Tuesday, January 18, 2022

TV: NAOMI, PEACEMAKER and INFINITE explore superheroes

Superhero?  The key term there is "super."  It's a term that's apparently easily forgotten judging by most superhero shows.




This was especially true of superhero shows revolving around women.  We thought the genre had hit is nadir with SUPERGIRL.  The CBS and CW series was nothing but an embarrassment -- especially after they proved to be too cheap to pay the only functioning actor in the cast: Calista Flockhart.  While she went from regular to sometime guest star, the show remained center on the bland Melissa Benoist who played Kara.  At the start of the series, Kara was supposed to be 24 but Melissa played her as a en-year-old and, by season six, possibly as a 12-year-old.  It was pathetic and embarrassing.  Playing a high school Clark Kent in SMALLVILLE, Tom Welling showed more maturity from day one.


Each season, Kara and Melissa became even more pathetic.  As awful and retro as that program was, turns out there was much worse to come: STARGIRL.  The character, played by Brec Bassinger, was so archaic and so clumsy, she appeared to have been fitted with a vintage, belted maxi pad.  


In fact, that awkwardness pretty much capture what was being offered as female superheroes in the '00s (outside of THE X-MEN films) and the '10s.  That's why WONDER WOMAN was such a sea change.  Yes, THE AVENGERS films had Black Widow from the start (2012) and Scarlett Johansson provided a vibrant personality.  But, reality, we're not calling NIKITA a TV superhero show.  Maggie Q did an even better job with her martial arts skilled character but we didn't consider Nikita a superhero.  Scarlett's Black Widow had no super powers.  And it was a joke to see that first movie with 11 billed starring performers and only two were women.  As for Elizabeth Olsen, in no film did Scarlet Witch get to truly show her powers -- more powerful than Dr. Strange.  And she didn't get to show her real powers in that awful (and sexist) DISNEY+ show until the final episode.


No, for strong female superheroes, it took Krysten Ritter showing up in 2015's JESSICA JONES and Gal Galdot showing up in 2016's BATMAN V SUPERMAN: DAWN OF JUSTICE and then, in 2017's  WONDER WOMAN and subsequent films.  Galdot was a strong presence on camera and a full grown woman. Ritter played Jessica Jones, on the three season NETFLIX series, as a take-no-crap bad ass.  There were no efforts made to make either's character precious or precocious.  They were women and they were recognizable women, despite (or because of) their super powers.  The same would be true in 2019 when Brie Larson showed up as the title character in CAPTAIN MARVEL.  That same year, broadcast TV would finally get a worthy female superhero in BATWOMAN on THE CW.  Ruby Rose was not the dumb and stupid Kara or Stargirl.  She knew what she wanted -- to fight crime -- and she had the training.  Most of all, the character's comic book world came with strong visuals that easily translated to TV.

It looked like smooth sailing but then Ruby was out after the first season and when season two kicked off, in 2021, and Javicia Leslie was the title character.  It was awful and the fans rejected it.  In fairness to Leslie, that really wasn't her fault.  It was the writing.  Ruby had played a woman with confidence.  Leslie came on to the show acting like Cheryl Ladd on season two of CHARLIE'S ANGELS, the bumbling and fumbling kid sister.

No, that's not what we want in a superhero.  Not when they're adults.  We wouldn't even take that in a golly-gee-wiz Tom Holland performance as high school Spider-Man.

It's unacceptable for a superhero to be scared all the time and feeling unworthy all the time and -- It was garbage.  It was THE CARRIE DIARIES done all over but this time in a cape and cowl.  And, no, they would never have done that with a male lead.  And, no, it was not at all believable for this adult character who is supposed to have just spent two years in prison.  

But there she was, as weak, insecure and pathetic as Kara and Stargirl.  The superhero as nebbish?  No, it doesn't play well.

Which is why last week felt almost revolutionary as NAOMI debuted on THE CW.  Kaci Walfall plays the title role, Naomi McDuffie, a high schooler who will go on to become the superhero Powerhouse.  Naomi is strong and interesting.  She's not a kewpie doll that you pat on the head, she's a young woman who holds your attention.


Give a lot of credit for that to Ava DuVernay and Jill Blankenship who wrote the pilot and Amanda Marsalis who directed it.  And, with Ava and Jill creating the show and executive producing it with Paul Garnes,  we have every right to believe the strengths will only continue, that Naomi will go the route of Buffy Summers and not the meek and pathetic route THE CW female costumed superheroes have taken.


NAOMI is one of three strong superhero projects of recent time.




HBO MAX debuted PEACEMAKER this month.  It stars John Cena in the title role.  John's playing a cartoon hero set in the real world.  It makes for many solid moments.  John first  played the character in last year's film THE SUICIDE SQUAD.

John shines in the show and a good deal of the reason for that is his teammate Leota Adebayo.  She's played by Danielle Brooks and they have the kind of strong chemistry that makes for a good buddy film or buddy cop show.  MARVEL rightly earned credit for ETERNALS and for the kiss between Brian Tyree Henry and Haaz Sleiman and for their relationship in the film -- two men in love and raising a child together.  PEACEMAKER and NAOMI are part of the DC universe -- the major comic book rival to MARVEL.  In NAOMI, her father thinks she might be involved with a female student, and it's a nice note (and credit to Barry Watson who handles it perfectly) but despite the comic books advances, one character after another on THE CW has been straight, straight, straight.  When Ruby Rose played BATWOMAN in season one, the character was a lesbian -- one with real desires, the same as any person -- straight or gay -- would have.  Since Jacivia Leslie has taken over as the lead of BATWOMAN, the character is more a lesbian with longings than a woman with an active sexual life.  This is all the more disturbing when you realize that Leslie looks her age (34) and yet comes across like a young gril still struggling to acknowledge, let alone act upon, her sexual urges.


