"You'll never get ahead if you don't take care of what you have." - Doris Waddell, RIP

A historic building on our U of M-Morris campus - morris mn

A historic building on our U of M-Morris campus - morris mn
The multi-ethnic building was the original home of the music department at UMM. (B.W. photo)

Monday, May 20, 2013

"Monica!" movie: not what you might think

Washington Post image
You can pay $35 per entry to take part in the Script Pipeline movie idea competition.
You would think Hollywood isn't interested much in fresh movie ideas. Hollywood finds new ideas too risky. It's a balance sheet world in which only tried and true ideas seem to be trusted. Which is sort of a shame of course.
Movies should reflect creative minds. We should feel curious about something new and fresh unraveling on the screen in front of us. Hollywood must feel we are totally risk-averse. So, we get these "franchises" that grow out of a successful movie.
We used to hear the term "re-make" but now it's "re-imagine." Maybe Frank Luntz suggested the tweaking of terms. "Re-make" suggests something that might be stale.
The creative world often goes in cycles. Therefore I'm holding out hope that the door may open for more originality and risk-taking in movies.
"Indy" type films are always a source of originality of course. But they mostly don't make it out to the sparsely populated areas. I had to go to the Twin Cities to see "My Life as a Dog."
In recent years I have made no such trips for movies or anything else. Domestic obligations have guided my lifestyle - kept me home. The last movie I saw in Alexandria was "Mamma Mia" (with the ABBA music) so it has been a while.
I write about movies I saw years ago, or on TV or on DVD from the library. I have had problems getting DVD players to work. We have an older TV (certainly not flat screen) which might be the problem.
At present we don't even get cable TV. We discontinued it after a death in the family. Certain aspects of cable TV were beginning to wear on me. I find that AM radio is a better substitute for cable TV than I expected. I do have a VHS tape player that works.
I pay little attention anymore to the "top grossing" movies. Increasingly this seems a world apart from my world. Is pop culture drifting away from relevance or am I drifting away from relevance? I don't know. Over age 55 you can't expect to be attuned to what's "hip" anymore.
We have seen Larry King replaced by Piers Morgan. That's if you get cable TV of course. King always had topics and guests that I was well-versed on. Morgan seems to operate in a strange new world in which I have no clue about most of the guests. These are so-called "celebrities" but not in the world I inhabit. I needn't be concerned about it now.
On many days we listen to Mike McFeely on KFGO-Fargo radio.
A movie idea with potential?
I called up the web page for Script Pipeline because I had this remote dream of having an idea for Hollywood. I decided the $35 fee was too much for such a shot in the dark. I'll just share a favorite movie idea here.
Let's ponder a historical movie. Let's go back not so far in time to when Bill Clinton had to deal with scandal. Our elected representatives were drawn into impeachment proceedings by a tabloid type of episode.
You're thinking of a titillating movie, right? I'm not approaching it that way. There would be a titillating aspect to be sure. This would assure some Hollywood interest. But the main message of the movie would be about media transformation.
The movie would be about the wakeup call that members of the old entitled media received. Looking back it was more of a death knell than a wakeup call. It was a very profound transformation. We can compare it to the extinction of dinosaurs and the rise of new species.
The dinosaurs were big and awkward just like the old media. They only seemed all-powerful. Let's liken them to the old institutions like Newsweek that had a "gatekeeper" function with the news we consumed.
We can all envision the old model: men wearing white shirts with the top button unbuttoned, meeting in an atmosphere of gravity in boardrooms where decisions were made under "deadline" about the kind of stories America ought to consume.
We might forget that the general population was un-empowered media-wise back then. We'd peruse Newsweek and Life and rely on 5:30 p.m. network TV news broadcasts. Walter Cronkite had this "trusted" reputation. We had to trust the likes of him just like we trust the local car salesman.
So powerful was the old guard in the media, it could keep under wraps the well-known dalliances of JFK. Looking back, that was incredible. There was no Internet churning out a whole new system and set of rules about news consumption.
The Internet laid back in the weeds for a while. It felt out its new parameters. It would gain power as more and more of the citizenry signed onto it (and got well-versed using it).
Finally we came to the historical junction where Bill Clinton had his indiscretion. The old guard media - those sweaty men in white shirts - at first thought they could render a judgment, for the good of all of us of course.
According to legend, the established old media weighed the Clinton-Lewinsky story and backed off. "Nothing to see here," in effect.
Was it a benevolent judgment? The old media reflected big business where benevolence or honesty aren't the raisin d'etre. I suspect it was a question of taste to them. We would scarcely have heard of the Jodi Arias murder trial in the old days. Today it bubbles up through the tabloid-friendly world of cable TV. It even reached what was left of the "old guard" media such as broadcast network news.
The old media can't ignore what the public might be talking about. And so it was, in the end, with the Clinton/Lewinsky story. It was truly a turning point in American history. What might have been hidden from view as an untidy or tawdry little story, about a powerful man's dalliance, got pushed into the establishment media because those folks realized they had no choice.
The Drudge Report had this story and came forward with no inhibitions. The scenario involved no group of men with white shirts (top button unbuttoned) around a boardroom in New York City. We're talking "geeks" in unpretentious settings, perhaps even a college dorm room, candy wrappers strewn on the floor around them, bluejeans with holes at the knees etc.
A major news story might now grow out of such an unpretentious setting. But was there really "power" here? In a sense yes, but it was only the power to put the truth out in front of the public and let the public weigh it. This was a new information ecosystem that was bottom-up and not top-down. It was different on the most fundamental level.
The public or "the masses" could now decide what was news and what was truth. It was an empowering new meritocracy. We take it for granted now. But how would you like to go back to the days when you depended on Life and Look magazines? Shudder.
This movie about Clinton/Lewinsky would show the utter shock felt by the "white shirt guys" and guys behind the network evening news. It would show their disbelief about how their comfortable established order was coming under siege by common citizens who simply had computers. Against their wishes, they had to report Clinton/Lewinsky and report it prominently.
The story led basically nowhere outside of just being sensational. "Impeachment" was a circus accomplishing nothing. All that was accomplished was a wave of tabloid-type attention for quite some time, leaving a stain on the Clinton presidency. (There was a stain literally but let's not get into that.)
The movie could show these new unpretentious geeks feeling their oats. They'd dig back into their Doritos as they pondered what new link to put up.
A brave new world? Whatever the effect, it's real and it's truth-seeking. The "dinosaurs" gave way to the little mammals scurrying around the rocks. The movie could tell quite a story.
I'd suggest it begin with images of the old media: bundles of newspapers being thrust into trucks and delivered out and about. So much money to spend merely on distribution.
We'd see those men in white shirts, feeling so empowered. Really they were just deciding on what stories were most palatable by the standards of their advertisers. The new ecosystem isn't encumbered in any such way.
No more "extra, extra, read all about it." Just click your mouse. My, if people of the '60s could only know that "click your mouse" would have meaning someday. So much for trying to predict the future.
My movie would have its obligatory titillating aspect too. The name? How about just "Monica!"
I have another idea too: a movie like "Mamma Mia!" only with the music of Paul McCartney and Wings from the 1970s. Perhaps I'll share more about that sometime.
- Brian Williams - morris mn minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com

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