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Just how different are modern cinema and that of the '70s and '80s? Are there great movie scenes that wouldn't get made today because the audience wouldn't tolerate them? Conversely, are there scenes that were shocking back in the day that wouldn't cause anyone to think twice now?
It's a given that audiences' tastes change over time… the same as social norms do in America. Oddly, though, where audiences sometimes become more relaxed about what they will accept — for instance, with profanity, since George Carlin's "7 Dirty Words" has been reduced to two — they sometimes become more conservative about other things. Below is our look at a group of scenes from movies that probably wouldn't make it on screen for a studio release now, and some others that were shocking when they were released that wouldn't cause anyone to lift an eyebrow today.
Oh No, They Didn't!
The Last Temptation of Christ / Life of Brian
Martin Scorsese's adaption of Nikos Kazantzakis' 1953 novel, with the scene of Jesus dreaming of a sexual encounter with Mary Magdalene, was controversial in 1988 and caused an outcry from various Christian groups. In today's media environment, and with the advent of social media, that controversy would be 1,000-fold and wouldn't go away easily. Even Scorsese wouldn't be able to get that into a film now… we'll accept the debauchery and debasement of his The Wolf of Wall Street but depicting Christ as having sexual urges wouldn't fly. In the same vein, imagine trying to convince a studio to okay Monty Python's famous "Always Look on the Bright Side" finale to Brian with the singing crucifixion victims. It met with criticism when it was released in 1979, but it would cause Bill O'Reilly's head to explode now.
Quentin Tarantino gets heat from all sides for his use of the N-word in his stylized action-violence fantasies like Django Unchained and Pulp Fiction… which represent a far different aura than a studio comedy would. Many white audiences would shift uncomfortably in their seats now at Mel Brooks' comedic use of the word during the scene where Cleavon Little's Sheriff Bart first arrives at Rock Ridge. (As well as the various other ethnic jokes throughout the film; Brooks' was an equal opportunity offender.)
Airplane! / Heathers
On a similar token, as funny as Airplane! remains in our memories, in the wake of 9-11 many audiences would be squeamish about laughing at a plane crashing through a terminal, just as the reveal of Christian Slater's plot to blow up the school in Heathers would play much differently now.
What's the Big Deal?
The Exorcist / Rosemary's Baby /The Blair Witch Project
Horror movies have to really work hard now if they want to be controversial. William Friedkin's The Exorcist is still plenty scary 40 years later and the scene where Linda Blair's Regan finds an inappropriate use for a crucifix would still get attention… but it would be minor and chalked up to the now standard shock tactics employed by the genre. Roman Polanski's Rosemary's Baby is so non-threatening at this point that it's being done as a network TV series. Similarly, Blair Witch's up-the-nose shots would be seen as cute after the rise of films like Paranormal Activity that, in fairness, it helped spawn.
Lolita / The Last Tango in Paris
When Reese Witherspoon had sex with her teacher in Election, it barely registered as being inappropriate. Vladimir Nabokov's book and the subsequent 1962 Kubrick film were hugely controversial (pick any scene of James Mason and Peter Sellers leering at Sue Lyon). When the film was remade in 1997 with Jeremy Irons playing the tortured Humbert Humbert, obsessed with a young girl, audiences could've cared less. When Bernardo Bertolucci's Last Tango was released in 1972 with Marlon Brando as a widower in an illicit affair with a young French woman it earned an X-rating for its sexual content, particularly for a scene involving butter being used for something far removed from toast. When Bertolucci's Stealing Beauty came out in 1996 with Liv Tyler as an American teenager experiencing a sexual awakening amongst a group of artists in Italy, most people's reaction was, "Hey, is that Steven Tyler's daughter?"
