Bush, Buffy and Bland Blockbusters
A weekly editorial Grande with a double shot
Incorporating “This week in TV”
As I bit into my undercooked wholemeal muffin this morning I came to the realisation that consuming it, in it’s rare state, was like digesting the unprepared impetuosity of “X-Men 3”. They both share another parallel: they’re all about the ‘bread’.
Quarter way through coffee
Screw you W. Screw you with a prophylactic made by Pinhead. Living on the other side of the world here, we’re not always aware what goes on over there, in the states, unless it has something to do with film or fingers-being-found-in-a-Taco-Bell-takeaway-packet – so imagine my surprise when I tuned into the [legitimately entertaining, and I challenge anyone to dispute] ‘Ellen DeGeneris show’ to watch her episode dedicated to ‘Louisiana’, and the effect that Hurricane Katrina (speaking of which, the ‘Waves’ aren’t happy they didn’t get shared credit) had on the city.
There, on the screen, were images of a town ravaged by one of God’s cruellest pranks…. Overturned houses, food shortages, people living in their rusty cars, trucks and tractors on top of houses, a noticeable paucity of wildfire and anything going ‘cheep, cheep’…. it’s essentially turned into ‘Deadwood’ pre-Swearingen. It’s such a sad state of affairs. Thing is…. The president isn’t doing a goddamn thing about it…nothing…nadda…. besides simply ‘Hoping, it all just goes away’. Bill Clinton is down there doing what he can do, and, well, so is Louisiana-native DeGeneres (who was rather visibly shaken by her tour of the ravaged city)…. but the one man who can help, George W.Bush, the President of the United States, is too busy watching “My So Called Life” re-runs to give off his rosy cheeks and lend support. I just don’t understand it. If this was New York, this would’ve been cleaned up an instant, but because it’s an ‘off the beaten path’ city, something that doesn’t get as much coverage on the tube, and therefore, a city hardly ever seen by the world, he’s not worrying about it. I could blame it on racism, I could blame it on laziness, I could blame it on economics….but seriously, no reason is good enough….. you get in there, and you fuckin’ help these people.
This article points out that “Due to ‘budgetary constraints,’ FEMA rejected a request by Louisana for a mere $8.8 million in flood mitigation funds last summer. And, worst of all, key federal disaster mitigation programs, developed over many years, have been slashed and tossed aside. Mitigation, in this context, essentially means “preventative measure – like, in the case of New Orleans, shoring up the levees and improving drainage. FEMA’s Project Impact, a model mitigation program created by the Clinton administration, has been canceled outright. Federal funding of post-disaster mitigation efforts designed to protect people and property from the next disaster has been cut in half.” What? 8 million? That’s a Pauly Shore movie for Christ’s sake! Cancel “In the Army Now 2” and feed these people!
It’s not like the government of Louisiana haven’t asked for Bush’s help, either, they have – here’s a letter they sent him. I assume, it was used to wipe the royal ass.
When Ellen Degeneres is doing more for the city, than the President, you know that something is wrong. She has donated money, given businesses, basically taken an interest….and I wouldn’t be surprised if she helps more. “There is still no power,” Degeneres said. “If this was Washington or San Francisco … anywhere else, this wouldn’t be happening.” Since Katrina, Degeneres has been outspoken about her frustration with the slow pace of recovery. She collected nearly $10 million from individual and corporate sponsors for the American Red Cross to help with relief efforts.
This has got mad. Real mad. My thoughts and prayers go out to everyone over there in Louisiana. I might give Michael Moore a call….got an idea for a film…
Half-way through coffee
You wouldn’t believe the amount of mail I’ve been getting about those “Buffy” telemovies being cancelled. It’s insane. But…it’s not surprising. The series (and it’s spin-off, “Angel”) has been off our screens for a while now, and yet, the fans are still there, salivating for more. They’re still frequenting the forums, still following the movements of its ex-cast members, still buying the merchandise, still attending the conventions, still laying in hope that we see the Sunnydale crew again….
For a while there, it looked like we would see the “Slayer” crew again. Joss Whedon was in talks with the WB (now, the CW network) about doing a series of telemovies, each dedicated to one particular character in the “Buffy” universe. ‘Spike’ (James Marsters reprising his role as the flaxen-haired vampire) was the most talked-about spin-off, apparently in the planning stages.
