James McPherson's Media & Politics Blog

Observations of a patriotic progressive historian, media critic & former journalist


  • By the author of The Conservative Resurgence and the Press: The Media’s Role in the Rise of the Right and of Journalism at the End of the American Century, 1965-Present. A former journalist with a Ph.D. in journalism, history and political science, McPherson is a past president of the American Journalism Historians Association and a board member for the Northwest Alliance for Responsible Media.

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Posts Tagged ‘Adam Sandler’

Bollywood films, like phone center jobs, likely to stay in India

Posted by James McPherson on February 23, 2009

Today CNN asks in a headline, “Is Bollywood coming to Hollywood?” It is a natural question, after the success of “Slumdog Millionaire” in the Academy Awards last night, but my answer, in a word is “no.” In more than a word, “perhaps, but not for long.”

In fact, “Slumdog” is like the main character within it: a one-time phenomenon who happens to be in the right place at the right time. Two years from now people will have a tough time remembering that it was ever named “Best Picture.” And besides, though it boasted Indian actors and locales, it wasn’t a true Bollywood-style film. The only dance number existed just to keep us around for the closing credits.

It is perhaps inevitable that we’ll see a spate of movies intending to capitalize on the success of “Slumdog.” But the novelty will be gone, and most of those films won’t be as well made (even if they have more logical endings). A few years ago some predicted that “Moulin Rouge!” and “Chicago” would “bring back the musical.”

I liked both films, and also enjoyed “Little Shop of Horrors” and “Grease,” but in fact  in fact I liked all four as much in spite of the fact that they were musicals as because they were musicals. I think most other people feel the same way, which is why if you want to see something like “Chicago” today, you do as I did last month–go see it on Broadway .

“Bollywood is not for everybody,” said one Indian film expert quoted by CNN. “People who love to see Adam Sandler movies are not going to line up to see Bollywood films.” That’s a good point, though of course there are a lot of us who are not generally inclined to see either one. 

After I saw the definitely non-musical “The Wedding Singer,” I told my wife, “Life is too short for me to ever sit through another Adam Sandler movie.” I hear he’s done some good work since then, but so have a lot of other, more talented people whose films I haven’t yet seen. Some of those films have even won Academy Awards, a fate unlikely for either Bollywood or Adam Sandler.

Posted in History, Media literacy, Music | Tagged: , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

“W” and “An American Carol”: losers left and right

Posted by James McPherson on October 11, 2008

Two politically oriented films have been released just before the election. One has an obvious liberal bias, the other an obvious conservative bias. Interestingly, these are entertainment films, not documentaries along the lines of “Farenheit 9/11” or the equally slanted ABC miniseries “The Path to 9/11“–which means their success will be determined as much by box office dollars as by political influence.

Oliver Stone, who has done some very good films (“Platoon,” “Born on the Fourth of July,” “Wall Street,” “World Trade Center“) and some bad history (“JFK” and “Nixon“), tells Maxim that his latest film, “W,” is being released this month not to influence the election but “because Bush is still around.” He also questions his potential influence: “I did three Vietnam movies, and what good did they do? People still lined up in support of the Iraq War. People don’t remember. It shows you the futility of what we do.”

The other film is largely an attack on Michael Moore, the creator of “Farenheit 9/11” and “Sicko.” The new film, “An American Carol,” is produced by another well-known filmmaker, David Zucker (“Airplane!” and “The Naked Gun,” from back in the day when we thought O.J. Simpson was funny). Zucker, who in 2004 produced anti-John Kerry ads, and who in an interview with the neoconservative Weekly Standard compares Barack Obama to “a really clever virus who adapts”–says he hopes his film will persuade people to vote against Obama.

That seems unlikely. In fact, neither film is doing particularly well, despite the unpopularity of President George W. Bush or the heavy promotion on Fox News for “An American Carol.”

Early reviews of “W” from Variety (an “unusual and inescapably interesting” movie that “feels like a rough draft of a film it might behoove him to remake in 10 or 15 years”) and Hollywood Reporter (“a bold but imperfect film about an imperfect man”) are obviously mixed. And it seems to me late-night TV hosts have skewered the president pretty thoroughly. Besides, watching the real Bush flounder is bad enough–and no longer particularly funny, considering the state of the nation thanks to the Iraq War and the economy.

Of course conservatives quickly and ludicrously complained that liberal bias and “ticket fraud” (?!) were keeping “An American Carol” from doing well, but judging by the preview, I suspect that the primary problem is the combination of unsubtle political commentary combined with even less subtle juvenile slapstick humor. It is notable that the filmmakers refused to release the film for critics, usually a sure sign that the filmmakers know they have a dud on their hands (though in this case they spun it as a defense against liberally biased critics).

It’s difficult to imagine whom “An American Carol” is trying to reach. After all, most of the college-age males that the preview seems to want to engage likely will turn to something equally goofy, but which also offers the prospect of nudity.

Young people look for Adam Sandler and David Spade, not Kelsey Grammar and Dennis Hopper, and for Angelina Jolie rather than her father, Jon Voight. And even moviegoers who like Kevin Farley, the film’s star, want to laugh with their lovable losers, not at those losers, and they want to see their heroes win in the end. That doesn’t happen here. Instead–ironic spoiler alert–the end of the film apparently has the character intending to do a new, more accurate version of “JFK.”

Older audiences need a stronger reason to go watch a film than do older audiences, and I can’t see Farley being such a reason. The film is broadly obvious–and therefore uninspiring–in its intent, and apparently lazy in execution. And anyone who wants to see Bill O’Reilly acting stupid can do so five nights a week on television; there is little reason to pay 8 or 10 bucks to do so.

This won’t be an election turned by film fiction, or even by based-on-a-true-story depictions offered in movies (or in political ads, for that matter). The fact that soon perhaps no one will be able to afford to go the movies, anyway (though escapist entertainment films were popular during Depression), will play a much bigger role in the probably election of Barack Obama. By then you’ll probably be able to check out both of these films on video.

Posted in History, Media literacy, Politics | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »