TV/media in the 2000s: 10 (or so) key voices in left/right political media

Politically speaking, the aughts have been one long, strange trip. Just think about what we’ve seen this decade: a disputed presidential election in 2000, the largest terrorist attack in world history occurring on U.S. soil in 2001, followed by two wars, the partial erasure of New Orleans and much of the Gulf Coast, a congressional changing of the guard, the election of the first African-American president as well as the first with a foreign-sounding name, and the probable passage of a health care package which, depending on your point of view, is either historic, a mystery, a bit of a sham, or the first step on the road to a Stalinist U.S. of A.

Bubbling beneath all of this has been a series of remarkable changes in the world of media — television, movies, radio, and this thing we call the Internet — that have had a fairly profound impact on politics and, therefore, on real life. What follows are my choices for the ten most interesting and/or influential figures in the realm of political media. To try and slightly compensate for my obvious liberal bias (my side is far more facty, I tell ya!), I’ve got five spots each for conservative and liberal media figures respectively and I’ll be alternating and counting down from the bottom.

#5 Conservative

Trey Parker and Matt Stone — It’s possible that most regular viewers of “South Park” have little idea that Parker and Stone are self-described Republicans and I’m sure most of you don’t think of it as that much of a political show, even though rather subtle and often quite penetrating and/or infuriating thoughts about politics run through many, if not most, episodes. That’s because, like all great satirists, they are just as good at poking holes in the pretensions of their own side as that of the opposition, and their social liberalism puts them so at odds with the increasingly extremist faction that now controls much of the Republican party that some could easily mistake them for liberals. Actually, right now it’s easy to imagine them ditching the party indefinitely, along with any number of smart fellow conservatives who have already done so publicly.

parker-stone

Still, conservative and/or anti-liberal messages are often found on episodes of “South Park,” including attacks on such personal friends of the pair as George Clooney. Indeed, as early as 2001, famed blogger Andrew Sullivan described himself as a “South Park Republican.” (Sullivan is now one of those smart conservative ex-Republicans I mentioned above.) And, of course, there was no stronger, and certainly no funnier, attack on the antiwar efforts of the American left than “Team America: World Police” which had marionette versions of Michael Moore, Alec Baldwin, Matt Damon, and Janeane Garofalo working in tandem with North Korean madman Kim Jong-il in his plans to destroy Western civilization.

Since the film’s release in 2004, more doctrinaire conservatives have tried to follow suit with such liberal-bashing comedies as “An American Carol” and “The 1/2 Hour News Hour,” a truly wretched attempt to craft a conservative alternative to “The Daily Show,” but only Parker and Stone have been able to bash liberals and their ideas and make targets like Alec Baldwin love it.

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Same movie news, different movie blog

Seems like today, everyone’s talking about the same few news items. I’d hate to be left out.

* Adding to the endless speculation over who will be cast as whom in “Spiderman 4,” Nikki Finke enters the more or less pointless but, I suppose, fun fray by naming Anne Hathaway as having been “approached” for a role which her readers have decreed to be the Black Cat.

* The Academy has come up with a short-list of nominees-to-be-nominees in the Best Documentary category. Everyone is making a big deal about the absence of Michael Moore’s “Capitalism: A Love Story” and then naming any one of a number of highly regarded documentaries that didn’t make the cut, including the rather predictably ignored “Anvil! The Story of Anvil” (looks like too much fun) and James Toback’s look at Mike Tyson (to, er, biting?). I’m personally not thrilled that “We Live in Public,” which I still think might be the most important movie made this year, is out of the running, but then I’m obviously somewhat personally invested. Anne Thompson is right, however, that the doc category is growing ever more interesting and crowded.

* The Oscars have an alliterative director. Will he win an Emmy?

* “New Moon” mania breaks out with news of huge early ticket sales. If you have more time on your hands than me, you can read this very lengthy interview and I’m sure pretty interesting interview with director Paul Weitz. I could barely skim it right now, but here’s a quote that leapt out at me:

I have been kind of hazed into the world of VFX, so I understand how to do that — or at least who to trust — and I get what it is that they’re trying to do. I think that with the right visual effects supervisor, I can direct animators who are animating creatures, who are like actors in that sense. It’s just that their performances are being done over the course of months. Each five-second shot takes months to develop. That stuff I like very much, but I wouldn’t say that I’m either an expert or kind of a savant as far as that goes. That’s Peter Jackson and Guillermo del Toro and Sam Raimi. That’s not me.

  

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Weekend box office: “Zombieland” to lift horror comedy curse, apparently

zombieland-movie-image-woody-harrelson-jesse-eisenberg-abigail-breslin-emma-stone

There was a time — I think it was, I don’t know, two weeks ago — when horror comedies were supposed to be, now and forever, box office poison. “Too funny to be scary and too scary to be funny” was the not so intelligent line. Such was the Hollywood conventional wisdom, until someone went and made a horror comedy that struck a chord.

