Producer / Director Zack Snyder has dropped out of the production because of a family tragedy. Autumn Snyder, Zack’s daughter from his first marriage, committed suicide on March 20th. Initially, the family wanted to keep Autumn’s death private -- telling only close friends and relatives. The film was shut down for two weeks so the Snyder’s could attend to the aftermath of the sad event.
Everyone, including Mr. Snyder, thought the film would return to its original schedule after the bereavement period. Eventually, Zack had a change of heart:
“In my mind, I thought it was a cathartic thing to go back to work, to just bury myself and see if that was the way through it. The demands of this job are pretty intense. It is all-consuming. And in the last two months, I’ve come to the realization … I’ve decided to take a step back from the movie to be with my family, be with my kids, who really need me. They are all having a hard time. I’m having a hard time.”
Warner Bros. appears to be standing beside Zack and offered to push the release date back, allowing the family time to recover. But Zack Snyder and current wife Deborah Snyder (also a producer on the film) decided it would be best for the movie to be completed on schedule.
Enter Joss Whedon.
The Justice League film is actually in post production with all of principal photography complete. But Zack wanted to add additional scenes and so hired Joss Whedon to write and direct them.
This is will be something of a challenge. Joss Whedon has his own distinctive style of dialog and directing (he loves that 17 lens!) but the tone of the film has already been set by Zack Snyder and his production team. So Whedon has to come in and do his best to mimic Snyder’s exact tone and style.
Whedon fans might be extraordinarily excited to hear his name attached to the Justice League movie but, if Joss does his job well, he will be largely invisible in the final cut.
Autumn Snyder was a writer and a student. She attended Sarah Lawrence College and in 2014 founded the charity, Write-A-Thon To End Homelessness For Mothers and Their Children -- a nonprofit that shelters homeless pregnant women and their children. She was twenty years old.
National Suicide Prevention Hotline: 1-800-273-8255
So, I totally buy the argument that there is a lack of knowledge in proper tipping etiquette. There was a time when I was unaware that people didn’t tip. It never occurred to me to not tip and it never occurred to me that others wouldn’t do it. And then in 1992, when I was twenty years old, I watched Tarantino’s, Reservoir Dogs.
You know the scene I am talking about. The tipping scene. Steve Buscemi, as Mr. Pink has this exchange with the others at the table:
NICE GUY EDDIE
Alright, everybody cough up some green for
the little lady.
[Everybody whips out a buck, and throws it on the table.
Everybody, that is, except Mr. Pink.]
NICE GUY EDDIE
C’mon, throw in a buck.
Uh-uh. I don’t tip.
NICE GUY EDDIE
You don’t tip?
No. I don’t believe in it.
NICE GUY EDDIE
You don’t believe in tipping?
Do you know what these chicks make? They make shit.
Don’t give me that. She don’t
make enough money, she can quit.
NICE GUY EDDIE
I don’t even know a fuckin’ Jew who’d have
the balls to say that. So let’s
get this straight. You don’t ever
I don’t tip because society says I
have to. Alright, I mean I’ll tip if somebody really
deserves a tip. If they
really puts forth the effort, I’ll give them
But this tipping automatically,
it’s… for the birds. As far
as I’m concerned, they’re just
doin their job.
It goes on from there but you get the point. Society doesn’t get to tell me who is tip worthy and who is not! My eyes were opened! From this point on I would never tip! Ever!
Unless she, “really put forth the effort.”
I think that lasted a week. Maybe a month. Holy hell were the guys in Reservoir Dogs overly nice to Mr. Pink because I tried that not tipping thing one time in front of a group of people. I was pretty sure none of them had seen Reservoir Dogs and I pulled my own Mr. Pink. They were maaaaaad at me! A couple of them ended up throwing in extra money on top of what they were already tipping because I was such an asshole for not leaving anything. One of them stopped talking to me forever. I literally never heard from her again. That was twenty five years ago and that was first and the last time I decided not to tip. It was made pretty clear to me that if you did not tip the service staff -- you were pariah douche bag number one!
But that was when I was twenty years old and most twenty year old men are still pretty stupid. I mean, to be honest, I didn’t really believe Mr. Pink’s arguments. I didn’t really want to not tip that waitress. But the scene in Dogs played out funny. I mean, really, really funny.
And if it played out like that in real life then everyone would laugh when I said it and we’d have a super funny conversation. Starring me! And then everyone would like me more! Because that’s how twenty year olds think -- dear God I just want everyone to like me!
Imagine my shock when it had the exact opposite effect.
I would never try and pull anything that stupid now. Now I tend to believe that if you tip less than fifteen percent you’re kind of a prick.
A story from two years ago:
A long time acquaintance of mine, Anna, is working a bartending shift at The Saloon, downtown Minneapolis. I am standing at the bar talking to her. Two men stand next to me and order drinks. She makes their drinks, tells them the cost. Each one pays for their own drink. The exact amount in cash. No tip.
She doesn’t say anything. She just comes back to me and rolls her eyes. We chat for another ten minutes. The two men have finished their drink and signal her for another round. She makes them both another round and drops them off to the two men. Again, each pulls out a roll of cash and pays for their own drink. The exact amount in cash. No tip. She takes their money and puts it in the register. They put their cash away.
Ten minutes later, this happens a third time. She takes their money. Exact cash for the cost of the drinks. She hands them their drinks. They both put their cash rolls away. No tip.
But this time --- as they reach for their drinks, Anna snatches the drinks away from their hands and puts them down in the sink behind the counter -- way out of their reach. She snaps at them, “If you can’t afford to tip your bartender then stay at home and drink!”
Both men, angrily protest (because men are really, really good at becoming angry -- especially when they drink) and demand their money back. Which I thought was fair but Anna doesn’t back down and they end up calling her “bitch”, “cunt” and “whore” as they are escorted out.
Then she gives both of their drinks to me!
You can apply her sentence to any form of food service employee. If you can’t afford to tip your waitress / bartender / delivery driver / cab driver / barista / bellman / valet than you can’t afford to go to their establishment and / or use their service!
Stay at home!
I don’t want to stay at home! And what’s with all that racist stuff about black folks not tipping?
I’ve read several studies and articles. And they all kind of say the same thing -- there is some validity to specific groups of people not tipping well. And it’s not because they are cheap. First let’s discuss who gets tipped, who does not and how much. From www.waitbutwhy.com -- they conducted an informal interview process with hundreds of tipped professions in NYC and compiled data from several hundred people that responded to their online survey. Their chart:
There doesn’t seems to be anything too out of the ordinary here. I appreciate the additional notes -- all of which seem to be valid points. I’ve still never understood why I should have to tip a bartender for opening a bottle of beer and handing it to me -- something which took all of five seconds. That’s worth a one dollar tip?
Maybe. Maybe not. I still do it, though. Bottle of beer - one dollar tip. As for the apartment doorman, that’s NYC thing. Well, maybe it’s a very large metropolis thing. But tipping at Christmas definitely happens.
Anyway, everything else I’ve read on tipping seems to support the general finding on the waitbutwhy site. But who are the non tippers? Who are the under tippers?
Sadly, there seems to be some validity to the stereotypes of specific groups, including ethnicities, tip less than would be "expected." A polling survey of 1000+ servers across the country concluded the tipping scales look like this:
That looks to be par for the course with the other articles I've read. Teenagers tip the worst (they don't have a lot of money), all male dining parties the best (men are insecure and want to show off to everyone). Some surprising details, such as -- Christians and smokers? Who knew smokers were above average tippers?
But of all the maligned tippers, blacks seem to have the worst reputation. I always found that to be a bit racist. And so I thought, I'll write an article about tipping and debunk that racist shit! But then -- I couldn't really find much information to back up that theory. I read Ebony's great article: Are Black People Really Bad Tippers? He offered some anecdotal evidence and sources some surveys and articles but his general conclusion, as a black man, was -- well, yes, we kind of are bad tippers. But his general breakdown of why is what's important. Basically:
1) Insufficient education about tipping.
2) People seek to confirm beliefs they already hold.
3) Bad tipping = an opportunity to stick it to, "the man."
4) Black folks get less than good service because of their tipping rep.
