No One Cares About Blade Runner 2049

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Someone failed to notice that no one really wanted this sequel and that only a handful of old dudes does not a film audience make:

The hero of Blade Runner, Ridley Scott’s 1982 dystopian masterpiece, isn’t Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford), the cop who finds and kills “replicants” (bioengineered androids) for the LAPD in a grim, rain-drenched futurescape. It’s his primary target, Roy Batty (Rutger Hauer), an escaped combat unit seeking a cure to the four-year lifespan built into his system. Roy is super-strong and terrifying, to be sure, and unafraid to commit murder, but Scott shoots the tow-headed Hauer like an angel, especially in his unforgettable death scene, as he saves Deckard’s life and crouches over him, imparting his strange, alien memories to his would-be assassin before expiring.

In the world of Blade Runner, replicants are an underclass used as slave labor. Deckard’s arc in the film is one of empathy—he’s a bounty hunter who begins to understand the humanity of his quarry, both in his fearsome respect for Roy and his love for Rachael (Sean Young), another replicant who’s unaware of her true nature. The debate about whether Deckard is a replicant himself is the mysterious undercurrent to Scott’s movie, but not its beating heart. Roy’s final monologue is so magical because it’s the moment where Deckard, and viewers, finally realize the enemy is not the unstoppable monster he appeared to be.

All that money, and they made a film no one cares about because the sequel comes well after when there would have been a viable commercials audience for a film that pretty much only some old white guys give a shit about. Can't wait for the sequel to Running Scared to hit theaters.

That Batman Movie Was a Piece of Shit

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I think I remember this film. Man, was it a piece of steaming shit:

Two-Face and Riddler looked like they had a blast together during Batman Forever, but off-camera, Tommy Lee Jones and Jim Carrey's relationship was anything but amiable. Carrey hasn't been shy in the past about talking about how Jones hated working with him, but now the comedy star has gone into more detail on the encounter where Jones' unpleasantness was on full display. One day during Batman Forever's production, Carrey found out that Jones was eating at the same restaurant as him. He went to greet his co-star, which caused the blood in Jones' face to drain. Carrey continued:

And he got up shaking --- he must have been in mid-'kill me' fantasy or something like that. And he went to hug me and he said, 'I hate you. I really don't like you.' And I said, 'What's the problem?' and pulled up a chair, which probably wasn't smart. And he said, 'I cannot sanction your buffoonery.'

Tommy Lee Jones bluntly summarizing his hatred for Jim Carrey in such an archaic fashion is weird enough, but what's even stranger is that Jones expressed disapproval of Carrey's antics before they were going to shoot the biggest scene they had together in Batman Forever. After Carrey recalled this encounter during his recent appearance on Norm MacDonald Live, the show's eponymous host posited that Jones might have jealous that Carrey was the center of attention on set. After all, Batman Forever was in principal photography months after Carrey became a comedy movie star thanks to Ace Ventura: Pet Detective and The Mask.

No idea why anyone cares, but there you go.

Dick Gregory 1932-2017

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Dick Gregory was one of the greatest civil rights advocates in American history, full stop. His legacy is that of activist and entertainer, but his impact was felt everywhere in popular culture. If you are sad about Bill Cosby, then be grateful for Dick Gregory, who did more than virtually every entertainer of his era to advocate for Civil Rights.

Comedian and civil rights activist Dick Gregory, who broke barriers in the 1960s and became one of the first African-Americans to perform at white clubs, died Saturday.

He was 84. 

Gregory recently rescheduled an event in Atlanta because he was hospitalized. He died in Washington, his son posted on social media without giving details. 

    "The family appreciates the outpouring of support and love, and respectfully asks for their privacy as they grieve during this very difficult time," Christian Gregory said. "More details will be released over the next few days."

    Gregory satirized segregation and racial injustice in his acts, and was arrested several times in the 1960s for joining civil rights rallies.