So, apparently the peanut butter of horror can be blended with the chocolate of comedy if you have lots of action and sufficient gore, the trailer for the movie in question is funny enough that audiences will be sold on it as a more or less straight comedy…and, oh yeah, almost everybody who can stomach seems to love it. Such certainly seems to be the case with “Zombieland.” The flick, which features indie stars Jesse Eisenberg and Abigail Breslin, is eliciting excitement both from industry types and critics who have graced it with an 89% “Fresh” Rotten Tomatoes rating (just two points shy of 2004’s instant zombie comedy classic, “Shaun of the Dead.”)

Still, for yours truly who loves comedy horror but has a well documented issue with gore, particularly of the zombie variety, this means a probable long period of movie procrastination followed by a small bonanza for our nation’s distillers. For top-billed costar Woody Harrelson, though, it means a comeback. Jolly Carl DiOrio of THR and Andrew Stewart of Variety guess that it will gross somewhere around $20-$25 million or perhaps further north in over 3,000 theaters. If it wasn’t such a busy weekend, I might think it could do even better.

As for the number two spot, I gather most of the prognosticators expect yet another very good weekend for the animated family hit, “Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs,” but after that, the playing field gets a bit crowded. For one thing, Pixar is making things interesting with 3-D redoes of “Toy Story,” and “Toy Story 2” being released as a double feature. It’s a pretty awesome package of family entertainment and I could see it cutting into this weekend’s “Meatballs” take.

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“Cloudy” with a certainty of poor news for new releases

Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs

Never bet against family entertainment, especially when it’s in 3-D and generating strong word of mouth. “Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs” declined a very small 19% and collected an estimated $24.6 million over the weekend, which puts it at a $60 million “cume” or thereabouts according to Bruce McNary of Variety. Not bad.

I’m not one one bit surprised that the new Bruce Willis science-fiction tale, “Surrogates,” didn’t get the over-fluffed $20+ million that was expected, despite the help of costar Radha Mitchell. The movie hasn’t generated much excitement, is getting “meh” to bad reviews, and the appeal of older stars like Willis just doesn’t seem to be that powerful at the box office these days.  Does Bruce Willis even register that much with people under thirty? If it wasn’t for the success of the last “Die Hard” flick, I think this would have done significantly less than the non-terrible estimated $15 million it actually netted for the #2 slot. On the other hand, the film cost $80 million. How much of that was Willis’s salary?

Fame

The remake of Alan Parker’s “Fame” got mostly bad reviews, and the box office wasn’t too exciting either with a mere $10 million estimated. Though the film apparently attracted a youngish audience — a possible reflection of the film being perceived as not very good since it’s a well known property to we mid-lifers — apparently most of them were taken up with other films. The week’s other major new release, the Dennis Quaid sci-fi horror entry, “Pandorum,” did a predictably awful estimated $4.4 million.

In more positive news, “The Informant!” held better than expected with roughly $6.9 million in the #4 spot and a mere 33% decline according to the Box Office Mojo chart. An interesting real life story, a funny trailer, an imaginative director, and more youngish star power may still count for something.

The week’s highest per screen average was documentary superstar Michael Moore’s latest, “Capitalism: A Love Story,” earning about $60,000 each in four theaters before going wide next week. The French language biopic, “Coco Before Chanel” starring Audrey Tautou (“Amelie”), earned a stylish estimated $35,000 average on five screens.

coco_before_chanel02

  

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It’s Fall Movie Preview time!

So, what did you do on your summer vacation? You already know what the Hollywood studios did — namely, repeat their annual tradition of flooding theaters with months of sequels, action flicks, and expensive film adaptations of any book, game, or toy with enough built-in name recognition to guarantee a Top 5 debut at the box office. Now that the autumn months are upon us, it’s a different story: with a few notable exceptions, popcorn pictures are out and more traditionally grown-up fare (including the yearly parade of awards contenders) is in. Which also means, as you’ve hopefully already guessed, that it’s time for Bullz-Eye’s 2009 Fall Movie Preview.

Of course, it isn’t all serious stuff. Why, one week in September alone features a CGI adaptation of a classic kid’s book (“Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs”), a bloody good time of a horror flick (“Jennifer’s Body”), and some deep space sci-fi (“Pandorum”). And that pretty much sets the tone for the season — aside from Dimension’s long-delayed adaptation of Cormac McCarthy’s Pulitzer-winning “The Road,” there really aren’t any surefire Oscar contenders in this year’s fall slate. Which is not to say none of these movies have their fair share of buzz: Spike Jonze’s adaptation of Maurice Sendak’s “Where the Wild Things Are” has been making jaws drop since its first trailer debuted a couple of months ago, Robert Zemeckis makes more motion-capture magic with Jim Carrey in Disney’s new take on “A Christmas Carol,” and the season also boasts new films from perennial award-winners Michael Moore (“Capitalism: A Love Story”), Steven Soderbergh (“The Informant!”), and Wes Anderson (“The Fantastic Mr. Fox”).

But we’re getting ahead of ourselves, aren’t we? Talking about the movies is what the Fall Movie Preview is for — so what do you say we get started? Click the image above (or follow this link) for the month-by-month skinny on the 25 movies we’re looking forward to seeing between now and Thanksgiving!

  

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