By GORDON GLANTZ
GORDONVILLE — So I was rapping to this guy the other day, and I was describing some ordinary situation in my day. I added that it annoyed the heck out of me.
His response: “Everything annoys you.”
Well, not everything.
But enough “things” that the point is well-taken and met with little resistance.
Near the top of the AL – Annoyance List, not American League – standings is the propensity on the nightly news, usually on a Sunday, to list the top movies of the week.
The criteria? The box office sales are it, which is really a sad commentary on culture, given the subject matter of the majority of the movies.
Want to raise the bar on Hollywood, challenging it to do better than it does with lame scripts and gratuitous violence? Change the approach. Why not list the “best” movies, according to critics, that week?
Not so, dumb-dumb.
Not an alien concept, really. AP and USA Today release Top 25 rankings for college football and basketball – among other sports – on a weekly basis. Those votes are also based on media observations from those with trained eyes.
Why doesn’t this happen in the movie universe? Well, if you subscribe to the theory that everything is a conspiracy until proven otherwise, Hollywood is in cahoots with the networks that broadcast these lists of high-budget B movies.
It’s not that, say, science fiction cannot have a role in storytelling. At its best, the genre uses an alternate setting to send a strong message. But how often, realistically, does that happen anymore?
I have an idea for the perfect sci-fi thriller, as it eerily hits close to home. It need not be set too far into the future, either. Maybe 50-75 years, tops.
And it is rooted in today’s headlines.
Seems that a day doesn’t go by without hearing of bears infringing upon man’s arrogant eminent domain and attacking and mauling, right? Ditto for coyotes. And we all know about deer daring to get in our way on the roads to the extent that hunting season is cast in a way that is supposed to be for our best interest – and that of the hunted (LOL!). And we are also getting more reports of shark attacks than ever.
Some of it is the 24-hour news cycle and Internet bringing this stuff to light more readily, but it’s hard to buy as the only reason.
Where there is smoke, there is fire.
So here is the plot. The bucks, with their mighty antlers, decide to get angry about the violence perpetrated against their women and children and begin turning aggressive toward human women and children. The bears, the sharks and coyotes – and maybe alligators and snakes — follow suit.
The only way to stem the tide is for the adult male of the future where just about all (49 of 50) are stricken with autism (1 in 50 boys now, in 2013, and the epidemic is getting worse, so it’s not outlandish) to find a way to communicate and work together, to create an environment where we can co-exist with these animals again and reverse the risk factors for Austism Spectrum Disorder – clearly in the polluted air, the food loaded with additives and medication we take in the U.S. at a rate well beyond that of the rest of the planet – to have that Hollywood ending.
We can call the movie “The Revolution Starts Now” after the Steve Earle song (I have Steve Earle on the brain after he rocked my world at the Sellersville Theater Thursday night).
Nah, too close for comfort.
Bring on the vampires and zombies and keep on annoying me.
I’ll be OK. It’s just another example of … drum roll … What Is And What Should Never Be.
Ready for more?
What Is: A study conducted by the University of Michigan – my favorite college football team once each year, when Penn State is the opponent – reveals that making connections, via Facebook, might have us singing the blues.
And What Should Never Be: Letting a positive turn into a negative.
The point of the study was a good one. Facebook time can cause us to compare our lives to that of others and leaving us coming away feeling like we have bought one-way tickets to Loserville.
I have been there, done that. Not gonna lie.
For myself, being home a lot this summer with Sofia has led to time interacting on Facebook, often engaging in political debates and just touching base with people I am better for knowing.
It’s just a phase, though. I have gone – and will go – through others where it’s a secondary activity and not my immediate connection to the outside world.
We just have to take it for it is, and stare the truth in the eye.
Certain people, for whatever reason – who and what they represent in relation to our own life and times, and ensuing trials and tribulations – can put us in a funk by paging through their pictures or status posts about how they are in this place or that enjoying wine and cheese with friends.
