Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Hollywood update

The WGA strike ended on Wednesday, and it's been interesting to watch the industry putting the pieces back together. I find it a little odd that it was apparently the impending Oscars that may have pushed AMPTP to sit down seriously at the table. If ever there was an event that cried out more for "less talk!", I'm at a loss to name it. But let it pass.

On television, the strike-imposed blackout had the side effect of clearing out the undergrowth so that oddities like Reaper could bloom, while it wiped out a lot of struggling shows, and left some, like Pushing Dasies and Bionic Woman, in limbo. In one of the more unexpected results, it may have found a broadcast audience for the ultra-darkly fascinating Dexter, whose first-season episodes from Showtime are now running on CBS.

And I can watch The Daily Show and The Colbert Report again--I wasn't that interested in all-interview shows, particularly when interviewees were crossing picket lines to be there.

Of course, the strike also added to the already-burgeoning ranks of no-union-writer shows (aka "reality" shows--as if dreck like Moment of Truth anything to do with reality). Forty years ago, many Americans were mortified to think that the image that other countries had of us was through international syndication of The Beverly Hillbillies and Green Acres. Now--in addition to the overseas adventures of George W. Bush--our neighbors around the world can use American Gladiator and Are You Smarter than a 5th Grader? to form their opinions of us. We get Jane Austen from them; they get Jeff Foxworthy from us. Couldn't be prouder.

Still, the WGA members did hang in there, and good for them. Nice to see the media corporations dragged kicking and screaming into the late 20th Century. Hats off to all the other unions that honored the strike, too. The successful outcome of this strike, plus the SEIU successfully organizing the historically un-organizable janitors in several large cities around the country in the last couple of years, mark two all-too-rare large-scale victories for labor.

I haven't seen anyone connecting the theme to this famous image (although I certainly don't fault the WGA for it), but the WGA produced a series of great viral videos to promote their cause, collectively titled "Speechless."

The gist isn't complicated: Without writers, actors can't talk. Some of the videos were pretty straight-forward: (Here and here.) Some were clever mash-ups on the theme, like this and this.

But my all-time favorite is the one by indie queen Illeana Douglas (recently seen on cable in a Law & Order: SVU episode as a defense attorney who has to wear the ugliest shoes she can find so that her client, who is--among other things--a shoe fetishist, will pay attention when she talks to him). Douglas's video is funny as hell--it's her very own "Springsteen Unplugged" moment:

Clearly, there's silence, and then again there's, you know, silence.

Douglas, by the way, is in The Year of Getting to Know Us, featured at the Sundance Film Festival last month. And--if I may bask in someone's reflected glory for a moment--a friend of mine, whose brother was a producer, attended Sundance. At my request--hint? wheedling?--she brought me back a menu from the catered dinner thrown by the producers, with a beautiful lipstick kiss print and an inscription from la Illeana herself. Woof.

But don't take my word for it (by all means, click to enlarge):

I hereby officially declare Illeana Douglas the p3 "It" Girl.


Lance Mannion said...

Hot damn! A fellow admirer of Illeana Douglas!

I always knew you were a man of taste and refinement, Bill.

And I take it this means you've seen Happy, Texas?

Nothstine said...

Hey, Lance--

I confess I have not seen 'Happy, Texas' yet. I'll go further: I hadn't heard of it until you mentioned it. My film watching is by fits and starts. [I'm right now working through the director's cut of 'Fellowship of the Ring.' ]

But from its IMDB page, H,T looks amazing. Even before you get to the cast, you've got a plot synopsis in Spanish and the following keywords: Hunting, Romance, Armadillo, Car Accident, Bank Robbery.

All that, plus la Illeana--how can I resist? Thanks for the heads up. I'll let you know how it goes.