Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Ten Best Picture Nominees!

I have not seen the movie Brüno and I am not predicting that it will be nominated for Best Picture.

This year, there will be ten films nominated for Best Picture instead of the usual five. Some people think that is a bad move. I think with the recent problems that the Oscars have had, it is needed badly.

I will first give my one objection to this change. Since 1997, I have seen all five films that were nominated for Best Picture before the Oscars would take place. This has allowed me to judge all five films and guess what will win Best Picture. From 1997-2008, I have only been wrong twice. I guessed that Saving Private Ryan would win for 1998 and Brokeback Mountain would win for 2005. Going 9 out of 11 is not bad though. Now I would have to see all ten nominated films to continue my streak. If one of those films is not in the theater or on DVD, my streak will end.

The reason why the Oscars should have ten films up for Best Picture is because in recently years, we would have five films up for the big award that few people have seen. Before 2004, big budget films that grabbed audiences like Forrest Gump, Braveheart, Titanic, Gladiator, and the third Lord of The Rings movie had also won Best Picture.

After the third Lord of the Rings film won Best Picture, the last five years have had low budget films nominated and winning the top award. I think that the main problem in recent years is that film studios are scared to try to make dramas that have a big budget because if the drama does not touch audiences, then the film can lose the studio potentially over $100 million.

That is why the big budget movies tend to be based on comic book characters because those are fun movies that usually are safe bets at the box office. Recently The Dark Knight was both a critical and financial success. Not only did the movie become the second highest grossing film in the United States (right behind Titanic), but critics and audiences thought that the film had a great story. When the Oscar nominations came out, The Dark Knight was not nominated for Best Picture. Instead, The Reader was nominated without a chance of winning.

This is where the Oscars have been messing up. Looking at the five films nominated for Best Picture last year, they were all low-budget dramas. To make the Oscars more exciting, I would have been okay with them plucking The Reader from the list because it was the least likely of the films to actually win Best Picture.

The Dark Knight was the closest thing that the Oscars had to a big budget movie that could get people to watch the Oscars. Now they are not going to bump films like The Reader, but I think that allowing ten films to be nominated will give films like The Dark Knight a chance of receiving a nomination.

It may also stop certain films from running away as the clear winner. Slumdog Millionaire was great, but the lack of competition made this one of the least exciting year for the Oscars in recent memory. The Oscars need a more diverse group of films to be nominated for Best Picture if they expect to have a big audience. I’m not saying that they should nominate Twilight, Transformers, or Brüno, but they should nominate at least one movie that had a large audience. Maybe Public Enemies with Johnny Depp will be the movie that grabs audiences and critics. It is time that Hollywood puts a new focus back on big budget movies that can also get Roger Ebert’s thumbs to point up.

If ten Best Picture nominees helps honor the big audience films that have been truly overlooked in the last few years, then the Oscars will be like they used to be. I want to make it clear that in most of the years, I do believe that the Best Picture winner actually was the best movie, but I think that the awards will be more relevant to society if they have at least one very successful film nominated for Best Picture.

People want to root for their favorite film, even if it is a based on a comic book.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Billy Mays Here!

In a week where we lose Michael Jackson and Farrah Fawcett, it may seem weird why I would also write about Billy Mays. I’m writing about him for two reasons. First, he is one of the few TV pitchmen who people can actually recognize and remember his name. Second, his impact on the entertainment business was to catch people’s attention by annoying them.

Yes this is a negative article. Sure I should never speak ill of the dead. I am not judging him as a person. I don’t hate him personally at all. I just hated his commercials and won’t miss them.

As someone who has been in sales myself, I can tell you that those in sales who annoy people make it harder for salespeople who are trying to just be heard. Billy Mays’ in-your-face style is what is wrong about sales. People don’t like to be annoyed by salespeople.

