Monday, February 28, 2011


The verdict is in, at least for me. The Oscars last night were long, slow, tedious and boring. Oh, God, they were boring.

Part of the problem, I think, is that the Academy Awards show is supposed to appeal to two very different audiences: those outside the industry, like me and most of the zillions of the viewers out there in TV land, and those inside Hollywood. 

For Hollywood, the awards ceremony is a big deal. Careers are made, or enhanced, and if not broken at least diminished. I can imagine being there, if you are an actor, director, or producer. You could schmooze with your colleagues and kiss up to people you wanted to work with.  

When I was a newspaper reporter and editor, I used to go to annual awards banquets for us journalists. The format was similar to the Oscars. We sat at round tables of eight or ten and schmoozed, and ate and drank, and acted like we were equal to the big-time publishers and editors at the same table.

They handed out awards, and we applauded and shook hands and had a good time. I was usually glad I went, although it was a long evening. They projected copies of stories and photos on a big screen, so we could admire the winning entries and see the ones we might have missed.

Overall, it was fun. We got to kiss some ass, or have our ass kissed, depending on where we were in the pecking order.

An awards ceremony is very different on the inside than it is on the outside. Watching the Oscars, for most of us, is fairly pointless. We are not in the industry, and we not there for the ass kissing, so who cares?

For one thing, there are too many categories, and too many awards, and too many people who receive them. Why don't they just nominate all the movies for the year -- all 360 or whatever the number is -- and all the actors and makeup artists and CGI people and directors and cameramen, and so on? And why don't they add in the thousands of extras and grips and carpenters and truck drivers, and so forth, and stage this gigantic event in the Rose Bowl? They could hand out free tequila and just let the party and the cameras roll.

That could be fun to watch. Imagine all the things that good happen, the good, the bad and the ugly. For the half-time show, they could have a mud-wrestling contest between Charlie Sheen and two or three of his ex-girlfriends. With microphones on. Imagine the dialogue.

Failing that, I think they should either cut down on the number of categories or have two segments, one for the general public, designed to entertain, and the other for the industry insiders, to give out awards and provide a place and time for schmoozing and ass kissing.

They could broadcast the entertaining one for the general public on network TV and have the boring insider one on cable.

If they don't do one of the those, I doubt I'll ever watch again. The show is just not entertaining enough. Odd, too, since these people are masters at entertainment. I guess they deserve a night off.

So do I.

-- Roger

© Copyright 2011, Roger R. Angle

Sunday, February 27, 2011


Hi there. What are you doing tonight? 

Me, like a million other morons in the world, I'm planning to watch the stupid Academy Awards show.

It's so boring, and yet I feel like I've missed something if I don't watch it. If I do, I get bored and restless and feel like I'm wasting my time.

You have to hand it to Hollywood. They get paid to advertise. They actually sell commercials for the show, and the show itself is a big PR stunt for their movies. Is that smart or what?

Gee, I wish I was that smart. Obviously, I'm not. Here I am blogging for free. (BTW, click on these ads, and someday I might get paid.)

I don't even know who or what has been nominated. I just went online and tried to find the list and couldn't. Found a million BS stories with photos about what color dress some actress is going to wear on the stupid red carpet.

I don't care. i just want the damn Oscar list. Let's see what I can remember. I think that ballet movie with the woman who goes crazy is nominated for something. What was it again? Oh, yeah, "Black Swan." Whew, thought I'd never remember.

A friend of mine, a screenwriter, said he thought Natalie Portman did a great acting job. Say what? I thought she didn't do much acting. She had the same worried, tight-ass expression on her face 80% of the time. That's acting?

Still, I thought the movie was powerful and unforgettable. Some people said the dancing was great. No, it wasn't. I used to be a dance critic, and I took Imperial Russian Ballet lessons years ago, so I know something about ballet. If you want to see "Swan Lake" for real, look at the Kirov Ballet on YouTube (link below).

