This is gonna be, a particularly rough and difficult time for me to be continuing to write this blog. For one, I don't know how the hell I'm even gonna do it; while movie reviews and Canon of Film posts will be fine, there's no entertainment news anymore! There's no anything anymore. ESPN was airing a 23-year-old replay of the Scripps National Spelling Bee the other day. I'm waiting for them to get to start replaying America's Cup races like they used to, or AWA wrestling. Oh, speaking of wrestling, WWE Network gave us access to their old PPVs for a couple weeks, I took advantage of that, and it greatly helped with my insomnia. Everything's at a halt, and who the hell knows when it'll come back. I'm just not to starve to be honest, and I'm one of the lucky ones.
However, I gotta write something eventually, so, (deep breath) every-so-often when there isn't anything going on of interest in the entertainment world for me to devote an entire blogpost to, I do a little Mixed Bag Blog, where I discuss briefly a few stories or goings-on in the entertainment world that have caught my attention, but I for one reason or another don't think they're worth devoting an entire post too. (Huh, I just realized, I should've been calling these blogs Grab Bag Blogs this whole time. Cause, that's what I'm actually describing, a Grab Bag or random potpourri. Mixed Bag, sounds like I'm giving you guys a bag of salad from the store and picking out the best parts.) Anyway, this time around, we're gonna talk a bit about how the Coronavirus Pandemic is probably gonna change and alter the rules for several of the main award shows, we're gonna briefly talk about the "America's Got Talent" controversies that got Gabrielle Union fired and the claims of racism and sexism going at NBC, and I'm doing a random album review where I grab an album from my shelf that I've never listened to and writie a review of it, in this case it's Counting Crows' debut album, "August and Everything After". I hope you guys enjoy.
CORONAVIRUS AWARD RULES CHANGES, WHAT THEY REALLY MEAN?
Buried deep inside the entertainment headlines, between all the death and frustration and political BS coming from the White House that's polluting and handcuffing our world right now, there's been a few scattered notices about award shows have been cancelled, postponed, or more importantly, beginning to, or at least considering changes and alterations to some of their award rules and qualifications. Most notably, with movie theaters closing or screening at a reduced capacity screenings, we're quietly revisiting the theatrical release standards for most movie awards. I don't know what changes exactly will happen, but it seems like coronavirus has sped up the inevitable elimination of the theatrical release standard for most award shows.
Personally, I'm not entirely in favor of this, as the debate has been something that I've analyzed and discussed for years now, but the writing was on the wall though. Netflix and Amazon competing for the Oscars and winning, the lines being blurred between TV and film; even with the Spielbergs, Scorsese, Sam Mendes, and other great filmmaker who do have a point and insistence about how some films really should be, and are intended to be seen on the biggest of big screen possible, and with a collective audience, frankly, we were towards this way anyway. It was gonna be a few years down the line, maybe it still will be if some of the award shows like the Oscars turn out to keep with the holdout on tradition, but the fact that were in a situation where we can't go a theater if we wanted to and everybody binging on TV and streaming, we were heading this way anyway. This just speeds it up.
Honestly, I've always been conflicted on this. To me, the medium is the distinction, and how we approach the medium matters too. However I watch something, I always judge the film on the medium it's submitted in. If it's a movie, I imagine and consider how I'd appreciate the film is I was watching it in a movie theater, whether I was or not. That means, it's me and the movie, and the experience. And for something that's on TV, I consider it as a TV show, and something I can change to something different and better on at any point, including reruns of better TV shows, which I how I usually compare TV shows to other TV shows. I get upset by some with this, but I stand by this. Why would I watch something that may or may not be good if I can turn to something I know already is? I can't do that in a theater, or at least, the movie has to be particularly, unusually bad for me to do that, to just stand up and walk out and maybe go to see something somewhere else. That's a lot of effort, and I certainly don't like the idea of taking my $12 and just conceding that it was a waste. I have no idea whether that means I hold TV or movies to a higher or lower standard doing this, it's how I consider the mediums, and I think it's the best way to consider the mediums, and I will always stand by that to a certain degree.
That said, it's an old standard, especially for theatrical feature films, and it's flaws are being really revealed these days. Back when cinema began, it was the only way to see movies, that's not the case anymore. Theaters will still survive in some form, but what used to be a common, affordable, viewing experience for the masses to share with each other, has been replaced by a more common, more affordable, more singular viewing experiences for the masses to appreciate in the privacy and intimacy of their home, and that experience has mostly gotten mostly cheaper over time and much more intimate and private. We can all speculate on what that may symbolic entail about society, technology, economics, the industry as a whole, but personally I think the time for that is, later.
Right now, the most important function for movies and television is to entertain. To distract us, to rejuvenate us, to get us through the tough times, and make life slightly more enjoyable for a little bit longer. To get away from all our worries, and for a little while, escape from the horrors of the rest of the world. How we intend for that to be presented, certainly becomes secondary to the most important part that, it just needs to be presented and shown to the world, to an audience who needs and craves entertainment and distractions, that's always been more important.