One of the problems that I had with Billy Mays is that he spoke about more products than Michael Jordan. Initially, I remember him talking about OxiClean. He was the OxiClean guy. When you would think of the OxiClean commercials, you would remember him. That’s okay to me because many companies have one spokesperson. Then he started to be in commercials for more and more products. I don’t know what the companies who hired him were thinking, but from my view, when you speak about too many products, you seem to be less credible. It started to feel like Billy Mays did not represent OxiClean. Instead, he represented any company that was willing to pay him.

His selling style was loud and aggressive. He was not as loud and aggressive as the late Sam Kinison, but I liked Sam Kinison because his voice added to the effect of his humor.

I am going to explain my views on celebrities in a simple way. Here is a scale from 1 through 6.

6 – I’m a big fan. Example- Keith Olbermann and Bill Maher.
5 – I think that the celebrity is good, but I’m not a fanatic. Example- Sam Kinison.
4. I think that the celebrity is okay. Neither positive or negative. Example- Mariah Carey.
3. I have no opinion about or not enough knowledge to make one. Example- Lady GaGa.
2. I have a negative view of the celebrity. Example- Billy Mays, Bill O’Reilly, 50 Cent.
1. I hate the celebrity and would celebrate if the celebrity died- Britney Spears, Justin Timberlake, O.J. Simpson, Robert Blake, and Karl Rove.

There are other names that would fit on the list, but I don’t want to say every celebrity who I have a negative view of or hate.

I have a negative view of Billy Mays, but I feel sorry for him and his wife. He may have annoyed me with his commercials and I may not miss him, but I take no pleasure in his passing.

One very morbid comment that will catch some people off-guard. This is the first celebrity who I can name with a Twitter page who has died. He even posted two messages on his Twitter page yesterday. If you want to look, his Twitter page is http://twitter.com/realBillyMays

Saturday, June 27, 2009

The Life of Michael Jackson

This article is dedicated to Imran, the biggest Michael Jackson fan I have ever met.

“We are out of our joy and he is out of his pain.” – Jesse Jackson

When I heard that comment by Jesse Jackson while watching Larry King, I knew that I had to write it down. I think that is the best way I would describe losing Michael Jackson.

I am writing two articles. The first one is dealing with the life of Michael Jackson. I am going to wait until we have more information on the cause of Michael Jackson’s death to discuss that issue. I want to wait for the final results to be in on the cause of his death and how his doctor may have been involved in the treatment of Michael Jackson before I point fingers.

A few years ago, I said that had Michael Jackson died in 1985, he would be bigger than Elvis. Since Elvis had died before I was born, I do not have the same understanding of where his career was and where it it was going.

Let me begin with a shocking comment. I believe that the worst thing that ever happened to Michael Jackson was making the Thriller album. Had he had okay albums after Off The Wall, he would have been remembered as a former child star for his work with the Jackson 5. There will be people who will argue that Thriller was not their favorite album personally, but I have to say that it is the most important album of the last three decades. I believe that if I had to compare Thriller to other albums, then it was more important than any album from the year 1970 to today. I believe that you would have to look at the work of the Beatles in the 1960s to find something that can compete with Thriller’s importance in the music world.

Thriller was an album that could never be topped by Michael Jackson. His album Bad was great, but did not have the same impact. Bad was nominated for the Grammy for Album of the Year, but lost to U2’s album The Joshua Tree. I would have to say that The Joshua Tree was U2’s best album of all time and better than Bad. Michael Jackson’s masterpiece could never be topped if he had lived to be 100 years-old.

In the 1980s, even Ronald Reagan in his 70s was a fan of Michael Jackson. Thriller make Michael Jackson the most famous celebrity in the world. When the sky is the limit, and you reach the sky, you can only go down.

The last two decades were sad for Michael Jackson. Two accusations of molestation changed how people viewed him and his obsession with children. Michael Jackson loved children and the accusations made people question the nature of his relationship with them.

The million dollar question is this… Was Michael Jackson asexual, straight, gay, or a pedophile?

