Friday, December 18, 2015

The One Guy in the World who Never Got into "Star Wars:" Me.

"The Force Awakens" was released today. Have fun seeing it. I won't be there.

When I was eleven years old, the first “Star Wars” movie came out. My mom took me and my friend Mark Bernstein to see it at the General Cinema Theaters in Sherman Oaks.

I was bored out of my skull. There was something very cold and distancing about it. I couldn’t follow exactly what was going on. I didn’t like any of the characters or care about any of them. It just seemed like a lot of things flying by and there was a lot of mumbo-jumbo. At the end of the movie, I had no feeling about it at all, because it was emotionless. At that age, I just wanted to see comedies – anything with Peter Sellers, Gene Wilder, Mel Brooks, and Woody Allen. Plus, I wanted to see adult dramas, horror movies, and even foreign movies, since they seemed mysterious. If I'm going to see something that takes place in an unfamiliar world, I'll take a movie set in a different country over one that takes place in outer space, anytime.

It’s not that I didn’t like “fun” movies. Like any kid, I did like them! I enjoyed the first two “Superman” movies because they were full of warmth and humor, and recognizable human emotion. It wasn’t just explosions. (In fact, I saw "Superman" five times in the theater, the summer it came out.) I thought that Spielberg’s “Close Encounters,” which came out when I was thirteen, was just about the best movie I ever saw, because while there were spaceships in it, it was about a family. Two years later, I enjoyed “E.T.” for the same reason – there were aliens and spaceships, but it was about a real family, and it was also a film about brothers. “Superman,” “Close Encounters,” and “E.T.” were about hope, too. I also continue to enjoy the original “Raiders of the Lost Ark,” and what makes that movie great is that, at many points in the film, Harrison Ford actually looks scared in it – he does this really subtle stuff with his eyes – so you’re able to put yourself in his shoes, and that’s what makes the exciting parts exciting. In "Raiders," Harrison Ford looks genuinely engaged, but in "Star Wars" he seems like he's just trying to utter monotone written dialogue. I also like all three “Alien” movies, the “Matrix” movies (even the sequels that nobody else likes), and the first two “Terminators,” because they are full of emotions and human interest and jokes to go along with the action.

In ’99, George Lucas made three new “Star Wars” sequels – “Parts 1 through 3,” I guess. I saw the first one, because my friend did some of the special effects, but I fell asleep in it. All I remember is that the characters were talking about trading posts on other planets or something, and it turned me narcoleptic. In the case of those three movies, everybody agreed with me that they were boring. But I thought the original one – the first one from 1977 – was almost as boring and too complicated to follow.

What I want from any movie, is just a simple story where somebody overcomes something recognizable and wins. And if possible, I would like my movie to take place on earth, because we have a lot of problems here, and they’re more interesting and pressing than problems on a Death Star or whatever it is. If it takes place on another planet, that’s cool, but what’s happening in the movie should be an allegory for what’s happening here, and in the case of “Star Wars,” it wasn’t. It was just noise. (I did like the tie-fighters flying in the tunnels, though.)

I never bothered to see the two original sequels to “Star Wars” – “Empire Strikes Back” and “Return of the Jedi.” Yesterday, a full thirty-four years after its initial release, I tried to watch “Empire Strikes Back for the first time.” I got about a half hour in before I turned it off. I sort of liked when Harrison Ford was trying to rescue Mark Hamill in the snow, but I was pretty non-plussed by the camel-looking thing he was riding that wasn’t a camel. And after they thawed Mark Hamill out, they started showing space ships and some space commander guys were talking about something bad that was about to happen, but it didn’t make any sense. The actors were speaking English, but I didn’t know what they were talking about. It seemed like they were speaking another language that is apparently understood by every other movie fan in the world except me, and so I turned it off, and what I also noticed about the "Star Wars" movies, is that nobody looks too excited in them. They are hollow. Guess I’ll never make it to “Return of the Jedi,” or to the new one that’s coming out today.

In the case of the whole “Star Wars” phenomenon – I don’t want to be a dick. I don’t want to be a contrarian or a buzzkill. I don’t want to be the one guy in the world who doesn’t like “Star Wars.” There’s nothing for me to gain out of being a curmudgeon. I actually want to like it. I WANT to be on the bandwagon. I want to be excited by it. But for me, the “Star Wars” world is completely devoid of emotion, and an emotional experience is all I want in a movie. My initial idea, a few days ago, is that I would catch up with “Empire Strikes Back” and “Return of the Jedi,” and then I would be all ready for the new “Star Wars” movie. But I guess I won’t be making it to this new one, either.