In the comic book world, BATWOMAN was lesbian from the moment she was reintroduced in 2009's DETECTIVE COMICS.

Batwoman autographed

Actually, she was outed in 2003  And there have been other DC gay superheroes from time to time, although the main impression DC has always given is that they do gay characters as stunts to get attention and then drop it.  Like when they got so much attention for making GREEN LANTERN familiar with gay characters -- or at least living in a world that they also inhabited -- only to drop it after Judd Winick left the title and they'd garnered a ton of publicity.   Or making Jonathan Kent bisexual in the comic book (he's now Superman) and then, after getting all the press for it, sending Jon's partner off to another planet. 


Jon Kent is on THE CW in SUPERMAN AND LOIS.  But the most recent episode had him shirtless in bed with a fully dressed young woman.   In the comics, Tim Drake is bisexual.  On HBO MAX's TITANS, Tim's never been sexually interested in anything but women.  


THE CW has an appalling record when it comes to gay superheroes and it's even more appalling because, until NAOMI, every one of the DC programs was produced by the same man -- the same gay man -- Greg Berlanti.  Married with two children, you'd think Greg would want to present gay characters.  Apparently not.  BATWOMAN, STARGIRL, BLACK LIGHTENING, ARROW, THE FLASH, SUPERGIRL, LEGENDS OF TOMORROW, SUPERMAN AND  LOIS and TITANS.  All those programs?  From Greg Berlanti.


Besides BATWOMAN, where is the gay superhero in his programs?  Sara Lance on LEGENDS OF TOMORROW (Caity Lotz) is involved with Ava (Jes Macallan) and that's worth noting.  Their rare scenes together add texture to Sara's White Canary superhero.  But it's equally true that Wentworth Miller, who has publicly stated (since he came out) that he wants to play gay characters, was on LEGENDS OF TOMORROW for 24 episodes and he wasn't playing a gay character.  

What's Greg's problem?  Does he think straight audiences will be turned on by two women but grossed out by two men?  What's his problem?  He's an out gay man who employs many gay actors (some who are out) but can't seem to portray a male superhero in love or lust (or both) with another man.  It's like DC COMICS just doing bi-sexual males -- they're superheroes and they may suck a cock but, don't worry, they'll pound some vagina too.  It's as though the whole comic franchise is in the midst of a homosexual panic.


Danielle's Leota on PEACEMAKER?  The TV show has made her Amanda Waller's daughter.  Waller is played by Viola Davis in the two SUICIDE SQUAD films and she makes a cameo in PEACEMAKER speaking, over the computer, to her daughter Leota.  Leota  is married to Keeya (Elizabeth Ludlow) and they're planning a family -- if they have a girl, Leota wants to name her Octopussy after Maude Adams' character in the James Bond film.

They have a sweet and passionate relationship that's important to rounding out the character.  Otherwise, she'd be less of a person and more of a sidekick tagging along behind Peacemaker.

It's a strong cast but, most importantly, it's a strong storyline.  Each episode adds a little more tension.  And the series has some of the best visuals since STARZ's NOW APOCALYPSE.  Yes, it was fun to see John Cena's nude butt sticking out of the back of a hospital gown and to see him battle a villain while wearing just his tighty-whities, but we're talking about camera framing and color scheme.  This is an inventive show. And there aren't a lot of those these days.


SINGLE ALL THE WAY?  A great NETFLIX film that we never got to work into a review.  It's hilarious -- as you'd expect any film that features both Jennifer Coolidge and Kathy Najimy to be. SINGLE ALL THE WAY is a funny comedy about Christmas in the spirit of the Barbara Stanwyck classic CHRISTMAS IN CONNECTICUT.  As Christmas looms, Peter (Michael Urie) finds out his new boyfriend is married.  Single again, he's about to go home for Christmas, to his family that wants him to be with someone, they desperately want him to be with someone.  He hopes his roommate and best friend Nick will serve as a buffer for the holiday visit.  But Mom (Kathy) wants to fix him up with her hot gym instructor James (Luke Macfarlane) while Dad (Barry Bostwick) gets, before anyone else, that his son is meant to be with Nick (Philemon Chambers).  It's a great holiday movie and one you should check out, anytime of the year, on NETFLIX.

Another film we wanted to note but weren't able to previously?  PARAMOUNT+'s INFINITE.  This is a superhero film based on . . . a novel.  Not a graphic novel.  We note that because there is this belief that there's a limited number of superheroes up for grabs.  Not true.  There are other comic book publishers besides DC and MARVEL.  And there is also more source material for superhero films and TV shows than just comic books.  INFINITE stars Mark Wahlberg and that may be why it got so many negative reviews.  Mark's a solid actor but critics -- or simpletons that pose as critics -- have been going after him since 2017.  It has nothing to do with his work onscreen and everything to do with their own need to virtue signal since they don't have the brains or analytical abilities to actually critique.

INFINITE's different enough that it was always going to be a slow builder.  That would have been true even if Chris Evans had starred in the film. It's an interesting concept at the heart of the film and it generates conversations and the film's reputation will only grow.  

We highly recommend it and we're glad to note it and two other projects (NAOMI and PEACEMAKER) that put the super back in superhero.


How daughter Anna helped Frances Moore Lappe destroy her life's work

We've long been fans of Frances Moore Lappe's DIET FOR A SMALL PLANET.  Then we made the mistake of reading the 50th anniversary edition that was published last September.  We'd ignored it until Trina began writing about it.  We'll include her last piece on the book in a moment but she and C.I. are correct, this edition is a repudiation of Frances' entire work.

