Thursday, April 23, 2009

An IMteresting Conversation With: Jonah Evans, New Orleans Advocate

This week's IMteresting Conversation is with Jonah Evans, advocate and lover of New Orleans -- and Recovering New Englander. Read on for: what happens when a white guy works for the NAACP, how facebook kills political careers, and if New Orleans is still Anderson Cooper standing in "muck."

Also! This interview is cross-posted over at Take Part!


EA Hanks: Firstly, what's your name and what do you do?

Jonah Evans: My name's Jonah Evans and I'm the producer and co-director of

EA: What is Charity Hospital and why does it need saving?

JE: Charity Hospital is a public hospital in New Orleans, one of the oldest in the country. It was founded in 1736 and has served the city since. Shortly after Hurricane Katrina hit, the hospital was closed by Louisiana State University, despite that fact that over 200 doctors, nurses, volunteers and soldiers from the 82nd Airborne fixed it up

LSU's now trying to push an ill-conceived plan to build a new hospital that would destroy 67 acres of our city, take over a decade to build, and cost us over $2.2 billion. Charity Hospital can be rebuilt for a lot less, in half the time, and help us rebuild downtown New Orleans in the process

[Editor's Note: Please enjoy Jonah's dulcet tones in this video which explains his arugment on behalf of Charity Hospital further.]

EA: How is a university responsible for this? Shouldn't this be a gubernatorial issue?

JE: Well LSU is really powerful in the state of the Louisiana. After the storm, FEMA offered the state $150 million for "storm-related" damage for Charity Hospital. But LSU has appealed saying that they're owed $492 million because of storm damage. The pictures show a different story.

EA: How long have you been living in New Orleans?

JE: I've been living down here for about a year and a half but started working down here with the NAACP National Headquarters right after Katrina.
It's an easy city to fall in love with!

EA: So you're Post-Katrina.

JE: A recovering New Englander =)

EA: Has the city fallen in love with the influx of Post Katrina transplants in turn, or is there tension there?

JE: I just read that about 10% of New Orleanians today didn't live here [before the] storm. [Editor's Note: Check out this info on page two of the "NOLA Master Plan."] There's some tension with those folks I'm sure but everyone in the city is here for a reason. For those that came back home since the storm, and for those of us that moved here to make this our home I feel like there's a common sense of purpose

If anything, there is a new commitment for rebuilding our city in a more transparent way. Which is why this Charity Hospital fight is really striking a chord in the city.

EA: You came to the city with the NAACP, and now you're working to rebuild a part of the city that is historically Black. You're also a 6'4 guy from Massachusetts who could not be any whiter.

JE: I definitely had to wear my "NAACP Staff" jacket everywhere in the beginning.

EA: You're touching a lot of live wires here -- race, class, new people moving into an old town.

JE: This city is remarkably more diverse and welcoming than most places I've lived
I remember being shocked when people called me "Baby" when I first started working here. You ever been down here? [...] It's absolutely gorgeous and so alive! I think a lot of folks still have the image of Anderson Cooper standing waist deep in N'awlins muck. We've come a long way.

EA: You're describing New Orleans as though energy of the city, and the love people have for it -- whether you're new there or old -- makes the conversation about race null, or at least, not important. Do you think that's how most people feel, or do you feel like that's your take on it, that is, a perspective that could be defined as White?

JE: I'm not suggesting that the energy of the city post-Katrina somehow overlooks the deep racial tensions. If anything, the storm showed how horrible those disparities could be.

But I feel like BECAUSE people are dedicated to rebuilding New Orleans, there's an enhanced sense of engagement in what's happening to our city and who's making the the decisions that affect our future.

And I believe that level of community engagement means that we have the opportunity to address a lot of racial, social and economic justice issues in a new way. And that reaches across racial boundaries

EA: What do you love about New Orleans?

JE: Wow. There's so much -- the people, the music, the food, but that just sounds like tourist speak. You know another tall white guy from Massachusetts once wrote, "it is required of a person that they share the passion and action of our time at peril of being judged not to have lived."