    Gregory died a day before Jerry Lewis, and their coincidental demise is a reminder that most celebrities stay the hell away from controversy and charity.  Gregory didn't shy away from the violence of the 1960s--he was a victim of it, numerous times. Never once did he bow out and take the easy route to fame and fortune. He lived his entire life trying to make this country a better place. Lewis spent many, many years raising money for Muscular Dystrophy victims and trying to make this country better.

    We will not see their like ever again.

    Jerry Lewis 1926-2017

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    Jerry Lewis was one of the most famous men of the 20th Century, and history has never been kind to his legacy as an entertainer or public figure:

    Love or hate Jerry Lewis, you knew he was in the room.

    Lewis, who died Sunday at age of 91, turned himself into an American entertainment institution, first as a maniacal slapstick comedian and then as the 45-year host of tear-jerking annual TV telethons that raised a staggering $2.6 billion for muscular dystrophy research.

    His death was confirmed in a statement tweeted by a reporter for the Las Vegas Review Journal.

    "Legendary entertainer Jerry Lewis passed away peacefully today of natural causes at 91 at his home w/ family by his side,” the statement read.

    Inside the comedy world, Lewis was revered as a genius. The 2011 Lewis documentary "Method to the Madness" featured comedians from Billy Crystal to Eddie Murphy to Chevy Chase praising his singular style of comic lunacy and pathos.

    "I get paid," Lewis once said, "for what most kids get punished for."

    Is there anyone who raised more money for charity? Is there anyone who was up and down so many times? 

    The York Gospels

    This is beyond neat:

    The York Gospels were assembled more than a thousand years ago. Bound in leather, illustrated, and illuminated, the book contains the four gospels of the Bible as well as land records and oaths taken by clergymen who read, rubbed, and kissed its pages over centuries. The Archbishops of York still swear their oaths on this book.

    The York Gospels are also, quite literally, a bunch of old cow and sheep skins. Skin has DNA, and DNA has its own story to tell.

    A group of archaeologists and geneticists in the United Kingdom have now analyzed the remarkably rich DNA reservoir of the York Gospels. They found DNA from humans who swore oaths on its pages and from bacteria likely originating on the hands and mouths of those humans. Best of all though, they found 1,000-year-old DNA from the cows and sheep whose skin became the parchment on which the book is written.

    Remarkably, the authors say they extracted all this DNA without destroying even a tiny piece of parchment. All they needed were the crumbs from rubbing the book with erasers, which conservationists routinely use to clean manuscripts. The authors report their findings in a preprint that has not yet been peer-reviewed, though they plan to submit it to a scientific journal.

    Psychedelic Bull

    It's difficult to find psychedelic art in mainstream America. This is a highly stylized bull painted with pastoral colors and the odd bit of pastel thrown in to make everything decidedly overdone. And I have to identify it as a bull because this is found at Turkey Hill Farm. Now, shouldn't this be a cow? That's what I was thinking.

    Settled

    Well, this is a relief:

    Warner Bros. and the estate of author J.R.R. Tolkien announced Monday that they amicably resolved an $80 million lawsuit over the alleged digital exploitation of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. The Tolkien estate and book publisher HarperCollins filed the lawsuit against Warner Bros. in 2012 alleging that the company had breached contract by marketing online games, slot machines, and other gambling-related merchandise based on Tolkien's books. The estate claimed the 1969 rights agreement entitled the studio to create only “tangible” merchandise associated with the books.

    I was worried that the Tolkien estate was going broke. Hopefully, they ended up with somewhere close to half of the $80 million they were suing for. If you're like me, and I know I am, then you prefer your Tolkien on the printed page and not on the silver screen or some Blu-Ray player.  I mean, the movies were good, and they really exceeded expectations, but aren't you wondering when they'll just reboot the whole thing and cash in again?

    Daniel Day-Lewis is the Greatest Actor of All Time

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    Daniel Day-Lewis has earned a chance to retire and do other things:

    Daniel Day-Lewis’s upcoming collaborationwith his There Will Be Blood director Paul Thomas Anderson will be his final role. The actor is retiring, according to Variety. “Daniel Day-Lewis will no longer be working as an actor,” Day-Lewis’s spokeswoman, Leslee Dart, told Variety. “He is immensely grateful to all of his collaborators and audiences over the many years. This is a private decision and neither he nor his representatives will make any further comment on this subject.” Day-Lewis has won three Academy Awards for Best Actor: for playing Abraham Lincoln in Lincoln, for playing the depraved, wolfish oilman Daniel Plainview in There Will Be Blood, and for playing the Irish writer Christy Brown in My Left Foot. His filmography is peppered with other notable collaborations: He’s worked with Martin Scorsese in The Age of Innocence and Gangs of New York, and sang and danced in Rob Marshall’s Nine.

    Day-Lewis is currently at work on a period drama set in 1950s London. The Paul Thomas Anderson movie is being filmed under the working title Phantom Thread, and focuses on a highly sought-after dressmaker. (Vulture guesses the movie is about Charles James.) What’s next for Day-Lewis? Maybe he’ll start sculpting with Brad Pitt, or hanging out with Charlie Hunnam, who told us he’s a huge fan. In the words of his Bloodcharacter Daniel Plainview, “I’m finished.”

    I don't think this is marketing hype for a new movie; I think this is the last thing he's interested in doing. Why can't people who are really good at something retire? I was sad when Gene Hackman quit acting, too, but that's just the way it is. To go out on top is rare, but to retire when you're the greatest living actor and probably the best actor of all time, well--who are we to judge?

    A Cicada Emerges From its Exoskeleton

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    I'm not sure why I even took this shot, other than it was a great way to gross everyone out. This is the edited version. The actual version has a different orientation. The background is actually the ground and this cicada was attached to the wall.

    This is looking down from the top of the wall where the cicada had attached its exoskeleton.

    Liberals Haven't Lost Their Virtues

    I'm not going to be lectured to by some Republican Senator about virtue. I voted against Donald Trump. I pay taxes, I raise my kids like I am supposed to, and I believe that the best gauge of society's morality is how we treat those with the very least. I don't believe in waving religion in anyone's face. And I damned sure don't go around hating people who are different from me.

    So, on behalf of liberals everywhere, fuck this noise:

    In just two short years, Senator Ben Sasse has gone from Capitol Hill newbie to digital president puncher, tweeting about Donald Trump’s affairs and the Midwestern dumpster fires he found more appealing than 2016’s Oval Office contenders.

    Yet, on his breaks from Twitter, Sasse managed to craft a serious new book, The Vanishing American Adult. It advances a thesis that’s at once out of place at this political moment and almost too on-the-nose for the Trump years: He believes Americans have lost their sense of personal integrity and discipline. For the country to deal with the troubles ahead—including automation, political disengagement, and the rise of nativist, huckster politicians, he says—people must recover their sense of virtue. The republic depends on it.

    Earnest talk of virtue is uncommon in American politics. Forget the low lows of 2016, a year defined by political cynicism and brutish behavior, or even these first months of 2017, which have been swallowed by dramatic revelations and relentless Washington in-fighting. At this point, the idea of a shared culture is almost unimaginable: America has been carved up into mutually exclusive spheres bounded by religion, race, income, and city-limit signs. Sasse is taking on a problem more challenging than getting legislation through Congress, courting disgruntled voters, or even figuring out what to do about America’s haphazard president. He’s trying to articulate a language of shared culture and values in a country that has been rocked by technological, cultural, and demographic change. It may be an imperfect attempt. But at least Sasse has identified the right project.

    The Vanishing American Adult is written as a reflection on the purpose and nature of education, which, Sasses argues, should extend beyond schooling and classrooms. “Everywhere I go across the country, I hear from people who share an ominous sense that something is very wrong with our kids,” he writes. “We’ve lost something from our older ways of coming of age.” Instead of relying on “institutionalized school-centric childhood[s],” Sasse says, families should develop practices that will prepare their kids to become “fully formed, vivacious, appealing, resilient, self-reliant, problem-solving souls who see themselves … called to love and serve their neighbors.” This is the future he wants for his kids.

    Tell you what, Ben. Quit voting to help Trump, Paul Ryan, and Mitch McConnell destroy America and get back to me on this whole virtue thing. 

    Senator Ben Sasse is here to lecture everyone about how they've lost their virtues and how they aren't adults anymore while he votes, again and again, to take health care away from the American people.

    Really, fuck these people and their concerns for our morality.

    Sir Roger Moore 1927-2017

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    Sir Roger Moore was the James Bond that I grew up with; his take on the character was oft-derided but it was perfect for the times.

    To say that Bond should have been cunning, ruthless, and humorless in the 1970s was to ignore the overwhelming importance of male bravado and self-awareness of the times. This was the decade that made stars out of complex characters (DeNiro, Pacino, Hoffman) and less than complex fellows (Eastwood, Reynolds, Bronson). You could not have made Bond like any similar character from American cinema, nor could he have had the detached, monosyllabic approach of international films. Bond had to be a global star, able to bridge all of the different genres of film. He had to be able to do dry humor, heart-stopping action, clever romance, and political intrigue. He had to be able to save people, kill people, and mock people, often in the course of a single action sequence. 

    That meant finding a British actor with serious theater chops, which is what people still do when they need someone who can truly inhabit a character. Michael Fassbender is the Roger Moore of our time, but, really, he's just another version of Moore churned out by the wonderful schools that teach acting in Britain. You can definitely see Fassbender becoming one of the greats and surpassing quite a few great actors, but he's following the template that Moore helped create.

    In his day, no one was better than Roger Moore at being everyman and superman at the same time. He had to portray a character that was marketed and sold to the vast world audience of the time. He had to be the actor who could open a film in London, Rome, Los Angeles and Tokyo and few people have ever been able to do that. The universality of his portrayal does not dim with age. You can laugh at how camp it was, but the whole goddamned 1970s was a campy affair on purpose. At no point were you ever not able to believe he could do what he did. That was what made him great.

    The Bond that Roger Moore gave us was sharp, sly, quick and capable. He was very much of his time, and we do his performance a disservice by thinking he had to act like the action figures of the last thirty years or so.

    Mugged!

    If there's one thing that Joel Hodgson and his friends at Mystery Science Theater 3000 absolutely, positively did that was smart when they brought back the show, it was this: their timing could not have been better.

    In these dark times (spoiler! stay away from parts of this blog if politics causes you to break out in hives or panic attacks), nothing could be more welcome than a show about some wiseguys making cracks about movies. No one could have predicted that everything would turn to crap at precisely the moment when people needed to laugh, but, then again--when is there a time when people don't need a good show?

    Don't believe the haters--it's a great show. When they make another season, it'll get even better.

    I'll tell you something for nothing, though--the MST3K swag gets better and better. That's my mug up there--no handle, rough surfaces, raised letters--it's as if they knew what I like (ew!). What a mug! Couldn't be happier, couldn't be more pleased to know that at least one thing is right in the world.

    Tombstone

    Anybody who writes an entire article about Kurt Russell's movie career and forgets to mention Tombstone probably did so entirely by accident.

    Kurt Russell is such a good actor, it is possible to write about the films he has made and the quality of his work and forget what is probably his greatest role. Tombstone gets a mulligan for the mangled history but five stars for being completely and utterly entertaining. 

    Oh, my bad. I meant to say Tequila Sunrise. 

    Tequila Sunrise was Russell's greatest role. Who plays the guy who doesn't get the girl by choice? That was his best performance and then, the classic Tombstone. How you could write about this guy and not mention any of those movies is beyond my comprehension.

    Yeah, I'll go see him in Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 2. Hell, the whole movie should just be about him.

    Barbed Wire Kisses: The Jesus and Mary Chain

    The Jesus and Mary Chain are a band that defies every label that you can throw at them. They have built a career out of being difficult on purpose, no matter what the cost. 

