S U C K

"a fish, a barrel, and a smoking gun"
for 14 September 2000. Updated every WEEKDAY.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Hit & Run 9.14.00

 

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In the beginning was the word, and the word was with Cameron, and the word was Cameron. Dreamworks' new picture Almost Famous is Cameron Crowe's mostly autobiographical account of his days as the Marvelous Boy of rock journalism, so you might expect the writer/director to indulge in a little puffed-up nostalgia. But how could the ambitious Fast Times creator be content with a simple portrait of the artist as a young man when he could show us a lengthy home movie of the artist as a young god? Almost Famous is the greatest act of self-deification since David Koresh claimed to be the messiah (and amusingly enough, a film that takes multiple potshots at the vanity of rock stars); but at least Crowe wasn't thinking small. Mere hagiography wouldn't really describe Crowe's depiction of his 15-year-old alter ego: Lives of the saints usually contain some nod to personal vices that have to be overcome. The child in the movie is a figure of earthly perfection, word made flesh, eschewing all vices, fulfilling all hopes, righting all wrongs, bringing joy and enlightenment to every patch of ground on which he sets his holy foot. The format is that of a coming-of-age film, but it's just there to throw us off the scent; the young Crowe never has to come of age because he arrives fully formed and without faults. Even a scene in which a group of Magdelenes attempts to deflower our hero is played coyly enough to permit the conclusion that he emerges with his maidenhead intact. Almost Famous gives audiences a wild-eyed John the Baptist figure in Philip Seymour Hoffman's Lester Bangs, a betrayal for thirty pieces of silver (adjusted for inflation), several denials of the savior, a sermon on an airplane, a few resurrections (including a stomach-pumping revival and the rebirth of a killed Rolling Stone article), and Frances McDormand (who was born to play the Madonna anyway) fretting as her boy preaches to the Pharisees. The young rock writer never actually rebukes a tempest at sea, but the movie's fictional band is called Stillwater. You might complain that flawless characters never really make interesting movie heroes, but we're guessing that in depicting himself in all his immaculate glory, Crowe was just going for accuracy. We already know he's the nicest guy in Hollywood (It must have taken godlike charity just to draw such an enthusiastic picture of early seventies monster rock, a genre that is to rock what Pig Latin is to Latin). And deep down, don't we all suspect that the man behind both Singles and Jerry Maguire spends his time between takes casting out demons and curing the lame and halt?

No, Crowe's real misstep is in his triple-threat overreaching as the film's writer, director and muse. After all, Jesus may have directed the New Testament, but he hired four of the Holy Land's hottest writers to do the script.
 

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It's been a big week for news of covert advertising campaigns: Tuesday brought news of both the Bush team's charmingly inept attempt to get "RATS" under the skin of potential voters and the FTC's use of "mystery shoppers" in its attempt to uncover how violent media is marketed to kids. Of the two, only the Bush report raised our eyebrows. While we've always wanted to believe that subliminal advertising worked (so much easier — and cheaper — than hiring Weiden and Kennedy), the practice has been pretty thoroughly discredited, making the Bush camp's rodent reference as inexplicable as it was ineffective. Then again, this is assuming that the "RAT" was let out of the bag on purpose — after last week, it's hard to believe that an epithet as innocuous as Charlie Brown would be the worst name-calling W's team could do. And, of course, the campaign's repeated demurrals that "We're just not that clever" ring true enough. On the other hand, there's as little doubt about the deliberateness of the entertainment industry's attempts to market violent or otherwise "mature" fare to children as there is any actual surprise in the finding. People expressing shock over the fact that minors can purchase age-restricted material or go solo to an R-rated movie should really get out of their cave more often — a sentiment, we must add, that finally makes some sense out of Clinton's disingenuous Plato citation that "Those who tell the stories rule society." Tell that to the FTC, or to Gore and Lieberman, both of whom have used the marketing report to rattle the saber of governmental crackdowns should the entertainment industry fail to police itself. Lost in all this convenient piety is any discussion as to whether children's consumption of media with "mature" content has any effect at all. Which brings us back to the last time the FTC made a ruling about advertising that conformed not with facts, but with what people wanted to hear: In 1974, the Commission announced that any station found to be using subliminal advertising techniques risked losing its license, as subliminal techniques were "contrary to the public interest," no matter "whether effective or not."

 

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We've always been great admirers of the people of Australia. From the majesty of the Alps to the traditional charms of lederhosen and Alpine caps, Australians are truly a people blessed by nature and rich in culture. So imagine our delight this week, as the folks in the country that's also a continent bring us not only the new Olympiad but the latest pratfall in the march toward international workers' solidarity. What's remarkable about the battle of Melbourne, however, is how quickly these anti-globalization frenzies have become as codified and predictable as the opening ceremonies at the Olympics. We support any activity that gets Chairman Bill running scared, but really, by this point you could do the play-by-play with your eyes closed. Here come the blockaders bragging about how many delegates they kept out of the conference, there goes the ubiquitous Dr. Vandana Shiva (and what is she a doctor of, anyway?) with her umpteenth corporate government speech. Here come the jackbooted thugs to protect the rights of plutocrats to assemble peacably; there go the protesters bitching about the unfairness of it all.

This week's activities at least had the ineffable magic of unattached participles: "The police drove a car over a woman sending her to hospital," one protest site reported. Other than that, we can only ask ourselves whether, when the Bolsheviks wanted to start a revolution, they bothered with street musicians and impromptu performance art. Isn't it time to take it to the next level? If you want to bring down The Man, put some clothes on and get to it.
 

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Speaking of naked performance art, when is Suck going to get its props for predicting the outcome of Survivor? As CBS drags us through the island mud again this week, couldn't they maybe give a nod to Suck's Kelsey Grammer feature, and its astounding prescience? After all, when the movie finally gets made, who is going to be the only logical choice for the part of the exquisitely annoying Richard? And will we ever get a finder's fee? Or even a word of thanks from the man himself? Don't bet on it.
 

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Speaking of not betting on it, we did get at least one nice thing for our fifth anniversary. You'll recall that Humberto Moreira is Suck's lone avenger down Mexico way. For our fifth, he has truly outdone himself with a Flash presentation that uses the tried and true formula of constructing absurdist operetta from out-of-context quotations. The piece proves conclusively that when they are animated and graced with moving eyeballs, Terry Colon illustrations stop being charming and become pretty terrifying. And in true Moreira form, the storyline is closer to the truth than any of us want to believe. The only flaw we could find was in the very practice of making a pastiche of our dumbest quotes. Actual, in-context statements made by the Sucksters will always be inane and moronic enough to render any attempts at doctoring superfluous. That's our guarantee of quality!
 

courtesy of the Sucksters