Surely everything poignant or insightful there is to say about Billy Wilder’s acid-tongued masterpiece Sunset Boulevard has already been said. It’s benchmark cinema - a highpoint of movie history. The film has been deservedly discussed, dissected and devoured by many an intellect more insightful than mine. No amount of words can really express what makes this movie the classic that it is; one must experience it in order to get it. Yet in the spirit of trying to reach anyone who has yet to be initiated into the cult, this review will endeavor (and likely fail) to give it a go.
Movies and TV shows about the film and TV industry are a dime a dozen these days, but Wilder paved the way for all that came after by blowing open the barn doors on an industry that routinely shuns its best and brightest – sometimes after their prime, and sometimes before they begin to shine. Boulevard tells the story of two such people – forgotten silent movie star Norma Desmond (Gloria Swanson) and struggling screenwriter Joe Gillis (William Holden) - and how their lives intersect, and the rippling series of tidal waves that result from their accidental meeting. It isn’t a spoiler to say that the story is told from the point of view of a dead man, since the tale begins with Gillis’ body floating in a pool. From there, his acerbic narration works backwards to six months before so the audience can discover the events that led up to his early morning swim.
Back when Season Three of Doctor Who was first playing on the BBC, there was a children’s series playing concurrently during the week called Totally Doctor Who. It consisted of interviews and information about the series and was designed to provide kids with a Who fix in-between the weekend installments. Each week also featured three minutes of the ongoing animated adventure, “The Infinite Quest,” for which David Tennant and Freema Agyeman provided their vocal talents. This DVD edits together all the various segments of the story into one seamless 45-minute adventure, and the results are mostly positive.
Given the amount of time she’s been in the business, Tracey Ullman should have stopped being funny years ago. And yet not only has she not done so, but she doesn’t even appear to be close to hanging up a going out of business sign. Her latest project, State of the Union, which she created for Showtime, isn’t perfect, but it’s far more hit than miss. The series is essentially a platform for her to present an array of characters that make up, as Sarah Palin might say, this great nation of ours. (In fact, it’s a shame the material predates Palin’s arrival on the political scene, as I suspect Ullman would’ve whipped out a parody that surpasses Tina Fey’s.)
In nature, the weaker members of a species are often ostracized so they cannot reproduce and dilute the gene pool. Lions, for example, do not keep an omega male around to be the butt of the joke for the rest of the pride, like we humans tend to do. And while that makes sense in a Darwinian way, our way is a lot more fun. It may be cruel, but imagine how boring life would be if we lived in a world without the human equivalent of a punching bag. Admit it: you all know someone who fills this role in your life, and you relish it. You wouldn’t be human if you didn’t.
The world of television has a near-inverse proportion of punching bags as there are in nature, and this makes sense; it is much easier – and fun – for the writing staff to designate one character as the target for random acts of misfortune and malice, though not necessarily in that order. If you ever wondered why every show features at least one character that the other characters would likely never associate with in real life, now you know.
So bring us your sad, your weak, your insecure; your clueless, your obnoxious, your desperate, your slow-witted, and we will celebrate them for their inherent loserness. Get your boxing gloves on as we present to you Bullz-Eye’s all time favorite TV punching bags.
The ‘70s produced some of the best and most groundbreaking sitcoms ever created, and writer/producer Norman Lear was at the helm of a number of them, including All in the Family, Maude, The Jeffersons and One Day at a Time. As much fun as something like That 70s Show is, there’s really no substitute for actually watching a series created in that time period in order to have a better understanding of the social climate of the time. One of Lear’s most irreverent efforts was Sanford and Son, which, like All in the Family before it, was a remake of a British series. Also like Family, it set out to showcase the blue-collar point of view of a guy whose outlook was so outrageous in its simplicity that you had no choice but to love him. That guy was Fred Sanford, a junk dealer operating out of his home in south Los Angeles, and he was played by comedian Redd Foxx so successfully that he never really escaped the role in the years after the show went off the air.