There are fair points. I just recently found out that it would be nice if one tipped housekeepers at hotels. This never occurred to me before. Which is an ignorance about tipping, a lack of education. So I totally buy number 1. I know the same is true with a lot of foreigners. I once had a meal with a few Greek ladies, a Chinese man, a Japanese woman, two people from India and a few Americans. After the meal, almost all the non Americans went out to smoke. I noticed that each and everyone of them left a single dollar bill on their plate. I went out and told them that they all under tipped by a few dollars each. They were pretty shocked and embarrassed about it. One of them, the Japanese woman, mentioned she had been told by her mother to tip everyone one dollar because -- that's what you do in America.
The Washington Post did their own research and found similar results about insufficient education:
From the WP article, "...indicates that black people tip less because they believe servers expect lower tips, and they underestimate the tip amounts that others leave. Whereas roughly 70 percent of whites identify the customary or expected restaurant tip to fall within 15-20 percent of the bill, only about 35 percent of blacks do. In addition, black respondents, on average, believe that the typical restaurant customer tips about 13.4 percent of the bill, while whites believe that the typical restaurant customer tips about 14.5 percent. Together, these differences in perceptions of “what is expected and typical” explain about half of the black-white difference in tipping."
Mr. Young, from his Ebony article, explains his second point: "It's very possible that the perception is driving the stereotype, instead of it being the other way around. Basically, if I'm aware Black people are thought to be bad tippers, I'm going to be more sensitive to any example of Black people tipping badly—evidence that would confirm thoughts I already had. It's really no different than the person who swears all Black men are dating White women, and takes the three interracial couples they see at the mall as proof—ignoring the 25 Black-on-Black couples they also walked past."
His third point -- ummm -- seems unlikely. And Mr. Young agrees calling it the "least likely (point) to be true" but adds, "it would be disingenuous to ignore the possible racial politics that could be at play here.
His final point, I feel, pulls his punch a bit. I think it should read, "Black folks get less than good service because of their tipping rep and also because some folks are racist pricks." Though, to be fair, he elaborates in the article: "It's no secret that Black people are thought to be bad tippers. You know what's even less of a secret for the last, I don't know, 400 years or so? That Black people have been on the receiving end of some pretty bad treatment ... we still often get treated differently than our White counterparts."
Yes. One hundred percent true. And that really made me think that each group of "under tippers" probably has equally valid reasons beyond the stereotypical, "they're cheap" for not tipping as well as society would expect. The same goes for folks that over tip,which is a trait I find to be a general sign of insecurity. There are mitigating factors in each and every case of tipping and I only singled out black folks because I was 100% positive I would be able to debunk the "bad tipping" stereotypes as outdated and biased. Instead what I found was that -- what a shock -- lots of people are shitty tippers for lots of different reasons.
While it's true that I was able to find some dissenting opinion to the black folk not tipping well stereotype but, to be honest, most of it read like bad fiction. Take, D. Watkins's piece, "Yes, black people do tip - even when we shouldn't have to" on Salon. It makes fine points. But if you read the article it hits every single trope you could possible imagine. Too good to be true (in other words). Remember, the easiest way to lose an argument is to grotesquely over state your opinion. The Watkins story was probably based in some truth and in writing was exaggerated for effect but as it hits every single perfect racist note and response, it stretches the imagination a bit.
But that's just one dissenting opinion. I'm sure there are thousands of valid bits of evidence both anecdotal and researched. I read several studies and published papers (the ones I didn't have to pay for anyway. Seriously, academia, like I'm going to pay $39.95 to read your twenty pages of research?) and they seriously all pretty much said the same thing. Don't take my word for it. Check it out yourself.
But, speaking anecdotally, I have two close friends who have been in food service for 20+ years. The first, Brad: a tall, built black man in his forties. The second, Robin: a short, firecracker white woman almost fifty years old. As I've known them a long time I've heard dozens of stories about shitty customers. Asking each of them flat out, "Over your twenty years of food service employment, which group of people, or ethnicity -- tips the worst?"
Brad, the black man, responds, "Oh, man! I'm embarrassed to tell you. But it's sisters. I can not count the times where I've had a group of sisters stay in my section for hours and spend hundreds and hundreds only to tip me, like, five dollars total."
Robin, the white woman, responds, "Moms on "kids eat free" night. Sorry. It's true. Moms bring their kids and all their kid's friends. It's a shit show. The moms drink like fish (then drive all the kids home). And don't tip at all. Half of my mom customers on "kid's eat free" night tip zero."
For what that's worth.
Hey, you never really tackled the point of, "I shouldn't have to tip because society tells me I must do so. Mr. Pink is right - if servers don't like their jobs they can quit!"
Mr. Pink is wrong. To see how wrong, check out, "15 of the worst "tippers" that will make your head spin." It's nothing but hypocrisy, ignorance, assholery and completely feigned "slights" against the tippers, "honor." In other words, bullshit.
There are some restaurants that are experimenting with paying higher wages and cutting out the need for tips. It's a totally fine plan that may or may not work. But for the most part, restaurants pay a wage much lower than their state minimum because employees are expected to make more money through tips. It doesn't matter if you like that fact or not -- that's the way the overwhelming majority of American restaurants work. If you hate it then do something to get more "high wage, no tip" restaurants into your neighborhood and frequent them. But enough with the childish "I don't believe in tipping" attitude. Seriously, when you say something that idiotic, you should like an ass-hat. Just stop.
"First and foremost, if you are a person that doesn't tip or -- whatever this is supposed to mean -- doesn't "believe" in tipping (as though it were a figure in Greek mythology), you are not allowed to go to restaurants. You cannot afford to eat out, either financially or ethically, or both. Spare the restaurant staff your presence."
The year 2016 was very exciting for Depeche Mode (DM) and their fans. DM announced a new album (their fourteenth), called, Spirit that would be released early 2017. And it was. DM announced their Global Spirit Tour. It began on May 5th in Stockholm. DM received their first nomination into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Alas, they were not among the final inductees (which were: Joan Baez, Electric Light Orchestra, Journey, Pearl Jam, Tupac Shakur, Yes). But that’s okay. Depeche Mode is a future Rock and Roll Hall of Fame lock. It’s just a waiting game.
So, with all the good DM news things couldn’t possibly look brighter for their fans! Right?
Enter the Facebook Fan Takeover! And Bring on the Cool Depeche Mode Loving Celebrities!
Let the Takeover begin! (Celebrity appearance later).
Starting January 1st, Depeche Mode began handing over their Facebook page to the fans. One a day for the entire year. 365 fans over 365 days. They are currently on day fifty something (depending on when you read this). Actual fans get to post their thoughts, pictures and links to the DM official Facebook page.
Within reason, of course. There is still an approval process. You submit to the editors of the DM FB page, they run everything through legal and give you advice. For example, you can’t just send them a picture of you and your five besties without getting written permission from said five besties that you then need to forward to DM legal.
Which is all fair. But the reason I bring it up is that I don’t want you to think fans can post whatever crazy, silliness they want. Again, it's all within reason.
And so, with the totally appropriate approval process, actual fans get to post their thoughts and their pictures and share their DM stories with seven million of their best DM loving friends. Mainly, the guest hosts love gush for a while and it's true that some of the writing is awkward and some of it is in broken English but that just adds to the overall charm of the event. There are indeed, actual fans.
And it must be a bit humbling to suddenly post to seven million people. Wow. Um. No pressure!
Glen Hammarstrom, took over the Depeche Mode Facebook page on day 19 and writes about the pressure & his over all Takeover experience:
“I’m sure they say this to everyone who is apart of it, but they really seemed to like what I was sending over and requested that I make a video talking about being an administrator on a DM fan page. While it was very nice of them to ask, it was also terrifying to me! Not to be overly dramatic, but when they ask for a video that will be shared on a FB with over 7 million followers… well, I got a little freaked out.”
Glen’s full recap can be read here: My Facebook takeover recap. And his take seems par for the course for all the host administrator fans, so far.
And then came day 54. Tony Hawk.
Wait, who? I thought you were going to say Tom Hanks or someone huge!
Tony Hawk. International skateboard champion. There are a dozen video games named after him. If you know who he is then you know the deal. If you don’t know who he is, trust me, he’s huge. Check out a compilation of some of his high flying skate acrobatics.
Anyway, it’s always fun to be reminded that celebrities are real people. They like the very same kind of things we do. They have the very same tastes as we do. And Tony Hawk is a huge Depeche Mode fan!