Let's see if I can recall what else I've seen. Oh, yeah, I tried to watch that movie about hillbillies in the Ozarks. What was it called? "Winter's Bone." I tried to watch it and couldn't cut it. Tried two or three times. Here is an excerpt from my review, off Netflix:

"Horrible place, horrible people. Rural poverty, no values, no dignity, no hope. I was not intrigued, entertained, engaged, fascinated, or enlightened. I felt sorry for the girl, and then scared for her, and then I couldn't wait to get away."  

I finally found the list. If you look at it, the same five or six movies are nominated again and again. What does that mean? Were those all the good movies, out of perhaps 300 films released in 2010? I doubt it, but I do know it's good PR if a movie wins more than one of those little gold statues.

Those are the only two movies on the list that I have seen or tried to watch. I used to love the movies when I was a kid, but not so much any more. I wish they'd quit making movies for teenagers and morons. I would love to love the movies again. Don't hold your breath.

Who am I rooting for? I don't care. Let's see what happens tonight. I just hope the show isn't too stupid. 

Who are you rooting for? Do you care? Leave a comment below. Thanks.

-- Roger

© Copyright 2011, Roger R. Angle

Kirov Ballet
Academy Awards
List of Oscar nominees
Movie guide:

Saturday, February 26, 2011


Most of my life, I have hated TV. It is usually slow, boring and full of meaningless crap. I don't know how anyone stands it.

My ex-wife used to watch the idiot box, and I found I could enjoy some of the shows if I came in in the middle, after the set-up. Because then I had to figure out what was going on, not be spoon-fed some idiotic story idea.

But once in a very long time I see a network TV show that doesn't offend me or bore me to the point of mania. The most recent one and the best one I can think of is "Lone Star," from fall 2010. It was a Fox drama about a con man and his father who use the son's good looks and charm to relieve people of as much money as they can. The son is especially adept at wooing the women.

The show starred James Wolk, David Keith and Jon Voight, among others. Great cast. Huge acting chops. Set in Texas. Oil money. Big landscapes, fancy offices, tall buildings. Lovely ladies.

The best thing: the son had profoundly mixed feelings. He wanted the money, and he wanted to please his dad, but he also wanted a real life, too. To quit lying and succeed on his own merits, which were pretty strong. This was a great inner conflict, one of the best I've ever seen. Very dramatic. There were strong outer conflicts, too. The Jon Voight character seemed to be onto our young anti-hero.

The show was first-rate. The acting, the story development, the directing, the depth and meaning and movement of the story -- wow. Stunning. Maybe the best thing I have ever seen on network TV. One of the best dramas of any kind ever.

But this great show was cancelled, after only two episodes. 

Why? The number of viewers fell from 4.1 million to 3.23 million between the first and second episodes. I guess Fox thought they had a loser on their hands.

Sweet Jesus. Good thing it wasn't a novel. You only have to sell about 5,000 copies of a novel in the first week to be a blockbuster. But that audience pays by the book, at $25 or $30 a pop. I guess that's peanuts in the world of network TV.

The people at Fox didn't look at the quality of the show, apparently. Who cares about quality? Why would you think quality might be worth preserving? Or that quality might sell in the long run, that the show might find an audience? So it was great drama, so frigging what? Who cares?

That's why TV is a vast wasteland. Always has been. Probably always will be. No guts, no glory. No taste. No quality. Pablum for the masses.

The same thing happens in politics. Many leaders are scared to death to tell the truth.

People wonder why American culture is so full of junk. Politics and TV are intellectual junk food for the masses.

Makes me want to puke.

My advice: Buy a funny T-shirt and read a good novel instead of watching TV. (And click on these ads. Please.)

-- Roger

© Copyright 2011, Roger R. Angle

Friday, February 25, 2011


Last night, I read an hysterical review in The New Yorker, dated Feb. 28, about "Spider Man: Turn Off the Dark," the new show on Broadway by U2's Bono and his guitar player, who calls himself The Edge (WTF?).

