Monday, November 08, 2010

Turkey With a Side of Sucker Punch?

The website Big Hollywood has a terrific series called the Sucker Punch Squad, whereby they review scripts of movies in development, movies that the average ticket buying consumer has no reason to believe would include hyper partisan content, yet they suspect will include that very thing. Latest example is here, about a movie on Margaret Thatcher now in production.

The series grew organically out of some of the posts from BH editor John Nolte and his frustration in getting blind-sided by by this content in movies were being marketed and sold as heart-warming and feel good movies for the whole family. The motivation for the series is probably best summarized in his review of the feel good, heart warming movie "The Blind Side", which included an entirely gratuitous shot at President Bush.

Hollywood is not money or profit-driven. This is an industry engaged in an ideological war with traditional conservative America that doesn't mind making a profit, but never will at the expense of the cause. Everyone involved in the making of "Blind Side" knew an unnecessary partisan shot at Bush would turn people off. They all knew they were insulting the very audience the film was marketed at for no reason other than to insult them. But there was absolutely no way in hell this thing was going to see the light of day without something for the Hollywood bigots to snicker over.

This is written from the perspective of a guy (Nolte) who loves movies and who knows the inner workings of the business of Hollywood and writes the above with no relish. It's the sad truth of an institution that should be rewarding the goodwill of it's paying audience with scrupulous attention to being fair and non-controversial when it comes to product being promoted as non-partisan entertainment.

It reminds me of an event I attended a couple of years ago. Billed as some fun holiday entertainment, featuring one of the great choral groups in the country, as recounted in this post from 2006:

Ghost songs and Stories with Garrison Keillor -

Spooky tales, a signature monologue and spirited sing-alongs will make this family-friendly Halloween concert a treat for all.

Garrison Keillor hosting a holiday event for the whole family? What could go wrong? From the review in the Star Tribune:

... retiring U.S. Rep. Martin Sabo, D-Minn., took the stage at Orchestra Hall on Sunday ... a poem was composed, which Sabo recited with vigor, given that its continuing refrain was, "Those Republicans will get you if you don't watch out."

Partisans in the full house may have winced at the depiction of Republicans' dumping sewage in waterways and putting foxes in charge of henhouses.

The Star Tribune, of course, was soft-peddling the noxious environment created that night at Orchestra Hall. Both Sabo and Keillor had extended periods bashing the Republican party and conservatives. And this was at a charity event, a fund-raiser for the choir performing that night! Probably not coincidentally, it was also just days before the 2006 election, and the DFL sunshine boys didn't want to miss a chance to do a little politicking from the stage. Priorities are priorities.

As I said at the time:

I must say paying $30 for the ticket and watching a rusting party machine hack with zero personality get up to do a prolonged reading was enough to get the terror started early. Nice call by the sponsors of this show, who seemed to forget the small fact that the audience was there for *entertainment* purposes. What's up for next year, Mae Schunk reading out of the Burnsville white pages?

When Sabo started his plodding diatribe on how Republicans lie, cheat, and steal, only my sense of propriety in this civilized setting prevented me from responding in the manner this garbage called for. Although I did hear the most muffled hint of catcalling and booing (some of which came from the person in my seat). Ultimately Minnesota Nice prevailed in Orchestra Hall. Sabo got mild courtesy tittering at his nasty one-liners and the bitter old partisan hack got a polite round of applause at the end.

Although an uncomfortable scene was averted, only due to the superior manners of the audience compared to the performers, the enduring lesson was: I won't get fooled again! Despite the fact that I'm a prospective customer for a grand choral showcase featuring American holiday music, I wouldn't go to a Garrison Keillor hosted event again if you paid me $30. (Which, BTW, would barely cover your parking costs at the Orchestra Hall ramp).

I bring this up due to this friendly notice I received last week:

Gather your family and friends together for a festive celebration of timeless Thanksgiving traditions! Garrison Keillor joins VocalEssence with special guests vocalist Jearlyn Steele and pianist Rich Dworsky for this spirited holiday event. We'll provide the perfect mixture of ingredients — music, memories, and a monologue -- but leave the cooking to you!

Pfffffft! Sounds like a great time, except for that small issue of past precedent indicating it's going to turn into a frothing DFL party rally. Gratitude, Gravy, Garrison, and Gratuitous Insults of his Political Enemies would be more accurate branding.

It's possible they're going to play this straight down the middle and actually provide spirited holiday entertainment for family and friends. But that's what they promised last time! Sucker punch me once, shame on you. Sucker punch me twice ....