The Court Of Public Opinion: Schindler's List, Alba's Rack and Disney's Greed
By Chris Parry
Posted 04/02/05 07:56:29
It’s been a rough week for me. My computer was out for the count for most of the last seven days, which meant I had to go cold turkey from writing email, doing work, reading blogs, and pounding out movie reviews and instead find something else to do with my life. And of course, what else would a New Millennium Male do with a week of suddenly spare time? He watches TV, of course. And, trust me, this was not the week to be watching TV. I feel dirty and dumb, so lets mete out some justice.
CASE #1: Screw Schiavo – Somebody Remove MY Feeding Tube!
The defendants: The Schindler family, the Republican Party, the mainstream media and idiot Christians.
The charge: That the whole damn pack of them used the tortured life and death of an innocent woman to further their own careers and/or meaningless lives.
The case: Normally I’d wax lyrical about what scumbags these people are, and how they spat all over the corpse of the woman they all claim to care about, but someone else has already done that in ways I could never better. And so, lazy journalism be damned, I won’t even try. Instead, I’ll just respectfully reprint the words of Robert Friedman in the St Petersburg Times.
Like many of you, I have been compelled by recent events to prepare a more detailed advance directive dealing with end-of-life issues. Here's what mine says: In the event I lapse into a persistent vegetative state, I want medical authorities to resort to extraordinary means to prolong my hellish semiexistence. Fifteen years wouldn't be long enough for me.
* I want my wife and my parents to compound their misery by engaging in a bitter and protracted feud that depletes their emotions and their bank accounts.
* I want my wife to ruin the rest of her life by maintaining an interminable vigil at my bedside. I'd be really jealous if she waited less than a decade to start dating again or otherwise rebuilding a semblance of a normal life.
* I want my case to be turned into a circus by losers and crackpots from around the country who hope to bring meaning to their empty lives by investing the same transient emotion in me that they once reserved for Laci Peterson, Chandra Levy and that little girl who got stuck in a well.
* I want those crackpots to spread vicious lies about my wife.
* I want to be placed in a hospice where protesters can gather to bring further grief and disruption to the lives of dozens of dying patients and families whose stories are sadder than my own.
* I want the people who attach themselves to my case because of their deep devotion to the sanctity of life to make death threats against any judges, elected officials or health care professionals who disagree with them.
* I want the medical geniuses and philosopher kings who populate the Florida Legislature to ignore me for more than a decade and then turn my case into a forum for weeks of politically calculated bloviation.
* I want total strangers - oily politicians, maudlin news anchors, ersatz friars and all other hangers-on - to start calling me "Bobby," as if they had known me since childhood.
* I'm not insisting on this as part of my directive, but it would be nice if Congress passed a "Bobby's Law" that applied only to me and ignored the medical needs of tens of millions of other Americans without adequate health coverage.
* Even if the "Bobby's Law" idea doesn't work out, I want Congress - especially all those self-described conservatives who claim to believe in "less government and more freedom" - to trample on the decisions of doctors, judges and other experts who actually know something about my case. And I want members of Congress to launch into an extended debate that gives them another excuse to avoid pesky issues such as national security and the economy.
* In particular, I want House Majority Leader Tom DeLay to use my case as an opportunity to divert the country's attention from the mounting political and legal troubles stemming from his slimy misbehavior.
* And I want Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist to make a mockery of his Harvard medical degree by misrepresenting the details of my case in ways that might give a boost to his 2008 presidential campaign.
* I want Frist and the rest of the world to judge my medical condition on the basis of a snippet of dated and demeaning videotape that should have remained private
* Because I think I would retain my sense of humor even in a persistent vegetative state, I'd want President Bush - the same guy who publicly mocked Karla Faye Tucker when signing off on her death warrant as Governor of Texas - to claim he was intervening in my case because it is always best "to err on the side of life."
* I want the state Department of Children and Families to step in at the last moment to take responsibility for my well-being, because nothing bad could ever happen to anyone under DCF's care.
* And because Gov. Jeb Bush is the smartest and most righteous human being on the face of the Earth, I want any and all of the aforementioned directives to be disregarded if the governor happens to disagree with them. If he says he knows what's best for me, I won't be in any position to argue.