We get it.  She's old.  She's thinking of dying.  Daughter Anna needs a job, let's turn the franchise over to her.

No, let's don't.

Anna's an idiot who doesn't understand mom's work and makes that clear in the recipes that she (Anna) selected for this awful edition.

The whole point of DIET FOR A SMALL PLANET (until the 50th edition) was that you can eat healthy, you can feed your family healthy meals.  You can get protein without meat.  You can eat healthy.

The recipes in the 20th anniversary edition made that clear.  Want to make healthy bread?  Easy Mexican Pan Bread (beans and cornmeal are among the ingredients), Whole Wheat Quick Bread, Jenny's Tofu Corn Bread, No Wait Wheat-Oat Bread, Quick and Easy Pumpernickel, Wheat-Soy-Sesame Bread, Triti-Casserole Bread and Boston Brown Bread -- all built around healthy ingredients.

In the 50th edition?  One bread recipe gets three pages.  It's the only real bread recipe (ginger bread doesn't count).  Why does it need three pages?  To let you know what THE NEW YORK TIMES said about it and other nonsense.  What are the non-optional ingredients?  Salt, yeast and all purpose flour.  Yes, this is white bread.  Would you have ever expected garbage bread in a Frances Moore Lappe book?  In previous versions, she offered recipes for bread in which she boasted only two slices of the bread would provide you with 1/5 of the protein you needed for the day.  This garbage bread that Anna's promoting?  No nutritional value at all.

Well Frances was trying to make it clear that you could do a meal for a family and do it quickly.  So this new garbage bread recipe, it's quick right?


You start out by mixing the ingredients.  Then you set aside..  For 18 hours.  18 hours.

Then you're going to kneed the dough twice and then give it 15 minutes to rise.

Guess what?  You're not done yet.

You're going to roll it into a ball.  And cover it for two hours.

You're then going to bake it in the oven -- covered -- for 30 minutes.

Then bake for another 20 to 30 minutes.

Then let cool for 30 minutes.

Wow.  What working mom or dad has the time for that garbage bread recipes.

At least 21 hours and 45 minutes to make that bread?

Anna Lappe is one stupid idiot.  And she's destroying her mother's work by telling readers to spend almost 22 hours making garbage bread that has no nutritional value.  You might as well be serving your family Wonder Bread.  

As C.I. and Ava have noted, the recipes in this edition are a complete repudiation of Frances Moore Lappe's life's work.  Shameful.  We could do this over and over, by the way.  We could pick any dish at random from the 50th edition and show you how it takes too much time and provides too little nutrition.  

Here's Trina's review:

A bad Diet for a Small Planet in the Kitchen

Frances Moore Lappe's Diet for a Small Planet is in its 50th edition which came out last September.  I hate this book.  That's going to be shocking to readers of this site because until this edition was published, DfaSP was my favorite book and one that I recommended over and over and referenced all the time -- in real life and here at this site.

What changed?

The arguments she's long made about sustainability and access are stronger than ever.  It's just her recipes this edition that are both crap and undermining of everything she's arguing.

C.I. shared some thoughts in Friday' morning's snapshot and noted that she hoped she wasn't stepping on my toes?  Not at all.  Her remarks clarified a lot of what bothered me about this book.

I am a registered nurse.  I do know a thing or two about health.  This book's recipes aren't about health.  And they certainly aren't about working mothers trying to feed their families.  It's a bunch of crap.  I think it might have happened because Frances is trying to turn the franchise over to her daughter.  There's a story in the lead up to the recipes where someone's friend (daughter Anna?) is at a food eatery where you make your own order and comes up with all these vegetables and the wait staff asks if she wants some protein and the friend, we are told, laughs through her mask and I didn't find the story humorous or charming.  I found it offensive.  Someone is working for a living, they're working at an eatery that tries to offer healthy foods and the author wants to make fun of them?  

That's everything that's wrong with this update.  

As C.I. noted, it's frou-frou garbage.  I'm not a working mother now.  I'm a working grandmother.  I checked with my grandkids, they don't want these new recipes.

In the original book, Frances was taking dishes -- like enchiladas -- and building on them, redoing them so that they could be healthy and even meatless.  And it worked.  You could make these meals and your kids would eat.

This garbage?  No.

And C.I.'s right about the grocery deserts.  The original book understood that way our society was set up and how you needed to be aware that some people had limited access to fresh fruits and vegetables because they lived in areas underserved by grocery stores.

This book doesn't grasp that at all and thinks you can get this frou-frou ingredient and that one at your average grocery store when, no, you can't.  

Barbara Kingsolver, years ago, made an important comment to the I'm-too-cool-for-school crowd when they were putting down canned vegetables.  Canned vegetables travel with less expense than do fresh ones -- fresh ones can require refrigeration and make other demands.  You should be local and produce and what is in season.  If you care about minimizing your impact on the environment, that's what you should do.  This book has no grasp of that reality.  None at all.

There's a bread recipe.  That has no nutritional value.  That uses all purpose flour and has no nutritional value or health benefit.  But, hey, an NYC chef's gotten famous off the recipe so let's include it.

Time and again, the recipes are useless.  Working mothers aren't helped with recipes that kids are not going to want to eat.  The book could have done cauliflower recipes where you cooked them with the same sauce as chicken wings.  That would have worked as a recipe kids would be interested in.

This reads like recipes for Carrie Bradshaw in the 90s -- at a time when even Sarah Jessica Parker knows that Carrie is out of touch and has to be updated.  

The recpies truly are, as C.I. noted, a repudiation of the books' emssage and core.


