You know it’s a bad week when even arguably the greatest Super Bowl in history—capped off by an in-your-face look at Bruce Springsteen’s “Jungleland,” no less—somehow fails to lift our spirits. We should all be celebrating our collective fortitude, renewed patriotism, and the fact that Kurt Warner didn’t get to spend all week talking about how Jesus is his running back, and yet here we are on another Friday evening, watching the heart of America sputtering its way toward bleeding out. In fact, it seems as though morale is so low that the purpose of this column has completely shifted: Chances are you’ll find most of the so-called “buzzkills” contained herein strangely comforting in their absolute pettiness, which makes us feel strangely impotent. Although we suppose you could look at it another way, which is that by distracting you with meaningless quibbling and empty schadenfreude, we’re actually providing something of a service. In fact, you could say we’re national heroes. Frankly, we’re touched by your candor. We absolutely could not have done it without you. Friday Buzzkills is America’s team, and we will never lose sight of the fact that we’re all in this together. Unless you need a job or something. That’s all you.
- Ho ho, poverty jokes… They’re funny because they’re true. But how bad is it, really? Well, only in the sense that jobless claims are the highest they’ve been in more than 30 years and most economists are predicting that we could hit a 10-percent unemployment rate by 2010. But those are just so many numbers; to put a cartoon face to the crisis, look no further than the fact that Disney recently posted a 32-percent loss in net income for this quarter. You know we’re fucked when happiness factories are faltering. Disney isn’t alone, either: Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp. reported a $6.4 billion loss, surely saved from even deeper ruin by its sole box-office hit Marley And Me—which is probably the best anyone can say about that film. (Other than giving us a nakedly desperate Jennifer Aniston and the “[Owen Wilson walks out]” meme, of course.)
Then, today came reports that Steven Spielberg’s DreamWorks became so hungry for cash that it reneged on its partnership agreement with Universal and began secretly negotiating for a bailout from Disney (great timing!). Unfortunately, DreamWorks’ strategy of playing the two studios off one another blew up in their face once details leaked to the press, and Universal basically told them to, er, go fund themselves. This means that the production house’s much vaunted deal with Bollywood financiers is likely to fall through as well unless Disney—which we just told you isn’t exactly swimming in Disney Dollars these days—ponies up, and that’s probably bad news for its current underperforming subsidiary Miramax, which would most likely have to be sold off to make room.
Got all that? We don’t blame you. Hollywood shuffles are so boring when Robert Townsend isn’t involved. Allow us to break it down: The movie industry is in such dire straits right now that Steven Spielberg can’t get funding. The top-grossing director of all time and the model for every wannabe filmmaker with dreams of making it in La La Land has to beg for money. Yes, we can go back and forth all day about how Spielberg “sucks now,” how he should have to pay for his hubris on Indiana Jones And The Kingdom Of The You’ll Watch Anything, Huh?, or how Hollywood itself has pretty much been rotting from within ever since $20 million started being tossed around as a perfectly reasonable number for a “low-budget, independent picture.” But the cold, hard fact is that the General Motors of modern moviemaking basically just went belly-up. Much as we’d like to, it’s hard to be flippant about that.
- Or then again, maybe it isn't. The Wall Street Journal reported this week that these troubled times have spawned a new cottage industry of musicians writing “recession songs,” mostly independent artists who have garnered unlikely Internet fame by picking up the rhyming dictionary and searching desperately for something to go with “Goldman Sachs.” But while hard times have produced great music before—Woody Guthrie, Bob Dylan… uh, Phil Collins’ “Another Day In Paradise”—the latest crop of would-be fascism-killing machines seems more concerned with making groaningly specific references that are sure to get them YouTube hits, but mostly just make us want to set up our own bailout fund to ensure that these people never pick up a guitar again. Take Kevin Rockower’s “Bernie Madoff Song,” which strives to be flash-in-the-pan topical, over-the-top punny, and Christmastime ubiquitous simultaneously:
Mr. Santa, help me if you can, sir
I've nothing left in my portfolio
For Christmas can I have my Christmas bonus
Cause good old Bernie Madoff with my dough
Take heart: If there’s an upside to the imminent collapse of all media as we know it, it’s that “artists” like Rockower—a 29-year-old New Yorker who’s also “an aspiring actor,” and who thinks he might “find my niche” by “writing political songs”—will soon have to suck it up and get a real job.
