Amoeblog

The Gods Must Be Crazy: Studying Celebrity Culture

Posted by Charles Reece, February 26, 2011 10:13am | Post a Comment
 
I have cleansed myself. I closed my eyes and in a nanosecond, I cured myself... It's the work of sissies. The only thing I'm addicted to is winning. This bootleg cult, arrogantly referred to as Alcoholics Anonymous, reports a 5 percent success rate. My success rate is 100 percent. Do the math ... another one of their mottoes is "Don't be special, be one of us." Newsflash: I am special, and I will never be one of you! I have a disease? Bullshit! I cured it with my brain, with my mind. I cured it, I'm done ... you don't look like you're having a lot of fun. I'm gonna hang out with these two smoking hotties and fly privately around the world. It might be lonely up here but I sure like the view, Alex!
 
-- Charlie Sheen on being a god

Could Sheen's firing from Men Behaving Badly be a sign of the end times for pop culture's Valhalla, that people will no longer put up with stars' egotistic bullshit? Nah, it's more like Ragnarök in the Thor comics, a cycle that's created by them, for them, but marketed to all of us -- diversionary entertainment at its purest. Here are some other recent examples:

the beaver mel gibson

Peter Biskind covers Mel Gibson's id in "The Rude Warrior" for Vanity Fair. Anyone who's read the author's books (e.g., Star, Down and Dirty Pictures) knows he has a penchant for overstatement, particularly when it comes to analogizing between a filmmaker's films and his or her personal life. This results in a hilarious reading of the movie I'm most anxious to see:

[The Beaver] features Gibson talking through a hand puppet that enables him to voice feelings he’s incapable of expressing directly, has been the object of much raillery. It hits every note in the Gibson songbook, and then some—most prominently, a suicidal dad redeemed by his son. (Foster says she took the script to Gibson because she thought it would speak to him personally.) But the film is so uncompromising, and directed with such delicacy, that it cuts through the sticky sentiment that is Gibson’s stock and trade. Foster manages to find in his preoccupations an authenticity that he has never been able to convincingly dramatize himself; she’s his beaver, so to speak.

I'm not sure he actually realized what he was writing in that last sentence, but what a double entendre.

tom cruise scientology

In "The Apostate" at The New Yorker, Lawrence Wright interviews filmmaker Paul Haggis (e.g., Crash, Million Dollar Baby) about his fallout with The Church of Scientology, while detailing, along the way, the cult's history and its calculated relationship with Hollywood. There's so much great material here that it's hard to pick just one example, but Scientology's use of Sea Org (its missionary wing) for slave labor is fascinating. Take ex-member John Brousseau's involvement in providing favors for Tom Cruise:
 

In 2005, [Church leader and chairman David] Miscavige showed Cruise a Harley-Davidson motorcycle he owned. At Miscavige’s request, Brousseau had had the vehicle’s parts plated with brushed nickel and painted candy- apple red. Brousseau recalls, “Cruise asked me, ‘God, could you paint my bike like that?’ I looked at Miscavige, and Miscavige agreed.” Cruise brought in two motorcycles to be painted, a Triumph and a Honda Rune; the Honda had been given to him by Spielberg after the filming of War of the Worlds. “The Honda already had a custom paint job by the set designer,” Brousseau recalls. Each motorcycle had to be taken apart completely, and all the parts nickel-plated, before it was painted. (The church denies Brousseau’s account.)

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Playing With the Boys: the Blue Angels are Top Gun

