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Nolan's Pop Culture Review, 2003!
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Florida Filmmaker Update

  Number 165  (Vol. 4, No. 21). This edition is for the week of May 19--25, 2003.

Americans Idle
Nolan's Tirade

CELEBRITY BY CONTEST. Oh-sweet-jeezis-on-horseback-on-the-mount, will this ever end?!?!?! I'm talkiing about that freakish blight of American pop culture known as American Idol. I've said here many times before how I can't stand this hideous abuse of the cross-breeding of a simple talent show (an American staple) with the billion-dollar excesses of FOX TV and marketing mania (like pretty much any current "reality" show).

That the reality television concept that has spawned this nightmarish never-ending assembly line of Bizzaro Clones (Mr. Personality, The Bachelor, etc.) is apparently successful has to do with the TV-viewing public being bored out of their freaking skulls and will watch anything loud enough and colorful enough and--oh god yes we can't forget--humiliating enough, to justify this attention. Never underestimate the popularity of public humiliation.

As I'm sitting here writing this---I kid you not---a local noon-time news show has just wrapped today's "American Idol" segment. Today's segment. I remember this bullshit being headlines news not only last week, but a month ago when we were still at war! HEADLINE NEWS. "Hear who got kicked off Amercian Idol when we return!" Why? Why is that such a big deal?

Is it because of rooting for the underdog? Possibly. (There are some sports analogies that could be made here.) I think it has more to do with the age-old "agony of defeat". it makes people feel better about themselves when a total stranger makes a complete fool of him/her self on national television. Then they can vote them off. Ooooohhhh, he got KICKED OUT.

Remember where all that started? "Reality shows" have been around in one form or another for decades. MTV's "Real World" and "Road Rules" touched on some points, but that fit only a niche market, so not really on this timeline. It was SURVIVOR that changed all the rules as far as I can see (with some sleaze-appeal coaching from "Who Wants To Marry A Millionaire", a shocking success). It starts with a contest. It now lasts an entire season, and participants are "voted off", thereby fostering a "favorites vs underdog" mentality, and the final winner is carted around to talk shows for their entire 15 minutes of fame afterwards.

But I realize that's only part of the story with American Idol....

As the weeks drag on I realize the non-stop publicity machine does create a self-fulfilling prophecy. At the risk of giving FOX too much credit, they do create pop-singer celebrities, however temporarily, in that kind of weird, soap-opera fashion. In other words, sympathies play into it, not talent necessarily. Not to say these "winners" are untalented bums, that would be going too far. But that's the drama--WHERE WOULD THEY BE WITHOUT ALL THIS? Should we be grateful that these people have been "discovered"? Who knows. But give me a BILLION DOLLARS and I'll turn the corner grocer into superstar!!

And that's the problem I have with this, gentle readers. Encouraging television shows that profess to grant celebrity, or your new husband, life-partner, whatever, by high-profile contest is the absolute lowest we have ever sunk as a society, in my opinion. It's illusory. True, last year's American Idol winner, Kelly Clarkson, admittedly a sweetheart, did put out a couple albums. But I can't help but think that's because she's still on the FOX bullet train, there to defeat rumors that it's all so very temporary. If, in 5 years, she turns out to be the next "Madonna" or something, I'll eat this computer.

I have not been able to escape American Idol any day this week. They've been saying THIS IS IT, IT'S ALL OVER since Monday, and it's still going, but I believe TONIGHT (Wed) we finally learn if the winner is the kid named Clay with the punk haircut or the big fat black guy. If I'm up in time, I'll tune in to see it finally end--and maybe to provide fodder for a future rant.

And the worst part of all this is....due to its great ratings, we're going to have to put up with this for many years to come.

UPDATE: 5-22-03. It was the big black guy, Ruben (sp?), who won. Kind of surprising, I figured that Clay Akin kid had a tragic poet sensitivity thing going for him. Wonder if he gets into Vegas, spiked hair and everything? OK, yahoo, it's over, moving on....

Buffy's season/series finale
A far more newsworthy item for genre fans was the much-anticipated final episode of the long-running sci-fi/fantasy series "Buffy The Vampire Slayer". Series fan Corey Castellano was supposed to do the write-up on this, but he's disappeared for the moment, so I'll just tell you, that Sunnydale's vampire/monster problem is gone. In fact Sunnydale itself is gone, finished. The school, the town, everything is gone forever. In the process, Willow becomes bigger than she was and Buffy, smaller. Now any girl in the world can become a slayer given the proper willpower. There were poignant casualties, but the ultimate sacrifice for this tremendous victory was made by Spike. Exposing his soul to the "Hellmouth" under Sunnydale destroyed everything. In the end a true hero. But Buffy's victory is bittersweet. As they look back on the massive crater that used to be their homes, the kids reflect that now they can now be normal and do normal things. And Buffy smiles.

