Between global economic woes and a planetary crisis, it might seem trivial or silly to fret over entertainment issues. Who can think of movies, books, and T.V. at a time like this? Perhaps merely fringe elements of society such as myself who tend to obsess about aesthetics and values — qualities which distinguish us from the common caveman. I mean, sure, they had their art. But you have to admit, the style was a tad primitive . . .
My point being, most people might feel they should focus on surviving these hard times. Or the impending doom we face if we shrug off responsibility for reducing carbon imprints and complacently wait for somebody else to save the world. Okay, that’s another point entirely.
What I’m trying to express is that we need much more than to simply survive. Although, if you read the survival article written by my son Rafael, you could be convinced you need very little to do just that. However, if you read the computer survival article from my son Noél, you could become brainwashed that computers are your friends. In my opinion, we can never trust the machines. Especially machines intended to do the thinking for us.
Nonetheless and notwithstanding, I would like to make one thing perfectly clear. Hmm, that sounds a bit evasive. I need to be blunt so here goes: Entertainment is essential. Not just for me. For all of us. Yes, you! I’m talking to you! (Always wanted to say that. I mean, someone needed to.)
Without art and literature, music and film, the stage, we would be less than the lowliest savage. The most primitive cultures at least had some of the above. They danced, they created. Because that is part of our intrinsic being, our basic humanity. And there it is. Entertainment is essential. I have introduced a startling conclusion. Which is kind of contradictory when you think about it. Not introducing a conclusion — maybe it is, but it isn’t my point, or rather this point as opposed to my previous points — that something you do in your spare time could be of absolute importance.
Allow me to illustrate. I harbor a lot of pent-up frustration on the subject of entertainment. For instance, they cancelled PUSHING DAISIES!!! It happened months ago. I found out belatedly. As you can probably discern, I am appalled. From the fairytale narration to the oddball assortment of characters, I was charmed and uplifted by The Pie Maker’s magic touch. And I wasn’t even dead!
After giving the axe unexpectedly to the creepy enthralling series INVASION a few seasons back — I’m still reeling from that blow — A.B.C. has donned the villainous executioner’s hood to chop and drop DAISIES. I signed a petition to resurrect the show. There was a petition for INVASION (I didn’t know), and Showtime’s DEAD LIKE ME (observed postmortem in syndication, minus the foul language). Alas, network execs do not generally respond to the pleas of agonized fans. They do what they do based on statistics, an archaic inaccurate rating system. Five or ten million “estimated” viewers are not enough. They demand fifteen or twenty. The numbers don’t lie, heralding hits like SURVIVOR and IDOL as the best shows in America. (Stop watching — it only encourages them!) And if we masses dare to dispute, they feed us further Reality. It’s cheaper to maintain.
Oh, the wicked ways of the Men In Suits.
But wait, I hadn’t finished venting about those atrocities before another confronted me. There were petitions for “salvation” of Fox’s THE SARAH CONNOR CHRONICLES! A petition was drafted a year ago as well. How could a series with such amazing special effects, with the highest quality writing and top-caliber acting, possibly be in jeopardy? How could one of the most superb shows in the history of television be, if the rumors were accurate, terminated? How would I ever be able to trust again? It is unbearable, forfeiting that raw intensity of a universe gone mad; the deep yet ragged emotional bond between a desperate mother and a complex spring-loaded son; the intriguing social interactions of machines and humans.
The world would be less for this.
Why do I care? Why do I let The Suits plunge and twist their daggers in my chest? Entertainment, my friends. I need a Friday-night serving of MONK and PSYCH (no more MONK???). I crave a generous portion of MEDIUM and FRINGE, a thick helping of LOST and CRUSOE, a hunk of burning SUPERNATURAL and REAPER (what, its future is “grim”???). I yearn for a witty dash of N.C.I.S. and CHUCK (no, don’t tell me!!!), a legendary dose of THE SEEKER and CLOSER, a heartwarming whiff of DAISIES and GHOST WHISPERER. Pathetic, I know, but I thrive on a tingling jolt of TERMINATOR, an adrenaline rush of TWENTY-FOUR and BURN NOTICE and — are you kidding me, HEROES was in trouble??? — to get through the week. I need INVASION to re-SURFACE (another fun forsaken series). There are shows I love, the way I love Lucy.
Okay, almost that much.
Speaking of Lucy, genuine comedies are currently quite rare. Family shows like HANNAH MONTANA, WIZARDS OF WAVERLY, THE SUITE LIFE, and THAT’S SO RAVEN shine as recent exceptions from Disney. I-CARLY brightens Nick. Lifetime had REBA. There’s still EVERYBODY HATES CHRIS. I think we’ve seen the last of ACCORDING TO JIM. UGLY BETTY is a beaut, and a batch of quirky sitcoms give hope: THE OFFICE, OLD CHRISTINE, THE BIG BANG THEORY, and THIRTY ROCK.It’s a pity BETTER OFF TED, as strange as EUREKA, premiered on A.B.C.
Speaking of strange, I miss THE X-FILES. Thank goodness Mulder and Scully returned on the big screen. And speaking of movies, thank goodness George Lucas and Steven Spielberg decided to dust off Harrison Ford and hand him his hat. My sons and I managed to visit a cinema for the first time in a decade to see our hero, Indiana Jones, larger than life. Harsh critics, professional and amateur, may condemn the fourth epic. We enjoyed every minute. (Somebody needed to say that too.) Our fingers and toes are crossed in breathless anticipation of Indy Five. We are likewise rapturously delighted at the prospect of Maurice Sendak’s WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE coming to theaters!