But this is an onion that needs peeling, the study cautions. In actuality, it is the people who “socialize the most in real life” that are most prone to these oft-unhealthy comparisons.
According to John Jonides, the research co-author and a University of Michigan cognitive neuroscientist: “It suggests that when you are engaging in social interactions a lot, you’re more aware of what others are doing and, consequently, you might be more sensitized about what’s happening on Facebook and comparing that to your own life.”
I would have to say that more good than bad has come of entering the Facebook universe that allows room to breathe, despite 1.1 billion co-inhabitants.
What Is: Just to prove that man does not live by Facebook alone, a more recent discovery – Netflix – has opened up new horizons.
And What Should Never Be: Having a closed mind.
I had heard how Netflix reinvented itself for years, but figured the likes of HBO had me covered in the quest for inspiring and intriguing entertainment.
Even knowing that Netflix had an original series starring Steven Van Zandt wasn’t enough.
But then I got an iPad for my birthday in March and I took the plunge, figuring seeing the likes of “The Wonder Years” and “Star Trek” – while playing catch-up on “Mad Men” — was worth the price of admission.
Turns out, I went off in a completely different direction. First it was “Sons Of Anarchy.” Then, a friend told me about a show called “Freaks and Geeks” about high school in the early 1980s, which is when we were in high school. The only bad part of the show was that it only lasted one season and left me lamenting what could and should have been.
Next, I turned to the Van Zandt vehicle, “Lillyhammer,” and got a kick out of him pretty much reprising the role of Silvio Dante (“The Sopranos”) in a bizarre setting (a New York mob guy in witness protection in Norway).
The cool thing about Netflix is that, like Facebook, it takes a snapshot of what you like and suggests more ideas.
That led me to another original Netflix series, “Orange Is The New Black,” and I roared through the first season in about two weeks. Ditto for the award-winning “House of Cards.”
HBO cornered the market with the catch-phrase of “it’s not TV, it’s HBO.” Now, one has to consider saying, “it’s not HBO, it’s Netflix.”
Then again, “Boardwalk Empire” returns Sept. 8 on HBO.
How do I know?
What Is: The aforementioned Steve Earle – even though his show ended too late to stay in line for an autograph, which I may live to regret – got me thinking about our place and time in history (including the story line for the movie, as he spoke of his toddler son with autism).
And Should Never Be: Not turning the deep thinking to action.
Earle explained that all songwriters of his generation follow in Bob Dylan’s footsteps, whether they want to admit it or not (don’t the ones who refuse to submit just annoy you?). He continued to explain that Dylan modeled himself after Woody Guthrie, whose legacy was pretty much creating the realistic soundtrack of The Great Depression era. Earle added that Dylan would be the first to admit that he never experienced America going through the hard times as seen through the eyes of his hero, Guthrie.
Earle, who has been touring by bus for a while, said that it has struck him that the America he is now seeing is as horrific as that of Guthrie’s time.
And he’s spot-on accurate.
I blame Bush, you blame Obama.
Others point to Wall Street.
And maybe we should just look in the mirror, blame ourselves and start doing something about it.
After Earle and his band – The Dukes – aptly ended their show with “The Revolution Starts Now,” the lights went up and a recording of Guthrie’s “This Land Is Your Land” (should be the national anthem, but don’t get me started on that) began to play.
It sounded new again.
It sounded great.
- Netflix the ‘New HBO’? Get Real (variety.com)
- Steve Earle; The Voice of Reason … (keenemusic.wordpress.com)
- Netflix’s Latest Content Grab: All Weinstein Movies (businessweek.com)
- REVIEW: Steve Earle at Sellersville Theater: Roots rocker plays big show in intimate venue (blogs.mcall.com)
- Netflix Is Still No HBO (dailyfinance.com)
- In Defense Of … Netflix Being the Future of Television (Column) (popmatters.com)
- Netflix Strikes Movie Deal With Weinstein Co. (abcnews.go.com)