by Chris Parry
Look! It's a whore in journalist's clothing!
If you don’t have a job in the entertainment industry, there are several things that go on with every film that you’d probably never be aware of as a ticket buyer. Most of them you don’t need to know, while others you should be completely aware of if you want to avoid being taken for a ride. For example, you should know that almost every film Hollywood makes comes from a script that could have had up to a dozen writers take a shot at reworking the original text. You should know that many rookie directors have a ‘directing consultant’ who will actually tell them what to do on set. You should know that the reason arthouse films open in New York and LA a few weeks before anywhere else is because the press there is more open-minded to ‘progressive’ ideas, and once the NY media has ejaculated their praise across a film, the local hack down in Des Moines is more likely to follow suit. And one thing you REALLY need to know is that those clips of celebrities talking to your local news guy about their upcoming film…they’re pretty much faked. The celebrity is contracted to promote the film when they sign on to the flick, they have to say nice things or risk not getting future work with that studio, and the guys on the other end of the microphone, the journalists, they’re actually working WITH the studios to help promote the film, and receive free flights, free hotel rooms, a nice big gift bag at the end of it all, and then they get their name used in the ads for the film. Yes, that’s right – entertainment journalists are whores. They’re doing you, hard, and for no good reason other than it helps them promote themselves. So with that in mind, welcome to Great Moments in Junketeering, where we look over a moment in film whore history, break down who the whore was, what he was whoring, how he whored it, and what the pay-off was. Shawn Edwards, you’re up.
From The Call, June 11th, 2004:
Vin Diesel is big in the game. So what if "XXX" wasn’t the mega hit many predicted it would be. It was still cool. And so what if no one saw "A Man Apart." Mr. Diesel made a nice attempt to show growth as a serious actor in the sophisticated cop drama. Nevertheless, Diesel ain’t trippin’ on those cinematic failures. The 36-year-old is back and doing something few actors have accomplished. He’s reviving a legendary character. Oh, yaw didn’t know. The 2000 film, "Pitch Black", is a classic. It successfully combined sci-fi and horror as it introduced the world to Riddick, a rebel convict with the ability to see in the dark.
This is how FOX-4 Kansas City’s resident movie blurbster Shawn Edwards began his puff piece on Vin Diesel for Kansas City’s leading southwestern weekly. That’s right, a community paper. In fact, the ‘church’ section of The Call takes greater precedence than the ‘entertainment’ section, but if there’s one thing about Shawn Edwards that we know, it’s that he loves to see his name mentioned wherever it can fit – TV, press releases, newspaper ads, even the local free weekly. If it can say his name, he’ll give it reason to do so, no matter whether it’s paying big bucks per word or giving out free promotional T-shirts for the honor. So lets break down Shawn’s opening paragraph and see whether he does his job of making us giddy with excitement for The Chronicles of Riddick.
So what if "xXx" wasn’t the mega hit many predicted it would be.
Hmm… it wasn’t? A little research turns up that the film made a whopping $48m on its opening weekend, $141m over the course of its North American run, another $109m in foreign ticket sales, and has spawned at least one sequel. What exactly does Shawn Edwards consider a ‘mega-hit’ if xXx wasn’t it? A $500m opening weekend? Riots for tickets in downtown Omaha? The renaming of a small planetoid as “Vin” by the worlds leading scientists? Second sentence and Edwards is already looking like an illiterate, under-prepared moron. Then he follows it up with the sort of hard-edged journalism we’ve come to expect from a guy who said, “Hitch is the Comedy of the Year…” in February.
“It was still cool.”
xXx was no megahit.. but it was ”still cool”? Okay then. What’s your take on the Middle East situation, Mr Edwards? I’m sure with such searing editorial opinion, you’d have a worthwhile insight into the intricacies of diplomacy in the birthplace of civili… bah, who am I kidding? Shawn Edwards is the herpes of the journalism world. You know he’s there, he’s always making his damn presence felt, but no matter how hard you scrub, you’re never going to get rid of the annoying little asshat.
