Monday, March 28, 2011

NATALIE PORTMAN HAD A STUNT DOUBLE. SURPRISED?


My favorite movie of last year BLACK SWAN comes out on DVD and Blu Ray tomorrow (Tuesday, March 29). And how timely, there is a BLACK SWAN scandal accompanying it. I doubt Fox Searchlight, the movie studio behind BLACK SWAN is thrilled with the controversy, but it may increase DVD sales, as people will be curious to see what the brouhaha is all about. Sarah Lane, a professional ballerina, has been loudly complaining all over the press this past week about how there is a cover-up to make sure she doesn’t get proper credit for working as Natalie Portman’s body double in the movie. “Of the full body shots, I would say 5 percent are Natalie,” says Lane, 27, an American Ballet Theater soloist who performed many of the film’s complicated dance sequences. “All the other shots are me.”


Now there are a couple of issues here. For starters, if she feels she didn’t get proper credit for her work on the movie whose fault is that but her own? She was not listed in the film credits as “Natalie Portman’s Body Double” but rather as a “Hand Model” and a “Stunt Double” and “Lady in the Lane” (a brief walk-on role). If she or her management didn’t push for the better credit then that’s their fault. And why come out and bitch about it all now? Sour grapes? Or perhaps an attempt to cash in on the film’s popularity?

Secondly, the studio and most of the players involved have admitted to digitally grafting Natalie Portman’s head onto Lane’s body throughout the movie. A montage showing exactly how that special effect and countless others were achieved in BLACK SWAN has been all over the Internet for months now. See for yourself at the YouTube link below. 
Apparently, the DVD extras reveal even more tricks of the trades like this. And surprise, surprise, who knew, but actors don’t do their own dance scenes or their own fight scenes or sometimes their own nude scenes. So why is anyone surprised that Portman, despite training extensively to give off the superb illusion of dancing ballet, isn’t really all that expert at it? Does anyone out there honestly believe that even with a year and a half of training to look and act the part, Natalie Portman was going to be able to dance as well as a professional ballet dancer who’s studied for 20 years?

I’ve got news for any naïf’s like the complaining Miss Lane out there: Hollywood is an illusion factory. Robert DeNiro wasn’t taking real punches through most of the filming of RAGING BULL.  Julia Roberts’ body in the poster for PRETTY WOMAN isn’t actually hers; it’s that of a fitness model. And Tom Cruise wasn’t really hanging off the cliff by just his bare hands at the beginning of MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE 2. Hollywood is expert at fakery, and those who don’t believe that might as well be sold that bridge in Brooklyn.

The very way that BLACK SWAN was shot lets you know that Portman isn’t doing it all as well. She is filmed almost entirely in close-up. There are very few full body shots. We almost never see her feet connected to the rest of her and that’s because most of the tough stuff simply couldn’t be done by anyone but a professional ballerina. The pirouetting, leaping off the toes and spinning with the precision of a top, those are all done by Lane. That’s hardly a secret, even while you’re watching the movie.
Portman is a superb actress but not a superb dancer. She didn’t win the Oscar for her expert spins she won for brilliantly conveying a ballerina spinning out of control. Her astounding trick was in showing us every aspect of her character Nina Sayers unraveling before our eyes. And the obvious body double work is also right there before our eyes as well. Sarah Lane thinks we’re too naive to notice. She’s the one who’s naive.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

REMEMBERING ELIZABETH TAYLOR AND MY BROTHER WHO LOVED HER

Elizabeth Taylor was one of my twin brother Greg’s favorite actresses. If he were still alive today he’d be in mourning. Her death today at age 79 is a colossal loss to the movies and to the world, and he would have made sure people knew just how deep an impact she had. But before he left this world he taught me many things, including a deep appreciation for the singular “Liz.”

My brother didn’t come out until college but his passions were apparent in high school as he developed consuming interests in showtunes, fashion, and people like Barbra Streisand, Judy Garland and yes, Elizabeth Taylor. He loved the women who were bigger than life, divas before that word was bantered about so cheaply, and those in particular who had overcome insurmountable odds and triumphed.

