Thursday, June 10, 2004

...while you still can.

Crap will continue to be served. Who determines what is crap?

Movies are on my mind now that Ronald Reagan has passed. Although he had a definite presence and boyish good lucks, not to mention charm, on the screen, he was not a good actor -- at least not as far as the big screen was concerned. He had the good sense to get out of the movies before it was discovered he had zero talent, which turned out to be an excellent judgment call. He had some facility as a comic actor, but all in all he was really nothing special. Looks, charm, poise, and sense. That's what Reagan had.

Think of all the actors (and singers) who went into politics: Sonny Bono, Fred Grandy, and a few others. Those are just the ones that popped quickly to mind. They had no talent. They were one note wonders, but they had enough sense to stop milking the acting teat and get into something they did well. Of course, there have been good actors who also transitioned to politics, like Clint Eastwood and Fred Dalton Thompson, but they are not the point. The point of all this is whether or not we are all being bilked by a multi-billion dollar industry into supporting crap.

Tom Cruise is on my mind and he is the crap to which I refer. Let's face it, Cruise hasn't really done anything since Risky Business. He was cute and enterprising and nice to watch. He was the quintessential teenager and he played that role well. But what has he done since then that is so noteworthy he should command the kind of dollars he earns for showing up on the set? He is a promoter, a modern day P. T. Barnum and he proves Barnum's belief that a sucker is born every minute. We, my friends, are the suckers and we are smiling while we eat crap.

I finally saw The Last Samurai and it was a wonderful movie, but not because of Cruise. The movie was wonderful because of Ken Watanabe. Would the movie have been just as good without Cruise? I'm willing to bet the farm it would have been better. Cruise added nothing to the movie but his name and fame. Name any Cruise film within the last ten years and tell me in which one of them he gave a stellar performance, something worthy of an Oscar. Don't give me Vanilla Sky because I haven't seen it, but one movie in the entire line of movies Cruise has made in the past ten years, or even since Risky Business, doesn't count. Even in Rain Man, Dustin Hoffman stole the show and Cruise was just along for the ride -- as usual. When you pare it all down to basics, Cruise is crap and cruising on his fame and looks.

What bothers me most is that the really great actors are dying and we have no replacements of the same caliber. Name any tabloid favorite and tell me what they have done that is so wonderful. Brad Pitt has good looks and he was interesting to watch in Troy, but it was Eric Bana that showed the power and presence of a real actor. Even pretty boy Orlando Bloom was not that interesting to watch. He flashed his pearly whites and proceeded to disappear from the screen. He is pretty background, a stunning landscape, but nothing special. And the list of wannabe pretty boys continues without so much as a whiff of real meat. It's like expecting a juicy broiled steak in a vegetarian restaurant. Not gonna happen. If you're counting on Ben Affleck or the cast of friends to take up the slack, keep your money in your pocket.

I will agree that there are some stand outs, like Harrison Ford, John Malkovich, Diane Lane, and Cate Blanchett, to name a very few, but mostly what you will find on the screen is crap. According to one theater owner, the money isn't in the movies it's in the concession stand -- that over priced bastion of pre-processed and sugar/chocolated coated crap. See? More crap. So when does the crap train end? When the public says enough and refuses to be served crap.

Who decides?

You can't count on the critics. They are in it for the perks and the chance to give us their oh-so-important opinions. I don't rely on critics. I make my own choices. I may agree with them once in a while, but it is rare. If you want to know how fame and fortune and having people hanging on your every syllable affects the choices a critic makes, check out Please Don't Eat the Daisies and watch David Niven turn from an intelligent professor into an egomaniacal, self important, critic basking in the glow of lots of front page press.

You can't even count on my opinion because it's mine. I'm entitled to it, but you are entitled to your opinion, too. This is supposed to be a democracy and the majority vote wins, but when the majority is numbed and dumbed by the constant service of crap, can you trust their taste buds? Probably not.

What is the end result? The continued, uninterrupted service of crap, crap, and more crap. I'm beginning to think the bomb is our last chance, getting rid of crap and crap makers and the crap that feeds on crap. That's a lot of crap. We'd have to rely on movies already made and available in bombed out cities in the movie houses just like Charlton Heston in The Omega Man or use valuable generator power to keep our DVDs and VCRs running, but at least we'd have company and we wouldn't have to subsidize the fabulous lifestyles of the purveyors and sycophantic leeches of crap. We would all be on a more or less equal footing, back to the basics.

Maybe we lost it all when Hollywood and actors lost their mystique and became fodder for tabloids, topping even their own greed in creating havoc and forgetting the simple fact that they owe everything to the poor suckers who financed their vices, their lifestyle, and their continued existence. Maybe we deserve actors as politicians, especially when the politicians are out for more money, more perks, and everything they can stuff into their pockets, Swiss and Cayman Islands bank accounts, and libidos.

Let's face it. We created the monsters, but the monsters have turned the tables and they are in control. Maybe there is no solution, except for Mother Nature to slap us all with an IRS audit and take it all away.

Do I sound pessimistic? Probably, but I'm not. I just find it hard to accept that real style and taste is a rarity in a world gone mad for publicity and their fifteen minutes of fame when they have nothing to crow about. Maybe I'm just getting old because I long for better times when substance was more important than looks and flash. The stalwart pillars of society are dying and that puts me closer to the fires and I wonder what legacy I am creating to leave for those behind me. I feel much like Peter Finch in Network when he yelled out a window, "I'm mad as hell and I'm not going to take it any more," or Peter Sellers as Chance, the gardener, in Being There whose life revolved around television and his utterances, in the same way the Rain Man's non-sequiturs, were taken for profound wisdom.

All true wisdom is found within, but if you haven't looked there in a long time, maybe it's time to check it out. Don't accept crap because crap will continue to be served as long as you and I and everyone else make it profitable.

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