Pilots and guest stars and bears, oh my! Well, not really with the bears, but I head out to Chicago for four days and Dr. George O'Malley and Jane Fonda are back on TV? I'm never going on vacation again! Check out all the scoopage below:
Mark-Paul Gosselaar Gets Happy: Oh, now THIS is a match made in TV heaven. Mr. Zack Morris himself, known in the "real world" as Mark-Paul Gosselaar, will head to Happy Endings for the third season's tenth episode, where he'll be playing Max's mysterious new roommate, Chase. We're thinking this bodes well for Alex and Dave round 2, no? [EW]
The Good Wife Lands a Grey's Vet: Dr. George O’Malley will rise from the dead! Well, not really, but actor T.R. Knight of Grey's Anatomy fame will guest-star on The Good Wife this season, playing a political operative. No word yet on Izzie. [EW]
William Hurt Signs on to a Real Challenge: Hollywood legend William Hurt has officially signed on to play physicist Richard Feynman, one of the most famous scientists of the 20th century, for an upcoming BBC/Science Channel drama about the commission that investigated the Challenger disaster. Feynman figured out that the disaster was caused by the shuttle's primary O-ring not sealing properly. We have no clue what that means, but are sure the movie will be great. [Vulture]
Jake Johnson Joins The B Team: Thought you were done with single-camera comedy pilot news? Think again! But we're happy about this one, since it involves The New Girl's Nick, AKA Jake Johnson. Johnson and Max Winkler will write and produce The B Team for Fox, a show about five underdogs who form a real-world version of The Avengers, with absolutely no superpowers whatsoever. Fox may be sold on the pilot, but we think we're already sold on the show. Schmidt cameo, please? [Deadline]
Jennifer Garner to Produce NBC Comedy: Thought you were done with celebrities producing pilots news? Think again! But this could be cool, since it involves Jennifer Garner taking on a project from funny lady writer Ellen Rapoport. Garner's Vandalia Films will produce Rapoport's so-far untitled semi-autobiographical comedy, which focuses on a nerdy twentysomething named Allie. Allie will befriend a couple of promiscuous party girls, and everyone will do funny things and, along the way, learn some valuable lessons. Yep, sounds like our 20's! [Deadline]
Hangover Writers Will Now Cause TV Hangovers: Sold! The Hangover scribes Jon Lucas and Scott Moore have a put pilot commitment with ABC for Mixology, a comedy that will mark the duo's first foray into television. Of course, since it's the Hangover guys, the show will focus on five guys and five girls trying to find love in a hopeless place... a trendy Manhattan bar. Sounds like a headache. Lucas and Moore will also executive produce. [Deadline]
Watch Your Back, Nolan: Looks like Revenge-a-holic Emily Thorne will have some more permanent help this season: Barry Sloane, who plays Emily's mysterious old Revenge-mate Aiden Mathis, has been promoted to series regular. He'll receive perma-billing in the back nine, and he has an option to continue as a regular next year if the show gets a Season 3. Yeah. If. [Deadline]
Jane Fonda Left The Newsroom... So, Now What?: She's baaack! Jane Fonda, who recently impressed with her guest turn on HBO's The Newsroom, has landed a starring role in an ABC comedy currently titled, Now What? The single-camera comedy will focus on a mother-daughter duo who move in together after the daughter writes a blog post entitled, "Dear Mom, Here's Why I Hate You..." Yikes! [Variety]
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30 Rock: After ditching 30 Rock for NBC's other not-quite-as-popular sitcom Whitney, Maulik Pancholy (who has made a name for himself playing gay characters on those two shows, plus Weeds) will return to Rock Center for the seventh and final season of the long-running comedy as Jonathan, Jack's (Alec Baldwin) much put-upon assistant. [Deadline]
The Big Bang Theory: Comic book store owner Stuart will be popping up much more frequently in the sixth season of CBS's brainy sitcom, as Kevin Sussman — who has played the recurring character since Season 2 — has been promoted to a series regular. He won't appear in every episode as other promotees Melissa Rauch and Mayim Bialik, but his promotion should signify a lot more action in the comic store. Not that it isn't commonly visited by the main quartet of geeks already. [Deadline]
The Mentalist: William Forsythe (The Mob Doctor) and Samaire Armstrong (Dirty Sexy Money) are returning to the CBS procedural as Rigsby's gangster father and a hooker-turned-informant, respectively. They're joined by Dove Cameron (Shameless), who is set to play Jane's daughter in a flashback. [TVLine]
Ben and Kate: Funny gal Lindsay Sloane will play Louise, an ex-girlfriend of Ben's (Nat Faxon) who unexpectedly tracks him down, in Fox's new fall sitcom. [TVLine]
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ORLANDO BLOOM, MALCOLM McDOWELL and ANIKA NONI ROSE gave the works of William Shakespeare a new spin in Los Angeles over the weekend when they joined conductor Gustavo Dudamel and the Los Angeles Philharmonic for a classical take on 'The Bard'. The three movie stars recited selections from Romeo & Juliet, The Tempest and Hamlet as Dudamel and his orchestra performed pieces from Tchaikovsky, inspired by the plays.
Green Zone is a story we’ve already heard shot in a manner we’ve already seen and starring Matt Damon in a role he’s already played. Remember those WMDs that were never found in Iraq and later exposed to be the invention of a dubious and poorly-vetted informant? Remember the misguided and hideously botched attempt at establishing democracy after the fall of Saddam and the violent prolonged insurgency that ensued? If you’ve been away from the television for the past hour and somehow managed to forget any of these details Green Zone is here to remind you.
Damon plays Chief Warrant Officer Roy Miller an Army weapons inspector whose frustration over repeatedly coming up empty in his search for Iraqi WMDs leads him on a quest to track down and expose the people responsible for leading him (and us) down that infamously bogus path. Though his hand-to-hand skills are a notch below Jason Bourne’s Miller’s single-mindedness moral certainty and permanent expression of square-jawed defiance — always threatening another “How do you like them apples?” rebuke — in the face of an insidious multi-level government conspiracy are essentially equivalent to those of Damon’s Bourne trilogy soulmate.