In New Orleans, every day is one where you share in the passion and action of our time.

EA: The city takes up a huge space in the American cultural zeitgeist. It feels like a city that is both the epitome of America, and completely outside of it -- with its French influences and its African influences and the sense that things just function differently there.

JE: More Havana than Atlanta

EA: Right. Do you think that one of the many many reasons that the reaction to Katrina was... such that it was, is that the rest of America doesn't really understand the city beyond Bourbon St. ?

JE: Some people think it's just Mardi Gras beads and booze, but I think that the response after Katrina was remarkable. There are still volunteers that come down here week after week.

EA: The city, and the state for that matter, have a long history of a violent and fetid underbelly -- crime is still a huge issue there. How are all these volunteers and new energy mixing with that side of New Orleans?
Your house has been broken into, two, three times?

JE: Every city has it's problems and the crime in New Orleans is a very serious one. I'm definitely not an expert in this area and not sure what the answer is.

EA: But that part of life in the city is folded into the parts that are more traditionally celebrated -- the culture of community that's built around food and music and the identity of being from New Orleans. I'm just interested in how those two blend together. Crime is a part of every city, but it's rare that it's part of a city's consciousness the way it is in New Orleans.

How did you start working for the NAACP?

JE: I moved to DC after graduating college. I think I borrow too much West Wing from you in college. When Katrina hit, one of my best friends from New Orleans moved in with me NAACP had one of those numbers that scrawled across CNN during the storm... "If your need help, call here" kind of things. I started volunteering there and fielding those phone calls. I stayed for weeks and just never left.

EA: You call yourself a Recovering New Englander. What's to recover from?

JE: I love New England. Die hard Red Sox fan. But the states are so small up there!
I've felt incredibly lucky to get to work and live in other parts of the country that aren't in the Bermuda Triangle of Boston-NYC-DC.

EA: do you see yourself staying in new orleans?

JE: Definitely.

EA: What do you think will happen to Charity Hospital?

JE: I think we're going to win. If there's one thing I saw [working on the on the Obama campaign in Georgia and Michigan] it's how committed people are to having a say in what happens in their community.

Good health care and smart planning is too important to the people in New Orleans for them to let these decisions happen behind closed doors.

EA: Do you see yourself running for office? Does that interest you at all?

JE: Absolutely never ever ever! What about you E.A.? High priestess of New York City?

EA: There's one too many photos of me being a raging liberal out there.

JE: Facebook has destroyed many a fledgling political career.


Wednesday, April 15, 2009

An IMteresting Conversation With: Alicia Menendez, Democratic Strategist

This week's IMteresting conversation is with Alicia Menendez. In this photo, she's with her father, Senator Bob Menendez. Just so you don't think she's a old man who just stands behind a podium for fun sometimes. Read on for backstage drama with Anne Coulter, what Obama has fumbled, and wild nights with Sudoku.

EA Hanks: What is your name, and what do you do?

Alicia Menendez: Alicia Menendez. Communication Consulting.

EA: What does that mean?

AM: Good question. The "consulting" element is rather new (for me). I do a variety of things: build press plans, write online content, and handle incoming media requests.
I think about how the different mediums: radio, television, print, online can all be best integrated to convey a cohesive message.But the consulting part means that I don't have to work for just one person/group/organization.

EA: In politics.

AM: Mostly. But even within politics, there are campaigns, and non-profits, and specific issue based campaigns. So there is variety under the politics umbrella.

EA: How did you get into this line of work?

AM: Quite by accident I suppose. I thought I wanted to be a lawyer. Well -- no -- that's not true. I always thought getting a JD and becoming a lawyer would be a very sensible thing to do before running for office. Running for office was the real goal.
But in 2006, I worked as a paralegal (which will make you not want to go to law school).

EA: I'm quoting someone, but being a lawyer seems like a lifetime of doing homework.