Smallville season finale
Saw it, loved it. Lot of exciting things going on. Clark and Lana have decided they are "a couple" (and give screen kiss to die for). But there is trouble is paradise: On the eve of Lex Luthor's wedding, and shortly after discovering Krytonian writings in a cave near his home, Clark is still being hounded by the voices in his head, that appear to be those of his biological father, Jor-El, and seem to be emanating from the spaceship that carried Kal-El to earth. The voice announces that around noon (of Luthor's wedding day) there will be changes that will line Kal-El (Clark) up to be a world ruler. Clark is deeply disturbed by the notion that he was sent to earth to conquer it, so, using an unearthed kryponite key found in the cave, decides to destroy the spacecraft in a desperate attempt to stop this process. Well, the spacecaft is destroyed all right, and so is the entire farm in the resultant near-nuclear shock wave. Looking around from the crater that used to be the barn basement, Clark is shocke to see his parents overturned truck--they had come to find out why he was late for Luthor's wedding, and got caught in the shock wave. At the hospital, Clark learns that his father came out OK, but his mother, who will recover, has nevertheless lost her baby (a tragic ending to a great sub-plot). Clark feels enormous remorse and guilt. Donning a Red-Kryptonite ring (the one that alters his personality--drug parallel here I think), he revs his motorcycle and tells Lana that he's leaving Smallville forever.

Enterprise season finale
Well, I have egg on my face now. I forgot they moved this show up from 9:00pm to 8:00pm, so I set the VCR for the wrong time. If anybody saw this highly-touted season finale, you are invited to send in a plot synopsis and review to me ASAP! Thanks.

Speaking of Corey Castellano, he would like to now if anyone out there in fandom videotaped Tuesday night's episode of American Idol? His missus is collecting them and their VCR went plooey (I'm not the only one having VCR problems lately). If so, please contact me ASAP at crazedfanboy1@aol.com. Thanks.

La Floridiana
This week's issue
La Floridiana by William Moriaty

Returns next week!

Ashley Lauren's Hollywood
This week's issue
Hollywood by Ashley Lauren


Splash Page
This week's issue
Splash Page by Brandon Jones
Noatalgia, The Punisher
The Slush Pile. Reviews --Astro City
One Shots. The latest news on comics, movies, and comics-to-movies!.... ..............Click here for more.

Matt's Rail
This week's issue
Matt's Rail by Matt Drinnenberg


Movie Reviewmovie review
This Week's Movie Review:

"Down With Love"  reviewed by Michael Smith
"The Matrix Reloaded" reviewed by Brandon Jones

Creature's Corner
This week's issue
Creature's Corner by John Lewis
The Many Worlds of Tesla Strong........Ashley's Graduation Day........Robert Stack........ Indy film begins production! ................Click here for more.

Mad Matt
This week's issue
Mad Matt's Plastic People by Matt Cerrato

No column this week.

Mike's RantMike's Rant
This week's issue
Mike's Rant by Michael A. Smith
WE GOT MARRIED IN A FEVER! ........ SIGN THE APOCALYPSE IS UPON US ........ WHAT A WHINY BOY! ........ WHAT IS "CULT?" ........ NEW TOP TEN CHALLENGE!! ................Click here for more.

Letters to the EditorWe welcome your feedback.
Response to the Terence Tirade (Re: "Letters", PCR # 164),
Did Terence follow-up calling Spielberg a satanic hack with a king of crap reference to Tarantino, then an artistic whining about being a "real" director. Well, I do find inspiration from all of these directors and others (which would include the Wachowskis and Scorsese.) I donít look at Tarantino and Kevin Smith as great creators of the film medium - they are mediocre, but their strength is their ability to write engaging, fluid dialogue. Spielberg has never been a cutting edge director, but is the master at telling an entertaining story -- an art that he has applied to several different genres.

Because I appreciate commercial films and artists doesnít mean that I canít enjoy "the inaccessible ones". A director has a diverse role in the filmmaking process. Can you compare the detail-oriented and arrogant Lucas to the freelance approach that Levinson takes? I enjoy "Jackie Brown", but the story is not Tarantinoís. Because I canít stand Kevin Smithís two-shot doesnít mean that I donít enjoy the conversation.