This is C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot" for Friday:







Monday, January 10, 2022

Truest statement of the week

For years, I have lamented how the Democratic party has embraced censorship and the criminalization of speech. I come from a liberal Democratic family in Chicago and the Democratic Party once championed free speech as the defining value of the party. Democratic politicians now lead calls for censorship to silence their opponents and corporate regulations to protect citizens from dangerous choices in reading material. The same concerns were raised this week after Washington Gov. Jay Inslee called for the criminalization of “lies” about election results. Inslee wants to convict people who raise election challenges or allegations. Such a law would threaten political speech and create a chilling effect for those who want to raise such concerns in contested elections.


Inslee made his comments as part of the Jan. 6th anniversary. It appears to follow Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s directive for Democrats to “preserve the narrative” of that day. According to the Seattle Times, Inslee declared that “it should not be legal in the state of Washington for elected officials or candidates for office to willfully lie about these election results.”  He would make such comments a gross misdemeanor subject to incarceration.

Such a criminal law would be ripe for abuse and would create a chilling effect that would be positively glacial. We have seen other Democratic leaders use the criminal process in similarly reckless fashions.

This country has a long history of election fraud from Tammany Hall in New York to the Daley machine in Chicago. Raising doubts over such elections often forces greater public scrutiny and marshals resources to contest results.  Indeed, Democratic lawyers like Marc Elias have challenged Republican victories as he and others denounced such GOP challenges as attacks on democracy.


-- Jonathan Turley, "Democratic Governor Calls For Criminalizing 'Lying' About Election Results" (JONATHANTURLEY.ORG). 

Truest statement of the week II

In the day long events commemorating January 6th, Speaker Nancy Pelosi made a telling statement to her fellow members and the public at large. Pelosi declared “It is essential that we preserve the narrative of January 6th.” Part of that narrative is that this was not a riot but an “insurrection,” an actual “rebellion” against our country. Pelosi’s concern over the viability of that narrative is well-based as shown by a recent CBS News poll. The majority of the public does not believe that this was an “insurrection” despite the mantra-like repetition of members of Congress and the media. The public saw that terrible day unfold a year ago and saw it for what it was: a protest that became a riot. (For full disclosure, I previously worked as a legal analyst for CBS News).

Not surprisingly, the poll received little comparative coverage on a day when reporters and commentators spoke of “the insurrection” as an undeniable fact. Yet, when CBS asked Americans, they received an answer that likely did not please many. Indeed, CBS did not highlight the answer to the question of whether the day was really a “protest that went too far.”   The answer was overwhelming and nonpartisan.  Some 76% believe that this was a protest that went too far.


-- Jonathan Turley, "'Preserve the Narrative': The Public Rejects the 'Insurrection' Claim in New Polling" (JONATHANTURLEY.ORG).



A note to our readers

Hey --

Sunday night on the west coast still..

Let's thank all who participated this edition which includes Dallas and the following:

The Third Estate Sunday Review's Jim, Dona, Ty, Jess and Ava,
Rebecca of Sex and Politics and Screeds and Attitude,
Betty of Thomas Friedman Is a Great Man,
C.I. of The Common Ills and The Third Estate Sunday Review,
Kat of Kat's Korner (of The Common Ills),
Mike of Mikey Likes It!,
Elaine of Like Maria Said Paz),
Cedric of Cedric's Big Mix,
Ruth of Ruth's Report,
Wally of The Daily Jot,
Trina of Trina's Kitchen, Marcia of SICKOFITRDLZ,
Stan of Oh Boy It Never Ends,
Isaiah of The World Today Just Nuts,
and Ann of Ann's Mega Dub.

And what did we come up with?

 First off, we're publishing what we've got even though it's not a full edition.  It is what it is, as Kat always says.




-- Jim, Dona, Ty, Jess, Ava and C.I.













Media: Don't mistake it for a film worthy of praise

Blame it on Krystal Ball.  We tried to ignore the film.  We knew it was garbage and that it was already fading.  It's not even in NETFLIX's top ten, for example, hasn't been for two weeks.  But a friend kept asking all last week, "What's up with Krystal?"




Was she putting on the pounds?  Was she wearing a wig?  Could her new platform BREAKING POINTS not afford good lighting the way her previous platform RISING (on THE HILL WEBSITE) had been able to?  She just didn't, we were told, look right.

If only looking right were Krystal's biggest problem, right?

But we said, sure, we'd check it out.

And that's when she had on a guest.  David Sirota.  Heaven help us, are we really going to have to go there?

Yes, we were because she was congratulating him on his new "blockbuster."


Just no.

Really people, shut up when you don't know what you're talking about.  

What is a blockbuster?

It is a film that people line up to pay money to see.  They line up . . . around . . . the . . . block.  Hence, the term blockbuster.

A NETFLIX film is nothing more than a TV movie -- whether it's HBO or ABC, it's a TV movie.

Again, we didn't want to touch the subject and we were trying to be kind and ignore DON'T LOOK UP..

But we can't ignore stupidity, especially when it's spreading lies.

It's one of the most expensive TV movies ever with a shooting cost of $75 million.  Prints and advertising raise that cost even higher.  It died a fast death at the box office -- NETFLIX does brief releases in a small number of theaters to qualify their offerings for Academy Awards nominations -- not even raising one million in ticket sales.  Not even a million in ticket sales.

In the last fifty years, one of the biggest bombs is considered to be Neil Jordan's MARY REILLY starring Julia Roberts.  With a forty-seven million dollar budget, it only brought in $12.9 million in ticket sales.  Compared to DON'T LOOK UP, MARY REILLY is a blockbuster.  

Krystal might not understand -- she probably doesn't even grasp the true story of MARY REILLY being a flop (the world doesn't want to see Julia -- or any woman -- in a romance with John Malkovich) -- but, hopefully, everyone reading this does.