Which brings me to another enormous grievance: Rob Zombie’s desecration of John Carpenter’s horror classics, HALLOWEEN I AND II. I don’t mind that FRIDAY THE THIRTEENTH has been redone. Hey, there was plenty of room for improvement. If you call more gore and explicit content an improvement. I haven’t seen it, I’m just guessing, but that seems to be the trend. Nor have I witnessed Zombie’s mutilation of my beloved HALLOWEEN. You just don’t mess with perfection. HALLOWEEN is the icon of horror and suspense, outdoing PSYCHO and, yes, my favorite Hitchcock THE BIRDS in my humble estimation. Of course, there’s ALIEN — technically that’s sci-fi, mixed with horror and suspense. I’m a huge fan of Ripley, yet Laurie Strode (portrayed by Jamie Lee Curtis) tops my list of film heroines. She might even tie Indy for the ultimate hero.
I’ve heard nasty gossip that BUTCH CASSIDY may be hijacked by Tom Cruise, as if Paul Newman and Robert Redford are no longer valid! Hold yer horses, TRUE GRIT is being recast??? Who in tarnation could step into The Duke’s tall boots? I suppose next the varmints will remake INDIANA JONES!!! Freddy Krueger’s being cloned. JAMES BOND has already been rehashed. Oh wait, the second CASINO ROYALE is the official Bond release. It’s a prequel like Steve Martin’s PINK PANTHER — he’s the only bumbling goofball who could fill that footwear — adopting the same name as an Ian Fleming novel and a film parody of the franchise featuring none other than Peter Sellers and David Niven. My mistake.
Give it time, though, and the vultures will revamp TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD. What, they did??? Okay, STAR WARS . . . GONE WITH THE WIND . . . or dare to redo THE WIZARD OF OZ frame by frame. It’s easier than thinking up something unique. From my perspective, that is the opposite of a tribute. It’s disrespectful. A blatant rip-off. I take pride in being original.
Granted, there are stories that inspire imitation or the production of numerous versions — like Shakespeare and A CHRISTMAS CAROL. It’s expected. Such tales are considered themes. I look giddily forward to Tim Burton’s interpretation of ALICE IN WONDERLAND. I am confident the film will stand as The Absolute Alice.
My own fantasy epic, DANCE OF THE CHUPACABRAS, might well be compared to the adventures of Alice and Dorothy. Believe it or not, I wasn’t copying those classics. My story evolved with no thought of them, until I noticed a similar theme and consciously added references. From there I went slightly nuts, incorporating lots of references. (See? I even complain about myself.)
There’s no excuse for The Zombie, who aims to “rob” Master Carpenter’s well-deserved laurels for constructing The Shape — in all his knife-wielding William-Shatner-wearing glory; for cleverly crafting a pair of timeless marvels of menace that are not dependent on gore galore. And just because a film was made over twenty years ago doesn’t mean it ain’t still great. The artist withers, but true art never gets old. Like the Fifties dramatic ode to childhood, LITTLE FUGITIVE, an American treasure. Oh right, they remade that too.
I cherish tradition. It is human nature to cling to prized memories. Such as the haunting eerie score composed by John Carpenter for HALLOWEEN, named in the uppermost ten of our fondest movie songs. These things are sacred. If you share that conviction, I invite you to check our lists of favorite movie and television theme songs and revel in a surge of nostalgia.
Remakes might seem inevitable, but ponder this: Eventually, the only unique films will be the terrible ones!
My final gripe of this jaundiced journalismic tirade involves a crusade of utmost urgency. To the pundits who would plot the demise of the printed word, or advise that to save money folks should never purchase a book new, I shake my fist in offended outrage. It is fine to have choices. However, our choices are steadily limited and modified without our consent. A digital device may be convenient for students, may ease the burden of carrying heavy texts, but it can never entirely replace the experience of holding a book, of turning the precious pages. For that matter, a good book is not a disposable commodity but something to esteem.
Far worse than other industries at present, Publishing is being threatened, by indifference as much as technology and a recession. If ignored, tangible literature that we can grasp and smell and display on a shelf will swiftly fade away. I plead this as a reader, whose home contains more tomes than furniture: Support books — the type which are not displayed on a screen — or lose them. It is up to you. What traditions will you cling to against the rushing wind, the rising tide of Progress?
Entertainment is essential. It is a passion, a pursuit. Beyond that, it is a physical facet of our hearts and souls, a manifestation of our memories and emotions. And that is why I am writing this at a time when the world is in turmoil, when the economy and environment are plunged in chaos. Entertainment can help us cope; help us revive from stress and anguish. It can relieve our doubts and dreads, inspire us to be heroes in large or small ways, convince us that things will get better.
“After all, tomorrow is another day,” in the immortal words of Scarlett O’Hara.
In my own immortal words: “Plant trees, recycle please . . . Love each other . . . help your brother.” Join Generation-E.
For those who think they have no one else to care about, quit hugging yourselves and go hug a tree! But proceed at your own risk. The author accepts no liability for splinters, ant bites, tree blight, woodpecker holes, acorns being dropped on your head by squirrels, or whatever personal injuries you may incur.
As for me, I have more petitions to sign.
Take our poll on movie remakes!
Basic Survival In A Wild World by Rafael Lopez
Computer Survival Kit by Noél Lopez — Coming Soon!
Petition For Saving PUSHING DAISIES
Petition For Saving MONK
Petition For MONK
Petition For REAPER
Favorite Movie Theme Songs
Favorite Television Series Theme Songs
DANCE OF THE CHUPACABRAS, Tome One of The Tome Trilogy Of Trilogies — Available Soon!
The World Is One Family (song lyrics)