People who make references to certain movies may not understand the line between the writing and the filmmaking process. Because I like the documentarian style in "Stroszek" doesnít mean that I hate the CGI in "The Matrix". A very one-dimensional perspective - I love art, therefore I hate the mainstream. If the medium is so important to your judgment, then why would you make that decision from a trailer: ďíCabin Feverí is horseshit and Ď28 days laterí is great.Ē Well, I guess the moral of the story is that Spielberg makes ďbadĒ trailers.

By the way, when I stated that "The Matrix" was not BASED on a comic, I simply meant that the comic came later. "The Invisibles" may have been one of many INFLUENCES or REFERENCES for the movie, but isnít Superman a story of a messiah saving the world and isnít Neo...oh nevermind.

Brandon Jones

To Terence: (Re: "Letters", PCR # 164--N)
Re: "As for up-and-coming filmmakers being inspired only by Woody Allen and Quentin Tarantino, that's crap!"

Well, not exactly ONLY by Allen & Tarantino, but I'm constantly puzzled by my generation, who grew up during the '70s/'80s sci-fi/horror boom. Logic dictates that the filmmakers in their '30s today would have been influenced more by Craven, Coppola, Lynch, Lucas, etc. I consider filmmakers in their '30s today the ultimate artistic traitors (my lousy generation). What I see nowadays are a bunch of sub-standard, often talky filler films, such as "Swingers" and "Reservoir Dogs" - filmed plays. Filmmaking (obviously) is more than people talking to each other. Take a director like Carpenter (who himself was influenced by Eastwood & Leone) his anti-heroes were men of few words (Kurt Russell in "Escape/NY" and "The Thing"). Personally, I'm more comfortable with the less is more theory in the dialogue dept. when applied to genre films ("Road Warrior" is another good example; I think Mel has only 19 lines). Filmmakers such as Spielberg & Lucas often get the quantity of dialogue "just right" (Raiders, Star Wars); there was neither too much nor too little of it. You'll notice that filmmakers, like DePalma, Landis, Dante, etc. who were making genre pictures in the '70s and early '80s, were heavily influenced by and paid homage to the films/TV shows they loved when they were growing up, such as Hammer horror, The Twilight Zone/Outer Limits TV shows, King Kong, etc. - and it showed in their films.

Now take Tarantino (or Woody Allen) on the opposite end of the spectrum, who have characters babble endlessly about French cheeseburgers and how they don't believe in tipping. It's just a bunch of clever, snappy dialogue that frankly wastes the viewer's time. If I want to see people talking to each other for hours on end without anything else visual going on, I'll watch "Dawson's Creek" or "Felicity", which are basically soap operas, which is what a movie with an overabundance of dialogue becomes: a artistically devoid soap opera. What I've observed over the years on TV and in indie films is an over-reliance on dialogue (guess because it's cheaper and easier to shoot dialogue than having to do visuals), and what you basically end up with is a talking heads production, devoid of any visual sequences. There are way too many of these type of productions going on right now (esp. on TV), and I can't help but wonder where the writers and directors get their inspiration; it's definitely not from Lynch or Romero, who like most great filmmakers have an amazing visual style.

Re: "'Cabin Fever' looks like horseshit."
Aside from articles in Fangoria magazine, I have not been exposed to any "Cabin Fever" media. I did read an article on director Eli Roth and his influences were the exact same as my own, so I can relate to him. I do admit "Cabin Fever" resembles "The Evil Dead" quite a bit, but I'll reserve judgment until I see the movie.

Re: "Satan himself, the hack king, Spielberg."
I think you're a little tough on Spielberg (and Scorsese). I'll be the first to state that he's not the same director he was in the Duel/Jaws/CE3K/Raiders days, but you have to admit when he was in his prime, he was absolutely incredible. With the exceptions of "Minority Report" (which really didn't seem much like a Spielberg film) and "Saving Private Ryan", he hasn't done a whole lot of noteworthy films since '82s "E.T." Unlike most people, I was bored by "Schindler's List" and couldn't stomach "The Color Purple", "Empire of the Sun", "Amistad", "Hook" (groan!), and his other drek. I also think Spielberg directed the worst film ever made: "Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom" (the definition of sacrilege)!

"I'm only 24, and as an amateur filmmaker myself, I'm inspired by great directors like Werner Herzog, David Lynch, Alejandro Jodorowsky, and (god himself) Stanley Kubrick"
It's refreshing to learn that up-n-coming filmmakers are influenced by the right artists. In fact, most young filmmakers I know are surprisingly knowledgeable about filmmakers of bygone eras - I think that's fantastic. I'm guilty of believing that most of them are inspired more by MTV, "Dawson's Creek", and "The Real World" than Herzog or Kubrick (BTW, just saw "My Best Fiend" on IFC - hilarious!).