There's a lot of talk about the viewers that the film has had.  Viewers, not ticket buyers.  And it's probably had a great deal.  But here's the thing?  NETFLIX inflates its figures.

That's not news to readers of this site.

We broke the news years ago that NETFLIX was lying about its streaming.  We then broke the news that they were counting if someone stopped on the main page on a film and a scene or trailer automatically played for even three seconds as a view.  

NETFLIX is 'measuring' itself.  This is not accuracy.  We broke that news earlier thanks to friends at NETFLIX.  It helped force NETFLIX to be a little more transparent.  A little.  

DON'T LOOK DOWN?  It's streaming well.  It is not streaming as well as they are claiming.  This is part of their effort to garner Academy Award nominations.  They have to make it stand out and they're doing that by hyping it as the most streamed ever.  

No.  It's not even the most streamed of 2021.  

We thought Krystal Ball was a professional journalist.  Clearly, she has standards when she's attacking Katie Couric and then she has faux standards when she's promoting her own friends.  

DON'T LOOK UP isn't a film.  It's an ill conceived do-gooder project.

David Sirota gets a story credit with Adam McKay who takes sole credit for the screenplay despite all the input he received from others.  It's a bit hilarious to see McKay pull a Barbra Streisand ego trip until you grasp this is his big moment, this hideous LOVE BOAT like feature is his only real shot at anything.

He's broken up with Will Ferrell and that was his only meal ticket.  He didn't manage anything great there.  There are no comedy classics in his oeuvre.  He's basically spent his life directing the equivalent of ERNEST GOES TO JAIL.  And his career was floundering.

Idiots like Krystal Ball probably think that THE BIG SHORT was a hit.  $133 million!  On a production budget of $50 million!  A hit!!!

No, cover up your stupidity, no one wants to see it. 


The film was made for $50 million -- give or take five million.  Then you had prints and advertising.  There were big money campaigns for various awards so you're looking at $75 million as a conservative estimate.

"So what! It grossed $133 million!!!"

Worldwide, you idiots.

First off, let's deal with us -- and the North America gross (commonly known as "US" even though it includes Canada).  Even that is not what it appears you stupid asses who know nothing about the entertainment industry.  People spent $70 million on tickets to see THE BIG SHORT.  That was not $70 million that went to the studio that made the film.

Movie houses get money from ticket sales.  The way it works is that in the first week of ticket sales, the studio gets a bigger percentage.  Each week after, the movie houses increase the percentage that they receive.  That's why a film like THERE'S SOMETHING ABOUT MARY delights movie houses.  That film made money for everyone but theater owners were thrilled when, Labor Day Weekend of 1998, ticket sales jumped up to $10 million (two million more than the previous weekend).  Why?  That was the eighth weekend.  They were getting more from the ticket sales than the studio at that point -- a bigger percentage.

Studios no longer care that a film craters quickly if they think it'll open big because they get the biggest percentage from ticket sales that first weekend of wide release.  

Now let's turn to overseas.  THE BIG SHORT sold $63 million in overseas tickets.  

Again, there's the issue of the movie houses getting their percentages.  There's also the advertising and print costs.   There's also the outside distributors and so much more.  $63 million overseas? The studio is lucky if it saw $30 million of that -- and that's before you factor in the advertising and print and various other fees.  

Here's something even worse.  You had actors on that movie with gross profit -- not net.  People feel ripped off when they get net points because films rarely show a huge return that allows a person with net points to actually see money.  Gross is much different.  And if you're getting gross participation and you're a big enough name -- THE BIG SHORT had one -- you're getting it from first dollar in ticket sales.  (While a Tom Cruise thus far deserves that, Brad Pitt does not.  He's been lucky to have a career.)


It did not make a big profit for the studio.  


And when you're looking for big profits, you're looking domestically.  


Reality on Adam McKay's work?  He's been struggling for years at the box office.  TALLADEGA NIGHTS is his only real blockbuster.  

Krystal Ball might argue for STEP BROTHERS and THE OTHER GUYS.  And we'd agree with her if this was 1992.  $100 million domestic was seen as a blockbuster . . . back in the 90s.  Nothing has ever topped TALLADEGA NIGHTS in terms of McKay's box office as a director.

And studios have realized that nothing ever will.  Which is why he's gone to NETFLIX which is spending money like crazy and still having so damn little to show for it.

Leo di Caprio.  He's in the film.  Shouldn't be.  This is a bigger embarrassment for him than that season on GROWING PAINS.  But it's worse than embarrassing, it's potentially career damaging.

What grandpa is Robert De Niro playing now?  We were happy to watch that career rot because he's a blowhard who is an ass on the set -- and tries to hide behind being in character.  


All actors have types.  They like to pretend they can play everything and anything -- but they can't.  You have a type.  It is within that type that you are believable.  Robert could play Romeo in ROMEO AND JULIET opposite Selena Gomez as Juliet if someone was stupid enough to hire him for the part.  That doesn't mean he could carry it off.  

In addition, Robert cannot play every man.  He's not Gary Cooper or Harrison Ford.  He's a stilted performer who can't connect with others onscreen.  That's why he's so good at playing psychopaths.  When he plays them you expect him to be strange.  You don't cringe the way you do when, in STANLEY AND IRIS, his grown man is trying to one-up a child about who had the better father.  That's just creepy and creepy is what happens when you try to cast him as a normal person in any film.  Robert's not given a performance worth applauding since GOODFELLAS.