His introduction post on the DM Facebook page for his one day Takeover:
“Hi, I’m Tony Hawk, Pro Skater (but please don’t call me THPS haha). I’ve been a fan of Depeche Mode since hearing “Just Can’t Get Enough” and “New Life” on KROQ in 1981. Growing up skating the dwindling SoCal skateparks in the early 80’s, KROQ was the only FM station that played music that represented our [counter?] culture. Depeche Mode’s sound was iconically revolutionary at the time, and has continued to evolve ever since. I am still a huge fan of DM, having seen them live... a dozen times over the last three decades. It is a huge honor to host their page for a day, and I hope you enjoy what I have to offer in this space. I’ve also included a few friends that were inspired by DM in their formative years, and went on to make incredible music and art themselves. So let’s all shake the disease and have a black celebration for this legendary band.”
Hawk has several posts during his one day tenure but what received the most attention was when he reached out to his friend, the crazy madman genius musician behind Nine Inch Nails, Trent Reznor.
Reznor writes (and Hawk posts on the DM FB page):
"It was the summer of ’86. I’d dropped out of college and was living in Cleveland trying to find my way in the local music scene. I knew where I wanted to go with my life but I didn’t know how to get there. A group of friends and I drove down to Blossom Music Center amphitheater to see the Black Celebration tour. DM was one of our favorite bands and the Black Celebration record took my love for them to a new level.
I’ve thought about that night a lot over the years. It was a perfect summer night and I was in exactly the right place I was supposed to be. The music, the energy, the audience, the connection… it was spiritual and truly magic. I left that show grateful, humbled, energized, focused, and in awe of how powerful and transformative music can be… and I started writing what would eventually become Pretty Hate Machine.
Many times, particularly when we’re playing an amphitheater, I’ll think of that show while I’m onstage and hope someone in the audience is in the midst of a perfect summer night feeling how DM made me feel so many years ago."
I was a late DM bloomer but I too have a story about them. Way back in the eighties I was into your standard pop music. The most outside of the box music taste I had was Cyndi Lauper (love her!). I just didn't understand the look of those strange Duran Duran / Depeche Mode People. Seriously, I used to get Duran Duran confused with Depeche Mode. Like, all the time. Every time that awful "Hungry Like a Wolf" song played on the radio I would think, "Wow, I really hate Depeche Mode." It just wasn't the kind of music I experienced growing up. I thought it was dark and weird.
It wasn't until the mid nineties when I warmed to Depeche Mode and other synth pop, industrial and goth music -- you know, all that dark and weird stuff I used to shun. I had recently started attending an "eighties night" at a club called, Ground Zero. So there I am one random Friday night. A song comes on. I dig it. It sounds kind of familiar but I can't place it and I certainly didn't know at the time it was, obviously, Depeche Mode. I don't recall which exact DM song was playing -- probably "Never Let Me Down Again" or "Personal Jesus." Dear God, Ground Zero played "Personal Jesus" all the time! Anyway, I turn to a group of three industrial / goth woman, strangers to me, and ask, "Excuse me, who is this playing?"
The first, a woman with short platinum hair, gives me a withering "you are clearly a moron" stare and turns away from me. Um. Okay. I glance over to her friend, a woman in a long black skirt. She eyes me up and down, takes in my blue jeans and black t-shirt, and kind of gives me a, "I'm not here to educate normal people" vibe. She was not exactly impolite but she also didn't answer. The third woman smiles at me warmly and steps forward. Now, this third woman, she was actually closer to me than the other two I just mentioned and I should have asked my initial question to her. But I didn't because I was kind of intimidated by her. She was dressed in black leather and wore silvery, gothy rings & multiple necklaces and she had big awesome hair. She was also very , very bosomy. Basically, she was super badass and therefor, kind of frightening to a newbie in normal clothing at a goth club. So this third woman, the one I was totally never going to speak with, says to me, "It's Depeche Mode, sweetie."
Oh. Right. Those guys. I've heard of them. They do that awful Wolf song, right? I was about to blurt that out but my spider sense tingled and prevented me from saying anything dumb. I thank her and turn to hide in the opposite corner. She was having none of that and said, "Is this your first time here?" I tell her I've come on a few occasions but don't actually know anyone. She introduces herself and talks to me for a while and, to my surprise, is neither intimidating or frightening. In fact, I remember thinking, this might be the most genuinely friendly person I've ever met. She asks a bunch of questions about me and finally says, "Let me introduce you to some other folks." Then she takes me around the club and introduces me to, I kid you not, like thirty fucking people.
And that's how I met my dear friend Tracy. I no longer get to see her as often as I would like, but such is life.
And that's my Depeche Mode story.
And that's the end.
DM is only in day fifty something of their FB Takeover. There is plenty of time to apply. The Depeche Mode world tour schedule is here: The Global Spirit Tour. Follow DM on Facebook for more information and updates.
So many movies. So little time.
Some of the movies on this list are a bit obscure, either ruined by a single test audience or poorly marketed by the studio. A couple of them were pretty big movies in their time. At least one of them might be considered a modern day classic. But it occurred to me, in creating this list, some movies that I consider a “everyone must have seen that, right?” are --- well -- old. One of the movies on the list came out in 1959 and the few that came out in the eighties are still thirty years aged!
Thirty years? Time flies, my friend. But anyway, if you have a ten or a twelve year old it’s very possible your kid has not seen a thirty year old film from the eighties. Even if that film was really popular at the time. So, a couple of the films might be a bit of a stretch to claim your children have, “never heard of it." And the term, “family film,” kind of implies that all the movies are designed for everyone in the family. That’s not entirely the case. But I try and point some appropriate ages in a few of the mini reviews below. Some will be more enjoyed by the young, some by pre-teens, some by kids who like to be scared, others for kids who do not like to be scared at all.
You get the drift.
Anyway, yes, some of the movies are old. Thankfully nostalgic cinephiles, such as myself, adore clinging to the past! I rattled the ol' memory cage around and kicked out a few bolts, some rust and a list of ten great family movies. And I took it very seriously. Very seriously, indeed. You see, I was always struck by a quote from late film critic Roger Ebert in his 1995 review for, “A Little Princess,” -- “Unlike the insipid devices of most family films ... (“A Little Princess”) ... understands that children take stories very seriously indeed, and that all stories are really about the uncertain place of the child in the mysterious world of adults.”
Well said, Mr. Ebert. Thank you for all the reviews and all the words. Your writing is missed. And so, with that in mind I put together a list of stories about the uncertain place of the child in the mysterious world of adults.
A Little Princess (1995): A Little Princess tells the story of young Sara Crewe who lives with her father in India. When her father feels duty bound to enlist with the British to fight in WWI, Sara is consigned to a servant’s life at the very same New York City boarding school her late mother attended. The film effectively juggles light fantasy with harsh realities such as poverty, abuse and parental loss. The movie is smart and refuses to pander to the audience, taking itself, and the young heroine -- as Ebert notes in the above quote -- very seriously. As a side note, the director of the film, Alfonso Cuarón, goes on to make the only great Harry Potter film, Prisoner of Azkaban as well as the exceptional (for adults) sci-fi drama, Children of Men.
Darby O’Gill and the Little People (1959). Based on the Kavanagh book, Darby O’Gill and the Good People, wily old Irish codger Darby O’Gill matches his considerable wit against that of the leprechaun king. This is one of Disney’s under appreciated gems! The movie holds up surprisingly well given its age. Sure, the subplot is hooky -- a romance between a young Sean Connery & Janet Munro plays like a particularly bad Irish soap commercial. The pure delight of the film comes from the rivalry and game play of clever Darby and sly King Brian of the leprechauns. A personal project of Walt Disney and a technical marvel for it’s time.
Duma (2005): Duma is the greatest family adventure film you’ve never seen. No, seriously. Xan, a young South African boy, befriends an orphaned cheetah. When family trouble arises, Xan must return Duma to the wild. Let the adventure begin! The film uses live cheetah’s and zero CGI, which gives the movie an authentic richness. Guaranteed to make you and your family want to have a pet cheetah. Duma is a really lovely movie and it’s based on a true story. A note about the director, Carroll Ballard. He also made, The Black Stallion. another great movie exploring the relationship between animals and people.
Kiki’s Delivery Service (1989): A quaintly atmospheric and delightful movie for pre-teens, especially girls. Young Kiki, a promising good witch, strikes out on her own and lands in a fun little French(ish) town on the coast. But the townsfolk have a strict, “No witches allowed!” policy. What’s a young witch to do? A charming coming of age tale about a girl realizing her own power, not as a witch, but as a person.