Why? Because as soon as Edwards is gone, there’s a Jim Svejda to take his place, or a Clay Smith, or a Mose Persico. The reason we’ll never be able to get rid of the Shawnization of the film world is because the lowest rungs on the journalism ladder will always be full of people who got into the game for no other reason than to get famous. Or be next to people who are famous. And there’s no greater example of that mindset than Shawn Edwards. Okay, there is - Paul Fischer - but let’s just pretend Fischer doesn’t exist (ooh, that feels good).
“Diesel ain’t trippin’ on those cinematic failures…Oh, yaw didn’t know. “
This would be the passage where Edwards pushes his blackness to the fore. Not by simply being a black guy doing a good job, but rather by putting – in writing – a series of African-American colloquialisms that are supposed to say to us, “Hey yo, sup, Edwards is the shiz. Word.” It’s all a part of Shawn Edwards’ relentless drive to put the focus on HIM, and not on the people he’s supposed to be promoting. I mean, interviewing. And if you think I’m being harsh on Edwards for his ‘too black, too strong’ stance, check out what Edwards has had to say about nearly every ‘black’ film released in the last two years:
Are We There Yet? - A family film that's perfect for everyone. It will have you laughing from beginning to end.
White Chicks – The funniest comedy of the year. The Wayans brothers have delivered another comedy classic.
Barbershop 2: Back In Business – The best comedy of the year!
Tupac Resurrection - ****! One of the best films of 2003.
Badassssss! – One of the top two movies of the first half of 2003, beating Spiderman 2 and Shrek 2.
Radio – A powerful film that will truly move you. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll stand up and cheer.
Bad Boys II - …Year’s most action-packed and high-flying flick.
Dysfunktional Family – Hilarious! Totally off the hook!
Cradle 2 the Grave – Thrilling! DMX and Jet Li are electrifying in this fact paced nonstop action flick
Granted, he didn’t like Catwoman, The Cookout, My Baby’s Daddy or Johnson Family Vacation, but even the people involved with the making of those films didn’t like them. Catwoman’s Halle Berry, when she showed up to pick up her Razzie for Worst Actress, said, “I'd like to thank the rest of the cast - to give a really bad performance like mine you need to have really bad actors… It was just what my career needed - I was at the top and now I'm at the bottom."
“The 36-year-old is back and doing something few actors have accomplished. He’s reviving a legendary character.”
You mean like Robin Hood? Aladdin? Peter Pan? Michael Myers? Ray Charles? Howard Hughes? Mr Deeds? Jason? Gandalf? Obi Wan Kenobi? Scooby Doo? The guy from My Favorite Martian? Josie and the Pussycats? Fred Flintstone? Leatherface? Batman? Spiderman? Jack Ryan? King Kong? The Jeepers Creepers bat-thing? …JESUS?
Excuse me for pointing out the bleeding obvious here, but Hollywood does NOTHING BUT ‘revive’ legendary characters. It’s their thing. It’s how they avoid having to be original. I mean, even Jar Jar fucking Binks was ‘revived’, and he’s the most despised movie character in cinematic history! Continuing:
"Pitch Black" was a super surprise hit and established Diesel as an up and coming star. Now he’s bringing Riddick back to the big screen in "The Chronicles of Riddick." The film is a continuation of Riddick’s adventures, which began in "Pitch Black." In this version homeboy is in the middle of a galactic war.
Let’s ignore the lack of punctuation, the sloppy word hackery and his ridiculous use of the vernacular ‘homeboy’, and just go for the really obvious… three Riddick’s in two sentences? My God, this guy actually ever study journalism? Has he ever read a book? “Now he’s bringing Riddick back to the big screen in "The Chronicles of Riddick" – does he even read his work over before sending it in, and doesn’t anyone at The Call actually edit the stuff?