I always wonder if there's any other movie fan in the world who doesn't care for "Star Wars," just like me. But I think I'm the only one in the world.

When I was in high school, I told my French teacher, a very nice/erudite older French-Moroccan lady, Mrs. Berman, about how I was bored by “Star Wars.” She told me: “You’re not supposed to like something like this. This is the kind of movie that, ten or twenty years ago, would have been considered a children’s matinee. They would show it once a day, at noon, to small children.” In this conversation, Mrs. Berman and I were actually anticipating the future. Today, grown-ups want to be stay kids forever. (When I was eight, I wanted to be an adult. I wrote an essay about how for me, the perfect summer camp, would be set in a luxury hotel, where all the kids got their own rooms, and you could just watch movies all day. And each room had a milkshake machine, and you had your own butler, and you had to be dressed-up in a tuxedo all day. Also, in a 2nd grade art class, I had to draw a picture of a man. I drew a man in a full business suit and brief case. In the world I would like to live in, that's what guys wear -- not jeans and an untucked shirt -- although on this particular point, I'm a hypocrite, because I just have one suit that I bought 20 years ago, and I wear jeans and an untucked shirt every day.)

All I want in a movie is a nice, easy-to-follow story and no mumbo-jumbo. That’s it. I wanted that when I was a kid, and I wanted it now. And if the movie takes place on earth – so much the better.

PS: To this date, I’ve never seen a single episode of “Star Trek,” or any of the movies. When I was a kid, I liked “Get Smart,” “All in the Family,” and The Three Stooges, and I liked the “Batman” t.v. series with Adam West, because it was full of funny jokes.

PPS, nowhere in this little rant did I say that "Star Wars" is bad, so get off my jock. It's just not my thing.

Share a Coke with Fuck You!

SHARE A COKE WITH FUCK YOU! BY CHUCK ZIGMAN, OCTOBER 14, 2015 How about these new Coke cans? "Share a Coke with a Champ!" "Share a Coke with a Team-Player!" "Share a Coke with a Winner!" Why don't they have realistic Coke cans that say what people really are:

 "Share a Coke with a Victim!"