As his straight brother more interested in the Farrah Fawcett’s of the world, I benefited from his interest in such people I might have otherwise ignored. Greg forced me to watch WHO’S AFRAID OF VIRGINIA WOOLF on TV with him one Sunday afternoon. “Isn’t Liz Taylor supposed to be a glamorous movie star?” I asked cynically, after noting her haggard appearance as Martha in the film. “She is glamorous! It’s called acting.” he retorted. And boy, what acting it was. She was absolutely riveting as she spit out Edward Albee’s pungent prose, prowling the screen like a wounded tiger. It was a seminal achievement in her career and it won her a second Oscar. And left me forever a fan.

I became more and more interested in Taylor, much to Greg’s delight. (And to my mother, who was also a fan.) Together we all watched CLEOPATRA the next time it was on TV, and while it wasn’t nearly the accomplishment that her Albee role was, she brought a superstar appeal to the queen of the Nile, which no one could deny. Soon afterwards Greg and I caught reruns on TV of NATIONAL VELVET, GIANT, CAT ON A HOT TIN ROOF and A PLACE IN THE SUN. My brother was endlessly pleased that I now saw what he saw in her - a classic movie star and wondrous actress worthy of all the fame and praise. I even confessed to him my lust for Liz in her iconic white one-piece from SUDDENLY LAST SUMMER. My brother threatened to tear down my Cheryl Tiegs poster and replace it with one of his Taylor pictures but he smartly kept it for himself.
Elizabeth Taylor in SUDDENLY LAST SUMMER
If Taylor was a giant on the big screen, she was also larger than life in her personal life as well. She went through men like most people go through socks; Taylor was way too formidable for most mortals. Those that could stand toe to toe with her, like Richard Burton, were doomed to a tempestuous affair that would make Rhett and Scarlett weep. And in additional to her scandalous love life, she was always making headlines with her constant struggles with weight and many illnesses. She used her lifetime of physical battles to understand and empathize with the gay community’s fight against AIDS. She became their de facto champion and courageously spoke out about it when many, including our president in the 1980’s, didn’t dare even mention the word. In the last decades of her life, Taylor became almost as famous for her philanthropy and charity as her Hollywood resume, an amazing accomplishment considering her place in the top pantheon of stars.

There were many times in her lifetime that people expected Elizabeth Taylor to die. But she hung in there. Even though she lived a lifetime full of suffering, enough for a number of lifetimes, Elizabeth Taylor was a survivor. Holding her head up, tall and proud, she reveled in her loves and passions. She was a brilliant example to the gay community, my brother, and the entire world, shining as brilliant as all the white diamonds she was so fond of. That she finally succumbed to heart failure today is almost fitting. Her heart was simply too big. It had to give out eventually.
The caricature I did of my brother Greg for his memorial service in 1995
My brother died of AIDS related pneumonia in July almost 16 years ago. We talked about her when I was with him on the last day of his life. Greg was grateful for all the work Elizabeth Taylor had done to bring attention to AIDS and to his embattled community. But mostly of course, he was simply a huge fan of hers, reveling in his love and passion for her. Just like me today. And I am better today for having had the privilege of time with the both of them. 

Thursday, March 17, 2011

THE MOVIE THAT CHANGED MY LIFE


Each of us has movies that changed our life. (And please tell me yours at the end of this post.) Some of the seminal movies in my life still have a hold on me, like THE SOUND OF MUSIC. I still get goosebumps every time that crane shot swoops in over Julie Andrews on that mountaintop in the film’s opening moments. Other movies that once had a similar impact on me don’t anymore. I saw GREASE in the theater four times as a teenager, but now I can’t watch the darn thing all the way through. But when I love a movie I really love a movie and will not hesitate to pay to see it over and over again. And in all of my movie-going years, there’s only one movie that has the distinction of being one I saw in the theaters six times. The year was 1979 and the movie was ALL THAT JAZZ.
 

In 1979 I was a freshman attending the Minneapolis College of Art & Design. I was a somewhat naïve and sheltered kid from Wisconsin who could draw and had lots of imagination, but I had yet to understand what being an artist was about. I would soon find out. And ALL THAT JAZZ would be as good as any class I was attending.

ALL THAT JAZZ is a movie directed by, written by, and about Bob Fosse. Fosse was a major force in entertainment and a consummate artist.  And boy was he prolific. He was a director of movies like CABARET and LENNY; he wrote, directed and choreographed Broadway shows like PIPPIN and CHICAGO; and he directed TV specials too like LIZA WITH A Z.  He won an Oscar, Emmy and Tony all in one calendar year. He defined the term “multitasker” before the word was even invented!