But, ha-ha, didn't we love him in MIDNIGHT RUN?  No, we didn't.  But some idiots did and he trusted those idiots and they led him onto the Focker franchise -- a huge embarrassment -- and they led him to those two 'comedy' films with Billy Crystal and to DIRTY GRANDPA and THE WAR WITH GRANDPA and so much worse.  He needs career rehab and has for several decades now.  He's such a joke in the industry that Meryl Streep is no longer whispering about how vile he is and how much she detested working with him.  In fact, she bad mouths him now more than she's bad mouthed Robert Redford and she loathes Robert Redford for script issues during the filming of OUT OF AFRICA and for the way the director (his best friend) backed him on every conflict during filming.


Leo's not Robert.  But another film like DON'T LOOK UP and he could be.  He has a type.  When he plays it, the film does well.  When he ignores it, when he ignores what people realistically will see him as, the film flops.  He hasn't had anything like THE BEACH in years.  But his looks are fading and no one on his team has the guts to tell him how bloated he's looked -- comment cards at previews for ONCE UPON A TIME IN HOLLYWOOD noted it, over and over.  He's chunky and he's fat, that's reality.  He couldn't pull off a romantic film today.  But he tries to pull off the romantic element of DON'T LOOK UP?  With a woman 16 years younger than him -- the bloat makes her seem 26 years younger than him.  Well, Leo, as one studio head said to us when we were getting feedback for this piece, you're Marlon Brando now -- in the fat years.


Crap like this?  He can't afford it.  It was a real mistake for him to do it.


Meryl Streep?  Her career's over.  She knows it.  So she'll grab whatever -- especially this deluxe episode of THE LOVE BOAT since others will carry the blame for it hitting an iceberg and sinking.  


No one's giving a performance in this film because they're nothing to act out.  


There are no levels.  There's no subtext.  People with the movie and its defenders are flailing about trying to defend DON'T LOOK UP.  "It's got good intentions!  If you hate it, you must not want to save the earth!"


Again, you've had a stupidity slip, use your hands to cover it up, no one wants to see it.


We want to save the environment but a film like MOONFALL can do more than garbage DON'T LOOK UP.  Yes, it's well intended garbage.  Somewhere, Stanley Kramer is smiling, we're sure.  


But it's still garbage.


The script is the most on-the-nose writing you'll ever see -- go to DEADLINE if you can't suffer through the film because DEADLINE's published it.  It is such bad writing.  Shane Black may never write a screenplay with an 'important' theme but he will write screenplays worth making into films because he understands basics like character development, beats, plot points, journeys.  


DON'T LOOK UP is the kind of writing a bad writer -- or a gifted third grader -- completes.  


You can round up all the names you want, that's not going to make it a film. 


"But the message it will impart!!!!"


First, to who?


It's sneering tone isn't gong to reach out to anyone not holding an hymnal and warming up with the choir already.


Second, what message?


Climate change is bad.  Got it.  Had it without the movie.  We're not paying attention to it -- like they don't pay attention to the possible extinction level event in the film!!!!  Well, no, that's not the same thing.  There's no reality in the film -- a reality would have had people not be gushing over the looks of facing-down-fifty and fat, squinty-eyed, bloated face Leo -- as happens when he appears on a talk show.  Second, the title really isn't an awakening.  "Don't look up"?  A description of the movie?  A tired response to the world?  It's all so muddled.

And you sit through 138 long minutes (don't miss the post-credit scenes!) waiting for the thing to end.  

There are many comedy classics.  There's TOOTSIE (116 minutes), SOME LIKE IT HOT (121 minutes), MY FAVORITE BRUNETTE (87 minutes), TO BE OR NOT TO BE (the original, 99 minutes), 9 TO 5 (110 minutes), SHAMPOO (110 minutes), BRINGING UP BABY (102 minutes), DUCK SOUP (68 minutes), ZELIG (79 minutes),  PARTY GIRL (94 minutes), SLEEPER (87 minutes), A NEW LEAF (102 minutes), ANNIE HALL (93 minutes), HAROLD & MAUDE (91 minutes), CLAUDINE (92 minutes), MARRIED TO THE MOB (104 minutes), IN THE SPIRIT (94 minutes), SHE DONE HIM WRONG (66 minutes), BEST IN SHOW (90 minutes), PEE WEE'S BIG ADVENTURE (91 minutes), MY BEST FRIEND'S WEDDING (104 minutes), NORBIT (102 minutes), DOLEMITE IS MY NAME (118 minutes), COMING TO AMERICA (117 minutes), BAD TEACHER (97 minutes), B.A.P.S, (92 minutes), THE NAKED TRUTH (92 minutes), BOB & CAROL & TED & ALICE (105 minutes), THE PLAYER (124 minutes), NASHVILLE (160 minutes), LOGAN LUCKY (119 minutes), FRENCH EXIT (110 minutes), SCHOOL DAZE (121 minutes), CAT BALLOU (96 minutes), DAZED AND CONFUSED (102 minutes), ED WOOD (127 minutes), AFTER HOURS (97 minutes), WAITING FOR GUFFMAN (84 minutes), THE WITCHES OF EASTWICK (118 minutes), CARNAL KNOWLEDGE (97 minutes), TERMS OF ENDEARMENT (132 minutes), PRIZZI'S HONOR (130 minutes), ABOUT SCHMIDT (124 minutes), SORRY TO BOTHER YOU (112 minutes), LEGALLY BLONDE (96 minutes), PRIVATE BENJAMIN (109 minutes), FRIDAY (97 minutes), HOUSESITTER (101 minutes), MASCOTS (89 minutes), DEATH BECOMES HER (104 minutes), BULWORTH (108 minutes), QUICK CHANGE (89 minutes), KEANU (100 minutes), LOVE & DEATH (85 minutes), THE HEAT (117 minutes), MANHATTAN MURDER MYSTERY (107 minutes), WORKING GIRL (113 minutes), A MIGHTY WIND (92 minutes),  CHASING AMY (113 minutes), HEATHERS (103 minutes), SOMETHING'S GOTTA GIVE (128 minutes), ANALYSIS PARALYSIS (131 minutes), HEARTBREAKERS (123 minutes), SMALL TIME CROOKS (95 minutes), SLEEP WITH ME (86 minutes), SILVER STREAK (114 minutes), CADDYSHACK (98 minutes), PEE-WEE'S BIG ADVENTURE (91 minutes), WHAT'S UP DOC? (94 minutes), SLEEPLESS IN SEATTLE (105 minutes), THE BIRDCAGE (117 minutes), BRIDESMAIDS (125 minutes), THE HEARTBREAK KID (original, 106 minutes), FOR YOUR CONSIDERATION (86 minutes), BEETLEJUICE (92 minutes), SISTER ACT (100 minutes) and many more.