And like Bourne his most dangerous adversary isn’t found on the battlefront but rather within the government he once served so proudly. As Miller delves ever deeper into the Case of the Faulty WMD Intelligence Clark Poundstone (Greg Kinnear) the duplicitous arrogant Defense Department bureaucrat in charge of U.S. operations in Iraq summarily relieves him of his post. (Hint: the better dressed a Green Zone character is the more sinister his ambitions.) But Miller remains undeterred and he goes rogue to locate the CIA informant “Magellan ” a formerly high-ranking Iraqi official whose supposed confirmation of Saddam’s nuclear ambitions served as the basis for U.S. invasion.
We know how the story ends. Green Zone’s pervasive overarching sense of deja vu is accentuated by director — and veteran Bourne helmer — Paul Greengrass who employs the trademark hand-held super-shakycam style which was so fresh and inventive in 2004 but now feels stale and predictable. (Admittedly my aversion to Greengrass’ approach was no doubt heightened by a previous night’s viewing of Roman Polanski’s excellent The Ghost Writer a political thriller as subtle and precise and finely tuned as Green Zone is ham-fisted and haphazard — and which also uses the phantom WMD controversy to far greater narrative effect.)
Green Zone culminates in essentially a violent footrace between Miller and the Army Special Forces as they scour a heavily-armed insurgent stronghold to find Magellan with Miller hoping to secure his potentially damning testimony before the Army can silence him for good. The climactic sequence for all I could tell was either shot in Damon’s backyard culled from Bourne trilogy deleted scenes or assembled from scattered YouTube clips. This punishingly chaotic often incoherent and ultimately exhausting approach to storytelling isn’t cinema verite; it’s dementia pugilistica.
This prequel-ish remake of John Carpenter’s Halloween finds a 10-year-old Michael Myers (Daeg Faerch) looking like Dennis the Menace—but still acting like the Antichrist. Who could blame the kid? His older sister (Hanna Hall) makes fun of him when not ignoring him his alcoholic stepdad (William Forsythe) hurls food and profanity at him and the school bullies harass him endlessly. Young Michael’s only allies are his mom (Sheri Moon) and baby sister. Which explains why their lives are spared when Michael goes on a Halloween night killing spree. Fifteen years pass and Michael’s hatred of speaking and love of mask-wearing have reached an all-time high. When the guards at the instititution Michael has called home for the past decade and a half make the fatal mistake of trying to transport him to a new location—on his favorite night of the year no less—Michael busts out without a hitch. With his mom having committed suicide years ago Michael has but one person to pay a visit to: his now teenage sister (Scout Taylor-Compton) who has long since been adopted and not informed of her family tree. But with Michael’s longtime psychologist Dr. Loomis (Malcolm McDowell) hot on his trail it won’t be so easy to get to his baby sis. OK so maybe it'll be somewhat easy. The only members of the cast to turn in actual performances are Moon wife/frequent collaborator of Halloween writer-director Rob Zombie and McDowell. It’s not that the others can’t act but rather that they spend the movie screaming (Taylor-Compton) or hiding dialogue-less under a mask (Tyler Mane) or some other form of non-acting—which is admittedly neither here nor there since the same could be said about most slasher movies. Moon lends a certain humanity to an otherwise emotionless affair and it makes her stand out in more than one way but sadly her performance is rather short-lived. Elsewhere young actress Taylor-Compton certainly has nothing on Jamie Lee Curtis’ original Laurie Strode except for perhaps the decibels and amount of her screams. Filling in for Donald Pleasence McDowell wasn’t a bad casting choice to deliver cryptic if dubious dialogue but his performance is rarely more than funny—which could sum up most of the acting here. Such humor culminates with Danny Trejo’s tiny performance as a janitor who cheerily calls the grown-up Myers “Mikey”—even when being savagely murdered by him. Thought shock-rocker Rob Zombie would be the right man for the job of updating John Carpenter’s Halloween? You weren’t alone but alas it is only an update by the standards of today’s “horror” directors who mistake gore for fear factor. In the prologue featuring the young Myers the laughability of the young actor’s dialogue is only exceeded by how unscary his actions are. Blame Zombie’s screenplay which is often unfunny when it’s supposed to be funny—primarily during his trademark clichéd-white-trash-family scenes—and funny when it’s not supposed to be. In the second half at least the talking turns into screams and the pace picks up but it’s all for naught because the older Michael has become a superhuman monster instead of a troubled institutionalized human. The psychological scares have been completely drained from this remake as Zombie appears more intent on stylistically depicting the murders than setting them up; any shred of subtlety as a result is gone. Although maybe the director thought he fulfilled the psychological-scare quota when the psychologist’s life is put in grave danger. As Zombie’s Halloween limps on it becomes a sad commentary on the state of the genre: Elaborate throat-slittings and blood trajectories are no longer even flinch-inducing.
According to Knight's label, MCA Records, Gladys Knight wed William McDowell, corporate consultant on April 12. The 56-year-old Knight, famous for Midnight Train to Georgia, was walked down the aisle by her son Shanga, according to a filing by the Associated Press. Eighty close friends and relatives attended the ceremony.