The only thing to add to that fine rant by Mr Friedman is the disturbing news that parents of Terri Schiavo, The Schindler family, sold the personal information of all those that contributed to their legal fund to a direct marketing firm that handles bulk mailing lists. Yes, these ghouls sold thousands of their supporters down the river, even as their daughter was taking her last breath, for a handful of spam dollars. Gives a new meaning to Schindler’s List, doesn’t it?
The Verdict: Guilty as sin. May they all find themselves in the situation they put Terri Schiavo – immobile, with TV cameras shoved in their faces, while people who don’t know them choose whether they should be allowed to continue breathing.
Case #2: Jessica Alba is an Actress.
The defendant: Jessica Alba, co-star of the mucho awesome Sin City.
The charge: The she signed on to Sin City, knowing that she would be playing a stripper who spends much of the movie topless and even bottomless, only to keep her clothes on once the contracts were signed.
The case: “I was terrified. The way it's drawn in the graphic novel is so ... specific. She's lassoing and she's jumping in the air and doing back flips. It's very over-the-top and burlesque to another level. It's almost like Cirque du Soleil stripping, and she's topless and bottomless, and I'm really not comfortable doing that. I did tell Robert [Rodriguez] and Frank [Miller] that I was uncomfortable with it and they said okay.” So said Jessica Alba in an interview with AP News, but was it really so simple as the makers of the film saying “whatever you’re comfortable with”?
Watching Sin City, you’re immediately struck with how far each actor and actress within the film was prepared to go to work with co-directors Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino, and writer Frank Miller, for a deep noir film based on one of the finest graphic novels of our time. Take Jaime King as an example, opening the film up with an extended topless scene. Then there’s Carla Gugino, putting her family-friendly cred earned with the Spy Kids franchise on the line as she wandered the screen sans shirt. Both had minor roles in the film, keeping it as close as possible to the source material, while major player Rosario Dawson spent the entire film in a fishnet bodysuit, leaving extremely little to the imagination.
Why is any of this important? Because it’s in the source material.
Because, despite the fact that the phrase is normally used as a cliché, “it’s integral to the storyline.” In Alba’s case, her character and Bruce Willis’ character meet when she’s but 12 years old, and reunite some seven years later when she’s taken up a job as a stripper. The fact that she’s nude and proud of it almost all the time makes Willis’ former cop decidedly uncomfortable; attracted yet disgusted that he would be so. In the case of this subplot, the nudity is important. In the other subplots, it’s mere window-dressing; style and atmosphere, yet the actresses concerned went with it because they knew it was part of the job going in. But Alba? She was uncomfortable. She’s playing a stripper whose main personality trait is that she’s naked and proud, but she was uncomfortable.
But not so uncomfortable that she wouldn’t have done it if she’d been paid enough.
According to About.com, in a roundtable interview with director Rodriguez, Alba was adamant that nudity was definitely negotiable, if that was how Rodriguez wanted to go. “It absolutely was an option. Robert said we could do it if we wanted to. Obviously it would have been more authentic… [Gee, ya think? More authentic than a stripper who wears a sports bra when she’s dancing? The hell you say!] But I felt like dancing around with a lasso and chaps was going to be sexy enough. I think being nude for me would have been distracting. I really couldn’t be bottomless in front of my dad. He would really… I don’t know. He’d disown me or something. He’d freak out.”
Of course, you have to wonder what her dad thought of the topless photo-spread she did for GQ Magazine just a few weeks before the release of Sin City, where she wears LESS than she did in the movie…
The verdict: Guilty. As penance for her crime, Alba will be seen topless in much less flattering light than she would have at Robert Rodriguez’s hands, right here. Yes, it’s a fake, but let’s face it, we’ll be seeing the real thing from her when her career crashes and burns, Mariah Carey-style, some time in the near future.
Case #3: Disney’s New Motto - “Always Creatively Bankrupt… Always.”
The defendants: Walt’s old empire, the Disney Company.
The charge: That Disney has willfully and wantonly besmirched some of their most beloved characters in a desperate lunge for much-needed dollars.