- Andy Lalino

Ah, Brandon.
(Re: Brandon's letter, above.--N)  I could go on and on about this subject and I have before with Deadguy, but in the end, it is futile. But I think you can enjoy things like "The Matrix" and still enjoy something like "The Seventh Seal" as long as you can see that "The Matrix" is entertainment only and can't and never will be artistic. I'm fine with that. I watch a lot of bad horror movies like "Blood Feast" and others becuase I simply enjoy them -- they are entertainment, but I would never say they hold a torch to something that inspires me personally like a Herzog film. Too many up-and-coming directors are inspired by current directors that have absolutley no signature style. For example, how many movies nowadays can you really watch and pick out the Director without knowing beforehand? None. In the old days you could tell a Kubrick film from a Peckinpah film. Nowadays its all show and if you or any other up-and-coming Directors are inspired by the video game flash of "Matrix" or the overrated Wachowskis, then I fear for the future of movies. The few innovators are overlooked and pushed back more than they ever were in the past and if you ask most film students who their favorite director is they usaully (like lemmings) say Spielberg or Cameron. Why is that only disturbing to me? As for CGI, I'm sorry it has been only used correctly once, in my opinion, in "LOTR: The Two Towers" (Gollum, of course). So, in the end it's the idiots using it, not the effect itself.

As for "The Matrix" not ripping off "The Invisibles" main plot, well, I could fill an entire column with it. But for a quick explanation it goes like this:
   1. Reality is fake and projected by aliens that control our thoughts. In the movie, it's robots or some crap.
   2. The Invisibles, a group of terrorists, are the few who can see through this fake reality, i.e., Morpheus and his group.
   3. The leader, King Mob, wears black leather coats, is bald, and studies a form of enlightened Kung Fu. Hmmm, Morpheus anyone?
   4. Jack Frost is the outcast kid who is destined to be the messiah that will crush the illusion. Hmm....Neo?
   5. Frost doesn't believe any of the fake reality bit and is asked to jump off a roof to show him that it is real. Gee, that sounds familiar.

For more on this go to this link: Recycling Bin 40 - The Invisibles and "The Matrix" (Apr 2001). I'm hoping it will change your mind. I'm not trying to be a know-it-all, I'm just trying to share info with you. As for the Director thing, I never will understand how someone can see the brilliance in "Paths of Glory" and yet praise "Saving Private Ryan". It would be like reading War and Peace and still being impressed with "Sgt. Rock". Huh?

To Hell with You All
Terence Nuzum

Every time one feels the urge to tune-in to "American Idol", they must internally fight the craving. Instead, reach for a VHS/DVD one may have archived in their tape closet, like: "Sisters of Satan", "Invasion of the Blood Farmers", or "The House on Sorority Row". And keep repeating to yourself:
TV bad. B-movies good...
TV bad. B-movies good...
TV bad. B-movies good...

Just read Ashley's column; we may have an emergency here. We need to counteract the effects of her watching "Daddy Day Care". I suggest 2 back-to-back viewings of Herschell Gordon Lewis' "Blood Feast", followed by "City of the Walking Dead". If rash persists, view the DVD version of "Hardware Wars" and the trailer for "Magic". That should do the trick.

Mike has a similar predicament after viewing "Down with Love"; give him 2 "I Spit on Your Grave's" and one "Tourist Trap" and call me in the morning.

- Andy Lalino
"...I like to watch..."

To send an email to Letters to the Editor write to: Crazedfanboy1@aol.com.  Any emails sent to this address will be assumed intended for publication unless you specifically instruct me not to. I can and do respond privately, if that is your preference. Frequently, it's both ways.---Nolan

"Mike's Rant" is ©2003 by Michael A. Smith    "Matt's Rail" is ©2003 by Matthew Drinnenberg    "La Floridiana" is ©2003 by William Moriaty    This week's movie review of "Down With Love" ise ©2003 by Michael A. Smith    "Mad Matt's Plastic People" is ©2003 by Matt Cerrato    "Ashley Lauren's Hollywood" is ©2003 by Ashley Lauren Lewis    "Splash Page" is ©2003 by Brandon Jones    Add'l thanks to Brandon Jones, Andy Lalino, and Terence Nuzum for their input in "Letters"      All contents of Nolan's Pop Culture Review are ©2003 by Nolan B. Canova

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