AM: And I also began to question whether or not I wanted all of the limitations that come with public life.So I found myself 22 and never having thought about what my plan B would be. And staring at computer and boxes full of files.I had underestimated how important it was to me to have creativity in my work. Once I realized that I'd like to have a creative component to my work, law school was out. And after working on my father's 2006 campaign I was tired of being poked and prodder. So I worked at a small television station thinking that poking and prodding would be more fun than being poked. It wasn't.

EA: Ain't that the truth. Your father is Bob Menendez, the Democratic senator from New Jersey. Was politics dinner table talk, or was it left at the office?

AM: He always wanted to leave it at the office, but even as a kid I loved talking about politics -- it felt very grown-up. And if you're a curious kid, then you pick up everything - even things that aren't meant for you: one side of telephone conversations, the front page of local papers -- y' know.

EA: Do you believe in the phrase "the personal is political"? Does that phrase have meaning for you? And is it different than "Politics is personal"?

AM: The personal is, of course, political for those who view the world in a political light. But I think that is one of those points of differentiation =- people who see problems, challenges, limits and think "Politics/policy/good government could change that!" -- even if there notion of changing that problem/challenge/limit might be making the government "smaller." And then people who are rather apolitical -- whose brains don't synapse that way. I think there is great limitation to anyone whose politics rely solely on the personal.

There needs to be a certain respect for empirical data, and an intellectual ability to grapple with conflicting ideas -- even if they are outside one's own realm of "personal" understanding. Likewise, the idea that politics is personal depends upon the individual -- which perhaps makes it undeniably personal. But they are different ideas to me -- in that the former indicates a causal relationship and the latter is more relational.

EA: Is being apolitical the same as being apathetic?

AM: In some cases they are exactly the same. But in others, someone can care deeply about an issue or cause but not identify the solution with one political ideology or party.

EA: You've recently started to be featured on news programs as a talking head, if you will. What on earth is that like?

AM: It's a lot of make up.

EA: You're introduced as a Democratic Consultant? What's the title?

AM: Democratic Strategist. It's a very generic title that has little meaning to most people (including anyone in politics). The idea of a "strategist" is pretty much a television creation -- even when you're talking about people who have been working in politics for 20 years. They do something much more concrete than "strategy." If you watch some of the cable stations you'll see them trending away from the generic chyron and towards more specific resume points.

EA: When you go on these shows, are you offering a personal opinion or an opinion that pushes an organized message, or agenda?

Alicia: It depends on the show! On the questions! Hannity's show, for example, on Fox News Channel, is much more about the individual expressing their views with the understanding that the producers have specifically crafted the group to feature a political range.

EA: Right.

AM: But there are certainly occasions on which it's a role-play of sorts.

EA: When it becomes a role play, does anyone win? Besides the host?

AM: If there are two good role players and a good host absolutely! At a minimum, it can be a controlled point/counter-point. At best, it can be a really enlightening exchange over when the ideologies overlap and where the diverge. And a clarifying glimpse at why each side believes their way is the right way. And I think that helps people who don't have an opinion to form one.

EA: Don't people who watch CNN or MSNBC or FOX already have an opinion?

AM: On Fox in particular, I feel my role is to give the audience -- the majority of which one imagines leans Conservative (whatever that means these days) a reason to question their views -- or at least the absolutism of their views. I think CNN ends up having quite a few people who tune in to watch news and stay for the political shows. So who knows?!

EA: Is it fun? Doing these shows?

AM: I think it's such fun. I get a rush right before and then the feeling once it's all done (minus the hate mail) is great. I worry sometimes that it's all an exercise in vanity -- but I think at its core, there is value.

EA: What is the hate mail like?

AM: Well that depends on the show I've just been on. I went on O'Reilly maybe more than a month ago and I am still getting mail about "going to Mexico and fighting for my country," "being a stupid greaser," "killing my anchor babies." I mean tons of hateful stuff. The Hannity hate mail is more crass: "Stupid bitch," "You good use a good..."

You get the idea.

EA: What were you talking about on O'Reilly?

AM: Immigration. And the best part is that my blog allows me to see the Google search terms that bring someone to my site. I have learned that it is very difficult for people to spell my name. And many searchers would like to know if I have a boyfriend, am married or engage or am a lesbian.

EA: Any greenroom/make up chair antics you can report on? Your tweets from the green rooms are always hilarious. I feel like I've snuck into a Masonic ceremony -- so secret.

AM : Best run-ins include Mike Huckabee, Ann Coulter and Karl Rove. Ann Coulter was most interesting.

EA: Wow. That is quite the list. Go on.

AM: Because she feels so comfortable extolling her views as though her audience is A. captive and B. in agreement. She was holding court in the Green Room.

EA: With regards to her assumptions, isn't that what Bill O'Reilly as well as Keith Olbermann does?

AM: Right, but the show has [their names] on it. [They have] a network and a platform. Anne Coulter was in a room full of other guests and she just started telling stories like she was the star. On one hand, just hearing her talk is like nails on a chalk board. On another level, I have to admire her bravado. I can't tell if she's incredibly confident or insecure. Or if maybe she's just so completely un-self aware that she is able to talk and talk and talk without checking in on non-verbal cues to see if anyone is listening.

EA: What is the state of the GOP right now?

AM: Disarray! I think there are two separate but related conversations going on simultaneously. There is at once a struggle to define conservatism, and a visible fight for the soul of the GOP. The conservative conversation is much more intellectual - much more academic.

EA: Than before, than the Dem's then.. what?

AM: Than the GOP conversation.(Editor's note: Connoting a difference between the Republican Party as it stands, Base voters and Conservatives who feel left behind.) And [the GOP] is being under minded by folks who are more concerned with better TV ratings than with the actual question of how we define conservatism.

EA: So how do you define the GOP "conversation"?

AM: The GOP conversation is about a few things. First of all, there is a lot of ego.
You can practically see the supposed 2012 front-runners (apparently we didn't learn from 2008 that this speculation is useless) elbowing each other out of the way.Governor Sanford isn't thinking about the people of South Carolina when he turns away stimulus money. He's thinking "this is a major gamble and if I hit this right, I will be President Sanford." I think the alternative budgets we saw from Republicans was a good, tangible example of how they don't know what their minority game plan is.

EA: Which is the same gamble Jindal and Palin are playing.


EA: What about the Dems? Because the Democratic party is not the same thing as the Obama administration, and the party seems to be as lost and incompetent as it ever was, only know it's an incompetent majority rather than minority.

AM: I think at the end of the day there is much more unity than folks realize.
Unity doesn't sell papers (though one has to ask what DOES sell papers these days).
I think folks are just getting accustomed to the idea of being able to get things done. They are also still struggling to figure out how to communicate that we are where we are because of eight years of wreckless Republican spending - and I say that not as a political talking point - seriously - but as a generational perspective on how the GOP has really disappointed millenials.I don't agree with the GOP, but I can respect their basic logic. They spent the last eight years acting out of step with their own credo. And now Democrats need to find a way to explain that they are good mechanics with a hell of a lemon and they're doing the best they can as quickly as they can.

EA: It would seem to me that Obama has literally changed the game. When I see the Dems and GOPers flobbing talking points at each other, (or at the administration) it's like they're trying to get in a gunfight with some dull rapiers...When the GOP attempts to paint the Obama budget plan as "vague"and goes back to grinding on and on about earmarks, which are actually a miniscule part of any budget.

AM: I suppose. [But there are questions that should be asked of Obama.] Like - did Obama make a major mistake by setting standards for his nominees that were unmeetable?
What does bi-partisanship look like? Should Obama have tackled the "how" of bipartisanship sooner?

EA: How would you judge the Obama administration's first 100 days?