My Neighbor Totoro (1988): Families of all ages can enjoy this but it’s created for young kids. My Neighbor Totoro is about sisters, Satsuki and Mei, who move to an old house to be closer to their ailing mother. The girls quickly discover their new country home is in a magical forest inhabited by spirits called Totoros. Together they go on unbelievably cute adventures. And I mean, unbelievably cute! Like, seriously, cute!
Paperhouse (1988): Young Anna Madden, while suffering from severe mono, draws a house on a blank sheet of paper. In her feverish dreams she finds herself visiting the house and talking to the disabled boy who lives within. As her fever gets worse and worse she has a hard time waking up and the dreams get darker and darker. The film handles childhood loneliness and feelings of isolation extremely well but the dark elements and the bleak landscape created in the dream world might be too intense for youngsters. This is one of my favorite films from that decade.
The Iron Giant (1999): Oh, this magnificent film is a story about a boy -- and his super awesome robot! His super awesome giant robot! Set in the red panic induced fifties, Brad Bird's first animated film warms him up for his genius, The Incredible, for Pixar. The Iron Giant has tremendous heart and emotion. It also happens to be exceptionally funny. I know many have seen it but it never had the popularity of a Pixar or Studio Ghibli film so I included it here just in case you have not yet had the pleasure. Everyone in the family will love it.
The Last Starfighter (1984): Oh, man. A movie about an arcade game that, if you get really, really good at, will whisk you away to have super awesome alien adventures? Sign me up! Young kids will love this movie. Older kids might be turned off by the dated special effects. If it means anything, every kid I grew up with has seen this movie, like, a dozen times. Because it’s great! Sadly, a modern day big budget remake looks to be out of the question. Screenwriter, Jonathan R. Betuel somehow maintained the rights to the film and refuses anyone to remake it. Even cinema giant Steven Spielberg was turned down.
The Secret of Kells (2009): Young Brendan lives in a remote medieval outpost under siege from barbarian raids. He is beckoned to adventure when a celebrated master illuminator arrives with an ancient book, brimming with secret wisdom and powers. This animated fantasy adventure is heavily rooted in Celtic mythology and based on the story of the origin of the Book of Kells, an illuminated manuscript Gospel book in Latin and it’s a really great story telling mixture of fact and fantasy.
The Witches (1990): A little boy and his kindly grandmother battle a coven of witches who want to rid Britain of children by turning them into mice. What a great plot! This movie is a forgotten cult gem. I think it was misunderstood when marketed. Parents thought it might be either too childish or too scary and stayed away. But a few fantastic performances, especially by Anjelica Huston; and a really sharp script push this to the top of my, “you really should witch this” list. Critics adored The Witches but audiences stayed home. Based on the Roald Dahl book of the same name. It should be noted, that, Mr. Dahl, ummm, was not a fan of the film, calling it, “appalling.” I think that was mainly because the film alters the end of the book. Well, the book is unread by me but I like the ending of the movie just fine.
A Little Princess (1995). Director: Alfonso Cuarón. Writing Credit: Elizabeth Chandler, Richard LaGravenese (screenplay). Frances Hodgson Burnett (novel).
Darby O’Gill and the Little People (1959). Director: Robert Stevenson. Writing Credit: Lawrence Edward Watkin (screenplay, H.T. Kavanagh based on the “Darby O’Gill” stories).
Duma (2005): Director: Carroll Ballard. Writing Credit: Karen Janszen, Mark St. Germain (screenplay). Carol Flint, Karen Janszen (story). Carol Cawthra Hopcraft, Xan Hopcraft (the book, How It Was with Dooms, the true story of a young boy's friendship with an orphaned cheetah on the family's game ranch in Kenya).
Kiki’s Delivery Service (1989). Director / Writing Credit: Hayao Miyazaki (screenplay). Eiko Kadono (novel).
My Neighbor Totoro (1988). Director / Writer: Hayao Miyazaki.
Paperhouse (1988). Director: Bernard Rose. Writing Credit: Matthew Jacobs (screenplay). Catherine Storr (novel, “Marianne Dreams”).
The Iron Giant (1999). Director: Brad Bird. Writing Credit: Tim McCanlies (screenplay). Brad Bird (story). Ted Hughes (novel, “The Iron Man”).
The Last Starfighter (1984). Director: Nick Castle. Writing Credit: Jonathan R. Betuel
The Secret of Kells (2009). Director: Tomm Moore, Nora Twomey. Writing Credit: Fabrice Ziolkowski (screenplay), Tomm Moore (original story).
The Witches (1990). Director: Nicolas Roeg. Writing Credit: Allan Scott (screenplay). Roald Dahl (novel).
Updated: This article has been significantly expanded after reading a few dissenting opinions this weekend. I still love the ad. A lot. But there are a few valid points in the dissension that I address as best as possible.
If you have not watched Heineken’s, “Worlds Apart Experiment”, you should take four minutes and do so. The experiment ad quickly went viral with most of the internet heaping high praise for its tasteful, simple approach in tackling important topics. I agree. It’s lovely and I adore it. I’ve watched it several times and I think it’s very well produced. It’s also completely staged. And that doesn’t matter.
Now, by “staged” I don’t mean “fake.” The video was produced by a UK based ad agency called Publicis London. They do an exceptionally fine job of realistic deception. For context, I ran casting sessions in NYC for several years, I’ve directed a thousand actors and I’ve spent about fifty thousand hours on set and in an editing booth. I can spot an actor ad libbing from ten paces away. I can spot non actors. I can also spot acting. No matter how good. I bring this up because the first minor backlash I noticed came from a feeling that the commercial is staged, that the participants are actors saying scripted lines, and the entire thing is fake and therefore not to be liked.
Heineken responded on Twitter, saying there was no acting, and that the ad features "real stories.” Easy to say, right? Well, based on my experience, I’m going to say, Heineken is probably being truthful -- the people in the video are not actors.
That being said, the participants in the experiment all recorded an introduction video and it’s that intro that I do sense a bit of “acting.” But that’s to be expected because, people, when they are in front of a camera -- they change. They posture, they don’t know what to do with their hands and they exaggerate and / or deflect in equal measure. Basically, they do everything they can to look and sound, “sincere.” That, right there, generally leads to bad acting. Even though they’re not acting.
We live in an era where even phones have cameras. People are used to being recorded but that doesn’t mean everyone suddenly becomes Meryl Streep. In the ad intro video, I have no doubt those people are saying things they believe. But some of them try too hard to be sincere, or controversial, because that’s the image they want to project. The climate change denier actually comes out and says he’s controversial, which is clearly his bag. He likes being the controversial one. Which does put some doubt into how sincere he is about his denial. But then again, maybe he’s just a bad actor.
Anyway, I think both sides are correct. The people in the video are non actors saying things they believe in and they sometimes come off stagey because it is a produced advert that probably forced them to tell their stories again (and maybe again, and again).
Then, you’ll note, multiple camera are used when the people run through the experiment. Either Publicis London used a dozen cameras to shoot each experiment in one take, or they did multiple takes of each experiment. Either way it produces the “stagey” effect that put some people off.
Again, this doesn’t mean the people in the video are actors following a script, it just means that, like reality television, nothing is one hundred percent authentic. It’s very possible these are non actors using anecdotes from their own lives and when confronted with multiple cameras and multiples takes and multiple costumes they come off as staged and over directed.
The second controversy I’ve read, explores the ethics and safety of the experiment. This controversy claims that the ad is dangerous because not all the participants are "ethically" equal, pitting folks with progressive views against those with regressive opinion. I see some merit in this argument.
Two white men, one a climate change denier, the other, a climate change believer. Since they are both white men they are on equal sociological footing, so to say. Even though there is overwhelming scientific consensus that climate change is happening and this shouldn’t be an actual argument, these two men are still on equal footing. There is no implied threat to your safety between two white men having opposing views on climate change.
BUT if you take a black woman who is a self described feminist and white man who is a self described alt right believer suddenly you don’t have two equal viewpoints. One viewpoint is for equal rights the other is for open intolerance. The dissenting view is that it is uniformly unfair for her. Why should she have to defend herself or her views to that guy?