Like I said, I can imagine, I'm in a movie theater. I can imagine I'm watching a movie, without a movie. (Well, I can, I'm usually writing a screenplay or two when I'm not doing, but that can be hard, and I don't expect everybody to be doing that...; you get the idea.) So yeah, if that thin wall between film and TV or streaming or whatever is torn down completely now since this, then, well, time to fully embrace it, and I say "Here, here!" to that. I'm tiring of arguing what kind of art something is anyway, it's more fun to argue whether the art is good or not anyway.
GABRIELLE UNION'S FIRING FROM "AGT", AND NBC's TOXIC CULTURE?!
I always do three for these things, and I really was hoping something else would come up that I would've wanted to write on. Unfortunately, nothing is literally happening, so I literally had to go a deep backup subject I've had written down for ideas to write about, and frankly I don't even want to write about this, because it happened months ago and it's mostly covered, but also, it's just a depressing subject. Of course I'm talking about the continued existence of "America's Got Talent".
Also, in terms of depressing subjects, possible unlawful firings, racism, sexism, and stupid Jay Leno jokes. If you need a refresher, here's a decent link of what happened.
I can't believe we're still talking about Jay Leno and the inner workings of NBC in whatever-the-hell-year-it-is-now, but, apparently Gabrielle Union was a judge on the last season of "America's Got Talent". Leno was a guest judge, which, fine...-. Anyway, he tells a dumb joke, but more importantly a slightly racist joke..., more like slightly hacky joke to be honest. I mean, who still tells Korean dog-eating jokes? Like, I know that is a thing, but it's not-, it's such a cheap, cliched joke...- like I've seen Joan Rivers play with that stereotype and tell it well in the right situation, like over a decade ago, but now...? Anyway, stupid joke, and a few staffers got upset, and I understand why.
Gabrielle Union decided to go to HR over the joke, and called out the joke, as well as the toxic culture and whatnot of NBC that allowed for that joke, which, yeah, she was working with Simon Cowell, I'm sure it was a toxic environment. Anyway, she didn't actually get to HR, but she brought it up, the joke was cut, and soonafter, she was fired. I'm not gonna speculate on everything in-between that went on or what people thought or whatever, as far as I can tell, it does Union got fired for speaking up about something that NBC probably should take a closer look at. There's been debate and discussion ever since. Julianne Hough for instance, also got fired in the middle of this, both of whom apparently got several notes on their appearance, which, I-eh, I don't know what notes they could possibly have on that but okay....- Terry Crews, was criticized a bit for not backing up Union's claims...? Former host Nick Cannon has talked somewhat about some of the treatment that he got working on the show....
Personally, I don't know why this show is still on the air? And I say that as a Las Vegan, the one entertainment mecca that's actually benefitted the most from this series. Several of the biggest names performing on the Las Vegas, once the Strip finally opens back up again, came from this series, but I haven't been able to sit through this thing in years. I wouldn't have even known or cared who was judging or hosting on it to be honest unless this story came out, it's like "The View" at this point, it's like, I don't know exactly who's hosting anymore on it, but I know I'm not watching it, period. It's a relic of Simon Cowell/Simon Fuller-era overly-manipulated editing, talent exploitation bullshit that's poison British airways and American airwaves for way too long now, and honestly, no wonder I'm preferring "The Masked Singer" and other pseudo-parodies of this shit then the actual series. Cowell & Fuller and let's throw Mark Burnett in here just for the hell of it, have spents decades now trying to convince us they're the new-age Arthur Godfrey's and frankly I think it's ultimately clear now that they're not even witty enough to shine Chuck Barris's shoes.
As to the discrimination claims yeah, well, sure I can see an argument that perhaps Gabrielle Union seems a little difficult to work with, I'm certain that her complaints and criticisms were completely justified. Several others have pointed out many of NBC's distressing behind-the-scenes behaviors and actions that have spanned decades now, and yeah, it's probably a bad sign that the most distinctive African-American presence I can recall on the network in my lifetime was, Bill Cosby. Especially on Primetime.
Despite everything, the oddest thing I find in these pieces, was NBC and Fremantle's Media's joint statement they made on the issue:
“‘America’s Got Talent’ has a long history of inclusivity and diversity in both our talent and the acts championed by the show. The judging and host line-up has been regularly refreshed over the years and that is one of the reasons for AGT’s enduring popularity. NBC and the producers take any issues on set seriously.”