AM: Predictably rocky but generally well-executed. The notion of the first 100 days - and I'm sure you'd agree - is rather inorganic.

EA: What do you think will happen with the midterms?

AM: Senate races should be fine - maybe even a few pick up opportunities for Democrats. On the House side, I don't think - pending a major disaster or a major upswing-that we'll see much movement either way. Much like people voted Bush back into office in 2004, I think most people prefer stability at times like this -- especially in light of the recent and dramatic change we made to our elected body.

EA: You live in DC -- what's it like to live there and what's it like to live there as the daughter of a Senator?

AM: Well I am like a little old lady so it's what it's like to live anywhere as a little old lady.

EA: I know what that's like.

Alicia: I wake up, I take the metro to the gym, I go to the gym, I stop at Starbucks, I work, I take the metro home, make dinner and watch The Wire with my boyfriend. On a really crazy night I might do a Sudoko puzzle on the metro home or pick up some ice cream but that's about it.
I do appreciate that my friends here (all two of them) are able to talk politics but also able to shut it off. That's the weird thing about DC. It's politics, politics, politics all the time. Is LA like that with entertainment?

me: FUCK IF I KNOW. We all just sit around talking about GOOP -- Oh wait, that's Brooklyn. So you are outside of the social/power scene.

Alicia: I think the idea that there is a social/power scene is ridiculous. I have dinner with a United States Senator once every two weeks. It's not much of a scene.

EA: In my conversations with Meghan McCain, she's talked a lot about people who come on to her as a way of starting THEIR political career.

AM: I don't think I've ever had that happen. I also have to wonder how much of that is reality and how much is perception. What is that quote?
I think it's Sharon Stone about how you can sleep your way to the middle; you have to work your way to the top. That is what that reminds me of!

EA: Last thing: any comment for those Fox viewers who want to know about your love life?

Alicia: Nah! Let's keep them Googling.


Photo via DayLife

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

An IMteresting Conversation With: Sam Wasson, Author

Hold on to your hats and glasses folks, cuz this blog's the wildest ride in the internets!

I'd like to introduce you to a new feature here at Impudent Ways, IMteresting Conversations, wherein I interview my friends like they're famous over IM (GET IT!?) Some of them might be a little famous or more, and a lot of them won't be famous at all, but the goal is to talk to interesting people who do interesting things.

Hopefully, you'll be able to check in here every Tuesday for a new interview. I've thought about it, and Tuesday has nothing going for it -- it's not even the hump day -- so I thought this would be a good day to start.

Our inaugural interview is with Sam Wasson, author and cinefile, whose book A Splurch in the Kisser: The Movies Of Blake Edwards will be available in September 2009 from Wesleyan University Press.


EA Hanks: Firstly, what is your name and what do you do?

Sam Wasson: My name is Sam Wasson and I'm a writer. Are we done yet?

EA: Nearly.

SW: Okay.

EA: What sort of writing do you do? Have long have you been doing it?

SW: Right now I'm writing books about the movies I've been writing casually - well, not really casually - about the movies for a long time, but then...

EA: What projects are you working on now?

SW: A book about Breakfast at Tiffany's. The history of... The production...The incredible legacy...

EA: A book about a movie based on a book.

SW: You got it. It's a massive phenomenon.

EA: What came first for you, movies or writing (about movies)?

SW: Writing! But before that Movies! So I guess my answer is: First, movies. Then, writing. Then writing for the movies. Then writing about the movies.
Got it?It's confusing, but those were confusing times.

EA: What do you like about movies? What about the medium appeals to you? Do you like the cultural phenomenon around them, or the substance of the art itself, or a mixture of both?

SW: Mostly the art. I love that movies combine all the arts, at their best, I mean: sound, picture, literature, visuals. And time and space can be transcended.
The cut is a beautiful thing! As is the close up! These are two things that you don't have in theater, but you have them in film.

And emotion - let's not forget that. Because, honestly, nothing moves an audience like a movie.