John Lahr quotes the nutty right-wing TV commentator Glenn Beck as saying the troubled production is "the best show I've ever seen. Bar none. Heads and shoulders above anything else." Why? Because, "I want to see if Spider Man falls on the audience."

That's funny. Old weird Glenn seems to have a sense of humor. Amazing. I thought he was just a rich over-publicized jerk.

Lahr goes on to say that the Spider Man show is "a schizoid experience, a combination of inspired technical accomplishment and narrative impoverishment, in which everything happening behind the actors is brilliant and everything happening between them is banal."

My question is, why is the show so bad? Bono and The Edge -- (WTF? He should add that to his name.) -- are good musicians. I love some of their work, especially with Leonard Cohen on "Tower of Song." (Link below.)  

Even though I have not seen the Spider Man production, and don't intend to, I think I have the answer: I bet they didn't spend enough time developing the story.

You know Pixar Animation? ("Toy Story," "Finding Nemo," etc. Link below.) I heard one of their guys on NPR, and he said they spend five years developing a movie. Three of those years are devoted to the story.   

Wow! Three years on the story? That is great, and almost unheard of in Hollywood, where scripts are often written in three weeks. Legend has it that Sylvester Stallone wrote the original "Rocky" (a great movie, BTW, IMHO) in 82 hours.

I believe three years is reasonable to develop a story. Creativity takes time. It isn't just a burst of light, like a flashbulb going off. I spent nine years and six full drafts writing and rewriting "The Disappearance of Maggie Collins," my first big (unpublished but near miss) novel, for example. (More on that in a later post.)

Back to Spider Man. It sounds like Bono, The Edge (WTF), and Julie Taymor spent about three weeks (or three days) developing the story for Broadway.

Anyway, it's too bad their show is having problems. But it is kind of funny to watch them struggle with it. You can't be all things to all people, boys. I don't think it's easy to cross over from singing and playing the guitar to storytelling.

Some people believe that just because they are successful in one field, they can jump into a related field and fly like an eagle. Not always true. This eagle has not yet landed. Or flown.

Let me know what you think. Leave a comment.


-- Roger
Copyright 2011, Roger R. Angle 

The Leonard Cohen song:
Pixar's creative process:
The New Yorker:

Thursday, February 24, 2011


When I first moved to LA from OC, I went to every cultural event I could find: museums, dance concerts, films and movies, poetry and prose readings, night clubs, you name it. 

You know what I found? Crap, that's what I found. Crap everywhere. Crap in music, in prose, in film.

My friend Lisa and I drove all over the West Side one Saturday night and stopped at eight or ten different places to hear music. Good God, the stuff was bad. Yargh!

We sat in the car outside one nightclub while the techno-industrial music pounded away, shaking the street. Dozens of people, mostly teenagers it looked like, waited outside. They looked at us like they were sorry, either about the music or about us, I couldn't be sure.

We went to a little folk music club on Pico and went inside. The music was weak and thin and not very musical. Yuck.

Another time, I went to hear a band at a little bar on Sepulveda. The place was so small, there was standing room for about 25 people, and the music was awful and so loud you couldn't hear the next person scream. I wanted to scream all the way home.

Some friends and I went to a prose reading by a tall blonde guy whose name I don't recall. He looked around at the audience of six or seven lost souls and complained that people don't support the arts in L.A. Then he read his work aloud, and it was the worst, most boring, most juvenile crap I've ever heard. Lame for a sixth grader. Jesus.

The worst event of all, however, was at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, a film by some young Asian-American "artist." I don't recall her name.

Honest to God, the "art film" was a series of home movies. Have you ever watched anyone else's home movies? Talk about boring. You haven't been bored till you've been trapped in someone's living room, trying to be polite and watching their dog trot and their kids play and their friends sing Happy Birthday and say Merry Christmas into the camera.

Lord, save me from this kind of boredom. Makes you want to scream and tear out your hair. You wonder nowadays why young people keep their earbuds in and listen to their music. But that was the "work of art" that night at the so-called museum. Yargh.