”The film features a ton of action and a stellar cast that includes 31- year-old Thandie Newton. Ms. Newton is best known for her performance in "Beloved." Okay, not many people enjoyed that misunderstood flick. However, Ms. Newton, one of Hollywood’s most under appreciated actresses, has also rocked the big screen in "Mission Impossible 2." She was Tom Cruise’s love interest and set the screen on fire. In "The Chronicles of Riddick" Newton is Diesel’s nemesis but she’s really just a soft-spoken hottie who loves being a mommy.
“A soft spoken hottie who loves being a mommy…” I just vomited in my mouth. So let’s get on with the actual interview, because this is where the real probing questions come. Right? Well, maybe not. After all, Shawn Edwards is the guy who said these words: "Crossroads is a perfect teen dream. It has everything that makes a movie totally cool: laughs, adventure, spirit, hot music, drama and of course BRITNEY! Britney rocks! She is like a comet. A talent of her magnitude only comes around once in a lifetime and you can't take your eyes off her when she is on screen in this totally cool and delightfully hip movie."
BWAAAAAAAAAAAHAHHAHAHAHAHAHAAA! Whoo, that's some comedy. So the standard MO for junketeers is to follow a strict formula and never get off track. First comes the penis stroke:
SHAWN EDWARDS: I’ve appreciated your work since I first caught a glimpse of you in Steven Spielberg’s "Saving Private Ryan."
VIN DIESEL: Thanks man. That was an incredible experience and an incredible film.
Translated: “I’m not going to ask anything difficult, so chill.” Perhaps unsurprisingly, Edwards doesn’t mention to Diesel how he thought XXX was no megahit – it’s worthy of a first paragraph mention, but don’t say anything to the guy himself about it... So with the risk of an opening shot across the bow safely removed, we move to the next part of the formula: Mindless trivia.
SHAWN EDWARDS: Before you are about to shoot a scene how do you get amped?
VIN DIESEL: Wintergreen Altoids. They are good luck mints. Before I do a scene I grab a wintergreen Altoid and I’m free. I’m ready to do what I need to do. The mint helps set the tone.
Oh my aching sides. Edwards has flown across the country, stayed overnight at the Four Seasons, set up his camera, sat down with the superstar and he got an Altoids commercial out of it. Priceless. See, with a little digging, Edwards might have learned that Diesel has played Dungeons and Dragons for some 24 years, and that he once took part in an instructional video about breakdancing. He could have discovered that Diesel got into acting when at the age of seven, he and some friends broke into a theatre to vandalize it, only for a woman to catch them and offer them their freedom, a script and $20 each if they would agree to attend the theatre company every day after school. He might have found out that Diesel had left the set of Reindeer Games over concerns about the quality of the script, yet had no such concerns about Knockaround Guys. But no… Shawn wants to know how he gets ‘amped’.
Now we move to step three in the junketeer interview handbook, random and uninteresting questions about ‘how much fun it was to make the film’:
SE: How much fun was it to have more toys?
VD: I can’t tell you how much fun it was. I can’t tell you how much fun it was to work with an incredible ensemble cast.
And thus, Diesel doesn’t even try to tell us. And Edwards doesn’t press him to, because he doesn’t really care. And nor do the readers. This question is always for the publicists and nobody else.
SE: What was the biggest difference between shooting "Pitch Black" and "The Chronicles of Riddick."
VD: "Pitch Black" was a small film and we basically had one set but that worked for that film. For "The Chronicles of Riddick" we had stages. There was a different stage for each planet in the film. So when walked onto the sets we were instantly transformed. It was so real and really helped us get into our characters.
I just noticed Diesel’s initials are the same as those of ‘venereal disease’. No wonder he was such a troublemaker as a kid. But oh, yes, those big sets helped them get into character… so strange that a film costing $110m would be so different from a film costing $23m… snore.
Anyways, if you’re a Vin Diesel fan and you’re actually enjoying Edwards’ searing questioning, too bad, because that’s it. That’s all he got. There’s nothing more to comment on. He went all the way to Hollywood (Studio City actually, but let’s be generous) and he got to ask FIVE QUESTIONS, which means he now has another two minutes to get Thandie Newton to say something we’d give a damn about.
SHAWN EDWARDS: I really liked your character but this role was a departure for you. Do you feel the same way?