    If they became disciples of feedback in the eyes of the media, they would abandon feedback and hire a drum machine. If they became a little too dance oriented, then they'd swallow their pride and hire a real drummer. If the songs became too poppy, they'd throw violent imagery into the lyrics and abandon all pretense of being commercial. And just when their music label would reject an album, they would sign with the original label that discovered them and forge ahead.

    No one ever did more to sabotage their career than the Jesus and Mary Chain. They would turn up drunk, alienate the promotional apparatus of the entire British music industry, and play 15 minutes before walking off of the stage. Whenever they needed to speak to someone influential or important, they would take the piss and say the wrong things. They soared high with Creation's Alan McGee and dumped him as soon as they saw the bags of cash that a major label were willing to throw at them. When years of debauchery and infighting left them "stoned and dethroned," no one wanted to put out their album Munki. But it was McGee who welcomed them back into the fold and saved them from embarrassment. Loyalty is hardly the watchword for a band that dispensed with members as often as the Mary Chain. It has always been a William and Jim Reid situation; they even sacked their faithful drum machine. The book should have spelled out what happened to the device that featured so prominently in their early years. Were it not for the fickle, drum machine-averse American audiences, that thing would probably still be on tour with the bad this very summer.

    Reading this book made me angry that I can't go see them. All they had to do was find a way to make it to Texas, and I would be there. Hey, maybe next time.

    Everything is chronological, and that makes sense in that the story of the Mary Chain is one of rolling through the thick fog of pop music history. This is primarily how the book flows. The band would do something massive, and then fuck it all up. They would write a beautiful song and mangle how it would be presented to the public. At exactly the point where appearing on Top of the Pops or the BBC would have thrown them into the realm of superstar acts, they got themselves banned. When they needed to play a great show in front of a large crowd, they would walk off after abusing them with curses and feedback. It is exhausting to read, but essential for understanding how they created artistic success without ever selling out. That's the explosive, vital lesson of the Mary Chain--you can make it in spite of yourself, and you can do great things without having to compromise your integrity. Rock and Roll is not about playing a perfect set for 90 minutes to an adoring crowd that gets every hit they want to hear. It's about danger, mistakes, and passionately fucking everything up in front of people who get everything they weren't expecting.

    Several celebrities have cameos in the book, but none more hilarious than a hapless Paul Weller, who crossed paths with the band and gave them passive aggressive advice and things to laugh at. None of this degrades the legend of the Modfather in any way, shape or form.

    I have a very personal connection to how they subverted everything in the 1980s, but I would not consider myself an obsession fan. I discovered them on MTV like everyone else because the American Midwest was never friendly for Indie bands from England. The very first thing I ever read about them was a baffled album review in People Magazine from 1985. What the hell was Psychocandy? Who the hell were these guys? Good God, no one knew, but they were slightly blasphemous and they had the right hair so they had to be good, right? It was the innovation, dummy. They were influencers without figuring anything out. They were shy but abusive, reclusive but on tour constantly.

    Nobody ever took a bigger right turn from a debut album to a second album than the Mary Chain. Go back and listen to "April Skies" and then listen to anything from Psychocandy. Who reinvents themselves like that? Who says, "Alright, that's enough of what just made us huge. Here's something completely different." No two albums sound alike and nothing could illustrate their artistic merit better than the diversity of their sound and the reach of their efforts to eliminate everything boring from music. Where do you slot them? Which genre describes them? Who gets to claim them--noise merchants, shoegazers, 90s alt-legends, or aging hipsters? They have credibility everywhere and belong to no one. They are the closest thing there is to a separate version of Echo & the Bunnymen; when all other comparisons fail, just put them in the bucket with "English and accomplished" and leave it at that. The parallels are stark, but the Mary Chain never made an Electrafixion record and they never made a stinker like What Are You Going to Do With Your Life.