Needless to say, Fosse was driven. Thus, so is the character based on him in the movie.  Joe Gideon (a bravura turn by Roy Scheider) is a director of both film and stage, and in ALL THAT JAZZ, he’s working on a LENNY-like movie as well as a PIPPIN-like musical simultaneously. The stress is driving him a little nuts. But work is an addiction to him. So are uppers, downers, sex, booze, cheating and lying. It’s the portrait of an artist who’s as insecure as he is talented. The same drive that compels him to try to create extraordinary works is also killing him. When he has a heart attack halfway through the movie, the tragedy doesn’t curb his art, it escalates it. Every thought in his head becomes a phantasmagorical production number, a fever dream halfway between brilliance and a body bag.
Roy Scheider as Joe Gideon in ALL THAT JAZZ
For a small town boy like me, this portrayal of an artist and creativity blew me away. Was this the kind of angst and addiction I would have to experience to become an artist?  In my high school, art seemed easy. I was easily the best art student there and when I created it seemed more like playing than working. But then because of ALL THAT JAZZ, I started to see that the task of being truly artistic required a lot more thought, a lot more effort, and a lot more elbow grease. It wasn’t long before I, inspired by ALL THAT JAZZ, was burning the midnight oil in my own quest for artistic perfection. Luckily I didn’t fall into any drugs or womanizing, but I did consider growing a goatee until I realized I didn't have any facial hair to speak of.

And as a budding artist, and a movie fan, I was blown away by the absolute artistry in this film. I had never seen a movie so chock full of melodrama, energy, rapid-fire editing, sumptuous production design, bitchy dialogue, show tunes, rock music and all sorts of visual effects - this wasn't just a movie, it was one mindf**k, a sensational sensory experience. And it was funny and raunchy, I laughed throughout at the virtual cornucopia of copulation, drugs and Ethel Merman. I sure wasn’t in Wisconsin anymore. Or even Minneapolis. I was in the mind of Bob Fosse. 

I'll never forget his brilliantly staged and edited opening. It's a long scene where Gideon auditions hundreds of dancers for his Broadway show. It is simply one of the greatest edited pieces of film ever put together. Scored to the great song "On Broadway" by George Benson. I've uploaded it below for you to watch and be mesmerized by it as I was all six times I saw it in the theater in Minneapolis. Tell me it doesn't give you an awe-inspiring thrill of something new and over-the-top, the way Oz certainly must have seemed to the farm girl Dorothy Gale when she first walked through her black and white world into a more colorful and vivid existence. 

Bob Fosse/Joe Gideon was my introduction to the potential of art. Big, bold, eye-catching, life changing. It showed me what an artist could be. And what a movie could do. It made me aware of technique and discipline and the struggle to find meaning in what you're creating. Whether you’re a writer, painter, sculptor, filmmaker, dancer or singer, you will be able to relate. And even if you're not in a creative field, we are all artists, creators in one way or another. And we all know what it's like to feel insecure and wonder if we are having any affect whatsoever. I entered college a naïf and left ready for the good fight. I knew art would be a struggle. But it would also be beautiful. And ALL THAT JAZZ showed me the way. 
Director and choreographer Bob Fosse
That’s why it is the movie that changed my life. It made me realize that despite all the angst, a creative profession was well worth it. ALL THAT JAZZ is a movie about trying to make the most out of life. And sometimes out of art. Do yourself a favor, see it. It may not change your life like it did mine. But it's a helluva ride.

Friday, March 11, 2011

MY 10 FAVORITE POLITICAL MOVIES


Ah, politics. You know, what’s going on in Wisconsin isn’t about budget cutting. It’s about power. And the sniveling coward of a governor, Scott Walker, is a tool, in both senses of the word, of the craven politicos who want it. Why else would he suddenly change a week’s worth of willingness to compromise and suddenly send his minions into the capitol late at night to vote away union powers? Politics is never about mandates, ideology, or “the people”, it’s always about who has the power and thereby is in control of the narrative.

Hollywood understands that, and in its best politically themed movies, information is always the basis of power. Here then are my 10 favorite films ever made about politics. They are all about power and information. Who’s got it, who’s controlling it, and what those who have it are willing to do to keep it.

