ABC Television Network
There’s no doubt that The View has cemented its place in popular culture since its premiere in 1997, and that its co-creator Barbara Walters is a legend who has paved the way for women in journalism. However, as we consider the positive impact the show has had on American society and the world at large, we must also come to terms with some of its problems as well.
For those who don’t watch, every morning the hosts debate about a variety of “hot topics” in an attempt to tap into the zeitgeist. One morning the hosts will discuss Justin Bieber’s legal troubles, for example, and another morning they’ll talk about the crisis in the Ukraine. The hot topics are responsible for the show’s continued success with viewers and its presence in the mainstream American media, as they have famously incited some heated on-air arguments between the co-hosts. Below is a video of one of the more memorable fights.
At which point do we decide what merits a legitimate “hot topic” worth debating and what contributes to gossip and the general lynch-mob mentality that has taken form in the Twittersphere? Case in point: the recent discussion about Kim Novak’s Academy Awards appearance. Walters brought it up on Monday, March 3, asking in a condescending tone whether or not Novak should be put on television, as if she’s some abnormal creature who shouldn’t leave the house. By contributing to the conversation, the co-hosts of The View implied that cruelty is acceptable and that insulting another human being for the way she looks and talks is a worthy endeavor.
This isn’t the only example. During discussions of the recent child molestation claims against Woody Allen incited by the Farrows (first Ronan and Mia and then Dylan), co-hosts Sherri Shepard and Jenny McCarthy expressed their willingness to believe the Farrows while simultaneously attacking Allen for “having a track record” of liking younger women, as if that is synonymous with pedophilia. I’m not saying that they’re right or wrong because I don’t know what happened either, but why should they even discuss this in the first place? Why should they claim such certainty about another person’s private life with the same speculative information the rest of us have?
The short answer is that they wouldn’t have a show if they didn’t, and the long answer is that The View is a product of a culture and society that thrives on making rash judgments against other people without knowing anything about them. Walters and company aren’t the only ones doing this — they’re not even the only ones on television who profit from gossiping about others — but given Walters’ journalistic integrity, she should know better.
After all, the co-hosts have a responsibility to their viewers, and if they want to create a show that revolves around your average American offering an opinion about the latest news story, they should be more selective in their choosing of hot topics. Many viewers turn to the co-hosts to learn about what’s relevant and important in the world, and by using their airspace to cast judgments about other people’s private lives (Allen) or to criticize the way certain people carry themselves publically (Novak), they send the wrong message that it’s acceptable to offer an opinion about other people without knowing anything about them or the situation in which they’re placed.
Don’t be fooled, folks. This is never acceptable, especially on television.
David Mitchell's novel Cloud Atlas consists of six stories set in various periods between 1850 and a time far into Earth's post-apocalyptic future. Each segment lives on its own the previous first person account picked up and read by a character in its successor creating connective tissue between each moment in time. The various stories remain intact for Tom Tykwer's (Run Lola Run) Lana Wachowski's and Andy Wachowski's (The Matrix) film adaptation which debuted at the Toronto International Film Festival. The massive change comes from the interweaving of the book's parts into one three-hour saga — a move that elevates the material and transforms Cloud Atlas in to a work of epic proportions.
Don't be turned off by the runtime — Cloud Atlas moves at lightning pace as it cuts back and forth between its various threads: an American notary sailing the Pacific; a budding musician tasked with transcribing the hummings of an accomplished 1930's composer; a '70s-era investigatory journalist who uncovers a nefarious plot tied to the local nuclear power plant; a book publisher in 2012 who goes on the run from gangsters only to be incarcerated in a nursing home; Sonmi~451 a clone in Neo Seoul who takes on the oppressive government that enslaves her; and a primitive human from the future who teams with one of the few remaining technologically-advanced Earthlings in order to survive. Dense but so was the unfamiliar world of The Matrix. Cloud Atlas has more moving parts than the Wachowskis' seminal sci-fi flick but with additional ambition to boot. Every second is a sight to behold.