    The reason why this book works as a career narrative is because it doesn't shy away from explaining just exactly what they did right and wrong in equal measures. It focuses on the songs, the albums, and the tours and it breaks down the way they dissolved into dysfunction and thrown punches. It takes you through the embarrassing, cliched use of alcohol and drugs without looking for pathos. There's even a disastrous detour through the Far East, replete with cancelled gigs and confused fans. The band went from broke to rich to broke to whatever they are now without abandoning whatever it is that passes for artistic credibility. There isn't even a butter ad in their immediate past, but how could you sell butter with one of their songs? You might be able to sell your soul to the devil for an album like Automatic, but why would you want to? The Reid brothers were there first, and they suffered on the cross for everything they did. They have lived and died for your rock and roll sins. Isn't that enough?

    Grapes on the Way

    It's really hard to figure out what's "normal" for my grapevine because this is the first year I have witnessed things underway in the Spring. Does this mean the grapes are going to be green? Does this mean they're healthy? I don't know.

    I do know this--it's fun to watch things happen. It's fun not knowing. I suppose it will be a let down come harvest time, but oh well.

    Carrie Fisher Was a Hell of a Writer

    Carrie Fisher was never given enough acclaim for her talents and abilities while she was alive:

    Star Wars: The Last Jedi director Rian Johnson has revealed that Carrie Fisher helped write the script for the forthcoming movie.

    The late actress penned in the past both the book and the screenplay adaptation for Postcards From The Edge, along with episodes of Roseanne, The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles, a number of TV specials and special material for the Academy Awards in 1997, 2002 and 2007, along with the 2010 TV documentary Wishful Drinking, during her career.

    Johnson recently revealed at a Star Wars fan convention in Orlando that she also had a hand in writing the script for the latest movie.

    “I’d go to her house and we’d sit on her bed for hours, going through the script,” he revealed.

    “(We) would just have these kind of stream-of-consciousness, Jazz poetry, ad-lib sessions, and I would just scribble down everything she said on my script. And then at the end of six hours, there would be this four word line of dialogue that would be the distillation of all that, that was brilliant.”

    She understood the human condition and had a hilarious point of view. She was a great, great writer and a performer who could hold her own with everyone on a stage, including her own mother. The fact that Harrison Ford, who routinely blew people off the screen (and will be considered the greatest actor to never win an Academy Award unless they get him one, soon), never so much as put a dent in her on screen is hardly recognized, either.

    Richard Gere Has Paid a Price For His Support of Tibet

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    China's influence in the film industry means that actor Richard Here has to appear in independently financed films that are not being marketed to the Chinese:

    When Richard Gere walked the red carpet at the Academy Awards in 1993, there was no way he could have known that the night would have repercussions for his career more than 20 years later. Invited to present the award for best art direction, he skipped the scripted patter to protest China's occupation of Tibet and its "horrendous, horrendous human rights situation." The late Gil Cates, the show's producer, was furious, calling the political speeches at that year's awards show —Susan Sarandon and Tim Robbins also went off script to speak on behalf of Haitian refugees — "distasteful and dishonest" and vowing to ban all three from future Oscars broadcasts.

    Gere hasn't done a major studio film in ten years. This is primarily because, whenever he ends up near a project that can be influenced by businesses trying to work out deals in China, pressure is exerted to have him removed.

    Lana Del Rey Stands Next to a Vehicle Again

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    There's a theme that runs through Lana Del Rey's album covers, and it involves cars, trucks, or some sort of a vehicle. There's a vulnerability here that probably appeals to her audience. I can only imagine the grief she would have gotten twenty or thirty years ago from record company executives. I can't imagine anyone allowing her to do anything like these covers, but, then again, maybe they would have. Who knows?

    If you think about how female artists are marketed through the artwork that accompanies their album releases, Lana Del Rey's covers have been pretty groundbreaking. There are no "full body" shots and nothing suggestive. They just shoot her from the top half and they don't overly stage or airbrush anything. These are just simple shots, and they're very effective in terms of using the art to suggest what's inside of the album.