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David Poland

By David Poland

Good… But Has The Lesson Taken At All?

Entertainment Tonight/The Insider decided NOT to run the Heath Ledger tape. I was traveling, so I haven’t heard the on-air excuse. But I read this AP story and while I think the choice was right, that’s still about the only thing that was.
From The Story:
Executives at “Entertainment Tonight” refused to talk publicly about the retreat. There was some bewilderment and anger at the company about why its show was singled out when many other publications and TV outlets were talking about the same thing. The party video is likely to be seen soon in England, and is already available over the Internet.
Well, the reason ET/Insider was singled out is, a) they are the biggest, b) they are truly MAINSTREAM Media, meaning they have not turned completely into trash gossip rags and no one wants to see them become one, and c) is answered in the next pull…
Ledger is seen standing in the doorway of a room where the party was taking place, swigging from a beer bottle. The actor is heard saying that he was “going to get serious (word bleeped) from my girlfriend” for being at the party.
The show made clear that there was nothing on the video showing Ledger taking any drug. At one point, however, the then-26-year-old said he “used to smoke five joints a day.”
But a person who has seen the entire video, who asked not to be identified because of its sensitive nature, said Ledger then points to his tattoo of “M” (for his daughter, Matilda Rose) and says, “this is to remind me never to smoke weed again.” That part of the quote was not used in Wednesday’s preview.
Later, with Ledger in the background, an unidentified man, his face blurred, seems to snort cocaine from a table.

So… not only is the tape NOT shocking… and NOT heartbreaking… it doesn’t even contain an image of the man doing a drug of any kind aside from alcohol in the form of BEER!
Will the off-the-record complainers at ET wake up and get it? This is the WORST form of gossip mongering… it tarnishes without actually delivering the goods.
It would be sad and disgusting for them to run a video of Mr Ledger snorting 3 or 4 lines of cocaine… and in Hollywood, not remotely shocking. But this is so much worse… he isn’t even doing drugs and they have Dr. Drew Pinsky

8 Responses to “Good… But Has The Lesson Taken At All?”

  1. IOIOIOI says:

    Heat, the people love discussing the royalty. The celebs are the defacto loyalty and so it goes. Yes this stuff can get worse. Or it could simply stop being interesting. It was never this big in the past. If you go back only 10 years on the net. This sort of gossip and carrying-on about celebrities does not exist. Hell. If I could find a freakin US magazine from 10 years ago this very week. I doubt it’s a third or even a fourth as hardcore as this week’s US magazine. So we have gotten more hardcore.
    The thing with being hardcore is… it can only last so long. There will come a point when people — or let’s state that the people who are caught up in the gossip now — will simply walk away.
    Sure the core audience will still be there. Yet the people — or those folks — will move on to something else that’s maybe less HARDCORE and less up people’s asses.
    That’s the thing with you Heat. You always tend to go DOCTOR DOOM with your analysis about the future. The future of the tabloids could be that ugly, or the people could stop caring. However, one must always remember this fact: THE HUMAN RACE BECAME BORED WITH SPACE TRAVEL! If not as a whole but a collective. We found something people could only dream of in the past… BORING!
    If people can find space boring. They may at one point find all of this nonsense boring. The net is a young medium. You know. It has a ways to go before it’s mature enough, that people stop giving a shit about celebrities. Here’s hopin. HUZZAH!

  2. Tofu says:

    Huh, the more and more we read on Heath over these past days, the cooler he becomes. Even his ‘drug video’ is a noble call to cleaning up (as he did).
    Two joints a day wouldn’t be bad, though. -_-b

  3. IOIOIOI says:

    The Late Mr. Ledger does come across now like a stand-up guy that had problems like most stand-up guys. Being a stand-up guy takes it’s toll on people. It’s not an excuse as much as it seems to be the case. Nevertheless, his passing sucks and will continue to suck for years to come. The rags are simply trying to supply some reason to something that simply has no reason behind it. So it goes. So it is.

  4. THX5334 says:

    Interesting story on Defamer that names some certain celebs as threatening to blackball ET & The Insider access to them if they aired the video.
    I don’t know if it’s true, but intriguing if so.

  5. Aris P says:

    David, I don’t know who’s giving you heat about your stance on Finke, but I for one applaud you. She’s nothing more than a disgusting gossip monger and, as we say in French, a “profiteur de l’occasion” (the perfect description in english escapes me at the moment).
    Sadly, however, I dont think anyone’s getting bored of this sensationalism anytime soon.

  6. jeffmcm says:

    It seems like the lesson of this tape is much ado about nothing, and that to get outraged at the excesses of the news organization is also to, partially, give them the attention they desire.

  7. hatchling says:

    I would have liked to see this commentary posted in the moribund Hot Button editorial column. It’s serious food for thought and deserves a bit more exposure than a daily blog entry gets.