The members of the directing trio are known for their visual prowess but Cloud Atlas is a movie about juxtaposition. The art of editing is normally a seamless one — unless someone is really into the craft the cutting of a film is rarely a post-viewing talking point — but Cloud Atlas turns the editor into one of the cast members an obvious player who ties the film together with brilliant cross-cutting and overlapping dialogue. Timothy Cavendish the elderly publisher could be musing on his need to escape and the film will wander to the events of Sonmi~451 or the tortured music apprentice Robert Frobisher also feeling the impulse to run. The details of each world seep into one another but the real joy comes from watching each carefully selected scene fall into place. You never feel lost in Cloud Atlas even when Tykwer and the Wachowskis have infused three action sequences — a gritty car chase in the '70s a kinetic chase through Neo Seoul and a foot race through the forests of future millennia — into one extended set piece. This is a unified film with distinct parts echoing the themes of human interconnectivity.
The biggest treat is watching Cloud Atlas' ensemble tackle the diverse array of characters sprinkled into the stories. No film in recent memory has afforded a cast this type of opportunity yet another form of juxtaposition that wows. Within a few seconds Tom Hanks will go from near-neanderthal to British gangster to wily 19th century doctor. Halle Berry Hugh Grant Jim Sturgess Jim Broadbent Ben Whishaw Hugo Weaving and Susan Sarandon play the same game taking on roles of different sexes races and the like. (Weaving as an evil nurse returning to his Priscilla Queen of the Desert cross-dressing roots is mind-blowing.) The cast's dedication to inhabiting their roles on every level helps us quickly understand the worlds. We know it's Halle Berry behind the fair skinned wife of the lunatic composer but she's never playing Halle Berry. Even when the actors are playing variations on themselves they're glowing with the film's overall epic feel. Jim Broadbent's wickedly funny modern segment a Tykwer creation that packs a particularly German sense of humor is on a smaller scale than the rest of the film but the actor never dials it down. Every story character and scene in Cloud Atlas commits to a style. That diversity keeps the swirling maelstrom of a movie in check.
Cloud Atlas poses big questions without losing track of its human element the characters at the heart of each story. A slower moment or two may have helped the Wachowskis' and Tykwer's film to hit a powerful emotional chord but the finished product still proves mainstream movies can ask questions while laying over explosive action scenes. This year there won't be a bigger movie in terms of scope in terms of ideas and in terms of heart than Cloud Atlas.
At some point in the early years of the 21st century a bunch of Hollywood executives must have gotten together and decided that animated films should be made for all audiences. The goal was perhaps to make movies that are simultaneously accessible to the older and younger sets with colorful imagery that one expects from children’s films and two levels of humor: one that’s quite literal and harmless and another that’s somewhat subversive. The criteria has resulted in cross-generational hits like Wall-E and Madagascar and though it’s nice to be able to take my nephew to the movies and be as entertained by cartoon characters as he is I can’t help but wonder what happened to unabashedly innocent animated classics like A Goofy Movie and The Land Before Time?
Disney’s Winnie The Pooh is the answer to the Shrek’s and Hoodwinked!’s of the world: a short sweet simple and lighthearted tale of friendship that doesn’t need pop-culture references or snarky dialogue to put a smile on your face. Directors Stephen J. Anderson and Don Hall found some fresh ways to deliver adorable animation while keeping the carefree spirit of A.A. Milne’s source material in tact. Their story isn’t the most original; the first part of the film finds Pooh Piglet Tigger and Owl searching for Eeyore’s tail (a common plot point in the books and past Pooh films) and hits all the predictable notes but the second half mixes things up a bit as the crew searches for a missing Christopher Robin whom they believe has been kidnapped by a forest creature known as the “Backson” (it’s really just the result of the illiterate Owl or is it?).
The beauty of hand-drawn animation all but forgotten until recently is what makes Winnie the Pooh so incredibly magnetic. There’s an inexplicable crispness to the colors and characters that CG just can’t duplicate. It’s a more personal practice for the filmmakers and should provide a refreshing experience for audiences who have become jaded with the pristine presentation of computerized imagery. The film is bookended by brief live-action shots from inside Robin’s room an interesting dynamic that plays up the simplicity of youth ties it to these beloved characters and brings you right back to memories of your own childhood.
With a just-over-an-hour run time Winnie the Pooh is short enough to hold the attention of children but won’t bore the parents who will love the film mainly for nostalgic musings. Still it’s the young’uns who will most enjoy this breezy bright and enchanting film that proves old-school characters can appeal to new moviegoers.