EA: Do you think that's what the masses are attracted to in movies -- transcendence, in however they understand it? Because of all the arts, there's a huge argument to be made that movies are the most popular.

SW: They are the most popular! I think, yes, sometimes, but they don't always call it that.

EA: What do they they call it? Escapism?

SW: Escapism is a kind of transcendence -- some people go into the movies to shut off.
I tend not to like those kinds of movies, but then I'm accused of being a snob.

There is another escapism, though, that takes you out of your head and into - for lack of a better organ - your heart. That's the kind of escapism I like to write about
because that's the kind I see in my favorite movies. But that isn't specific to Fellini or Antonioni or Bergman -- it happens in popular movies too
Like The Naked Gun! That to me is pure transcendent bliss!

EA: You've mentioned the difference, or the space between, the phenomenon around film, and the films themselves. In terms of Breakfast at Tiffany's, how do you see that playing out?

SW: It's trickier. With BAT, you're talking about a less tangible kind of excellence.
It's not as much about aesthetics as it is about nailing the zeitgeist -- in other words, why people love the movie, I think.

EA: Has the movie has earned that love, by its quality?

SW: I don't think so, no. It has less to do with its artistic components than its progressive attitudes. That is, I think it's more about the meaning of Audrey -- a new kind of Audrey, one that has SEX, and lives ALONE, and wears PROVOCATIVE clothing, none of which were the custom of 1961.

EA: The public had only really seen her in films like Roman Holiday, fawnish and innocent.

SW: That's right. Suddenly, the princess has a night life. And young women across the country are going, "What the--Hey, wait a second! That looks fun!"I want that!"They're thinking, if Audrey does it, it's kinda okay.

EA: I remember telling a friend in high school that Holly is a prostitute, and she refused to believe me until I explain "$50 for the powder room."

SW: Exactly. You're talking about a message so well coded, even girls today miss it.
But that's proof of how progressive it was.

EA: Do men like this movie? Do you think Audrey has sexual draw for men's tastes today?

SW: Audrey was not as sexual draw, no. Not in the way that Marilyn was. That's not to say that people didn't find Audrey sexy, but that she was not [cast] with sex in mind. That's another reason she appeals more to heterosexual girls and women.

EA: Do you think that the fact that Audrey wasn't an overtly "sexy" actress was part of why the movie could get away with what it got away with?

SW: Yes! You know, Marilyn was an early casting choice. But imagine the movie with Monroe as Holly!She loses her intelligent hold on men. Marilyn's hold was purely erotic, and a little pathetic. You wanted to take her to bed, and then, when you saw how mushy she was, you wanted to cradle her like a baby. That's a male fantasy.

EA: And Audrey?

SW: Audrey is different! You want to BE Audrey.
Because she conforms to no one and nothing. In the fifties, there was no one that looked like her. In this era of pervasive commonality, she was saying, "I can be me, and far from being strange, it's actually fun!" James Dean was dangerous in his rebellion.Audrey was polite.But subversively polite.

EA: This is where I have to ask about Mickey Rooney in that movie: "What the fuck is with Rooney in that movie?"

SW: Haha! You're in Blake Edwards' world, don't forget.That means you're never far from a pratfall.

EA: Do you think the movie sacrifices subversion of race to push the boundaries of sex?

SW: No. Casting The Mick as Mr Yunioshi was a move Blake regrets.He fucked up. He did.
But let's not forget: Rooney's damn funny. Those two things need to be kept separate

EA: You've mentioned close ups. Let's talk about this in terms of what it does for the whole medium. What does it do, for story, for the art of cinema?

SW: The job of the director is to tell the story in pictures. And close-ups can tell you that story by showing you what a character is thinking. Either by showing that character's face or hand or some body part that carries emotion, or by showing you what he's looking at, like a point of view shot. Theater can't do that, and neither can books.

EA: Can you think of some of your most favorite close ups, and why they're so near and dear to you?