Posted by Kelly S. Osato, October 16, 2008 02:33pm | Post a Comment
U. S. Navy Blue Angels fly vertical
San Francisco's annual Fleet Week is over, but I'm still reeling in its aftermath. Every year on the last day of the air show I get together with a few good friends, pack a picnic and some drinks and head to a good vantage point to watch a few fly-boys do what they do best; that is, make a spectacle of their exceptional flying skills. Every day, the show is punctuated by an exemplary performance put on by the U.S. Navy Blue Angels who exhibit nothing but aviation at its extreme finest. It seems like everyone in San Francisco has something to say about the Angels, whether its the oft repeated dour expression of dislike or the rare wide-eyed, glowing expression of praise. Perhaps that's because their presence is impossible to ignore -- it's not every day that one hears what sounds like God taking a seam ripper to the sky. (Thankfully, the Fleet Week air shows did not coincide with the Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival this year, much to the delight of all the music lovers who flocked to Golden Gate Park.) I, for one, enjoy their ear-trembling display of non-normalcy. I understand those who argue that the Angels represent a militaristic waste of tax dollars and non-renewable resources, that they're noisy and scary, and that they exist essentially as a weapon, but just look at what they do! There really is nothing quite like them. No matter what is said against them I stand firmly planted on my ground of wondering what the hell possesses people to push themselves to such limits. Whether what they do is deemed right or wrong in your eyes, chances are what they do is something you can't fathom. It is the stuff of dreams and they, the Blue Angels, are like flying rattlesnakes waking you from your sleepy-head, from a world obsessed with headlines, deadlines and the horrid notion of the possibility of bread lines. 
Goose and Maverick sing You've Lost That Loving Feeling
After the show my friends and I settled in for some pints and pitchers at a local pub. To my surprise there were more than a few sailors and Naval officers among the bar patrons. Like the Angels, their presence could not be ignored: handsome young men, clean cut in crispy white uniforms, shiny shoes and the hats hats hats all piled up on a ledge, I imagine for the purpose of keeping them tidy while they watched football or played air hockey. There was certainly a hat for every serviceman in the joint: starchy white and rounded sailors caps and wide-brimmed and polished officer's hats adorned in gold ornaments and filigree. Put together with the flamboyant aircraft we'd watched all afternoon, this picture of seamen at play reminded me of a movie, hard. This meeting of the real and the fantasy of the days' dealings was noticed by everyone and so when it was declared, in friendly buzzing slurs, that before the end of the night Top Gun must be seen, the decision was unanimous. I hadn't seen the film in quite some time and the thought of having to see it with such friends as those who, like me, so suddenly cultured a need for speed sent me into a frenzy of excitement. 

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Cameron Crowe, Filmmaker Extraordinaire

Posted by Miss Ess, November 23, 2007 11:21am | Post a Comment
Have you ever felt like someone stole your dream life before you even got a cameron crowe oscarschance to pursue it?  That's how I feel every time I think about Cameron Crowe.  He's a writer, first of all, and a fine one at that, but he also directs and produces. Three of my favorites he'ssay anything john cusack created are Say Anything (writer), Jerry Maguire (writer/director/producer), and Almost Famous (writer/director/producer). 

Say Anything is so cutting, hilarious and real, my friends and I still quote it on a daily basis, even though it came out back in 1989. (Among the most quotable moments: "Joe lies/When he cries".) It's a first love movie about the high school valedictorian and a schlumpy trench coat guy, and it's how so many of us fell in love with John Cusack.  The thing that I like so much about Crowe's writing is that he's both honest and tender.  It takes guts to be either of those things in Hollywood.  The characters he creates are true to life-- they are flawed but lovable. 

(In which Job is sooo condescending.)

Posted by Job O Brother, May 18, 2007 12:50am | Post a Comment
Okay.

I’m looking around my room for gems of pop culture (or, as is more often in my case, unpopular culture) that I can gab about.

A good starting point is whatever’s playing on my iPod. Right now, that’s “La Transfiguration de Notre Seigneur Jésus-Christ”, a piece by the composer, Olivier Messiaen.

(*Chuckle*)

Um… That’s Olivier Messiaen.

Hee! You did it again! The way you’re pronouncing it in your brain is – you must forgive me – hilarious. It’s that cluster-f**k of vowels at the end.

Now, before you get all huffy and pronounce a few crueler things in your brain at me, you should know that I too once pronounced Olivier Messiaen the same way you… titter!… you just did.

But now I know better, and I’m going to pass this knowledge on to you. For free!

The first name is easy. It’s the Freedom version… I mean, the French version, of the name Oliver. Oh-LIVE-ee-ay. Like that one actor who won a lot of awards and inspired everyone with his performances and drank to numb the pain of his crushing depression and repressed homosexual desires.

No, silly – not Tom Cruise. Tom Cruise doesn’t inspire anyone. Pay attention!


Beloved actor and all-around doomed soul, Lawrence Olivier

The surname is the challenge, and requires making a couple sounds that don’t appear in the English language. I’ll break it down, syllable by syllable:

Messiaen: Mee-seh-YA-choo.

I know, I know. It doesn’t look like it’s pronounced that way, but it is French after all. We’re talking about a people who can’t be bothered to pronounce half their words most of the time.