Crime has always come naturally to John Lyshitski (Dax Shepard). As a young boy he stole the Publishers Clearing House truck and tried to cash the check inside--and the list goes on. For each crime the same judge hands down the verdict and becomes No. 1 on Lyshitski’s s**t list. Following release from his latest stint in the slammer Lyshitski seeks to finally act on his hatred for the judge only to learn that he died just days ago--but his son Nelson Biederman IV (Will Arnett) is free. Wealthy and bratty Biederman is the kind of guy anyone would love to hate and John exacts revenge on him. Getting him thrown in the can is the easy part but John wants to actually witness and take part in Nelson’s prison hazing. So with relative ease and indifference he intentionally gets himself thrown in prison for selling pot and shacks up with Nelson. Now he gets to give him “the full treatment.” For Shepard and Arnett admission into the fabled “Frat Pack” (whose ever-expanding alumni include Vince Vaughn Owen and Luke Wilson and Will Ferrell) is still a ways away but Prison is a good cred builder. Shepard (Employee of the Month TV’s Punk’d) might be a minor hit away from becoming a star. He has a natural knack for comedy but also has shown great variation from role to role. In Prison his impassivity towards incarceration and its goings-on is funny but this is still not the vehicle to transport him to “breakout” stardom. Arnett has more work to do. His brand of comedy is more dry i.e. his late great Gob on Arrested Development. The more overt comedy in Prison Arnett's biggest film role to date doesn’t always work but that’s not to say he doesn’t provide hilarity. Chi McBride (TV’s Boston Public) sheds his shirt for laughs as rotund inmate Barry. Dylan Baker (Happiness) is funnily sadistic as the warden and David Koechner himself a “Frat Pack” fringester is zany as usual. Adapted loosely from Jim Hogshire’s cult book You Are Going to Prison the film doesn’t always successfully translate. But it occasionally makes up for its comedic misfires by being funny in unexpected ways. For that we can thank director Bob Odenkirk--who also has a small role in the film--a man who’s given us underappreciated shock humor for years (and by “shock” we mean the kind that sneaks up on you not the Borat kind). The co-star and -creator of HBO’s beloved Mr. Show--along with the equally outlandish David Cross--Odenkirk is never satisfied with the straightforward stuff and often swings for the fences. Sometimes he misses but when it’s funny it’s hilarious! Such is the case with Let's Go to Prison (and he re-teams with Arnett on next year’s The Brothers Solomon) which is stupid-funny in a way that might turn it into a cult hit upon DVD release.
Fahrenheit heats up box office
Michael Moore's controversial documentary Fahrenheit 9/11 broke single-day box office records at the two New York theaters where it played Wednesday, Reuters reports. The movie, which criticizes President Bush and the war in Iraq, sold $49,000 worth of tickets at the Loew's Village 7 theater, beating the venue's single-day record of $43,435 held by 1997's Men in Black, according to distributors Lions Gate Films and IFC Films, while at the Lincoln Plaza theater, Fahrenheit took in more than $30,000 to top the $24,013 set by Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon in 2000, Reuters reports. A spokesman for Lions Gate Films said the company debuted the movie in the two theaters to help build good word-of-mouth ahead its wider debut June 25 in 868 theaters.
And on to more record-breakers...
Bill Clinton's My Life sold more than 400,000 copies in the United States on in its first day of release, the most ever for a nonfiction book and double the believed previous record holder, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton's Living History, The Associated Press reports. Clinton's publisher, Alfred A. Knopf, announced an additional printing of 725,000 copies, bringing the total to 2.25 million. Clinton's book has also topped the Amazon.com best-seller list in the United States, England, France and Japan, AP reports. Still, the record holder for the most books sold on one day belongs to J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, the fifth in the Harry Potter installments, which sold an estimated 5 million copies on its opening day last year.
Crystal hits Great White Way
Billy Crystal is bringing his autobiographical one-man show, 700 Sundays, to Broadway in November, AP reports. The play marks the comedian first extended return to live performing in 16 years, in which Crystal portrays numerous characters drawn from his childhood, his teen years and adulthood. The title relates to Crystal's father, Jack, a jazz concert producer who died when the comic was just 15. "It's not a concert, but there are elements of that. It's deeply personal and liberating at the same time," Crystal explained to AP. "I've never been as excited about anything since I starting working in this play. It's been such a great energy at this point in my life, to be able to bring the show to New York."