AND THEN you take a well built white man and put him with a thin transgender woman. The white male thinks transgenders are weird and gross, the transgender woman, obviously, feels transgender rights are important. Put them in an empty room.
This is a bit unsettling. Who would do this? Who would set people up like this? Who would send a transgender woman into a meat grinder forcing her to spend time with someone who believes she is less than human? Mirah Curzer over at Athena Talks writes in her dissenting opinion, “The transphobe who agrees to have a beer with the trans woman is sacrificing nothing … Worse, it’s heavily implied that the transgender woman, were she to walk away, would make her just as intolerant as the bigot who views her with disgust.”
That’s true. The ad implies just that. And it’s a fair point because, were the transgender woman to walk away, she would be doing so for a reason of safety and not because of intolerance.
But, it’s important to note, she doesn’t walk away. And neither does anyone else. Because the ad mainly reinforces the truth that the war against intolerance is fought one person at a time. And more importantly -- she already knows she is safe.
This is reality television. This is a staged ad. The participants are not alone. Producers, camera operators and crew members are all over the place. Even if said crew are not in the exact same room as the participants they are nearby, watching.
The ad even has costume changes for God’s sake. Which, I strongly feel, is one of the missteps of the ad. The costumes are bit too on the nose. I mean, did they really have to costume the feminist in a “smash the patriarchy,” shirt? Anyway, all I’m saying is that you can pretty much be guaranteed all the participants knew there was no physical danger.
Emotional discomfort? Probably. Danger? No. And I am not trying to dismiss emotional pain or fear. It’s true that the experiment manufactured a potentially extremely uncomfortable situation between the young black woman / alt right male and the transphobe / transgender woman. I get it.
But I can also guarantee you that these people signed legal documents and had conversations with folks at the ad agency and had discussions with produces. Which means they were aware that something was going to happen. They all knew they were going to be in a controlled experiment and I’m sure they were all told that safety personnel would break the bloody door down and extract anyone who felt threatened.
Anyway. I love this ad. It produces emotion in the viewer and it does so by pointing the camera at people and asking them to talk to each other. It’s extremely effective because the human face and human emotion is far more powerful than CGI or over produced musical scores. It makes zero difference if the Worlds Apart video is scripted, acted and manipulated in editing or if it is entirely as realistic and truthful as the ad suggests. Either way, it genuinely says something about life.
It also tries to sell you beer. It is, after all, a beer ad.
I’m not trying to tell anyone how to feel. Folks can be as cynical as they want about the Worlds Apart ad and if it makes them angry then it makes them angry. But in this very divisive world of Brexit and President Trump the differences presented in the video are all too common. All the ad suggests is that maybe the best way to tackle extreme difference is to engage. One person at a time.
Does that sound way too assine and simple? Can a man who says, “Women should be at home making my babies,” and a woman wearing a, “smash the patriarchy” shirt ever find common ground? The condescending, smug, snotty side of my brain laughs at the very thought.
But I offer anecdotal proof in “Accidental Courtesy: Daryl Davis, Race & America,” a documentary about an African American musician who has spent decades trying to befriend KKK members in order to change their mind about people of color. Davis found that the more he was willing to listen to their grievances, the more willing they were to listen to him. You should watch the documentary. Davis has been quite effective on his journey. His journey to fight intolerance by talking, and listening, and engaging.
UPDATED: A link to current Saints / Adrian Peterson coverage has been added.
I am just like you. Like you, I have a favorite NFL team. Perhaps we share the same team, perhaps not. Like you, I’m no expert in football but again, like you, I’ve watched a lot of games. Every Sunday and Monday. And now sometimes on Thursday. And watching a lot of football has -- well, you know -- pretty much made me an expert. Just like you.
I love the Minnesota Vikings. I don’t know why. Season after season of disappointment, regret and shame. I blame "The Curse." Okay, to be fair, we all know that curses don’t actually exist. Except, obviously, for the one on the MN Viking!
Maybe there is no curse. Maybe all the other Super Bowl winners catch lucky breaks and the Vikings just happen to catch unlucky breaks. Repeat. Or maybe it’s Murphy’s Law. Or maybe it’s the coaching staff. Or the owner. Or the players. Or the fans. Or the curse.
Whatever it is, it certainly is exciting. I mean, the 1998 Vikings go 15-1 and still find a way for “Automatic Anderson” to miss a field goal and lose in the Championship game. I’m sure eighties / early nineties Bills fans feel my seventies pain when I say, “Bloody hell! How can you lose four super bowls in one decade?” Or in 2009, how can you have Brett Favre, Adrian Peterson, Sidney Rice and Percy Harvin and still lose? Oh, right, because All Day fumbles the ball, like, sixteen times in the Championship game against the Saints! Good times, good times.
Maybe the Viking’s aren’t cursed, per say, but they sure do find creative ways to lose. So, why do I love the Vikings? Why am I still a fan? Loyalty? Marketing? Nostalgia? The fantasy? Is it the fantasy that we all crave? We watch a game and think to ourselves, “I could have done that. I could have caught that ball. Made that kick. Hit that hole. I could be rich and famous. I coulda been a contender.”
Maybe. But maybe it’s really, really simple. Maybe I just love the Vikings because it’s my home team. And, also, because American football is the greatest professional sport the world has ever known. Like, ever. Including all those super cool alien sports ball games that earthlings will compete in in the distant future. Don’t believe me? Check out the competition:
The Competition, or, "A totally off topic rant against other sports that should probably be cut but won't be."
Baseball. America’s Pastime.
Yeah, um, sorry but no. Baseball is about as exciting as watching ice cream melt. Each score is worth the same amount of points. One. Holy F’ing boring! Ninety percent of your fielded athletes do nothing. Oh, look over there at that ridiculously high paid star athlete -- the way he stands there and does nothing over in left field -- it really is an inspiration to us all! My favorite interview with a baseball star came about fifteen(ish) years ago, I don’t even remember the player’s name. A reporter asked him a question about being a “star athlete.” The players snorted and replied, “I’m not an athlete. I play baseball.” Yes! More of that please!
Hockey. The sport of “The Great One.”
Hockey can’t be taken seriously for one significant reason: too many games end in ties! How the hell can you have a professional sport that ends in a bunch of ties?!!? Besides, we all know hockey is just "awkward padded boxing" on skates. Occasionally, the fighters break up the cage match and shoot the puck around the ice for a while. Oh, look, another exciting ass ice boxing match that ends in a 0-0 tie! Thankfully I only paid $125 for my ticket or I’d be really disappointed in this sport (note the sarcasm).
Basketball. The court of “Air Jordan.”
Basketball has too many points involved for it to be continuously engaging. But at least basketball has a range of points. Shots can be worth one, two or three. And the pace of the game is break neck. Something is always happening. Have you ever watched fans at a basketball game cheer their heads off when their team scores that first two point bucket? Notice how the enthusiasm is gone by mid game where their home team has scored its thirty third 2 point shot. Points become meaningless when they are handed out so frequently which is why you hear the oft said expression, “You only need to watch the last ten minutes of a basketball game.” I guess, to be honest, I don’t mind watching basketball (it’s not like it’s bloody baseball for Christ’s sake!) but it’s no American football.
Tennis. (I have nothing snotty to say about tennis).
I kind of dig tennis. Unique point system. One-on-one or two-on-two competition. Steffi Graf. Pete Sampras. Good stuff. It’s just no NFL. We all know that.
Please. It’s not a sport. It’s a skill. No competition.
Soccer. The world sport. Loved by billions.
Meh. Another game that ends in ties. And each score is worth one point. Not much in way of scoring strategy. Oh, you beg to differ? Quick, what’s your sports ball plan for your soccer team? Oh. What was that? You plan to kick the ball into the goal. For a point. Yeah, that’s what I thought. I know the world loves soccer (football). Fair enough. You keep your soccer, I’ll keep my American football.
So what makes American Football so great? (If you really dislike football you might want to just skip this part and move on down to the open letter sections).
You’re either on my side or not. No need for a seven page discussion why football wins. It just does. The strategy. The symmetry of the formations. Substitutions. Play calling. Offensive strategy. Defensives strategy. The deceptions. Consider that every single play requires dozens of off field personnel to predict the opposing side, call the play, get substitutions in and out, communicate the play, line up in formation (which suggests a certain type of run or pass play but is usually disguised as something other than it looks), hard count to draw the defense offside (or not), focus (do not get a penalty), execute the play (all eleven people on the field have to do their jobs or the play goes to shit), out play your opponent.