  8. hendhogan says:

    i’m a cynic by nature. reading your post, david, led me to wonder if ET ever intended to air the video.
    there’s a bump in awareness for the show just by being part of the controversy. that they were “pressured” to not air it will be lost to the ether. if anyone recalls it, they’ll just remember that ET could and didn’t.
    if there’s no hue and cry, they air the video, get a rating bump during sweeps and people expecting titillation are disappointed.
    it seems very win/win to me on ET’s part, also calculated.

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This is probably going to sound petty, but Martin Scorsese insisting that critics see his film in theaters even though it’s going straight to Netflix and then not screening it in most American cities was a watershed moment for me in this theatrical versus streaming debate.

I completely respect when a filmmaker insists that their movie is meant to be seen in the theater, but the thing is, you got to actually make it possible to see it in the theater. Some movies may be too small for that, and that’s totally OK.

When your movie is largely financed by a streaming service and is going to appear on that streaming service instantly, I don’t really see the point of pretending that it’s a theatrical film. It just seems like we are needlessly indulging some kind of personal fantasy.

I don’t think that making a feature film length production that is going to go straight to a video platform is some sort of “step down.“ I really don’t. Theatrical exhibition as we know it is dying off anyway, for a variety of reasons.

I should clarify myself because this thread is already being misconstrued — I’m talking about how the movie is screened in advance. If it’s going straight to Netflix, why the ritual of demanding people see it in the theater?

There used to be a category that everyone recognized called “TV movie” or “made for television movie” and even though a lot of filmmakers considered that déclassé, it seems to me that probably 90% of feature films fit that description now.

Atlantis has mostly sunk into the ocean, only a few tower spires remain above the waterline, and I’m increasingly at peace with that, because it seems to be what the industry and much of the audience wants. We live in an age of convenience and information control.

Only a very elite group of filmmakers is still allowed to make movies “for theaters“ and actually have them seen and judged that way on a wide scale. Even platform releasing seems to be somewhat endangered. It can’t be fought. It has to be accepted.

9. Addendum: I’ve been informed that it wasn’t Scorsese who requested that the Bob Dylan documentary only be screened for critics in theaters, but a Netflix representative indicated the opposite to me, so I just don’t know what to believe.

It’s actually OK if your film is not eligible for an Oscar — we have a thing called the Emmys. A lot of this anxiety is just a holdover from the days when television was considered culturally inferior to theatrical feature films. Everybody needs to just get over it.

In another 10 to 20 years they’re probably going to merge the Emmys in the Oscars into one program anyway, maybe they’ll call it the Contentys.

“One of the fun things about seeing the new Quentin Tarantino film three months early in Cannes (did I mention this?) is that I know exactly why it’s going to make some people furious, and thus I have time to steel myself for the takes.

Back in July 2017, when it was revealed that Tarantino’s next project was connected to the Manson Family murders, it was condemned in some quarters as an insulting and exploitative stunt. We usually require at least a fig-leaf of compassion for the victims in true-crime adaptations, and even Tarantino partisans like myself – I don’t think he’s made a bad film yet – found ourselves wondering how he might square his more outré stylistic impulses with the depiction of a real mass murder in which five people and one unborn child lost their lives.

After all, it’s one thing to slice off with gusto a fictional policeman’s ear; it’s quite another to linger over the gory details of a massacre that took place within living memory, and which still carries a dread historical significance.

In her essay The White Album, Joan Didion wrote: “Many people I know in Los Angeles believe that the Sixties ended abruptly on August 9, 1969, ended at the exact moment when word of the murders on Cielo Drive traveled like brushfire through the community, and in a sense this is true.”

Early in Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, as Leonardo DiCaprio and Brad Pitt’s characters drive up the hill towards Leo’s bachelor pad, the camera cranes up gently to reveal a street sign: Cielo Drive. Tarantino understands how charged that name is; he can hear the Molotov cocktails clinking as he shoulders the crate.

As you may have read in the reviews from Cannes, much of the film is taken up with following DiCaprio and Pitt’s characters – a fading TV actor and his long-serving stunt double – as they amusingly go about their lives in Los Angeles, while Margot Robbie’s Sharon Tate is a relatively minor presence. But the spectre of the murders is just over the horizon, and when the night of the 9th finally arrives, you feel the mood in the cinema shift.

No spoilers whatsoever about what transpires on screen. But in the audience, as it became clear how Tarantino was going to handle this extraordinarily loaded moment, the room soured and split, like a pan of cream left too long on the hob. I craned in, amazed, but felt the person beside me recoil in either dismay or disgust.

Two weeks on, I’m convinced that the scene is the boldest and most graphically violent of Tarantino’s career – I had to shield my eyes at one point, found myself involuntarily groaning “oh no” at another – and a dead cert for the most controversial. People will be outraged by it, and with good reason. But in a strange and brilliant way, it takes Didion’s death-of-the-Sixties observation and pushes it through a hellfire-hot catharsis.

Hollywood summoned up this horror, the film seems to be saying, and now it’s Hollywood’s turn to exorcise it. I can’t wait until the release in August, when we can finally talk about why.

~ Robbie Collin