"The judging and host lineup has been regularly refreshed over the years and that is one fo the reasons for AGT's enduring popularity?" HOW? It's a talent search? You think people watched to see Howie Mandel? What does that have to do with firing Union and Hough? Like this is just a regular process? You're telling me that if Howard Stern still wanted to be on the show, you would've said, "No, we have to keep having a rotating set of judges," like they're goddamn "Law & Order" or something? I'll concede that there's probably some correlation betweens hosts and ratings, but I think they're over-stepping their importance. It's the modern-day "The Gong Show", it's stayed on the air 'cause it's cheap to produce, it occasionally actually finds real talent, they need to put something on TV in Summer now that apparently we don't accept reruns anymore, and frankly their competition is pretty weak. Besides that though, stop with the BS, and just say you fired them. Like, c'mon. Like it's a time-honored tradition to move on from one judge or another or some bullshit, just shut up. If you can't say outright that you fired her, then she was probably fired under bad faith and NBC, and probably several other major and minor networks need to do some hard rewiring of their inner structure and culture.
I wish I was surpised at any of this, mostly I'm just pissed that I had to talk about "AGT" of all goddamn things. Ugh.
ALBUM REVIEW: COUNTING CROWS-"August and Everything After"
Well, I have a feeling that i might be getting to a lot of these in coming months, but yes, let's continue on with these Random Album Reviews I do, where I grab a CD that I own, but haven't listened to yet, and-eh, just write about it. Just a forewarning, while I am knowledgeable in film and television and other entertainment media, music isn't my expertise or strong suit, I don't review these albums as an expert, I'm just writing about an album I'm listening to, for the first time.
This time around, I'm doing Counting Crows, debut album, "August and Everything After". So, eh, definitely something my youth and in my wheelhouse, oddly though I didn't catch on to the Counting Crows 'til after this album. My first memories of them are "Hangingaround" which I always thought was an underrated, great song. I learned later about their other singles, "Mr. Jones" being their big one. I kinda missed them originally, and I more into the Matchbox Twenty and The Wallflowers side of the adult alternative genre, and also, there's exceptions of course, but I've always been into solo artists more then bands. I think with certains bands, I isten to their albums, I often get more bored because all the songs usually sound too similar while I think solo artists albums, tend to be more musically interesting and different from one song to another. Even bands I love, I often don't love their albums, because sometimes the songs all sound too similar. I don't think I'll feel that with this album. Even those who I've heard weren't crazy about the Counting Crows' later works, especially during Adam Duritz's continuous sad period, seem to still hold "August and Everything Afterwards" to an ncredibly high standard as one of the great pop/rock albums of the nineties, so-eh, I hope that's still the case. I'm looking forward to this album though, so we'll see.
Alright, let's push play.
"August and Everything After"
Huh. Honestly, I don't quite know what to make of this album. Like I've never been big into the Counting Crows before, so, other then a few songs from them, they're kinda always been a bit elusive to me. I know Adam Duritz has this reputation for mostly kinda being depressing in his music, after this album, but I kinda thought this album was fairly, well sad as well. I mean, it's more hopeful clearly, and I think it's a concept album to some degree. Like the first few songs, feel like they're transitioning from, leaving this town and up to trying to start searching for fame, and I think the idea is that the rest of the album is essentially documenting their struggle and search for fame. I'm wondering who Maria is that's mentioned in "Round Here" and "Mr. Jones".
The rest of the album took me a while to grasp. I didn't hate anything, at all, the spareness of the music itself, help make me more interested in the lyrics, I guess, which, I couldn't quite always figure out, but I liked trying to understand them. He's got a lot of descriptiveness and imagery in his music. Cares a lot about colors I notice. Blue comes up a lot, the gray guitar, the black-winged bird, I get the sense that Duritz probably has an emotional connection to colors and a lot of conversations as well. That's something always felt was really hard to do in lyric writing, is writing casual conversations and making it seem melodic. I don't know if he pulls it off, all the time, but it's interesting, and it helps make my imagination run wild.
His storytelling lyrics are somewhere between like Eddie Vedder and Van Morrison. It's kinda surprising to me in hindsight that this was such a big album at the time. I remember listening to, one of the members of Hanson talking about how they regarded this as an all-time great pop album and it doesn't feel at all. I can see the grunge influence, and the pop influence, but it feels like an album I would've expected to have been such a hit. I remember that they got big after performing on "Saturday Night Live", one of the few unsigned acts to ever perform on the show. I rather enjoyed the last song, "A Murder of One", and I like a lot of the songs, "Anna Begins", that's a striking song about a relationship breaking up. I feel like the narrative's a bit lost on me. There's a lot of bird references I just notice, including in their name.
I think a lot of it is the piano I noticed. Duritz is listed as vocalist and piano as well as harmonica, his piano-based songs are very lethargic and slow at times: it's almost a hinderance to the rest of the band. Anyway, I like the album a lot, probably will need a for more listens to it personally to really be certain about it, but I'll definitely keep it in my rotation. I feel like this is a good meditation album, good album to put in the middle of the day and drift away to another world, kinds experience.