Orts and All

Can’t Miss TV

Comes now the news that Michael Moore, the merry propagandist, is joining Keith Olbermann on Al Gore’s Current TV, the legendary television network.  It’s practically a miracle!  Even now the crowds are queuing up to catch a glimpse of this dynamic duo.

One can only imagine the kind of material that, in collaboration, they may produce.  Perhaps an investigative report on the link between Citizens United, the Tea Party, and global warming.  Or maybe something even more intellectual, like a video essay on how the alleged indebtedness of the federal and state governments is just a rumor started by the gnomes of Zurich.

Whatever, isn’t it great to know that we live in a country where bombast and imbecility can have their day in the court of public opinion?  As they say in the ad – “mm, mm, good!”

Those ‘Public’ Airwaves

The Speaking Freely essay written by Erwin Krasnow, recently co-published by The Media Institute and The Thomas Jefferson Center, is striking in a number of ways, not least because its author is a former general counsel of the National Association of Broadcasters.  As such, Mr. Krasnow has known for years of broadcasting’s embrace of concepts like “scarcity” and the "public interest" standard as useful tools in re certain policy issues, like cable TV’s “must carry” obligations.

So how to get a handle on Krasnow’s call now for an end to such concepts, and to the notion that the public “owns” the airwaves?  Perhaps it’s the prospect of forced spectrum surrender, or maybe the notion that broadcasters are able these days to charge for their carriage by cable that explains it all.  Whatever, it will be interesting to see if, in days ahead, the NAB echoes some of Krasnow’s arguments.  For that matter, it would be interesting to know what those at NAB think of Krasnow’s essay, which has attracted rather a lot of attention.  Goes without saying that we at TMI would be more than happy to publish any such.

It’s the Gospel (‘Jesus Dropped the Charges’)

Doubling down on my earlier reckless confession of love for the blues and gospel music, herewith a link to a piece by the late O’Neil Twins.  (Yes, the title is amusing, but I’ll fight any man in the bar who says he doesn’t like the music.)  Check it out here.

Drudging Respect

Writing in The New York Times, David Carr has this to say about the extraordinary influence of the Drudge Report: “Yes, Mr. Drudge is a conservative ideologue whose site also serves as a crib sheet for the likes of Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity.  But if you believe that his huge traffic numbers are a byproduct of an ideologically motivated readership, consider that 15 percent of the traffic at Washington Post.com, which is not exactly a hotbed of Tea Party foment, comes from The Drudge Report.”

Say what?  Featuring, on its editorial pages, such as George Will, Charles Krauthammer, Jennifer Rubin, Robert Samuelson, Mark Thiessen, and Michael Gerson, the WAPO may not be a hotbed of “Tea Party foment,” but it is the source of a lot of conservative opinion of the sort that Drudge links to often.

Carr’s opinion to the contrary notwithstanding (and how many times do we have to say this?), the primary reason for Drudge’s success – as for the success of conservative talk radio and the Fox News Channel – is its political point of view, which is different from that of most of the MSM, and popular with a large number of people.  Sheesh!


The opinions expressed above are those of the writer and not necessarily of The Media Institute, its Board, contributors, or advisory councils.


‘The Ladykillers’ and the Critics

It’s with great trepidation that I say something that may offend.  Let me apologize, in advance and profoundly, if that’s the case.  I know I’ll have to live with this for the rest of my life.  This said, here ’tis: I like blues and gospel music.  More than this, I prefer African-American blues and gospel music.

I don’t know why this is, but I’m pretty sure it isn’t because I’m biased against whites.  I think it could be because it sounds good.  Anyhow, I was powerfully reminded of this, and other things, when I caught AMC’s premiere last month of the remake of the 1950s British comedy classic, “The Ladykillers.”

Directed by the Coen brothers, Ethan and Joel, and starring Tom Hanks, the American version had its U.S. theatrical debut in 2004, and has since been dubbed “one of the best Tom Hanks films you’ve never seen.”

For those not familiar with the British version starring Alec Guinness, of which the Coens’ film is a “retelling,” “The Ladykillers” is the story of a band of ne’er-do-wells who, in the guise of a “classic music ensemble,” rent a basement flat that abuts the counting room of a nearby riverboat casino.  The group’s intention is to tunnel into the casino’s vault, under cover of the (recorded) sound of their instruments in practice.

So that’s the storyline.  But the point here isn’t so much to provide a review as it is to register a few paragraphs in criticism of how a film as good as this could go six years before most people had even heard of it.

A lot of the problem, I think, has to do with the reviewers.  Reading now what they wrote then raises the question: Who are these people?  Even accounting for the fact that their reviews were of the theatrical version, and not the edited one shown on AMC, it’s almost beyond belief that most were so negative and that virtually none of them even mentioned the music.

This omission is remarkable because “The Ladykillers” is filled, not just on the soundtrack but also on camera, by fabulous gospel singing.  Sung by such as the Soul Stirrers, Rose Stone (sister of Sly), The Venice Four, and the Abbot Kinney Lighthouse Choir, featured performances include rousing renditions of “Trouble of This World” and “Let the Light From the Lighthouse Shine on Me.”

Credit for the inclusion of these groups belongs to T-Bone Burnett, who was the music producer on “The Ladykillers” and also on the earlier Coen brothers’ production, “O Brother, Where Art Thou?”

Never mind for a minute the joy of seeing Tom Hanks as you’ve never seen him before, or a spot-on performance by Irma P. Hall; the music in this production is among its most prominent features, and for reviewers to have ignored it completely says much more about them than anything they have to say about the movie.

It’s always a risky thing to attempt a remake of a classic, but it’s made nearly impossible when, as here, the reviewers are tone deaf.


The opinions expressed above are those of the writer and not necessarily of The Media Institute, its Board, contributors, or advisory councils.