It’s tougher, it’s darker — of course, it’s better!

Once upon a time, the movies used to take properties from other fields, plays and novels mainly, and clean them for the nation’s theaters, removing excess sexuality and violence until, sometimes, what was left made almost no sense at all. Couples who lived “in sin” found themselves with marriage licenses or merely dating, soldiers and prison inmates never cursed but were occasionally permitted to use poor grammar, gay characters went straight — and, in the case of the great noir thriller, “Crossfire,” became Jewish into the bargain — and so it went.

More recently, the trend has been to either completely send something up or to darken it and make it more “real,” as if darkness and reality were identical. (Closer, maybe, but not identical.) Still, we can rest assured that, like “The A-Team,” the proposed movie version of “The Equalizer” with Russell Crowe will be a gazillion times more violent than the television series it was based on — and I’m just talking about the moment when Crowe finds craft services forgot to provide that brand of organic ketchup he really likes. Heck, even the 100% inevitable sequel to “The Karate Kid” will surely be darker than the first because, you know, this time, he’s pubescent!

Still, as the studios grow so desperate for a hit that some, perhaps, might be willing to consider making something not fully recycled, there’s always someone willing to take a property in the darker direction it really needs to go. Who cares if the core audience is under five? Someone’s got to show those goldbricking preschoolers the way the world really is. Are you with me? Well, Rob Bricken (who gets the h/t) and the creative semi-geniuses of It’s Not a Book get it. See the future of cinema, below.

  

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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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