So, for every play that happens in the NFL that’s the culmination of anywhere from twenty to twenty five people all coordinating their jobs every five minutes. Over and over and over again. Compare that level of detail, coordination, teamwork and the individual chance to rise up above another player or entire team to just “make a play," with, “Pitcher tries to throw ball past batter.” Yes, yes, I know baseball is slightly more complicated than I suggest. But only slightly. And it’s no football. And there is no comparison.
Anyway. I’ve made my point. You’re now convinced (or not). American Football for the win. Allow me to get back to the matter at hand.
The Open Letter Section. Out with the old. In with the new and I'm really sorry about that curse, guys.
Dear Mr. Peterson.
We have never met. We probably never will. I just want to say to you, farewell. You’re a great athlete. I have enjoyed many an hour watching you turn defensive lines into Swiss cheese. I marvel at how you can get five or six yards when defenses stack eight men in the box. I love that, with one hand, you can shove an NFL player away from you, hardly breaking stride. You single handedly carried the MN Vikings into the playoffs in 2012 with your 2,097 rushing yards. You will go down as one of, if not the, greatest running back the NFL has ever seen. Well played, sir. Thank you for your hard work and fair game play.
And I’m soooo glad to see you gone! The Vikings have been ruined with you in the backfield. Several years of completely predictable and uninspiring offense designed to hand you the ball launched the Vikings into an orbit of mediocrity. Other teams pretty much knew you were getting the ball 25 times per game. And, for a long time you were still great. And then the injuries and the scandal and the drama struck. And suddenly you were no longer, Adrian Fucking Peterson! You were just Adrian Peterson, a very expensive, pretty good runner. And while other teams are passing for 5,000 yards, year after year the Vikings are at the bottom of the league in offense. It’s time for a new plan.
I am glad to have seen you play for the MN Vikings and I hope you continue to have a fine, injury free career on other teams. Perhaps you’ll get a super bowl ring behind Drew Brees. You deserve one. Of course, I’ll be honest with you here ... "The fucking Saints?!?!" How quickly you forget! I mean, they were the team who paid their players extra money to injure opponents. And that’s exactly what they did in the 2009 Championship game against you and your team. (Grumble, grumble, grumble). Which is why the Vikings lost that game.
Oh, and another reason they lost is because you fumbled (and lost) the ball, like, sixteen times!
Maybe you're cursed? Anyway, try not to fumble so much in the future.
Unless you’re playing the Vikings.
Update: How is Peterson doing as a Saint? Check out our coverage: Adrian Peterson and the Failed New Orleans Saints Experiment.
Dear Mr. Bridgewater.
You have a great name. I love it. By all accounts it seems you are a really, genuine, decent man. Young, smart and talented -- you are guaranteed to have a great future in the NFL. Unless the curse of the MN Vikings will inflict a freak, horrible, non contact injury that could end your career.
On the bright side, the NFL has an unlimited budget for medical care and you are young and strong. You’ll recover. But there’s, "recover," and there’s, "RECOVER"! It looks as if the Vikings will not pick up your option. Which means they, and the NFL doctors expect you to recover. But probably not RECOVER.
You might play again. I hope you do. Because of your injury the Vikings might be able to re-evaluate you next year. Perhaps you’ll recover enough and they’ll sign you as a back up. And you’ll probably be -- okay. It’s hard to evaluate your career as you were only the starter for a year and a half. But you do have an overall winning record totaling a W/L/T of 17-12-0 (See! No ties!). In 2015, you led the Vikings to the top of the division with an 11-5 record where your numbers were:
GP CMP ATT CMP% YDS AVR TD INT LNG QB-RAT
16 292 447 65.3% 3,231 7.23 14 9 62 88.7
Aside from a flat line TD / INT ratio those numbers are -- well, they’re okay. You were sacked 44 times that season for a loss of 307 yards. About three times per game. Pretty impressive record for getting knocked around that much. It’s also interesting to note that Adrian Peterson was healthy in your 2015 season. Peterson played 16 games and rushed for league high 1,485 yards which probably took a lot of pressure off you. The previous year when you took over for injured Matt Cassel you went 6-6 but Peterson was inactive the entire year. Tough road for a rookie. It also suggests you might need a great back in order to win.
Anyway, you know all this. But I, along with many other Vikings fans, had high hopes for your future with the Vikings. I’m sorry that the curse struck you down. You did not deserve it. I hope you are the physical freak of nature that Adrian Peterson proved he was when he came back from his horrible knee injury and rushed for more than two thousand yards. I hope you can come back from your injury and throw for five thousand yards!
I really do. Good luck kid!
Dear Mr. Bradford.
Hey, dude. I like you. I really do. You quietly put up impressive numbers in 2016.
GP CMP ATT CMP% YDS AVR TD INT LNG QB-RAT
15 395 552 71.6% 3,877 7.02 20 5 71 99.3
Almost four thousand yards in fifteen games. Nice TD to INT ratio and an almost seventy two percent completion ratio! Which is insanely high! And an NFL record. It was certainly your best year as a pro. Excellent work!
Buuuut -- I gotta be honest with you. It’s -- well -- your W/L numbers that concern me. You went 7-8 as a starter. The losses are not all on your shoulders. Far from it! AP had another injury and after that The MN Vikings had a dismal running game. They also had, arguably, the worst front line in the league. A frontline, I might add, that allowed multiple games with five or more sacks on you. That doesn't even include the amount of time you were hit (but not sacked). To be honest, I don’t expect my team to win when the O-line gives up five sacks per game and probably twice as many QB hits. All in all you were sacked 37 times for a loss of almost 300 yards. Which isn’t as much as I thought. Brdigewater went down more times in his full season start. But still, the O-line has to improve and when it does and you’re offered a bit more protection, I see that you can get the ball into receiver's hands.
Buuuut -- it’s still that pesky win / loss ratio that bothers me. You were drafted in 2011 for the St. Louis Rams and had largely mediocre and some not very good seasons. Also, you were injured in four of your seven years as a pro. Not promising. Finally, you have a mediocre season in Philadelphia and then get traded to the Vikings in 2016. Your overall W/L/T record is a sad looking 32-45-1 (stupid tie!).
Thankfully, in 2016 you had two rising superstar receivers in Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielan. Bridgewater was throwing to folks like Charles Johnson, Mike Wallace and Cordarrelle Patterson -- three players that always should have been better than they were. So, Sam, I’m glad you have that going for you.
But man. We could have had Teddy "GUMP" Bridgewater. (Great Under Major Pressure). And he coulda turned into a star. Probably.
But Sam, you're not bad, right? On one hand AP was down for the year, and you did what you could do.
On the other hand, Bridgewater went 11-5. With subpar receivers.
On the other hand, he had a healthy AP to back him up.
On the other hand, Bradford, you had the worst offensive line in the NFL.
On the other hand, Bridgewater was sacked more than you were in that year by year comparison and he still won eleven games.
On the other hand, the NFL has never seen a more accurate passer than your job in 2016, Mr. Bradford.
On the other hand, Sam, you didn’t really get a lot of yards per pass. And you lost more games than you won.
(I ran out of hands).
Well, Mr. Bradford. I’m not here to make you feel bad (which, you probably don’t). You seem like a stand up guy. I never heard you complain about losing or whine about the O line. You took your hits, took your blame and moved on to the next game. I approve.
I pretty much have faith that you’re going to be A-Okay here as a Viking especially with those two superstar receivers aforementioned I expect all your numbers to go up. And we have a new running back. Latavius Murray seems like a good egg.
Oh, and one final thing. Sam, if you hear anything about “a curse,” just totally ignore it. None of our quarterback are ever injured! I mean, except for like the last twenty of them. But aside from that our QB is never injured. We always make the clutch field goals. We always have a winning record. Our players have an insane amount of super bowl rings. Like, seriously, you would not believe how many super bowl rings the Vikings have! So, there is totally, no curse on the MN Vikings. Okay?
Besides, curses are not real. I mean, obviously, except for the one on the MN Vikings that we all know exists. But aside from that one, curses are not real. So don’t worry about it!
Just go play ball. Have fun. And let’s try and get that W/L ratio up a bit, shall we?
Thanks for reading!
Update: This story has been updated to reflect the end of negotiations between the writers and studios.