 "Share a Coke with a Whiner!"  "Share a Coke with a Fraud!"  "Share a Coke with a Busybody!"  "Share a Coke with a Thief!"  "Share a Coke with a Racist!"  "Share a Coke with a Violent Abuser!"  "Share a Coke with Someone with No Self-Control!"  "Share a Coke with a Drop-Out!"  "Share a Coke with an Apathetic Person!"  "Share a Coke with an Intolerant Liberal or an Intolerant Conservative!"  "Share a Coke with Someone who Settled!"  "Share a Coke with a Paranoid!"  "Share a Coke with Your Unfulfilled Dreams!"  "Share a Coke with a Lemming who Lines Up to Buy the Newest Digital Junk!"  "Share a Coke with The People on the Bandwagon!"  "Share a Coke with Someone who Blames Other People!"  "Share a Coke with Your Sadness!"  "Share a Coke with Someone who Uses you to Get Something!"  "Share a Coke with a Liar!"  "Share a Coke with a Manipulator!"  "Share a Coke with an Entitled Person!"  "Share a Coke with Someone Who Brazenly Jumps in Front of you and Steals your Opportunity, but then it Backfires on Him, and you Didn't Get Anywhere, but he Didn't Get Anywhere, Either -- Ha-Ha!!!"  "Share a Coke with Somebody who Badmouths You Behind Your Back!"  "Share a Coke with an Ego-Maniac!"  "Share a Coke with People who Stand by and Don't Help When Somebody Gets Hurt!"  "Share a Coke with Empty People who Talk Your Ear Off and Completely Drain You, While They Give Nothing in Return!"  "Share a Coke with Disgusting Criminals who Sink the Economy by not Paying Back their Student Loans and not Paying their Taxes!"  "Share a Coke with Too-'Educated' People who Think that Things which are Actually Real are Really Just 'a construct.'"  "Share a Coke with a Delusional Person who Thinks his Obnoxious A.D.D. Kid that he and the Kid's Teachers Can't Control is Actually a Genius!"  "Share a Coke with Some Spoiled Roundheels College Girl who Thinks that My Tax Money Should Pay for her Birth Control!"  "Share a Coke with Our Leaders who go to War for Oil, but Decide not to Interfere in a Country in which Genocide is Regularly Committed Against Women and Children!"  "Share a Coke with Fast Food that's Giving Everybody Diabetes!"  "Share a Coke with the Guilt-Ridden!"  "Share a Coke with an Insomniac!"  "Share a Coke with Someone who Lives in Fear!"  "Share a Coke with an Enabler!"  "Share a Coke with a Lady who Thinks her Pet is her 'Kid'!"  "Share a Coke with an Addict who Trades One Addiction for Another, but nobody Calls him on it!"  "Share a Coke with the Impotent!"  "Share a Coke with your Genitals!"  "Share a Coke with Someone who has been so Systematically Beaten Down by Life, that he Can No Longer Bounce Back!"  "Share a Coke with Hitler!"  "Share a Coke with Kim Davis!"  "Share a Coke with Bill Cosby! (But don't let him near the Coke, or he will put a quaalude in it!)"  "Share a Coke with a College Shooter!"  "Share a Coke with ISIS!"  "Share a Coke with a Convict!"  "Share a Coke with People who Think that DJ's Spinning Electronic Dance Music is Actually 'Music'!"  "Share a Coke with Binge-Watching!"  "Share a Coke with a Tease!"  "Share a Coke with a Man that Turned into a Lady!"  "Share a Coke with a Twentysomething Trust Fund Kid who Wears Thrift Store Clothes and Pretends to be Poor -- Especially any White Person who Pretends to be 'Grungy' and 'Street.'!"  "Share a Coke with Someone who Probably won't Have Anything to Eat Tomorrow!"  "Share a Coke with Someone Who Lives in a Tent on Eighth Street!"  "Share a Coke with Anyone who has any Kind of Agenda or Angle!"  "Share a Coke with Ingrates who Use Profanity Around their Kids and Their Kids Use it Around them (ick! creeps!)!"  "Share a Coke with People who Push Their Kids to Succeed and Force them to Do Boring 'Extra-Curriculars,' Because When They Were Kids Themselves, They were Lazy Stoners and They Have to Make Up for It!"  "Share a Coke with Unhappy People who want to Bring You Down to their Level!" "Share a Coke with Someone who Wasted Your Time!"  "Share a Coke with anybody who Develops An Offbeat 'Persona!'"  "Share a Coke with Someone who Self-Medicates!"  "Share a Coke with Someone who Thinks he Deserves a Fancy Career, Because of Her Culture or Gender!"  "Share a Coke with a Pretentious Academic who Lives Up in his Own Head and Loves Theory!"  "Share a Coke with People who Send You Mixed Signals Because they have Been Hurt by Life, and Now, on Some Subconscious Level that they Don't Even Understand, they are Going to Hurt You!"  "Share a Coke with a Big-Haired/Happy-Toothed Realtor who Puts a Sign with a Picture of his Face on Your Front Lawn! Wouldn’t you like to stab him through the fucking face with that sign?"  "Share a Coke with Bullying Labor Unions that Take Your Dues Money but Don’t Help You!"  "Share a Coke with Some Blowhard who Tries to Give You his 'Opinion.'"  "Share a Coke with a Spineless Person who Apologizes for his Opinion!"  "Share a Coke with a Person who Rationalizes his Behavior!"  "Share a Coke with a Plagiarist!"  "Share a Coke with a Hypocrite Boss who is Against Bullying in School, but who Happily Bullies His Adult Employees at the Same Time and he Probably Drives a Prius!"  "Share a Coke with a Jerk who Thinks the World Owes him Something!"  "Share a Coke with Your Rage!"  "Share a Coke with Your Crippling Shyness!"  "Share a Coke with Someone While he's Doing Coke!"  "Share a Coke with Your Food Stamps!"  "Share a Coke with Cancer!"  "Share a Coke with a Media that Creates Fear and Makes Us Feel Inadequate!"  "Share a Coke with a Passive-Aggressive Person!"  "Share a Coke with a Know-It-All!"  "Share a Coke with a Self-Deprecating Doormat!"  "Share a Coke with Your Inertia!"  "Share a Coke with Living in the Past!"  "Share a Coke with Your Shame!"  "Share a Coke with Those Real-Life Zombies who Want to Push their Made-Up Beliefs About Food or the Environment or Disease or Vaccinations on You!"  “Share a Coke with Someone who Tells His Kids not to Get into a Car with Strangers, but then he Takes Uber?”  "Share a Coke with Fracking!"  "Share a Coke with Global Warming!"  "Share a Coke with People who Tell You what you 'Can't' Do in Life!"  "Share a Coke with Soulless People who Married for Security Instead of Love and then, Years Later, Complain that they're not Happy and Fulfilled!"  "Share a Coke with People who Poison the Environment!"  "Share a Coke with People who Poke a Hole in Your Condom, to Trap You!"  "Share a Coke with a Blackmailer!"  "Share a Coke with an Aging Hippie Communist who Hates People that Make Profits, Because he is Actually Jealous that he wasn't Smart Enough to Figure Out How to Make a Profit!"  "Share a Coke with People who Donate to Charity Just Because It's a Write-Off!" "Share a Coke with a Dumptruck who Exclaims, 'I Don't Eat too Much! It's My Thyroid!'"  "Share a Coke with People who Pass Their Neuroses on to Their Children!"  "Share a Coke with Hairplugs!"  "Share a Coke with Wimpy, Chinless Adult Child-Men who Like to Go to Conventions and Dress-Up Like Superheroes Because they Feel Increasingly Powerless in a Castrating Neo-Feminist World!"  "Share a Coke with Those Copycats who Like to Use Today's Newest Catchphrase!"  "Share a Coke with Weak-Willed People who have Turned God into a Parent!"  "Share a Coke with Creepy Losers who Ask You if They Can 'Borrow' Money!" "Share a Coke with Vultures who Want to Ride Your Coattails!"  "Share a Coke with a Climber!"  'Share a Coke with a No-Talent Person with Nepotism!"  "Share a Coke with People who are Trying to Redefine Traditional Cultural Norms and Values that Were Actually Fine to Begin With!"  "Share a Coke with your Man-Bun and your Lumberjack Beard!"  "Share a Coke with the Unloved Family Black Sheep who Bleats, 'Your Friends are Your Family!'"  "Share a Coke with People who Waste Your Time!"  "Share a Coke with Your Type 2 Diabetes and Your Failing Eyesight!"  "Share a Coke with Someone who Says, 'Why Don't You Jews Just Forget About the Holocaust already?'"  "Share a Coke with the Greedy!"  "Share a Coke with People who Realize that Life is Long Enough!"  "Share a Coke with Cataracts!"  "Share a Coke with Your Wheelchair!"  “Share a Coke with Dialysis!”  "Share a Coke with a Delusional Person who Tells you About her Awful Screenplay Projects!"  "Share a Coke with Welfare!"  "Share a Coke with Viagra!"  "Share a Coke with Gluten!"  “Share a Cock with…” (Oh, wait, that shit is for Adult FriendFinder…)  "Share a Coke with Beggars who Raise Money on Kickstarter!"  "Share a Coke with a Pepsi!"  "Share a Coke with an Emotional Cripple!"  "Share a Coke with Anybody who Would Actually Deign to Hang Out with any of the Distant Acquaintances he 'Knows' on Facebook!"  "Share a Coke with Slow, Lingering, Painful Death in a Hospital with Nobody Around You!"  "Share a Coke with Eternity!"  "Share a Coke with a Snarky-but-Sweet, Lazy Narcissist with Low Self-Esteem" (ME!!)"

