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David Poland

By David Poland poland@moviecitynews.com

How Ugly Will It Get?

Sadly, I seem to be spending more and more time gagging on the tabloidization of the entertainment media. We’ve always been a whorehouse, but every hour wasn’t spent trying broadcast the tv-safe version of the Dirty Sanchez.
Now this, in defense of the memory of Heath Ledger, who the publicists have no financial benefit in protecting, only the opportunity to stop vomiting for a moment as the media becomes even more abusive that the most abusive personal publicist ever considered being…
Tonight Entertainment Tonight/The Insider are previewing an extremely distasteful segment regarding Heath Ledger. The segment centers around a two-year old video ET purchased for a large sum of money in the hopes of stirring up a salacious and exploitive story about Heath, which would win them big ratings on the first day of sweeps. The two outlets did not even have the courtesy to wait until after Heath

15 Responses to “How Ugly Will It Get?”

  1. hendhogan says:

    actually, that was mussolini.
    in a poll last year a majority of journalists answered that they believed it was the duty to interpret the news, not just report it (i don’t have exact details at hand, but can post later if anyone really cares). so, i’m not surprised at this at all.

  2. I just asked this question to a friend the other day and this reminded me…
    If I’m shooting a doc or some kind of footage, I have to get signed waivers from everyone on camera OR put up a sign that says if you enter this area, you may get filmed. If I accidentally get someone on tape and they didn’t agree-I have to blur out their face.
    Why does the paparazzi have the right to shoot celebs and air tapes like this Ledger drug use one without express written consent from the subject? Is there implied consent because they’re celebs or is it just a law that gets trampled on??
    Any ideas or reasons why would be GREAT!

  3. hendhogan says:

    celebs are considering a part of public domain. the reason for a waiver is because of a person’s right to privacy. a famous person waives that right as a result of being a celebrity. it’s about reasonable expectation of privacy.

  4. Alex Keen says:

    ET is scum. Digg this.

  5. LYT says:

    Petaluma — I don’t think news journalists are required to get waivers from everyone they film; if they did, we could never film a war. I suspect the “news” definition has been stretched and distorted to include entertainment news. But movies, even docs, are categorized as entertainment (as are TV shows like COPS, which blur out perps’ faces even though local newspapers and TV news may show them), and have different rules than “news.”
    Someone correct me if I’m wrong, but that seems like a plausible explanation.

  6. Aris P says:

    Couldnt agree more. I’m forwarding those 2 emails to everyone I know. Also, I love how Nikki Finke got thrown into that verbal “fuck” fest. Keep up the amazing work David.

  7. Jeffrey Boam's Doctor says:

    Shameful is pulling out the old Holocaust analogies to hammer a point home. Is it just me or is there complete double standards when it comes to our perception of a famous person.
    Anna Nicole’s labia being sold on ebay before she’s cold won’t raise an eyebrow…but an introverted talent pills-out and the same coverage via Hollywood hacks since the 1950s suddenly causes blogging piques.
    Nothing has changed Dave. There were no good old days. I understand your anger but the only thing that’s really changed is the speed of delivery.
    The scum covering the same old ground, still smells the same to me. Its not right but it’s the place where you butter your bread Dave.
    So swallow the contempt and have another sandwich big guy.

  8. Roman says:

    Is it known how long ET was sitting on that video? In any case, David is right – these people have no shame or soul. It’s sad that another one of the bad side effects of the WGA strike so far has been that the already tiny standards of the journalist community have been lowered even farther.

  9. This is the show that went from a piece about Heath Ledger on moment to a piece on Jessica Alba’s increasing bust-size the next. So…

  10. Marqueeman says:

    So well written, David…I paraphrase John Lennon as far as the tabloid approach of so-called “entertainment” shows nowadays….How do they sleep at night?

  11. LexG says:

    Was ET *always* scummy?
    I seem to remember that in its early days, it was harmless puff-piece B-roll with Burt pimping his latest, or the cast of Dynasty getting lobbed softballs, presided over by innocuous Mary Hart.
    Last I paid any attention to it, they seemed to be milking the Anna Nicole story for months and months and interviewing plastic surgery freakshows.
    Leonard Maltin is still on there? Whatever his flaws as a (squeamish, stuffy) critic, he’s a reputable film historian and smart, likable guy… Shame some good people are still sticking around on a show that’s nearly hitting TMZ levels.

  12. Tofu says:

    Yes, this net schlock must’ve changed the game for E.T.
    They used to be a simple venue to promote the latest stars and flicks coming out (with a few Cindy Crawford stories thrown in), but now they appear to be the worst of the worst.

  13. Lex, generally it’s just as you described it except instead of Dynasty it’s their constant “exclusive” on the set of Desperate Housewives and harmless puff pieces presided over by Mary Hart (she’s still there).
    And then there’s Cojo. A man/woman who is like nails on a chalkboard. Has he actually become so effeminite that he’s now technically a woman?
    Of course they now take person tragedy and make it into like a sick competition. It happened with Anna Nicole and then Britney and now Heath and it’ll continue.

  14. Chucky in Jersey says:

    The campaign to lean on Paramount worked. AP (via NY Daily News) says “Entertainment Tonight” will not air that Heath Ledger video.
    Then again “ET” might not have aired the tape tonight thanks to Ms. Spears being committed.

  15. David Poland says:

    You couldn’t be more wrong, JBD.
    It’s not the same. Traditional Media is lowering its bar.
    Increased ease of access to immoral things is not nothing. And yes, there is a tendency in the world to feel all ancient and think the sky is falling.
    Issues like video sharing are complex and “immoral” versus “it’s the future, dude” need to be discussed and debated seriously over years as technology evolves. But watching the car wreck on the side of the road will always be the same.
    And you, jumping on the last sentence of a long post to try to win the day is cheap and avoids of any real discussion.
    I’m not pining for the controlled “good ol’ days,” but this is not “same as it ever was” and your cynical apathy is pathetic.

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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