On Monday, members of the Writers Guild of America (WGA) overwhelmingly voted for their union to strike. This gives the union permission to strike but does not necessarily mean they will strike. The current WGA contract expires on May 1st and negotiation between the union and studios continue.
The last WGA strike was in 2007-8 and cost the state of CA approximately $2 billion dollars and about $250 million in lost wages for writers. In 2007 the strike was about the usual suspects - wage increase, & health care but mainly about streaming residuals. You see, if a writer writes something and it airs, the writer gets a “residual payment” when the program (or film) shows and / or when a DVD sells. Actors, directors, executive producers, producers all have similar deals depending on the media.
The problem was with said residuals for streaming service. How much, if anything, does a writer get when someone streams said content from the web. At the time this whole streaming thing was up and coming and the previous WGA contract had never considered “streaming” to be much of a thing so contracts focused on DVD sales and ancillary rights for cable service (HBO, Showtime, etc).
And you know what that means. If it’s not in the contract, you don’t get it. So writers were getting paid nothing for streaming services. Streaming services loved it! They raked in the cash and didn’t have to pay those uppity writers a dime!
Hence the strike. Which last for about 100 days. Keep in mind when the writers strike the entire production is shut down. Deals are canceled. Lots of people are laid off or fired. It’s not just the writers who are out of work. So are the camera operators, the craft service employees, the production assistants, and office personnel. Some restaurants & shops that were entirely dependent on the thousands of cast & crew walk ins had to permanently close without the film / TV traffic. The strike hit hard and in the end the WGA didn’t even really get a great deal. They got a mediocre deal because everyone was just weary from the strike and gave in.
Well, we still have shows on TV, Hollywood cranks out 150 movies per year and Netflix is bigger than ever. So despite their mediocre deal I guess the writers won. Right? Until the next time! Contracts seem to last about three years in Hollywood so it was inevitable there would be a “next time”.
Which is now. So what are those writers complaining about this time? They already make $250 thousand per year! Now what do they want?
Wait, writers make how much? And now that I know that, why should I care they are demanding more money?
I know. It’s hard to find a lot of empathy when the average TV writer makes approx. $250 thousand per year. The average screenwriter is paid slightly less. Those numbers are driven high by a couple of key things -- titles like “producer / writer” and showrunners on TV who are the “executive producer” all demand much higher salaries than a typical writer, but are considered “writers” for the purpose of the WGA. So, mostly likely, a typical writer on TV probably makes about $180 thousand per year. Which, as they say, is better than a sharp stick in the eye.
The most important thing to remember though is -- that’s what the market says their job is worth. It’s not the writers fault that s/he makes that much. And if the market suggests writers should be making more than they do, then a contract renegotiation and / or strike is appropriate.
A few things to consider. First, TV writers get paid per episode. In the way back time of 2008, TV networks any given popular show produces twenty two episodes per year. That number has plummeted to anywhere from eight to twelve episodes per year for most scripted programing.
Second, writers usually have an exclusivity deal which means they are unable to work on multiple shows at once. So even though there are more scripted shows now than ever before, a writer can only work on one at a time. It doesn’t matter that the market pays a TV writer very well they now collect about half what they used to. No one should be happy with that deal.
Of course, thankfully, there is a silver lining here. The WGA contract still offer writers residuals from DVD sales. You remember DVD’s, right? You used to buy a bunch of them. So even if a writer was out of work for a season or two, s/he could depend on residuals from DVD sales to help pay the mortgage.
Except, of course, for the fact that DVD sales peaked in the early 2000’s and bottomed out around 2006 (as more folks switched to online streaming and / or stole the movies on sites like bittorrent). In fact, DVD sales continue to plummet about 10 percent per year. Another line of revenue that has quickly faded for writers.
Which is why the negotiations between the WGA and the studios continue. But no one actually wants a strike. True, the WGA just voted to give the union heads the authority to strike if need be but, seriously, no one really wants to.
John Eisendrath, WGA member and executive producer of the show, “The Blacklist,” has an excellent piece over at latimes.com called, “I voted for a Hollywood writer’s strike but I don’t want one” where he offers his views on the possible strike (and solutions). His insider opinion is much like the title of his piece but you should read it over anyway. I like his solutions.
The main hold up is, obviously, money. The studio’s don’t want to give up any more of their large share of the pie. To be honest, they are kind of struggling this year what with only having been able to scrape together a measly $51 billion dollars in profit in 2016.
What? Did you you just say $51 billion? As in the number “fifty one”, followed by “billion?” Profit?
Yes. I did. The studios are arguing against paying writers more because there isn’t enough of the $51 billion dollar pie to go around. No, seriously, that’s what is going on.
Writers, the folks that create every single character, every line of dialog, every plotline and every story you consume on media, those folks, ask for better health coverage and a raise. Unlike the 2007-08 strike, I expect that they’ll get their wish this time. Unlike the 07-08 strike the studios just don’t have a lot of leverage. Profits are too high. The Directors Guild of America just signed a new contract making much of the same adjustments the WGA is asking for. The holdup, I suspect, is simply a matter of how to dot the i’s and cross the t’s.
So, don’t panic. I doubt there will be a strike. Late night talk shows & SNL are posting record ratings and would go dark if the strike went through. Think of the lost ad revenue. Networks won’t like that at all. So, I think there will be a new contract before the deadline. “Walking Dead” and “Game of Thrones” will come out on time. Tentpole blockbusters and the Marvel Universe will get their features out and we’ll all be able to watch Star Wars Episode VIII at Christmas. Seriously, no one wants a strike to happen.
But, if the WGA does strike, they have every right to do so. I know writers already make a lot of money but Hollywood is drowning in profits. I think the writers deserve their fair share and should not be making less than what they did ten years ago.
Finally, if you don’t think the writers should strike I offer this: a list of movies that were rushed into production with unfinished (or completely unwritten) scripts: “Transformers 2”, “X-Men Origins: Wolverine”, “Terminator Salvation”, “G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra”, “Quantum of Solace,” “Land of the Lost,” “Dragonball Evolution.”
See any hidden gems there? Or just a big pile of steaming, poorly written crap? You’re probably thinking that “Quantum of Solace” wasn’t THAT bad or that none of those films would have been masterpieces, regardless.
I’ll give you that. You may have a point. But there are even stories that came from the JJ Abrams “Star Trek” that, because of the strike, his team was unable to make changes to the script once they started shooting. That film was well liked and received generally well. But could it have been even better? Maybe. You know, for example, just off the top of my head, it’s not like this has ever bothered me before, but do you think the Trek writers would have been able to come up with a better idea than, “Kirk is coincidentally marooned on the very same planet that future Spock crashed on and they are coincidentally not far away from each other allowing future Spock to save Kirk’s life from a giant snow monster?”
Aside from that, generally just kind of being a dumb idea, the odds against a scenario like it happening are astronomical. Suspension of disbelief is one thing, actively making audiences less intelligent is something else. For example, in “Star Trek into Nonsense,” the second of the poorly written Trek remakes, the Enterprise crew uses a “cold fusion” bomb to freeze a volcano. Even though, you know, cold fusion is a hypothesized type of nuclear reaction which creates, well energy. And therefore heat. And bombs that produce heat probably wouldn't be able to -- well, you know -- freeze anything.
But that’s what the writer is there for! Sink or swim, your writer(s) are there to craft the characters, mold the plot and shape the story. And take a lot of blame when things go wrong.
And get virtually zero credit when things go right. Quick, name your favorite episode of any TV show you’ve ever watched? Now tell me who wrote it. Sure, you’ll probably remember all the Joss Whedon penned “Buffy” episodes, but that’s about it.
In Hollywood there is a saying: writers are a dime a dozen. That may be true. And now they’re asking for a raise. And I’m looking at you Mr. Studio Man when I say, you should give it to them.
Because no one wants a strike. Seriously, I can’t say it enough. Like, no one.
Which is precisely why, on Monday, May 1st, a full ninety minutes past the midnight deadline, the writers and the studios came to an agreement and signed a new contract. The contract is much more friendly to the union than the 2007 deal and the WGA got much of what it was after. Not all, but much. Visit the L.A. times for a complete analysis of the deal: They avoided a strike, but negotiations between writers and studios were a true Hollywood thriller.