THANDIE NEWTON: You liked something about my character? That’s fantastic! (laughs) Thank you my friend. You know, I think this role worked for me because I’m not that familiar with sci-fi movies. So I didn’t follow any particular protocol.
When the person you’re complimenting laughs in your face, you can bet that your routine is getting old, but this once more demonstrates the first rule of junket interviewing: Mindless compliments. Edwards clearly feels the need to justify his first question:
SE: Seeing you as the bad girl in this movie was a pleasant surprise.
TN: Quite honestly, who would have thought of me for this role[?] I’m sort of petite and usually play characters that you sympathize with but some of the prettiest flowers or cutest little animals have the most potent venom or poison.
Newton is giving him good stuff, she’s keeping it quotable and helping him massage his fragile ego, but rather than take her hand and kick this interview into gear, Edwards goes the other way. A very sad way.
SE: How’s motherhood?
TN: I don’t go out often. I’d rather be home with my daughter. But I’m so into kid flicks -- "Finding Nemo," "Brother Bear." I actually wept in "Brother Bear." It was embarrassing. All these kids were like what is this crazy woman doing in hear with tears streaming down her face.
How’s motherhood? Why not ask how’s the weather? “Did you ever have a tooth filled? How was that?” I mean, what the hell? You’ve got about two minutes to get something good and you ask, “how’s motherhood?” Thandie Newton is an INTERESTING person – her mother is a princess of the Shona tribe in Zimbabwe, her family fled their home in Zambia because of political unrest, she wanted to be a dancer, but a back injury forced her to quit. She also quit acting because she couldn’t find work in LA with her British accent, and got a degree in anthropology at Cambridge, she missed out on being in Charlie’s Angels because the MI:2 shoot went long… but Shawn wants to know “how’s motherhood?”
Now we move along to the ickiest part of the junketeer handbook – self promotion:
TN: I quite like your shoes.
SE: Yours are pretty nice as well.
TN: Really, what are those?
SE: They are Tsubo’s. They are a Japanese brand but I got them in New York. Very comfortable.
BLURGH! SPIT! YUCK! GROSS! Could this guy be any sadder? He’s got space to ask a handful of questions and he gets into a conversation about his shoes? And then he PRINTS that conversation? What the hell?
SE: When are you most comfortable?
TN: When I’m with my daughter. She’s three and a half.
AND THAT’S ALL! There’s nothing more. End of interview. We learned that her character is a bad girl, she likes Shawn’s shoes, she cried in Brother Bear and she loves her daughter. That anyone would pay Edwards for this kind of stuff is beyond me, but that anyone would read it is even stranger. Are we really that fascinated by the famous that we’ll tune in just to see them talk about some junketeer’s shoes? Is that how low we’ve sunk?
Regardless, if it is our new low level of humanity, we’re still higher up the evolutionary food chain than Shawn Edwards is. Because (and this is the final part of the junketeer’s handbook), when he saw the film at the junket screening, was flown home, and duly turned in his blurb to the publicist, this is what he had to say about one of the year's worst films:
"One of the best sci-fi films ever! Extraordinary! A true classic that's not to be missed! Vin Diesel is ecstatically superb."
And he was duly quoted in the advertising of the movie - not once, but as three individual three pull-quotes. Of course, if you look for any of those quotes online, you won’t find a review to go with them. Because there isn’t one. What the junketeers do is they phone in their quotes, or have a press agent do it for them, before a review is even written. Sometimes they do it in place of a review.
“The [advertising] quotes you read of mine, alongside Roger Ebert and all the top-notch critics, has totally helped my career as a film critic and my credibility.” - Shawn Edwards, Kansas City Star.
Yes, that’s right. These people call themselves journalists. Disgusted? Good, then stay tuned for next week when we look at another… GREAT MOMENT IN JUNKETEERING!
link directly to this feature at http://www.efilmcritic.com/feature.php?feature=1391
originally posted: 03/03/05 08:41:34
last updated: 04/05/05 04:04:15