Notice something about the list?  Only one film on the list is as long or longer than DON'T LOOK UP -- NASHVILLE.  And Adam McKay is no Robert Altman.  He's not even Rob Marshall.  If he can't offer more than one dimensional words on the page, are we at all surprised that his film lacks visual charm and is filmed like a single-camera TV sitcom?

There was never a good moment for this awful garbage to have been filmed.

It's a bad, boring and flat film.  It never takes off -- and not just because it's so damn heavy-handed.  Blame it on good intentions -- they usually don't result in good films.  And blame Krystal's poor look these days on her hair.  She's grown it very long and all that's done is weighted it down and made it look like it's thinning and limp.  Well, it's done something else.  It's made her face look fat.  Yes, Krystal, Ali MacGraw and Susan Dey both carried off similar hairstyles back in the early 70s but the difference there?  They were models who became actresses.  Meaning?   They weren't "MSNBC attractive" -- where well scrubbed passes for pretty; they were drop dead gorgeous.  What's up with Krystal?  To answer our friend, she doesn't know film and she doesn't know hair.



Media Roundtable

Jim: Roundtable time again.  Focusing on the media this roundtable.  Remember our e-mail address is thethirdestatesundayreview@yahoo.com and common_ills@yahoo.com.    Participating in our roundtable are  The Third Estate Sunday Review's Dona, Ty, Jess, Ava, and me, Jim; Rebecca of Sex and Politics and Screeds and Attitude; Betty of Thomas Friedman Is a Great Man; C.I. of The Common Ills and The Third Estate Sunday Review; Kat of Kat's Korner (of The Common Ills); Cedric of Cedric's Big Mix; Mike of Mikey Likes It!; Elaine of Like Maria Said Paz); Ruth of Ruth's Report; Trina of Trina's Kitchen; Wally of The Daily Jot; Marcia of SICKOFITRDLZ; Stan of Oh Boy It Never Ends; Isaiah of The World Today Just Nuts and Ann of Ann's Mega Dub. Betty's kids did the illustration. You are reading a rush transcript.




Ty: I'd like to start with USEFUL IDIOTS.  Aaron Mate?  WTF?


Betty: Oh, I know, is that permanent?


Isaiah: What's going on?


Ty: He's a co-host of USEFUL IDIOTS now.


C.I.: He's joining Katie Halper for the program while the other host is taking time off to finish a book.


Betty: Oh, good.  I was afraid it was permanent.  He's nothing like the other host.  On a good day, you could describe him as "dry."  The humor's not really there and won't be.  He's like having Ash as a co-host.


Marcia: ALIEN reference!  Good one.  Ash is the droid that Ripley doesn't trust in ALIENS because of his actions in ALIEN.  Yeah, Aaron Mate is a droid in terms of personality.  


Rebecca: Why didn't they get someone with energy?  Or charisma?  


Ruth: Or a woman?  Why did the temporary substitute need to be a man?   

Dona: An e-mail from Chan notes that WSWS has become a joke and that they have trashed and ridiculed "rightly NYT's 1619 Project for being fact free but they went after Kyle Rittenhouse in f act free manner themselves and refused to correct the record and continued attacking him with lies from the media that had been proven false.  I really wish you had called them out for that.  I am glad that you have stopped highlighting them."

Jim: Chan is correct.  C.I. actually raised that and argued we should do a parody of it.  

Trina: We should have.  The rank hypocrisy.  I'm not over it.  They repeated lies about Rittenhouse.  Any lie.  I found one that had been distributed by an outlet that was a joke.  It wasn't even an real outlet.  The whole thing was a joke.  And WSWS was repeating that joke but taking it for fact and not crediting the source.  Was that because that because they knew it wasn't true or is it just because they long ago learned it was harder to propagandize if they sourced their accusations?

Betty: They really hit hared on the 1619 Project and they were right to.  Lying -- as the NYT project did -- to make racial charges is outrageous.  But that it just what they did with Rittenhouse.  And they should have instead been accusing the corporate media for lying.  I have no respect for WSWS anymore.

Cedric: Marcia was the one who first raised the Rittenhouse issue in this community.   She waited until the trial started.  Which was the way to go.  I didn't pay attention to the media drumbeat.  This was about a kid and this was from a click-bait media.  The refusal of WSWS to look at the actual facts was bad enough but they put their entire weight behind trying to crush a kid?  That's outrageous when the corporate media does it.  It's pathetic when so called Socialist media tries to.  Marcia waited until the trial and the first thing she did was point out some of the questionable claims being promoted by the media.

Ava: Hold on.  We need to get this on the record.  November 9th, Marcia wrote "Gaige Grosskreutz belongs behind bars" and this is from that:

I'm not getting into the whole Kyle Rittenhouse thing. He's standing trial. If he's guilty, I hope he's convicted. If he's not guilty, then peace be with him. He's a kid -- and was when he shot people -- and there's a blood lust around this case that disgusts me. So I'm not getting into it or taking sides and I'm trying to let justice be carried out.