Sammy: Well, one that comes to mind: Ingmar Bergman's movie Autumn Sonata...With Liv Ullmann and Ingrid Bergman.

EA: Talk us through it.

SW: Mother and daughter, full of resentment for one another. They have it out in the living room in the middle of night. Bergman cross-cuts these close ups that put us right in their faces -- he NEVER lets us look away. Rather, instead throws us into the middle of their hurt. It's one of the most visceral experiences I've ever had in a movie. Of course, Bergman has been holding back on close-ups until this point. Mostly, the movie is shot wide: open spaces, furniture.And then WHAM! It's like he grabs you by the fucking neck, and shoves you into it.

EA: I like in Bringing Up Baby, Hawks waits until Hepburn realizes she's got a window of time wherein she can lure Grant out of his engagement and into her arms. Hawks slams the camera in, gets right into the flat planes of her face, framed by the car window. And you get a whole sense of how tenacious and ludicrous this woman is going to be. The close up is a device that works in both drama and comedy.

SW: That's one of my favorite movies -- I remember that. Exactly.

EA: You went to Wesleyan for undergraduate. What did you study?

SW: Film and English.

EA: And then you went to USC for post-graduate work in film as well. Did you find it worth your while?

SW: Yes, I did. The only way to learn how to make movies is to make movies.

EA: You've been writing about film professionally (in that you have two books coming out) -- do you think you'll go back to making films yourself?

SW: 3 books!

EA: Well fuck my soul.

SW: HAHAHAHAHA! Can I HAHAHA in an interview? ... Yes, I do think I'll go back to making films.

EA: All the films you mentioned (...with the exception of the Naked Gun) have been older. What do you think about current cinema?

SW: Hollywood? It's a poop show. How's that for insightful analysis?

EA: Thrilling. What makes it bad?

SW: Oh so many things make it bad. But, at risk of oversimplifying, one thing in particular: it isn't run by showmen -- it's run by suits.

EA: Go on.

SW: Money has always been the bottom line - as it should be - but guys like Mayer, Selznick, and Thalberg before dreamt of good pictures, too. Bucks were half of it.
Quality was the other half.

EA: When did things change?

SW: End of the 50's

EA: A lot of people hail the 70s as the last real heyday of moviemaking

SW: Oh it was! Definitely! And I would add: the real independent scene of the 90's.

EA: With such films as?

SW: Metropolitan!

EA: I have a theory

SW: Lets have it.

EA: That something else that has change significantly is that in the "golden" years of films, there was no real difference between high caliber actors, and "Stars" -- whereas now, there are two definite groups, with maybe one or two crossovers.

SW: Well, there were always stars, but they were employees.Now they're running the show.

EA: Do you think celebrity culture helps film or kills it?

SW: Depends. There was always celebrity culture in Hollywood.The problem now is that celebrities make the movies.

EA: Go on. What are the direct consequences?

SW: Often, that is not a problem. Many celebrities make great movies! But too often there is a casualty.

EA: In that they become star vehicles?

SW: Yes, but idiotic ones. Don't get me wrong - a movie star is a wonderful thing!
But with power comes responsibility. And when they make decisions, sometimes story goes out the window.

EA: Have actors always been paid more than actresses?

SW: For the most part, yes.

EA: Why do you think that is?

SW: That's a really good question. Well, I don't think it's very clear.
I just think it depends on the market. There's no limit to how much a studio will pay for talent. Liz Taylor was the first actor or actress to get a million for a movie.
Carole Lombard was once the highest paid actor at Paramount. But the biggest star in the world is Will Smith, so he can demand the highest fee. If Jada became bigger, she'd get more money.

EA: You live in LA, which IS Hollywood, and vice versa. Do you like living there?

SW: Yes. I love it.

EA: What about it do you love?

SW: That's a huge question! LA has the highest concentration of creative people anywhere in the world. It's like Paris in the 20s - but always. That's what I love.
And Hollywood is not evil.It's not a sinister place. It's a business like any other.
But it's my favorite business because when it's good, it doesn't make cars, or canned goods, or diapers, it makes great entertainment. And sometimes art. That's my kinda town.


Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Goodbye To All That

Do you sometimes feel like this is all a dream, and Barack Obama didn't win the presidency? That after eight years of... you know, all that, we've all just retreated into the cozy hallows of our brain and are playing pretend?

Well, he did win! Hurray!

And because of this, I'm gonna let some things go, because I'm tired of dragging them around. This is a new time, and I'm eager to move past the anger and cynicism that I pretty much made my religion for the past eight years. Cheesy? Yes! I don't care!

One of the only things that made the previous presidency livable was some of the great art (although, there was some pretty embarrassing stuff too), and satire that came out. And I was really grateful for it, at the time, but times have changed and it's time to move on. Timey time times on times of times recorded by time in timey timed time.

But as a last huzzah, here are my two favorite Previous-Presidency pieces of art.

The first is "Windowsill" by Arcade Fire.

Arcade Fire has a way of treating subjects that we are all familiar with, in a way the manages to escape sigh-inducing obviousness. There's nuance here, which is the difference between art and... I don't know, poop? (...Speaking of a lack of nuance.)When Win Butler sings

World war three, when are you coming for me?
Been kicking up sparks to set the flames free
The windows are locked now, so what'll it be?
A house on fire or the rising sea?

I can feel that stymied, hysterical disbelief that simmered in my gut, and in the collective guts of everyone who I would commiserate with -- whether it was my room mates, as we watched coverage of the war getting worse and worse, or with complete strangers as we were pelted by Bush supporters at his second inauguration -- for eight years. The relief of that feeling, that angst, prompted me to burst into tears as President Obama finished his oath of office. Seriously. I didn't understand the phrase "burst into tears" until I was standing there like a normal person, and then suddenly tears went flying out of my eyeballs and I was grabbing strangers (also crying) and hugging them. One woman kept saying "It's over! It's over!"

I'll never, ever forget looking up and realizing that everyone else around me was crying as well. Ok, since I'm getting all teary-eyed even thinking about it, I'll move on.

As far as I'm concerned, Stephen Colbert's 2006 speech at the White House Correspondent's dinner is the bravest, most patriotic, most... good thing, I've ever seen. Ever. EVER EVER. He spoke truth to power -- yeah, but the power was sitting RIGHT THERE. Literally. He was standing feet away from the President, tearing him to pieces with some of the best material, political or not, I've ever heard.

I'm proud, very very proud, to know someone who worked on this speech -- which you can read the transcript of here. Actually, I will probably never ever be really comfortable around them, because I know they worked on this speech. When I die, I'll think to myself, "Well, at least I knew someone who worked on Stephen Colbert's 2006 White House Correspondents Dinner speech. So, I did something good."

Have you ever had to speak in front of people? Not necessarily do stand up, it could be a wedding speech, or just trying to be funny in class -- you make a joke, and there's no response? It's the worst feeling. You flounder. You try to laugh off your bad joke. You make another joke, and that one falls flat too. You attempt to get them back, you plead to get the crowd back, and they are not having it. Finally, you give up and just start talking really fast so you can sit down and disappear as soon as possible.

Stephen Colbert essentially bombs the entire length speech, and it's a long speech. Most of the crowd's reactions are either shocked gasps, a few nervous laughs, and a lot of moans of disbelief. But he...just...keeps...going.

He doesn't speed up. He doesn't give a look of "C'mon, gimme a break!" he doesn't break for a moment of an iota of a second. He sticks with it the entire time, and walks away like... Nothing. Like he didn't just completely rip the facade off the event, the Presidency, the war. Like he didn't just expose every lie and falsehood that resulted in thousands of needless deaths.

Ok, I'm getting all faklempt again, so I'll end there.

These are the two pieces of art from the previous presidency that I'm letting go of. What are some of the things that made YOU feel better during the past 8 years that you're willing to part with?