Whedon teased us for months that such telemovies (at one stage, he even hinted that they might be ‘DVD Premieres’ instead of telemovies…which suggests that he was trying everything to get them up and going) were in the planning stages. The network was even semi-interested in running with them. Thing is, something happened…. we don’t quite know what…. all we know is that Whedon and the TV network didn’t see eye-to-eye on the films and they were suddenly shelved – from the sounds of it – for good.
At the end of the day, Whedon put a stake through the plans…. obviously forlorn with what was on offer. So what was on offer? That’s what I want to know. Was it a miniscule budget? A new cast? (David James Elliot as ‘Spike’? Holly Marie Combs as ‘Illyria’?), a graveyard time-slot? , Deferred payment?, A ‘get SMG and Boreanaz back, or there’s no deal’ tender? – I dunno…
A couple of people [the nerve, hey?] asked what the goddamn appeal is with “Buffy” and “Angel”, and why we’re all so upset about the telemovies not happening. I’ll tell ya why, in 10 straight-up dot points…
– They were probably the best written shows on TV over the last decade
· The characters were memorable, loveable, exciting and, in the case of Darla, super-sexy.
· We were left with ‘so many questions’
· The storylines were intriguing, always captivating, and it was never a case of ‘These next couple of episodes are slow…but there’s a good one coming up’ as we usually refer to many episodes of, say, “Lost” or “The OC”.
· The acting was sensational…. film good…nobody can forget how at home James Marsters was as Spike, how inseparable David Boreanaz was from his screen alias, or how versatile a performer Amy Acker was. Even those playing the villains – Christian Kane, Julie Benz, Mark Metcalf, Harry Groener, Eliza Dushku and so on – were likeable. Mostly, due in part to the actors. They humanized the rogues they were playing. Every time.
· The dialogue was hip; fresh, funny, not ‘dumbed down’ like so many series’. Joss Whedon had a way of talking to the audience, not at them.
· The chemistry between “Buffy” and “Angel”. Hotter than Michael Scolfield’s back when he rubbed against that steamer.
· It was brave. An episode where nobody talks? An episode that revolves around people grieving over a dead body? An episode that was a musical? An episode about a teenager with plans to shoot up his highschool? An episode where the lead character turns into a puppet?
· It managed to offer ‘life lessons’ (everything from teen-sex to adolescent depression and the feeling of being alienated from your peers, was discussed) whilst never forgetting it’s roots as an action/adventure series. In many ways, and despite the vampires, “Buffy” was set in the real world.
· The fact that “Buffy” was a feminist. Real, very rare. But it was empowering for the gals to see…. for once, she was doing the rescuing, and the he’s of the show (usually Xander) were playing the ‘damsels in distress’.
So, what were the plans? Apparently, we were going to be treated to half-a-dozen spin-off movies. These are the ones we know about.
Illyria – Amy Acker was to return as the kick-butt leather-clad second coming of Fred. I believe J.August Richards, reprising his role as one time good guy Gunn, was going to be in too…. But as a vampire. Not sure whether they were going to whack ‘Illyria’ and ‘Gunn’ into another of the films, say the ‘Spike’ one, or give them their own outing. Personally, I think Acker could’ve carried her own.
Spike – James Marsters was ready and willing to put on the leather duds and dye the hair again, to play Spike, again, one of the most popular characters from the “Buffy” universe.
Willow – Joss Whedon actually told me about this one last year. He said he was trying to get Ally Hannigan back to reprise her role as the witchy lesbian again, and it was looking good….
Faith – Whedon had always wanted to bring Eliza Dushku back as Faith – she was even linked to her own spin-off series at one stage – and this would’ve been the perfect opportunity. Basically, it would’ve been an hour-and-a-half of kick-butt action.
To close, I actually had a chat to someone at the new CW network about this whole thing…. and, well, yeah, it isn’t good. Basically, there are no plans for anything with the “Buffy” characters coming up. Sounds like doors were slammed, email addresses were removed from OE accounts, and staff blackboard ideas were dustered. Hopefully something can be done….but at the moment, the closest thing it looks like we’re going to get to “Buffy, the Vampire Slayer” is well, “Wonder Woman” or, perhaps, re-runs of “Skating with the Stars”, being that Kristy Swanson’s in it and….yeah, not a good link.
Three quarters the way through coffee
I’ve been very disappointed with the crop of movies that have been released this year. There, I said it, take back the free ‘I love X-Men badges’ and the ‘Sharon Stone crutchless knickers’ you sent us to wear, if you like? I tell ya, it’s enough to drive a man to switch careers. It’s not shaping up to be one of Hollywood’s best years – that’s for sure. When you start to warm-heartedly look back on films like “The Hand That Rocks The Cradle”, “The Rocketeer” and “Lethal Weapon 4” – you know something’s not right.