I am going to give my guess and my reasons for this guess, with full knowledge that I could be wrong. I believe that he was asexual and that he wanted to be a child himself. None of his child celebrity friends had ever accused him of trying to touch them inappropriately. He never took advantage of Macaulay Culkin, Corey Feldman, or Emmanuel Lewis. If Michael Jackson was gay and let’s say he was interested in boys who looked young, then I think he would have had a relationship with a very attractive 18-year-old homosexual guy who looked young. As a famous celebrity, he could have had all of the opportunities to be with men or women had he chosen to do so. The fact that he spent all of those years without a female or male lover makes me think that he really had no interest in sex.

I truly believe that Michael Jackson was innocent of the accusations and that he could never hurt a child.

That being said, the accusations haunted him because it removed the trust of the public. The one issue that I really had difficulty figuring out was the fact that he continued to spend time with children after the first accusation. For Michael Jackson to continue to spend so much time around children after the accusation gave the impression that his interest in children was something he could not do without.

I believe that Michael Jackson missed his childhood and felt that he was robbed of it. Therefore, he wanted to permanently be a child himself and have child friends.

Since Michael Jackson released Bad in 1987, he released three more albums. I liked Dangerous and History, but they were not outstanding. His album Invincible was critically panned, and his accusation that Sony did not promote it well because the head of Sony was racist was a horribly false accusation. The man in question, Tommy Mottola, had married Mariah Carey, who is half-black.

In my opinion, Michael Jackson did not want a busy career. I have doubts that he was ever going to release a new album again. I could be wrong, but we will never know for sure.

I have a feeling in my heart that an artist cannot be truly great unless there is something unusual about that artist. I think that some are good and have normal lives, but the best have to have something unusual about them to truly reach greatness. I look at Michael Jackson’s weirdness with acceptance as part of the package. I do not think that the man who made Thriller and moonwalked could have been that good unless there was some madness behind the greatness.

Even if his career was virtually over. Even if he would never make another album and the London tour the next month would truly be his last tour. Even if the days of him making art were gone, Michael Jackson became the single greatest musical artist of this century. He will be studied and written about not only for decades, but centuries to come.

While I am grateful to have had the opportunity to listen to his music and the music of the Beatles, I hope that an artist will come out who will top them. I hope that we have not seen the best that will ever come. I hope that there will be another album that will take over the world in the way that Thriller did. For Michael Jackson, Thriller was the best that was to come and he could never top it. I hope that is not the case for the future of music. I would rather know that Thriller could not be topped by Michael Jackson than to think that Thriller could never be topped by another human being. Sadly, I do not think that there will ever be an achievement greater in music yet to come.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Black Eyed Peas vs. Black Eyed Perez

This story is too good to be true. In a confrontation between will.i.am of the Black Eyed Peas and Perez Hilton, the tour manager of the Black Eyed Peas gave Perez Hilton a black eye. Well, I’m not sure it’s going to become a black eye, but you can see in the photo that Perez Hilton has a cut under his eye. I just had to point out the irony that comes from the name of the band.

What I know so far is this. Perez Hilton had an argument with will.i.am of the Black Eyed Peas, Perez called will.i.am a word that is gay slur, Perez got punched in the face. I do not know the order in which those events occurred.

The Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation asked for Perez Hilton to apologize for calling will.i.am the offensive word. Perez has decided to apologize for using the word.

Here’s how I see it. First, Perez Hilton is not homophobic because he is gay and out of the closet. He is not someone who hates gay people. So a gay slur said by him is different than one said by a straight person. It is not like the situation in which Isiah Washington from Grey’s Anatomy used a gay slur.

But on the other hand, the reason why I strongly believe that it’s not right for Perez Hilton to use it against another person is because Perez has a history of trying to expose that certain celebrities are actually gay. He believes that they should be forced out of the closet. In this situation, calling will.i.am a gay slur can be an accusation that Perez actually thinks that will.i.am is gay.