10.) IN THE LOOP (2009)
A Downing Street politico unwittingly suggests that war in the Middle East would be a good thing and suddenly his misstatement sends both the UK and the US careening towards invasion. As the inevitability of war escalates, hacks and flacks on both sides of the pond try desperately to control the information and stop it from triggering a real war. It’s a savage expose of how spin starts wars today, and more directly, of the Bush administration as it spun out of control. (Of particular note: Peter Capaldi’s hilarious performance as a foul-mouthed British policy wonk. Every obscenity-strewn line of his gets a laugh. Every c***sucking, motherf***ing last one of ‘em!)


9.) THE GHOST WRITER (2010)
Ewan McGregor is hired to ghost write the memoirs of Adam Lang, the former prime minister of Britain (Pierce Brosnan, doing a riff on Tony Blair). The previous ghostwriter washed up dead upon the shore near Lang’s residence, but McGregor proceeds earnestly nonetheless. It isn’t long before he discovers that Lang may be a front man for a global conspiracy. He methodically connects the dots and believes he will be able to get the information out to the public. But in the world of politics, let alone the movies of as fatalistic a director as Roman Polanski, naïf’s are doomed to be run down by those determined to keep their power.

8.) HIS GIRL FRIDAY (1940)
This is a riff on the classic play THE FRONT PAGE, albeit with a sex change. It’s still about corrupt politicians and the equally corrupt journalists covering them in 1920’s Chicago, but here the star newsman Hildy Johnson is a newswoman (played by Rosalind Russell.) Sexual politics gets added to the mix because her editor is also her ex (Cary Grant. Nice ex, huh?) The fun of this movie lies in its biting critique of the press, shown here to be as corrupt as any elected official. Even in Chicago. Now that’s saying something!

7.) JFK (1991)
District Attorney Jim Garrison (Kevin Costner) tries to solve “the crime of the century” – the murder of President John F. Kennedy. It’s a David vs. Goliath story, as he takes on the executive branch, the CIA and the military/industrial complex. And for his troubles, he receives death threats, has his reputation slurred by the left and the right, and is portrayed in the press as a crazy man. Gee, sounds like the exact same thing that happened to director Oliver Stone while making this movie! You may debate how accurate it is, but when Donald Sutherland’s mysterious CIA operative explains what it all means to Costner, and to us, you’ll either want to stand and applaud him for exposing the truth, or move to Canada. Or both. 


6.) DR. STRANGELOVE, OR HOW I LEARNED TO STOP WORRYING AND LOVE THE BOMB (1964)
An unhinged general named Jack D. Ripper takes it upon himself to start World War III by issuing the order for a nuclear attack on the Soviet Union. That’s the premise of Stanley Kubrick’s dark comedy that looks even darker and more cynical by today’s snarky standards. How did this movie ever get made? The film portrays the powers that be as absolutely impotent to stop the inevitability of the destruction of the planet. And at the end, while the world explodes with one mushroom cloud after another, the song “We’ll Meet Again” plays over the damage.  Do you laugh or do you cry?  Probably cry, as the movie’s intent to rid the world of such weapons sadly never happened.

5.) ELECTION (1999)
Hardball politics comes to your typical American high school as over-achiever Tracy Flick (Reese Witherspoon in the film role she should’ve won her Academy Award for) marches to an assured victory in the election for student body president.  That is, until teacher Jim McAllister (Matthew Broderick) gets involved, and is determined to stop her. He despises her not only because she’s shallow and mean, a chirping harpy full of herself, but also because she uses her feminine wiles to get what she wants. She had an affair with a teaching colleague of his and when the relationship became public, his buddy lost his job and his wife divorced him, while Tracy got off scot-free. So McAllister sets out to bring her down. Richard Nixon would be proud of the sleazeballs at play here, clamoring for power, stuffing ballot boxes and bribing the electorate with homemade cupcakes. 


4.) THREE DAYS OF THE CONDOR (1973)
A mild-mannered CIA employee, a nobody paid to read spy novels for ideas the agency can use, returns from a lunch run to find all of his co-workers dead, gunned down by nefarious forces. On the run, he’s both victim and suspect in the government’s eyes. Now even though Robert Redford plays him, this everyman has to use his brains to put the pieces of the puzzle together. And when he does, the games that Uncle Sam plays look pretty damn ugly. (Are you starting to see a pattern here? As Rod Serling used to always say, the enemy is us.) CONDOR is one of the 70’s best movies, and that’s saying a lot, considering the amount of brilliance put out by Hollywood in that decade.  