I'm sorry, but my definition of art does not include boring bullshit. Art should give you a heightened awareness, a sense of dynamic posibilities, a touch of the infinite; you should see the depth of the human spirit. It should set your soul on fire, not bore you to death.

William Faulkner said, “I found a way of writing where every word was as dangerous as a stick of dynamite.”

That's the spirit, Will. 

I don't drive my car across town and find parking, especially here in traffic-nightmare L.A., to be bored out of my skull.

Hell, I can do that at home. Of course, I don't. Too busy reading good books, listening to good music, looking at good art, and watching good movies.

Here is a short list:
Music: Fiona Apple, Leonard Cohen, Bo Diddley.
Art: Frida Kahlo, Cindy Sherman, Eleanor Antin.  
Movies: "The Godfather," "L.A. Confidential," "One-Eyed Jacks."
Novels: "Blood Meridian" by Cormac McCarthy, "As I Lay Dying" by Faulkner, and "Lord Jim" by Joseph Conrad.
Short stories: Aimee Bender.
Poetry: Holly Prado.
Long-form TV: "The Wire."

I could go on and on. But I won't.

Howdya like them apples?

-- Roger

Copyright 2011, Roger R. Angle

Wednesday, February 23, 2011


To all us kulture vultures, the highest value in our lives would be to make a living doing the art we love.

For a serious writer, that is almost impossible. I don't know anyone who has done it successfully without compromising something.

Bend over, and you can be successful.

Cormac McCarthy, our greatest living American writer, hit it big only with a piece of schlock, "No Country For Old Men." It's pretty bad, a potboiler full of guns and drugs and unlikely events. But it made a fairly good movie that was commercially successful.

I don't want to talk trash about commerce. We all need money. We just don't want to sell our souls to get it.

Old Cormac came about as close as anyone to making real money off real literature. Not very close, not very literary.

That brings me to my subject today: the blockbuster novel, nowhere better represented than by Stieg Larsson.

In case you've been living under a rock in the Mojave Desert, Stieg Larsson is Swedish, rich, famous, and dead. Not a good combination. His brother and father, I hear, are scooping up the millions as they roll in.

But is Stieg's stuff literature? Is it art? (One of my favorite questions.)

To me, his first book, "The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo," tried to be a good beach read and didn't succeed. Too much exposition, too boring, too hard to plow through. Not fun.

But there was a good story buried under all that crappy prose, and it made a damn good movie. Like the old Hollyood saying goes, "Bad novels make good movies."

But Stieg's second book, "The Girl Who Played With Fire," is much better, as a beach read. It's more fun, it's easier to read, and it has a stunningly intricate plot, so far. I'm about 115 pages in. I'll let you know what I think as I go along.

But is it art? Is it real literature?

Hmmm. That's a hard one.

It certainly is pop lit (popular literature). It has all the earmarks of a beach read: The characters are larger than life. Lisbeth Salander is quirkier than anyone I've ever met, and she was abused to an extreme I've never heard of in real life. 

Her male counterpart, sometime lover and co-hero, Mikael Blomkvist, is maybe a bit more realistic. He does bed every babe in sight, and he is extremely brave, and he does get rich writing for a magazine. That is all pretty far-fetched. 

So the characters are larger than life.  

And the stakes are high. Everything you can think of is at stake in both these novels. As my friend Adam would say, you have to do that in a big page-turner. These big, bestselling crime novels "have really high stakes -- outlandishly so, often, but it's your job to make the stakes high AND believable."

And the characters have to take both emotional and physical risks. Their hearts have to be on the table, and their heads have to be near the chopping block.

Old Stieg does all that, and he does it in spades.

But is it art?

No, I don't think so. But it sure is fun to read. And it takes virtually no effort, which is another sign of pop lit.

More later, as we go along.

Welcome to the first post of my new blog, Kulture Vulture.

-- Roger

Copyright 2011, Roger R. Angle