Today’s question: How the hell did Michael Medved get his job, and how the hell does he keep it?
Really. His Wikipedia entry, for whatever it’s worth, paints the outlines of a real hustler, a guy who’s made artful leaps from one rock to another in the course of making his living, ranging from political speechwriting to novelty publishing to this to that. He hosted “Sneak Previews” after Siskel and Ebert left, a little like being the guy who followed Greg Kinnear on “Talk Soup,” but never mind. At some point, he seems to have crossed that invisible line in today’s media world, the one after which you cannot fail.
We’ve all known people like this, ambitious souls who never seem to do great work, or even good work, but always fail upward. Medved’s like that. He had the advantage of basing his career in film criticism, which doesn’t take a lot of specialized knowledge to do a halfway-OK job. As long as you’re reasonably telegenic and good with a catch phrase, it doesn’t really matter if you know what you’re talking about. You’re just another guy with an opinion. I mean, Richard Roeper is a film critic. How hard can it be?
(To my film-criticizing friends, I don’t mean for a second that the work isn’t serious. It’s just easy to be good-OK or good-enough. Greatness is as rare as it is anywhere.)
Medved brings something extra to the table: His “values.” I welcome someone who can talk about art and culture from a religious perspective, if only more of them did. I always find Amy’s thoughts on TV and movies interesting; she writes from an intellectual Catholic POV, puts some sweat into the effort, and never takes the easy way out. In the end, you have to have something to say other than, “God told me this is wrong, and so it is.” More important, you have to respect the art, to understand that it’s art, not propaganda, and judge it accordingly. But Medved plays dirty. Remember his crusade against “Million Dollar Baby”? He felt moved to mount his soapbox not because the story took a turn he disapproved of, but because (or so he said) he felt it was advertised dishonestly. He thought the trailers promised something uplifting, and it turned out to be a big downer about quadriplegia. He was only thinking of those clueless moviegoers who might be fooled into spending $10 on something that wasn’t “Rocky” with girls.
But even knowing what a duplicitous fellow he is, even I was shocked by this column in USA Today. Perhaps shocked by its honesty; he seems to be dropping all pretense of being a critic, and promoting himself straight to Minister of Cinema in the Republic of Gilead:
Why would Hollywood release a controversial feature film about alleged Mormon terrorists of 150 years ago while all but ignoring the dangerous Muslim terrorists of today?
For the same reason “Hollywood” made a movie about the sinking of the Titanic and not a fatal wreck at the Indy 500, about the 1980 Olympic hockey team and not the 2003 Detroit Tigers, about a rat that cooks and not an elephant elected to Congress, I suppose — because that’s what the movie’s about.
But to answer the question honestly would mean a one-paragraph column, and Medved has space to fill. And so on he goes, accusing “Tinseltown” of having too much “respect for Muslim sensibilities” and that “Hollywood’s reluctance to portray Islamo-Nazi killers remains difficult, if not impossible, to explain.” (Islamo-Nazis? Is that what we’re calling them these days?)
I guess Medved left “Syriana” before George Clooney got his thumbnails pulled out by a member of Hezbollah. Maybe “Black Hawk Down” passed him by. “Three Kings” was probably too easy on ’em. I understand.
He makes the case that Americans shouldn’t be making movies about American religious terrorists as long as there are still movies to be made about Islamic religious terrorists, and they shouldn’t be making movies that make Mormons look bad as long as there’s a Mormon running for president. OK. Medved has a background in screenwriting, connections to vastly wealthy people who share his feelings and a nationwide soapbox to publicize his efforts. What’s he waiting for?
Seriously. Wouldn’t you think a person who’s made his living writing about the movie business would have a clue or two about how it works, starting with the fact there is no “Hollywood” monolith that decides which movies will be made? (Or is there some committee I’m unaware of? It’s possible.) If Medved and his buds want to see movies about bloodthirsty Ay-rabs, the Screen Actors Guild has quite a few swarthy types in their files, and I’m sure they could find plenty for the cast.
You know this rant. I’m bored already.
Here’s something, though: We’ll see movies about Islamic terrorists, eventually. And I predict the best ones will be made by Muslims. They’ll certainly have the deepest understanding of the culture, societies and institutions that breed Islamic extremism, just as an American might feel they’d bring something to a story about American religious extremism. Just sayin’.
Do I have bloggage? Only this:
I’m so old, I used one of these. Filed stories on it, although I preferred the next generation, with the tilt-up screen, so you could see more than four lines at a time. I think it had a 128-baud modem; you stuck the phone into two giant cups on top.