3.) THE MANCHURIAN CANDIDATE (1962)
War hero Raymond Shaw (Laurence Harvey) returns home from a Korean POW camp, only to have his platoon buddy Bennett Marco (Frank Sinatra) discover that he’s been brainwashed into an assassin programmed to take out a presidential candidate. And this was a year before the Kennedy assassination! It was rumored that after JFK’s death, producer Frank Sinatra pulled this movie from the public because life tragically imitated art in its way. That story’s false, but it may have helped cement this film’s legend. I think the film earns that merit on its own because at the end of the day, like the best political movies, the good guy (Sinatra) doesn’t save the day here. The bad guy does, albeit in a good way.


2.) THE CANDIDATE (1972)
Robert Redford again, and no surprise, he’s probably film’s most politically-minded filmmaker other than Oliver Stone. Here, he plays Bill McKay, an earnest political novice asked to run as the Democratic nominee against the powerful Republican incumbent Senator Crocker Jarmon. He can’t possibly win so he’s free to say whatever he wants to advance his ideas and causes. But the race wears him down and it isn’t long before he’s changing positions and betraying his beliefs left and right. At the end, when he pulls off a surprising victory, he no longer knows what he stands for and ashamedly asks his campaign manager, “What do we do now?”  This was considered a pungent commentary at the time. Today, it’s par for the course. When you have adulterers like Newt Gingrich and John Edwards espousing family values or John McCain changing his tune about being a maverick to appear more party-centric, you realize most politicians will say or do anything to get elected. Power is a drug. And you’ll sell your wife or wives or your reputation down the river to get it.

1.) ALL THE PRESIDENT’S MEN (1976)
Yet again, Mr. Redford. Riveting and suspenseful, this film tackles the complex tome by Washington Post reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein about their efforts to expose the Watergate conspiracy of President Richard Nixon. It’s a detective story where the private eyes are newspaper journalists piecing together the scene of the crime by an administration awash in dirty tricks and law breaking. You watch this movie and forget for a while that these guys actually prevailed. And that’s because we see them as fallible human beings, making mistake after mistake as they chase down bad leads and run into one dead end after another. The movie plays like a thriller, albeit one with words, not car chases and shoot-outs. The “action scenes” here are ones where they get a bookkeeper to spill what she overheard, or they catch the attorney general in a lie. Because of such cerebral attributes, I wonder whether a film like this could get made today. Probably not.

There’s a great shot in the movie that stunningly captures what these two reporters are up against. Woodward and Bernstein (played by Redford and Dustin Hoffman) sit at a desk sifting through hundreds and hundreds of cards from the Library of Congress’ card catalog. They’re looking for a shred of evidence, something that will get them back on the right track in their pursuit of the truth. The camera pulls back and back and back to reveal these men absolutely dwarfed by the room. They’re two little guys “fighting City Hall.” It’s a frightening image. And yet they won. And a corrupt president was forced to resign. It’s a rare instance where a political film ended with truth and justice prevailing.

There have been other wonderful movies of note like BEING THERE, A FACE IN THE CROWD, THE BEST MAN, THE AMERICAN PRESIDENT, DAVE, hell, DUCK SOUP, that's an inspired political film right there. And of course there will be other great political films coming down the pike. Perhaps some of the outrage in Wisconsin or the constant arguing in our national discourse will inspire a new slew of them and really stir the pot. The American film versions of the politically minded Stieg Larsson Millennium books certainly are something to look forward to. And HBO just announced that they’re making a TV-movie of the 2008 election bestseller Game Change. In fact, they’ve already announced that acclaimed actress Julianne Moore will be donning the rimless glasses and sneer/grin to play Sarah Palin. Now there’s a story about politics and power with a lead female who’s ridiculously shallow, a chirping harpy full of herself, and not above using her feminine wiles to get what she wants. (wink wink) Hey, wait a minute, I saw that movie already. It was the one with Reese Witherspoon!

Now I'd like to hear from you. Tell me your favorite political movie and why!

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

IS IT JUST ME? (PART 2)


These are the thoughts bouncing around in my head today...

Is it just me…
Or aren’t you relieved that CBS finally canned Charlie Sheen? Duh, losing, Chaz. Losing!

