardless of Driver's role in a film, he will always be Kylo Ren to some people, which isn't fair to him, but a role like that is sometimes inescapable and can be detrimental to any other performance at no fault to Driver except for being iconic. Driver's demeanor as Flip was almost as if he was inwardly lamenting his performance knowing audiences would disconnect themselves from the viewing experience at the shock of seeing a Star Wars character in a Spike Lee Joint.   

For whatever reason, and I'm leaning toward creative choice, Lee focuses our attention on the relationship between Stallworth and his love interest, Patrice Dumas, a militant, student leader he meets on his first day working undercover. Her disdain for “pigs” only grows that evening when she’s harassed by one of Stallworth’s peers while he waits for her to meet him at a bar. Stallworth doesn’t let his secret profession stop him from making a rookie mistake and getting personal.

Lee’s focus on the fragile relationship between Stallworth and Dumas instead of the underdeveloped relationship between Stallworth and Zimmerman robs viewers of a relationship that could have provided them a reason for hope, which is something Lee’s films tend to struggle conveying due to subject matter and history. Black Americans’ relationships with police, or lack thereof, have been and continue to be shaped by a very warranted lack of trust. Police have been and continue to be employed to further hinder black Americans, who in 2018 still feel the financial and social effects of slavery. That doesn’t scream hope, but neither do Spike Lee Joints. Spike Lee Joints mirror reality more so than most filmmakers in history.

Lee’s choice to focus on the relationship between black man and black woman and the struggles they experience despite sharing a skin color instead of focusing on the black man and white man and the struggles they experience working together in spite of their differing skin color might indicate that Lee believes black Americans still need to unify before all Americans unify. In Do the Right Thing, Mookie and Sal’s relationship isn’t cheated like Ron and Flip’s, but Mookie still pitches for his home team regardless of who’s signing his checks.

Mookie’s boss isn’t responsible for the death of Radio Raheem, but Sal’s already short and shrinking temper in the summer and pizza oven heat, and his growing defensiveness and displeasure with race-related questions posed as if he’s on trial for being racist because of the pictures of Italian-Americans he hangs in the pizzeria, escalate the incident to violence before white cops ever get their murdering hands on Raheem.

An argument over music and its volume in Do the Right Thing and the resulting response by police sounds eerily similar to recent smartphone videos taken of police brutalizing a minority amongst a crowd of minorities pleading for the police to stop. Again, not much has changed in 30 years except the number and quality of video cameras and camera operators and an increased means to share videos. The police beatings of minorities are just in high-definition and available to view from multiple angles almost immediately upon the completion of "principle photography." Lee's shot-for-shot videography of the riot in Do the Right Thing could probably be reproduced using smartphones, invoking an even more emotional response given the lifelike intimacy provided by the participants' cameras. 


The riot really begins when Mookie throws a trash can through the window of his employer’s storefront near the end of Do the Right Thing. But he does it because it’s the right thing to do—not because he's taking the side of his people over that of his provider—but because he gives his people and his provider exactly what they need: closure.

Mookie dispersing the crowd with a sentimental soliloquy apologizing for his employer and fellow employees works better on stage than on screen and wouldn’t likely work at all in reality. Would heartfelt words of a pizza delivery boy be enough to soothe you and disperse a riot after your community lost a friend, brother, son and neighbor because the pizza delivery boy’s employer couldn’t stand his “jungle” music? I thought not.

Mookie gave his community exactly what it needed to get over its collective grief in a healthy manner. While looting and destruction of property are crimes, both are a lot healthier than murder or assault of those perceived to be responsible for the tragic death of Radio Raheem. Mookie might have actually saved Sal’s life, but that, like the reasoning behind Mookie’s throwing of the trash can, is not immediately evident to viewers given the emotion-evoking destruction of the pizzeria.  

Like BlacKkKlansman, there was an obvious need for the end of Do the Right Thing to offer viewers a semblance of hope. Mookie coming back to Sal’s destroyed pizzeria the next day to collect his $250 salary and the two of them negotiating a settlement isn’t hope enough apparently. So Lee drops lines from both Malcolm X and Martin Luther King, Jr. to reinforce the dangerousness of duality—the idea that contrasting concepts cannot both be correct simultaneously. But two different concepts can be true at the same time. Nonviolence is a good approach until someone attacks you, which is the message Lee sent at the end of Do the Right Thing.   

Lee has often echoed the words of Malcolm X and King, Jr. in his work, and BlacKkKlansman is no exception. Stallworth represents the teachings of King, Jr., and Dumas practices the teachings of X, putting them at odds as to which path is most likely to award “all the power to all the people.” In the end, of course, they realize the same things viewers of Do the Right Thing did: two contrasting concepts can be true at the same time, and if there’s to be hope for black Americans to ever overcome the persisting socioeconomic disadvantage resulting from slavery, it’s going to require both nonviolent and violent acts by a unified, black people.

The black community's dismissal of the Asian grocer across the street from Sal's pleading with them that he too is "black" like them so the rioters don't loot and destroy his shop is a great example of the message Lee sends in both Do the Right Thing and BlacKkKlansman. Black Americans can't climb out of the socioeconomic disadvantage resulting from slavery as a group inside another larger group of minorities. No other American minority started with the disadvantage black Americans did, so Asian-Americans, Hispanic-Americans, Irish-Americans, etc. can't relate and, therefore, can't help black Americans overcome their socioeconomic disadvantage. And judging from Lee's apparent choices in BlacKkKlansman, Lee doesn't think white Americans can help either. It's something that has to be done  solely by black Americans solely for black Americans.

So almost 30 years after people first saw a race riot explode on the big screen in a Spike Lee Joint, another Spike Lee Joint now shows people exactly how little has changed when it comes to race relations in America. If there’s one obvious changes between Lee’s films spanning almost 30 years, it’s that Do the Right Thing has a more hopeful ending than BlacKkKlansman, which tells me Spike thinks the future is more bleak for black Americans than it was in 1989. If you're looking for a hopeful, uplifting movie this week, see the relatively inconsequential Crazy Rich Asians. I haven't seen it, but I can tell you it will be an almost complete disconnect from reality that won't require your brain to enjoy. Romantic comedies are, by design, an escape. 

Spike Lee Joints, however, mirror reality and are meant to make you uncomfortable with their unrivaled realness and borderline neorealism, making you aware of things previously foreign and challenging your beliefs of what you thought it was like to be black in America, because if you're not black, you only know what you see, hear and read. And no one provides as accurate and unabridged imagery of black lives in America as Spike Lee. If you're looking for a thought-provoking, uncomfortable, cultural commentary of American race relations then and now, this Spike Lee Joint is educational and entertaining enough to be worth the price of admission. 


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