- Ah, but we promised that we wouldn’t get into the serious economic stuff, and there’s no better antidote for despairing over the many tangible threats to our livelihood than a manufactured scandal. Last week it was Jessica Simpson serving as our Atlas in “mom jeans,” but this week the weight of the world rolled right back on top of Miley Cyrus’ Muppet-y head after pictures surfaced of the should-be Applebee’s waitress posing with friends in the hilarious “let’s pull back our eyelids so we look like Asian people!” goof that’s so en vogue now. As with seemingly every photo Cyrus has taken, ever, it set off a furor of international proportions, with the Organization Of Chinese Americans issuing a statement saying it fell within a “long and unfortunate history of people mocking and denigrating individuals of Asian descent,” right before it made an unsafe lane change on its way to pick up some fried wontons and a new book on calculus. (We kid! We kid!) For her part, Cyrus claimed on her website she was merely “making a goofy face” (So you’re saying Asians have goofy faces? Interesting strategy!) before naming the real culprit: The fact that Britney Spears is all sober and thin now, which leaves only Miley to keep the entire industry of tabloid journalism afloat. Poor girl. It’s like people only want to talk about the bafflingly stupid things she does in public as though she’s completely unaware that her every move is being watched, and nobody wants to talk about all the awesome art she’s not making! What’s a celebrity without any pretense whatsoever to integrity to do?
- Here’s hoping that Cyrus catches on soon to the fact that photographs are not somehow magically imprinted on the hearts and minds of only her dearest friends, otherwise her inevitable tumble from “I wish people would stop looking at me!” celebrity to “Please! Look at me!” Celebreality will come a lot sooner than anyone had pegged in our office betting pool. (The smart odds are on 2011, with a “win, place, or sex tape” for true rollers; get in while you can!) And if that happens, she’ll never get picked for a high-profile disaster like the planned Bonnie And Clyde “reimagining” we told you about last week starring Hilary “Why Do I Need To Audition? Haven’t You Seen Me In A Beret?” Duff. You might remember that we shared a quote from the original Bonnie Parker, the increasingly terrifying Faye Dunaway, who screeched, “Couldn’t they at least cast a real actress?” after one of her trembling assistants relayed the news. This week, Duff fired back, launching a feud that has all the potential to stretch into months and months of backbiting—which is awesome, because frankly we are bored to death waiting around to get laid off, and we really have nothing better to do than to listen to two women on the opposite ends of the “Chew Up/Spit Out” tube in the Hollywood Dream Factory bicker pointlessly about who’s more awful. While back-and-forths like this usually have a tendency to smolder a bit under publicist-issued niceties for at least a couple of weeks, Duff surprised everyone by wasting no time in lighting a big-ass bonfire, playing the “You ain’t got no alibi” card and basically calling Dunaway washed-up and ugly:
“I think that my fans that are going to go see the movie don't even know who she is, so you know…. I think it was a little unnecessary but I might be mad if I looked like that now too."
[Insert chauvinistic, “Mee-owch!” cat noise here.] Granted, it’s true that Dunaway has lately been looking like she went to her doctor and said, “Give me the ‘Katherine Helmond In Brazil,’” but still, it seems like a pretty bold move to bring up radical plastic surgery when, by all appearances, Duff and Dunaway have the same dentist. But defending yourself by averring that your fans are idiots? Well, we’ve never seen the “ignorant and proud” rebuttal deployed so masterfully (at least, not since the last time we wrote an obituary for a semi-obscure musician). Kudos to Duff for recognizing that it’s not how many Oscars you’ve won or classic films you’ve starred in—it’s how many admirers you have with no knowledge of history to judge you against. Fortunately for Duff, she’ll be famous forever!
- Dewey Martin was one of those versatile musicians you never hear about anymore, the kind of guy who could play drums for Carl Perkins, The Everly Brothers, and Roy Orbison, drop into a garage group like The Standells for a few months, then do session work for The Monkees without breaking a sweat. In 1966 he got his biggest break playing with a nascent group melding country, folk, psychedelic rock, and a burgeoning late-’60s paranoia into a sound that would prove short-lived but incredibly influential: Buffalo Springfield. Martin performed with the band—led by Neil Young and Stephen Stills—on all of its most famous songs, including “For What It’s Worth,” which later became the de facto soundtrack for any film even tangentially related to the Vietnam War. After the group disbanded amid poisonous infighting, Martin tried forming the New Buffalo Springfield with a cast of ringers, but soon received a cease-and-desist from Stills and Young. Martin dabbled in country again as a solo artist and even performed with Elvis Presley, but he eventually returned to his roots by reclaiming the Buffalo Springfield mantle again in the early 1990s (though without much success). He died this week at the age of 68.
- The death of the old guard of take-no-prisoners, accept-no-junket school of journalism continued apace this week with the passing of Malcolm MacPherson, a writer who filed hundreds of stories for Newsweek while seemingly pursuing his own considerable death wish. A masterful war reporter, MacPherson fearlessly covered the 1973 Arab-Israeli conflict, the Turkish invasion of Cyprus, and most recently the operations in Afghanistan and Iraq (which led to his 2007 satirical novel Hocus POTUS). Of course, he wasn’t all guns, guts, and glory: MacPherson left the Newsweek bureau in the 1970s to go live in a treehouse in Kenya, and it was there he wrote his first of what became dozens of novels. A tireless critic of the Bush administration and a campaigner for Barack Obama, MacPherson was attending a pre-Inauguration party on Jan. 17 when he collapsed and died; his obituary was just released this week.
Have a super weekend!