I have defended Perez Hilton when it came to the confrontation with Carrie Prejean, but in this situation, I feel that he needs to do one thing. Even if he does not want to apologize, he needs to just say that he does not actually think that will.i.am is gay.

An accusation of being gay by Perez Hilton has more credibility than from any other celebrity, due to the fact that he helped to out Lance Bass from ‘Nsync and actor Neil Patrick Harris. This is why it is important for Perez to at least admit that he was only trying to insult will.i.am, and not actually accuse him of being gay.

On the other side, I will admit that I’m sick of hearing about employees of celebrities assaulting individuals. If a celebrity is in danger, I understand that a bodyguard may protect that celebrity. But if an employee of a celebrity commits assault, then the celebrity should be sued. Perez was assaulted and probably will have reasonable grounds to sue will.i.am. Maybe will.i.am will countersue for defamation of character over the gay slur.

I cannot praise either side in this situation. I cannot side with either person. I think they both did something wrong and no one did anything right.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

The RIAA Has Gone Too Far

You know when a story feels like it should have been told five years ago? This is one of them.

In the first few years of this decade, many people downloaded music files illegally. Then it was made clear that if people continued, the RIAA (Recording Industry Association of America) would crack down and sue individuals. This story should have been over in 2003.

The RIAA just won a judgment of $1.92 million against Jammie Thomas-Rasset. She downloaded at least 24 songs, which would be $80,000 per illegal download.

The problem is not that the RIAA had the right to sue her. The problem is not that Mrs. Thomas-Rasset was wrong. The essential problem is that the issue feels like the RIAA is trying to make up for wrongs that have been long over with. It feels like they chased this woman to the ends of the earth.

Had this ruling occurred in 2004, it would make sense. The fear of lawsuits caused people to stop downloading music on Kazaa. They did not want to risk being sued. This fear changed the habits of music listeners. Now iTunes is the number one seller of music in the world. People are willing to pay for music legally and are doing so. This problem has been solved. The public has responded to fear by choosing the legal option of buying music.

If the RIAA wanted to make a point, that point was made. But the fact that the public has already changed its habits means that at this point, the lawsuit feels overbearing and tedious.

To the defense of the RIAA, it was reported that Mrs. Thomas-Rasset could have settled with the RIAA for $3000-$5000 but she refused. Why would she refuse this amount? She was obviously guilty, as was most of America. To not settle for a small amount and risk a trial, she risked a higher judgment against her.

What I do not know is when she had the option of settling. This could have been in 2003 or 2004, which would have made the settlement made sense considering the time of the offense. It may have been Mrs. Thomas-Rasset who dragged this on, and the RIAA decided not to reward her lack of cooperation.

I truly believe that I have to side with Mrs. Thomas-Rasset because this is a dead issue in 2009. It’s not a question to me of her being innocent or guilty. It is a question of the RIAA being willing to move on and not make themselves the villain of the music world.

If they wanted to sue someone for stealing music, they should have focused on a wealthy celebrity or someone who was at least wealthy in general. Had a famous millionaire actor been caught downloading music illegally, the public would feel less sorry for him. To go after this woman with a judgment this large just seems like a horrible public relations long after the problem of illegal downloading of music had been solved.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Adam Lambert’s Gay: So What?

Remember when someone came out of the closet and people were surprised? I think that the last time I was actually surprised to hear that someone was gay was when Neil Patrick Harris came out of the closet. I did not see that one coming. But recently, when Adam Lambert came out of the closet, it was even less surprising than when Clay Aiken came out.

When Clay Aiken was on American Idol, his sexuality was questioned before the season was even over. Over the next few years, Clay Aiken denied over and over again that he was gay. After a woman gave birth to his son (they did not have sex), he decided to admit that he is gay.

Bill Maher put it best when he said, “You can’t call it coming out of the closet when the door was wide open, the closet was made of glass, and everyone could see you in there having gay sex. Clay Aiken says he came out because he didn’t want to lie to his infant son. Dude, even the baby knew you were gay.”