The case: Imagine you wrote a screenplay and it was a smash hit. It brought in hundreds of millions of dollars in box office, it spawned a massive merchandising industry that doubled that box office revenue, and children across the globe went to sleep holding your lead character tight as their bestest friend in the world. Then imagine the company that made most of that money decided to make sequel after sequel, without your involvement, using the director of Lion King 1 ½, the producer of Treasure Planet and the Hunchback of Notre Dame, and a team of over 40 writers, churning out your characters like mass-produced chotchkies, destroying their soul, killing their market appeal, and making them a laughing stock forever more… well that’s what Disney is doing right now to the characters that animation supergods, Pixar, worked so hard to create.
Check out the line-up – A Bug’s Life, Monsters Inc, Finding Nemo, Toy Story, The Incredibles, and the soon-to-be-released Cars – that’s a pretty outstanding list of successes. In fact, no other company in film production history has such an impressive, and perfect, record of box office smashes. And how has Pixar managed such a record? By sticking to a quality-first mindset, making sure each and every frame of animation is brilliant, and by putting an inordinate amount of effort and creativity into such things as dialogue and story.
Most of the Hollywood film industry could learn a thing or twenty about filmmaking from the Pixar upstarts, not to mention the value of not milking a franchise so hard that it dies an early death. When Pixar brought Toy Story 2 to screens, it was generally perceived to be a film that was actually better than the original, but the company refused the chance to crank out a third film in the series because, in the words of Pixar boss Steve Jobs, “we prefer to do original work.”
Well, Disney is crashing and burning financially, having just chased the Weinstein brothers away from the helm of Miramax, the Disney-owned arthouse distributor that was purchased for $70m and was valued a decade later as being worth over $2b. With the Miramax slate all but empty, and most of Disney’s original feature film projects of the last few years (The Alamo, Country Bears, Treasure Planet, Haunted Mansion, Hidalgo, Home on the Range, King Arthur, Open Range, Pooh’s Heffalump Movie) opening with disastrous results, Pixar’s stable of incredible success was a rare shining light for the company. But rather than keep that conveyor belt of quality moving, Disney shut down their legendary hand-drawn animation studio, nickel-and-dimed Pixar until they abandoned ship, and then announced that they would start cranking out sequels to the Pixar hits in quick fashion.
Toy Story 3 is already in the pipeline, with 40 people working on it currently and a further 200 likely to be added before all is said and done. It will be directed by Bradley Raymond, who helmed Disney's direct-to-video embarrassment, Lion King 1 ½, and Roy Conli, producer of massive Disney failures Treasure Planet and The Hunchback of Notre Dame, will steer things behind the scenes. As for the writer? Some 40 different scribes have been called in to pitch ideas, and Toy Story 4 is reportedly being lined up currently. On top of that, we’ll likely see Finding Nemo 2, Monsters Inc 2, The Incredibles 2, and if Cars should make a dent at the box office, Cars 2 can’t be far behind.
For some, this might seem like great news, after all, those are some damn fine original source materials Disney is working off, but if you look at the straight-to-video crap Disney has been churning out recently, and the way they’ve destroyed their own valued franchises in doing so, there’s not much cause for celebration for movie fans. You might not have caught the cut-price crap that is The Lion King 1 ½, 101 Dalmations 2: Patch’s London Adventure, 101 Dalmations Sing Along, or Lilo and Stitch’s Island of Adventures on the silver screen, but that doesn’t mean they haven’t been sitting on video store shelves, and been mass-advertised to nagging children across the world as a must-own. Disney has taken the path most often traveled, rather than the path forged by the company founder, and opted to squeeze every single drop of blood they can get out of every stone in the vault.
And Pixar? They have to sit back and watch the characters they put their hearts and souls into be leeched by the corporate parasites of Disney, diluting Pixar’s brand and making CGI animation synonymous with garbage instead of the top-notch high quality product we associate it with currently.
Mark my words, Disney will destroy the value of CGI animation forever, and the entire industry will suffer the consequences of the company’s moronic decision to replace Pixar with Pixaren’t.
The verdict: So guilty I’m hurtin’ just thinking about it. To all involved in the raping of childhood memories at Disney, a lifetime spent explaining to children why there are no heroes anymore.
Do you know a villain that needs a beatdown in the Court of Public Opinion? If so, let us know in the forums.