Is it just me…
Or have you too come to the conclusion that Jimmy Fallon should be next year’s Oscar host? After all, he aced his hosting chores at last year's Emmys. He's a reverent fan of the industry. And he nailed a Charlie Sheen bit on his show long before anyone else. That’s the kind of smart and timely comic a long Oscar show needs.

Is it just me…
But hasn't theater seating made it impossible to enjoy seeing movies in theaters that don't have it? 

Is it just me…
Or are there too many fairy tales being turned into teen movies? Coming soon: Snow White, The Wizard of Oz, and Little Red Riding Hood. (Bet they sold RED RIDING HOOD with the pitch, “It’s Team Jacob, only period!”)


And while we’re in that neighborhood…
Do we really need eight comic book hero movies this year? If you’ve seen the trailer for THE GREEN LANTERN, you know it’s not going to be a bumper crop.

Is it just me…
Or has DANCING WITH THE STARS forgotten to get stars for a season or two now?

And is it just me…
Or isn't the Nestle Toll House ice cream sandwich the best thing to happen to movie theater concessions...ever? (Dippin’ Dots?! What were we thinking?)

And is it just me…
Or isn’t Amy Adams one of our two or three best actresses working today? To run the spectrum from the spirited Giselle in ENCHANTED to the sheltered Sister James in DOUBT to the tough, sexually charged Charlene in THE FIGHTER takes a ton of talent. (She should have gotten Melissa Leo’s Oscar.)
And speaking of…
Hasn’t Melissa Leo worn out her welcome already? Her fawning, rambling Oscar speech should have been played off by the band. Instead of Aaron Sorkin’s eloquence.


Is it just me…
Or don’t you wish Jon Hamm would do a romantic comedy? He’s so funny and he’s, well, a man. Not a man-boy like typical leads McConaughey and Kutcher.


And speaking of mature performers…
Isn’t Marisa Tomei far more interesting in her 40’s than she ever was in her 20’s? (Bet George Costanza still pines...)


Is it just me…
Or don’t all the gossip mag’s out there look the same? Same stories? Same typefaces? Same cellulite bikini shots?

Is it just me…
But isn’t Kathy Griffin on the A-list now? And shouldn’t she get a movie?

Is it just me…
Or was the clever idea of THE ADJUSTMENT BUREAU kind of ruined by the time Matt Damon ran through that umpteenth door?

And is it just me…
But isn’t the best character actor working today Tom Wilkinson? He’s played dozens of great roles over the past decade and a half, and his 10 minutes as the cagey villain in THE GHOST WRITER is a master class in economical acting.


And isn’t the best character actress working today…
Helena Bonham Carter? Hard to believe the quietly elegant queen from THE KING’S SPEECH was played by the same woman who horrified us all with her psychotic rendering of Bellatrix Lestrange in the HARRY POTTER films.

Aren’t you glad…
That HBO does biopics?  Few do them. Not too many movie studios, that's for sure. And no one does quite them as well as HBO.

Is it just me...
or is George Clooney the coolest guy on the planet?

And is it just me...
Or is CEDAR RAPIDS the best of the movies to come out so far in 2011?

And is it just me…

Or wouldn't it be wise for the Academy to go back to just five best picture nominees? (If they can't make room for all of them in the show's filmed parodies, there are too many!)


 There. Those are my thoughts on Hollywood at the moment. What are you thinking?

Thursday, March 3, 2011

THE NO SHAME DECADE


When I was growing up, the 70’s were known as “The Me Decade.” It was a time when self-realization and/or self-involvement were the guiding principles. No longer were family or community in the forefront of our existence. Instead, this decade was about the individual. One singular sensation. Being all that you could be. Looking out for number one. I wish the nation had continued the practice of naming decades, but we’ve since stopped. Too bad. If we hadn’t, maybe we would have run in horror from some of the nicknames we were earning.

The 80’s surely earned the moniker “The Greed Decade” after extensive deregulation started, the tax rates lowered to under 40%, and Gordon Gekko proclaimed that all things were fair in the desire to be rich. The 90’s probably could have been called “The Not Me Decade” because nobody cared enough to take responsibility for their actions. Bill Clinton didn’t inhale. The Menendez Brothers had to shoot their dessert-eating parents because they were the ones about to be killed. And everyone else went on Oprah or Maury or Jerry to blame society or mom and dad for their ills. Another name for this time? “The Victim Decade.”