Walters thinks today's journalists should follow upBarbara Walters criticized the current state of political reporting, Reuters reports. When asked whether journalists go too lightly on politicians, Walters, who steps down as ABC's 20/20 co-anchor in September, said, "No, I think journalists are tougher on politicians," she said. "One thing they don't do enough is the follow-up question." The veteran newswoman known for her in-depth interviews with celebrities, said she's looking forward to doing specials and reporting on people that she finds interesting once she leaves 20/20. "Even with the hideousness of the other parts of the world, we still seem to be in the throes of (celebrity culture)," she said. "People would still like to see Paris Hilton rather than Paris, France."
Celebs, musicians line up to raise money for John Kerry
Barbra Streisand, Billy Crystal, Neil Diamond, Dave Matthews, Whoopi Goldberg and others are lending their support in raising money for Democratic candidate John Kerry, Reuters reports, by putting on two gala concerts on both U.S. coasts. A Los Angeles concert on Thursday, and a concert in New York on July 8 are expecting to raise about $10 million. Ticket prices range from $250 to $25,000 a seat. The two shows are the biggest political outings by the Democratic entertainment set since early 2003 when actors and musicians joined forces in opposition to the imminent U.S.-led war on Iraq, Reuters reports.
Playgirl magazine searches for sexiest TV newscaster
Anderson Cooper we could understand, but Andy Rooney? The 85-year-old 60 Minutes commentator is among the candidates on Playgirl magazine's online ballot for sexiest TV newscaster. "We're looking for all the elements that make the perfect guy--intelligence, personality and good looks," Playgirl's editor in chief Michelle Zipp told the AP Wednesday. "We know that 'handsome' is really in the eye of the beholder. We're anxious to see what the outcome will be." Among the 18 men on the ballot are CNN's Bill Hemmer, MSNBC's Lester Holt, Fox News Channel's Shepard Smith, ABC's Peter Jennings, CBS's Dan Rather and NBC's Tom Brokaw. The winner will be announced in September and profiled--fully clothed--in Playgirl's October issue. The magazine will make a contribution to a charity of the winner's choice.
Tommy Lee denies being forced out of Bellagio gig
So what exactly happened at the Bellagio's Light nightclub in Las Vegas on Sunday night? It depends on whom you choose to believe. Former Motley Crue drummer Tommy Lee, who was at the club for a disc jockey gig, claims he walked off 30 minutes into the Father's Day party because the management was asking him to play top 40 hip-hop songs. But the club's director of marketing, Sean Christie, is spinning a different tune. "He was playing lousy music," Christie told the Las Vegas Sun in Tuesday's edition. "We told him to wrap up his set and make a graceful exit. When he refused, we said we would just pull the plug on him, which is what we ended up doing." Christie added the club was bothered that Lee kept ordering $800 bottles of Cristal champagne and didn't pay for them, something Lee's publicist denied. Christie said he'd welcome Lee back if the 41-year-old drummer cleaned up his act, but added, "dealing with him was probably one of the worst experiences I've ever had in this business."
Times they are a-changin' for Bob Dylan
Musical icon Bob Dylan was awarded an honorary degree of Doctor of Music by the University of St Andrews in Scotland Wednesday. Dylan, whose hits include Like a Rolling Stone and Mr. Tambourine Man, has only accepted one other honorary degree, from Princeton University in 1970. Dressed in a black academic gown, the 63-year-old rock legend arrived 50 minutes into the 90-minute ceremony and did not address the audience of 180 graduating students and their relatives. According to the AP, Dylan sat motionless, sometimes yawning, and showed no reaction as a university choir performed a version of his early classic, Blowin' in the Wind-- but his presence brought a strong dose of star power to Britain's third-oldest university.
Korn singer sued over serial killer museum
A collector of criminal artifacts filed a $4 million lawsuit Tuesday in Los Angeles Superior Court on against Korn frontman Jonathan Davis after the singer announced plans for a museum of American serial killers. According to court papers obtained by Reuters Wednesday, Arthur Rosenblatt claims Davis, a former mortuary science student, approached him in June 2001 about his collection of "Americana," which included a Volkswagen once owned by serial killer Ted Bundy. Rosenblatt said when he told Davis of his plan to open a museum of criminal artifacts, the singer offered him $250,000 to fund the museum, which Rosenblatt suggested be named the "Museum of Justice & Odditorium." Rosenblatt alleges Davis and other partners never provided any money and that his life was threatened on various occasions.
Guylaine Cadorette contributed to this report.