OK, I’m not talking about the small films, some of those – particularly “Brick”, “The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada” and “Candy” – have been great, I’m talking mostly about the costly, ambitious and heavily marketed blockbusters that we’ve seen. For a while there….I think we all thought they might all turn out rather good.
Blockbusters have generally gotten better over the last few years. Studios have realised that you don’t need a story to support special effects, good actors to support good costumes, a script to support a soundtrack…or I thought they had anyway. It wasn’t until I saw “Basic Instinct 2”, “The Da Vinci Code”, and then “X-Men 3”, that I realised that we’re back to where we started again – before “Spider-Man”, “Batman Begins” and “The Ring”, came along. It’s again, all about the ‘star’ and ‘the money at the end of the day’ again, and suddenly, a good script, a nice lengthy production schedule, and getting good actors, is no longer a priority. And those fuckin’ horror remakes, what the heck is with that?! Nobody likes them….nobody wants to see them…..they’re all about as fun as having your arse-hair shaved. I mean, “The Fog” DVD is deemed to be a drink coaster at most people’s places. There’s just been so much shit this year.
God, I hope this changes…. Otherwise I’m truly scared to think what’ll become of “Indiana Jones 4”, “Iron Man”, “Rambo 4”, “Casino Royale”, “Spider-Man 3”, and so on…
One sip to go
I’m having a much weaker coffee now. And you know what? I think I’m actually enjoying having a ‘half a shot’. I haven’t got up at 3am, cheekily chased a cat around the kitchen with a badminton racquet, with the blaring sounds of ‘Pearl Jam’ (great new album by the way, if you haven’t got it) serving as the soundtrack, for days now…. it’s great. Sleep? Truly something different for me. Having said that, next week, I could be back to an ‘extra-large, double-shot’ this time next week, and the ‘air guitar’ might be dusted off for some late-night ‘solo sessions’ once again.
DVD of the week
Stephen Tobolowsky’s Birthday Party – As straightforward as wedges with sour cream, but very, very, entertaining. Robert Brinkmann’s film is essentially an hour-and-a-half of veteran character actor Tobolowsky (“Memento”, “Freaky Friday”, “Spaceballs”) talking to the camera, spilling out stories from his past. I swear, you’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll smirk, you’ll be in awe…. of how much can be done with so little, and just one, genuinely intriguing man. The DVD includes quite a few deleted scenes . Buy it here.
Theatrical release of the week
The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada – A whodunit-of-sorts, the film stars Tommy Lee Jones as a ranch foreman honouring his late friend, illegal immigrant Melquiades (Julio César Cedillo), appeal to be buried in his native Mexico should he give up the ghost in Texas. Meantime, one of the new Border Patrol boys (Barry Pepper) is about to get to know the late man, a hell of a lot better. As you’ll have worked out for yourself, I don’t want to give up too much about the film. Part of its appeal is letting the story unfold for itself. As a director, Tommy Lee Jones is surprisingly proficient – showing both creativity and nads behind the lens, at times shooting sequences that would turn John Sayles or Sam Peckinpah to mush.
This Week’s Useless bit of Advice
Look to see that you can actually “fit in” before saying, “yes” to any more work.
Missing Career Alert
Mark Pillow – Remember him? He played the villainous Nuclear man (actually, there were 2 Nuclear Men, originally, in the film) in 1987’s ill-fated “Superman IV: The Quest for Peace”. That unkindly experience seemingly put Pillow off acting perpetually, because he’s only acted twice since then, once in an episode of 80s gem, “Wiseguy”. Apparently, he’s now pouring beers at a bar in Liverpool. All good villains eventually fall, hey?
5 things you didn’t know about…… “Stakeout” (1987)
1. Stars Richard Dreyfuss and Emilio Estevez were having a movie trivia contest on set one-day. Estevez asked Dreyfuss to identify the movie that this line came from: “This is no boating accident”. The answer, of course, was “Jaws”, one of Dreyfuss’s films. The moment was so priceless, that it was written into the film.
2. Aidan Quinn and Madeline Stowe would later reunite for the thriller “Blink” (1993).
3. Martin Short was originally supposed to star opposite Richard Dreyfuss in the film. He backed out to do the poorly received “Cross My Heart”.
4. The film time Estevez played an adult on the screen.
5. Filmed in Vancouver, and used many of the same locations that TV’s “The X-Files” did.
Please Note : “This Week in TV” now has it’s own section, HERE