Now, it seems we’re in the middle of “The No Shame Decade” because the absolute lack of shame in our nation is astounding. Bankers get bailed out and dole out mammoth bonuses while the rest of nation still struggles against the recession. Networks enjoy calling the president a racist or accuse him of not being an American citizen and that passes for news. And drug-addled Charlie Sheen goes on talk show after talk show to call his sitcom crap and us cretins for watching it and making him a millionaire. Ah, that’s entertainment. 

Shamelessness wasn’t always the way in Hollywood. Less than 15 years ago, a remorseful Hugh Grant visited Jay Leno to grovel for forgiveness concerning his involvement with a prostitute. But since that rare show of contrition, celebrities have been running amok with bad behavior, not only wallowing in it, but inviting us to wade in as well. And we have, gladly. We’ve carved the golden calf and made a number of disgraceful people into huge stars that have absolutely no business in show business.

Only in our modern “No Shame” era could a Paris Hilton or Kim Kardashian become stars. And they did so, based on their exploited sex tapes. They became household names not by any discernible talent but rather from their scandals. And they've reaped millions from the notoriety. Recently in an interview with Piers Morgan, Kardashian was asked what exactly her talent was. She said, “Marketing.” We’ve often been sold things we don’t need. A pet rock. The Chia Pet. The Kardashian family reality TV program.


Then there are Lindsay Lohan and Charlie Sheen, talented actors who have squandered their gifts and replaced them with their notorious lifestyles. They’ve become the poster children for bad Hollywood behavior and they seem to love to cling to their ‘dangerous’ images. Why else would Lohan write “F**k U” on her fingernails before she goes in front of the judge? And why else would Sheen bite so viciously the CBS hands that feed him? They may even be brilliant in their rebellion as they’re getting more ink for these shenanigans than they ever did for their thespian accomplishments.

And even the legit news outlets can’t help themselves. They’re covering Sheen as much as the protests in Libya or Wisconsin. In fact, legitimate journalists at CNN and the morning shows are dancing as fast as they can to keep up with the tabloid press. (Perhaps this era should be called “The Tabloid Decade.”)

When will it end? When Sheen’s heart gives out from all the drug abuse and his obvious lack of sleep? He looks like he’s on death’s doorstep; so maybe the hope is to catch him expiring live on TV. Remember the day Heath Ledger died in 2008? It was the same day the Oscar nominations were announced and that big Hollywood news was quickly eclipsed by the story of the tragic loss of one of the town’s brightest young actors. However, it got endless coverage that day and for weeks after, not because he was a terrific actor, but rather because of the possibility that his death was a drug overdose or even a suicide. That tabloid thinking gave the story legs. Some even speculated that the “Method actor” may have become too ensconced in his role as the villainous Joker and he just couldn’t turn off the dark. More likely, the press itself was projecting. They’ve never been able to get back on track and know the difference between tabloid and real news since that slow speed Bronco chase in 1994 turned every news organization into The National Enquirer. 


Of course OJ Simpson was a big example of that “Not Me” style of thinking in the 90’s. He never took responsibility for killing his ex-wife and her friend Ron Goldman. And when he walked away a free man, he laughed in our faces, looking for the ‘real killers’ on one Florida golf course after another. How far we’ve come from that terrible time in 1921 when Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle, the silent movie era’s most popular star at the time, was tried for manslaughter in three different kangaroo courts over the accidental death of a Hollywood starlet.  Justice was served and he was acquitted but the damage was done. He was never able to work under the Arbuckle name in Hollywood again. Not for nothing was that decade dubbed “The Roaring Twenties.” It started with a terrible noisy ruckus and the nation’s lust for scandal has screamed strong ever since.


Today, Arbuckle’s career would probably have been salvageable.  If he gave some exclusive interviews and cried on cue he’d get the sympathy of the nation and the press back in no time. He might even get a Coca-Cola endorsement. Who knows, maybe he’d revel in the unanswered questions surrounding the actress’ death and play his notoriety to the hilt. Just like Lohan and Sheen. No matter how he played it, he'd quickly find that there is no need for any shame in this decade. If there’s any at all, it’s only in possibly missing a golden opportunity to exploit your circumstances and get on the cover of People magazine and tell your side of the story.