I saw this at CNN:


On Monday, Grosskreutz, a paramedic out that night, testified that he believed the teenager was an active shooter and so pursued him and unholstered his own concealed firearm. He testified that he put his hands up when Rittenhouse pointed his AR-15-style rifle at him but believed Rittenhouse did not accept his surrender. Rittenhouse shot him in the right bicep.

"I was never trying to kill the defendant," Grosskreutz said. "In that moment, I was trying to preserve my own life, but doing so while taking the life of another is not something I am capable or comfortable doing."

However, Grosskreutz also admitted that he pointed his gun at Rittenhouse before he was shot.

"When you were standing three to five feet from him with your arms up in the air, he never fired, right?" defense attorney Corey Chirafisi said.

"Correct," Grosskreutz said.

"It wasn't until you pointed your gun at him, advanced on him with your gun -- now your hand is down pointed at him -- that he fired, right?" Chirafisi asked.

"Correct," Grosskreutz responded.

The paramedic also testified that his concealed carry license had expired, and he also admitted he incorrectly told investigators his gun had fallen out of his pants earlier in the night.

I read that and I have to comment. Sorry. First off, the man's name is Gaige Grosskreutz and he's the only reason I read the article. I was at Google News and saw the headline and was scrolling passed when I stopped and went back up. Why? The picture. I've never seen Kyle Rittenhouse. I knew he was a kid. I saw the picture with the CNN report on Google News and was already to go off because I thought, "That's no kid!" I felt like I had been duped. So I click and start reading it's not the kid, it's that paramedic Gaige.

Now my thoughts. Liar. Need a second thought? Damn liar.

He lied to the police -- "My gun fell out of my pants." STFU.

He's an adult, he's 27 and he's aiming a gun at a kid.

His ass needs to be charged, he needs to be put in jail. I don't take this lightly -- obviously. Which is why I'm trying to let justice be carried out with regards to the kid and not comment on that. But give me a break. He lied to the police, Gaige did, and he wasn't supposed to have the gun on him to begin with -- that's what your concealed carry license expiring means.

That man was totally in the wrong on everything and he should be in prison for pointing a gun at a kid.

Should Kyle Rittenhouse be in prison? I'll wait for the verdict. I really do feel that there are a lot of issues at play here and I don't want to be a voice screaming for blood when I feel like, as a nation, we're arleady screaming for blood. It's like with a recent concert which has descended into blame the African-American rapper. I'm not commenting on that one either but when I see an angry mob pursuing someone and out for blood, I really want to step back and not be a part of that. If Travis Scott needs to be brought to justice, I'll leave that to court. The blood letting that some people seem to be going for disgusts me. 

Jess; And they were all liars, every last one of them that the media had promoted as truth tellers.  But, yes, the trial is when the truth came out.  Marcia was right to call out the liars as they started getting caught.  But notice that Marcia, starting there and afterwards, waited for the actual truth.  Not lies made to the media and by the media, she waited until people took the witness stand.  Prior to that, there was a concentrated effort to ruin a child's life.  And it still goes on.  That's outrageous and that's not what the left is supposed to be about.  Shame on everyone who pulled that crap and especially WSWS.

Marcia: I agree.  And credit to Jonathan Turley who wrote strong commentaries throughout and I would especially recommend this one.

Isaiah: And we've seen this over and over with race.  I remember wanting to cry as I watched an African-American mother talk about what was done to her son -- watching on DEMOCRACY NOW! -- and then Amy Goodman lying with two White men who did a 'documentary' about the school incident and the supposed tree involved and stripping that woman and what she shared from the story because it didn't jibe with the lies that three White people -- including Amy -- wanted to promote.  That's when I was done with DEMOCRACY NOW!  Don't use us, don't tell our stories and then ignore us because the truths we tell conflict with your White rage.  F**k you, Amy Goodman for what you did to that woman.

Wally: They dig their graves.  It's like with their nonsense about the man that terrorized Iraq's women, religious minorities and LGBTQ community.  The CODESTINKERS promote him as a "poet" and they do that because the US government killed him.  Their 'logic' is that if the US government killed him then he must be a saint.  They can't grasp that the US government can be wrong to murder someone because murder is wrong.  For them, it has to be that a saint was murdered.  The US government should not have murdered the terrorist.  That's not justice.  But a terrorist also isn't a saint.  That's not reality.

Elaine: They commit to the narrative and not the facts.  Truth is of little importance and this is nothing new, it's just gotten more extreme.

Mike: Yep.  You start to realize how little you can trust media -- whether it's corporate media or so-called independent media.

Jim: Stan, Kat, we're about to wrap up.  Did you want to jump in on anything?


Stan:  I'll just recommend people read "Ruth's YOUTUBE Report" where Ruth notes ten programs you should be streaming.  If you're looking for some reality, read Ruth's list and stream those shows.


Kat: I'll add the US media seems little interested in the persecution of Julian Assange.  He needs to be free and I'd also recommend this Tweet from Ajamu Baraka and I hope he expands the Tweet into an article.

Jim: Thank you both.  This is a rush transcript.

This edition's playlist

diana cover 2



1) Diana Ross' THANK YOU.


2) Adele's 30.


3) Billy Davis Jr. and Marilyn McCoo's BLACKBIRD: LENNON - MCCARTNEY ICONS.


4) Diana Ross' THE BOSS.


5) Joni Mitchell's  LIVE AT CARNEGIE HALL 1969.



6) Chase Rice's THE ALBUM.



7)   Bob Dylan's ROUGH AND ROWDY WAYS.









10)   Nick Jonas' SPACEMAN.  

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