When Clay Aiken came out of the closet, it was not a surprise at all. I feel that by the time that Clay Aiken admitted that he was gay, no one was surprised. This was not a shocker.

Unlike Clay Aiken's experience during the second season of American Idol, photos surfaced of Adam Lambert kissing another man during the recent season of the show. At the time, my view was, “He is gay, case closed.” So when he decided to out himself in an upcoming issue of Rolling Stone where he would be on the cover, I felt that all he was doing was admitting the obvious.

If Adam Lambert denied being gay like Clay Aiken did, no one would believe it. He just confirmed what everyone knew. He is gay. He did not out himself. He was outed when the photograph of him kissing another man surfaced.

I think it is good that he decided to confirm that he was gay early on instead of drag things out. But all he did was confirm what everyone already knew.

I think that the only sad thing that I can say about this is that the two most obviously gay people to come out of the closet have both come from American Idol.

I did not follow American Idol this year. The only year I really followed it was during season six when Sanjaya was on. But it appears that a lot of people were shocked that Adam Lambert lost the competition. I have a feeling that just like Clay Aiken, he will outsell the winner of his American Idol season.

From what I have heard, Adam Lambert has amazing vocals. He sounds like he could really do a good job singing Hard Rock, Classic Rock, or Heavy Metal. I hope that being gay will not stand in the way of his future success.

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Drop the Tonight Show name.

Sometimes a name is just a name, and sometimes it means more.

Johnny Carson hosted the Tonight Show for thirty years, until he no longer wanted to do so. Then Jay Leno hosted the show from 1992 until last week. He had no plans to retire, but NBC wanted to give the Tonight Show to Conan O'Brien. It appears that they were more worried about Conan leaving the network than they were about losing Jay Leno.

David Letterman used to be in the Conan O'Brien position of having his show right after the Tonight Show. Letterman wanted to become the new host of the show when Johnny Carson was going to retire. Since he did not get the Tonight Show, Letterman skipped town to CBS, developed his own show, and has earned more money per season than Jay Leno or Conan O’Brien.

Unlike David Letterman, Jay Leno is not leaving NBC. Instead, he will have a show on at 10 pm that will be followed by the Tonight Show with Conan O'Brien.

Let me just ask this. What is the big deal with the name the "Tonight Show"? Is there anything really that special about the name that would drive David Letterman to another network or to make Jay Leno and Conan O'Brien play musical chairs with their time slots?

I think that there was some prestige related to the name. When Johnny Carson hosted the show, it was the premiere show. David Letterman was the follow-up person. I guess Letterman didn't want to follow-up Jay Leno and I cannot fault him for that. But now, there are so many competing shows. I don't think that the name "Tonight Show" should be that big of a deal anymore. During most of the years that Johnny Carson was on television, families did not have cable television. I know my own family got cable in the mid 1980s. When there were only three or four main channels, people did not have many options of what they would watch at 11 pm. Now the “Tonight Show” has a number of shows competing at the same time.

Is the fact that Conan O'Brien will now have the Tonight Show actually give him some big advantage? Will they put more money into his show than before? Is his show going to be different at all?

Will Jay Leno's show be any different either?

People watch shows for the host and the jokes. The fact that they took the Tonight Show away from Jay Leno and gave it to Conan O'Brien makes me think that focus on the name should not be important.

I think that after Conan O'Brien retires (or has someone take his show from him before he retires), they should just drop the Tonight Show name. Conan O’Brien is very talented. I don’t think having the Tonight Show name will improve his ability to entertain audiences. I have too much faith in his talent and the talent of Jay Leno to expect their talent to change with the addition or subtraction of the Tonight Show name.

I hope that Jay Leno's show is as good as his old one. I hope that Conan O'Brien's show is has good as his old one as well.

I think that David Letterman got it right. Have your own show with your own name, own the rights to it, and make more money.
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