Alex Jones says a lot of controversial things. Some people call him a fringe lunatic. Some people call him a prophetic patriot. When I see him plastered all over the internet I am not surprised because, well, he says a lot of controversial things.
He is currently receiving wall-to-wall internet coverage about his brand new controversial topic. I am skeptical. I mean, will it be as controversial as Jones claiming the Sandy Hook Massacre is fake? (It’s not). How about as controversial as his claim that the Orlando Nightclub shooting was a false flag attack? (It isn’t). I don’t know, but I hope it’s as controversial as Jones’s claim that Hillary Clinton operated a pedophile ring out of a Pizzeria in a conspiracy so dumb I won’t even bother linking! (Jones apologized and recanted).
No, my friend. It will be far more controversial than all of those combined. And I know this because it’s all over the media. With media coverage this broad, Mr. Jones must have some huge controversial issue brewing! So what is it? Why is the media all up in Alex Jones’s grill?
Because Alex Jones is in a custody battle.
With his ex wife.
I know! What am I supposed to do? I work at GCN. Alex Jones is on our network. I don’t want to write about Alex Jones’s custody battle because his custody battle is pretty much none of my GD business. The only people who should be worried about Jones's custody battle are:
Kelly Jones (ex wife).
Maybe some family and friends but that’s it. That’s the complete list of people who should care. But here we are. And I have to waste my day writing about Alex Jones’s personal business because media vultures love to swoop in for the kill. Especially when “the kill” is mud-slinging non-news like a custody battle!
I see what you’re talking about now. Alex Jones does indeed oft claim mainstream media is all “fake news.” I can see how that might stick in folk’s craw, what with that hypocrisy and all.
Okay. Now I see why the coverage is twenty four seven. Alex Jones claims all other news is fake and then admits that his show over at Infowars.com (and here on GCN) is performance art -- which, I gather, is a clever way of saying “fake.” That’s newsworthy. If this is the first time Alex Jones has admitted to something like this. I can understand the coverage.
Except, of course, for the fact that Alex Jones has called himself a performance artist many, many times. Without any coverage. At all. Unless you count mine. That I wrote two weeks ago. In which I cite Alex Jones calling his very own work “performance art.”
Alex Jones says, multiple times, on his show that he is a “performance artist.” Zero coverage.
Alex Jones’s lawyer says in court that Mr. Jones is a “performance artist” + custody battle = huge coverage.
I don’t work with him! Stop saying that! Alex Jones has a radio show on the network that I work for. I’ve never even met the guy! And I don’t have to “defend him.” He’s a radio personality. He says a lot of crazy things. As loud as possible. On purpose. For effect. He does it seven days a week. For twenty years. He is bound to get some things right. He is bound to get some things wrong. He is bound to say controversial things. Some of them will turn out to be silly and harmless. Some of them will turn out to be tragic and dangerous.
But I don’t have to defend him. The Constitution of the United States does a much better job of defending him then I ever could. I’ll even go so far as to tell you I disagree with about seventy-five percent of what I hear Alex Jones say. And I will still roll my eyes in your general direction if you claim I am defending him because I “work with him.” I’m not doing it. He doesn’t need it.
Well, no. I’m not going to write about his custody battle. "Former married couple goes through bitter divorce and says horrible things about each other" is not news.
So then let me get back to his claim about performance art. I see the easy way out. Alex Jones will claim, “What I say is truthful but HOW I say it is performance art.” Which gives him carte blanche to say whatever he wants and kind of, you know, avoid responsibility.
Okay. Fair enough. He’s not the first person to hide behind the Constitution. He won’t be the last. The Constitution does indeed give him the right to say just about whatever he wants. It doesn’t, however, protect one from consequences.
Take Len Pozner. Len’s only son, Noah, was murdered in the Sandy Hook Massacre. Len has been dogged and harassed by “Truthers.” Truthers, as defined by the totally legit dictionary:
Truther [trooth-ER] noun. Plural: morons.
A soulless ghoul.
A dimwitted slug.
Weak willed sheep.
Someone who believes mass shooting massacres, such as the one at Sandy Hook Elementary School, are staged events by the federal government in order to frighten the population into surrendering their weapons. The victims and their families, truthers believe, are “crisis actors,” people hired by the government to pretend to be bereaved.
I hate that in the world we live in this exists.
Len Pozner has been harassed by truthers for years. In 2015 a woman went to jail for sending Mr. Pozner threatening messages. I’m sure other Sandy Hook family survivors have similar stories. And, yes, Alex Jones and similar fringe alt-right pundits are partially to blame.
And I will only say, “partially.” A person unstable enough to cross state lines and send death threats to someone they think is a “crisis actor,” also shares a hell of a lot of the responsibility. So while I honestly believe Mr. Jones has the Constitutional right to say Sandy Hook, in his opinion, was staged. It’s still a shitty thing to say.
And there have been consequences. And it looks like they happened to the wrong people. Len Pozner does not deserve to have idiots crawling through his lawn looking for proof of “his crisis acting involvement,” or digging through his garbage hoping beyond hope to find the “smoking gun” that doesn’t exist. He certainly doesn’t deserve to be taunted or threatened.
He deserves to be left alone. His child was murdered. It wasn’t fake. There is no such thing as a crisis actor. And if you believe Sandy Hook was a hoax then you’re an asshole.
And I still don’t care about Alex Jones’s custody battle.
If you like this you might like the GCNlive talk show: The Alex Jones Show.
Today -- April 18th, 2017 -- is the last day you can file your Federal Income Taxes. Uncle Sam has bills to pay and expects your check in a timely manner. I usually do my taxes at the last minute and this year was no different. I have oft wondered, “Is this the year where I don’t get my taxes done in time and have to file an extension?”
Thankfully, the answer is, “Nope. Not this year!” But what does one do if one has not yet filed their taxes? You can link jump to irs.gov and fill out: Form 4868, Application for Automatic Extension of Time To File U.S. Individual Income Tax Return. It’s a pretty simple form.
Keep in mind if you file for an extension there may or may not be late fee penalties, accrued interest, nasty letters from the IRS, collection agents, tax levies and / or liens. Consequences all depend if you are filing late or not filing at all. There is a huge difference in the amount of consequences between filing late and not filing. All sorts of bad thing can happen to you up to and including jail time if you fail to file your taxes on time or at all. So don’t do it.
Even celebrities get in trouble for income tax evasion! And celebrities can get away with nearly anything. Here is a partial list of Celebrities Who Were Forgiven For Their Horrible Acts. I mean, look at that list! Matthew Broderick has killed people! And his grand punishment was that he had to fork over a colossal fee of -- $175. Not $1.75 million or $175 million.Nope. One hundred and seventy five dollars! For killing two people! Like I said, celebrities can get away with a lot of awful stuff. But not tax evasion. Just ask Martha Steward or Wesley Snipes or Willie Nelson or Nicolas Cage.
Point being, the tax man gets his money. It doesn’t matter if it’s your $284 or Nicolas Cage’s $6 million. The tax man always wins. So file today and you free, free, free from the tax man!
Well, until next year. Or until your extension expires. I guess I take that back. You will not be free. There is a reason, “Death and Taxes,” is a colloquialism. Nothing is inevitable except for … well, you know.
Hello friends! I just learned of a delightful “holiday” that passed us by all too quickly on Friday, April 14th -- National Ex-Spouse's Day! Now, for many of you, a holiday recognizing your Ex might seem like the unwanted proverbial Red Headed Stepchild. Well, I always liked the Red Headed Stepchild! But I understand your skepticism. Bear with me.
You see, the real reason I’m pushing National Ex-Spouse’s Day is for the other discovery I had this weekend. Apparently, there is cake. Divorce cake! And I mean some pretty hilarious divorce cakes. Suddenly I’m all for National Ex -Spouse’s Day! Because of the cake!
It’s true you don’t need to a holiday to try some fine divorce cake, but the holiday makes it all the more delightful. And whenever I write the words “divorce” and “delightful” in the same sentence, I immediately think of Louis CK and his volumes of material on the subject including,“divorce is always good news” and “marriage is a larval stage for true happiness.” Check them both out. Both bits are NSFW but are well worth your five minutes.
According to the folks at foodandwine.com divorce cakes are on the rise nationally, but sadly, have not yet caught on in my native MN. So let’s spread the word. National Ex-Spouse's Day and Divorce cake. Mark your calendar for next year! Make Louis CK proud!