This, after all, is what human nature is “all ‘bout!” So why aren't we seeing it on our soda cans? As we all know, soda is completely delicious, especially when it's hot outside, and I know that I personally would definitely buy a lot more of it, if its cans told the truth! Wouldn't you?! Well, that's just something to chew on! Goodnight!

Friday, June 5, 2015



For my first new blog entry in two-and-a-half years (I'm super lazy when it comes to blogging!), I want to talk about the L.A. Weekly, my city's free weekly newspaper:

On April 29th, 2015, the L.A. Weekly ran Jessica P. Ogilvie's cover story, "How Hollywood Keeps Out Women," and on February 25th, the Weekly published another cover story called "How Hollywood Keeps Minorities Out," and both articles are definitely keeping something out, and that's common sense.

The authors of both articles are correct to a large extent: Women and minorities are definitely grossly underrepresented both behind, and in front of, the camera. That is very true -- we can all agree about that! But the Weekly is presenting the stories by suggesting that racism and sexism are the reason. Hollywood is a nutty place, full of the craziest/sleaziest/most entitled and unethical people you'll ever meet, but it's about 0% racist and -2% sexist. The fact is: Hollywood is kind of like the Corleone family. It's a tiny family business, and it keeps out EVERYBODY, including 100% of white males (and even 100% of white males who happen to be, as some people suggest, Jewish) who are not already part of this world.

The movie business, not just now but always, has been a closed world that is not actively soliciting people from the outside -- white, black, or women -- unless it finds out that that person already, prior to entering the movie business, has a track record of already having made millions, or even billions, of dollars in another media -- for example, through graphic novels or a popular video game. If the person hasn't made money for a big entity but simply has millions of dollars lying around that can be invested in a movie, that person is invited into Hollywood gladly too, and the person's background or gender aren't even a factor. It's purely a business decision. It doesn't matter if you have a script that is the next "Godfather" or you made a no-budget indie that won first place in a festival. If you haven't already proven that you have a track record of making money for a publicly-owned company, or if you're not an independently wealthy person who can bring movie financing to the table, they're not letting you in, and it has nothing to do with your cultural background or your gender or the quality of your work. It isn't personal.

And why should Hollywood let you in? In 2015, it costs $100 or $200 million to make a theatrically released studio movie. Why should the movie business let you in if you haven't already proven that you can make them at least several hundred million -- right? It's definitely not personal. If I owned a movie studio, and I were responsible to my stockholders, and I had to choose somebody to direct a film, would I go with the unproven person who wrote the best screenplay I ever read or someone who made a great indie documentary that I really loved -- or would I instead go with the "proven" person who already made the superhero movie that might be horrible but which has made $1 billion (or someone who wrote a ridiculous graphic novel that made millions). I'll hire the person who made the horrible $1 billion superhero movie or the multi-million-dollar-earning graphic novel even though, as a classic film enthusiast, I'm not actually interested in seeing a superhero movie or reading a comic book, and I think that superhero movies and graphic novels are ruining and dumbing-down our culture. Nevertheless, making them is exactly how you run a profitable business.

Hollywood, for its myriad faults, is color-blind and gender-blind, and the only "color" it sees, and pardon the goofy cliche, is green. I'm tired of people saying they "can't get in" because of racism or sexism, because it's not true. Anyway: why would anybody want to write articles from the POV of a victim? The Weekly published two of them in the space of only eight weeks! If you want to "get into Hollywood" in a meaningful creative sense (in other words, in a position that's not "assistant" or "gopher"), just prove to the execs that you've already made somebody mega-bucks doing anything else in the entire world. It has zero to do with your background (or your talent, or "who you know"), either. I'm tired of people thinking they have the "right" to do something, just because of some reasons that have nothing to do with the real reason. Nobody's voice is being silenced who hasn't already proven to be a huge moneymaker. An investment banker who has never made a movie has more right to get into the movie business as a producer than an unproven screenwriter does -- and this is something that we see happening quite a lot -- because he has already proven that he can make sound, profitable business decisions. Producer Megan Ellison had no experience making movies prior to 2010, but she did have boatloads of cash to invest in movie projects, so the door opened for her pretty easily: she started Annapurna Pictures in 2011, and has made some of the greatest, most inspirational American movies in decades.

In the article about "Women," Diana Ossana, the female producer of "Brokeback Mountain" bemoans that she had to fight for her producer credit because she's a woman, yet author Larry McMurty, who wrote the screenplay, didn't have to fight for his credit, because he's a man. She's all wrong. She had to fight because collectively, her work, prior to "Brokeback Mountain," earned Hollywood zero dollars, but Larry McMurty's books have been making millions and millions of dollars for more than forty years. It's a no-brainer. There is no reward for you just based on the fact that you are "talented" or because you "tenaciously spent years bringing a project to the screen." In a commerce-based world, that -- like all emotional 'feelings' -- is completely irrelevant.

As I'm saying these things, please know that I -- just like you -- wish it could be otherwise. We're one hundred percent on the same page about that! I wish people could get into the movie business based on talent, and I wish that women, men, whites, and non-whites were making movies in equal numbers. In the 1970s, the average budget of a movie was $3 million, and if the movie made $6 million, it was a hit so, at that point in time, there were a lot of amazing movies, and Hollywood could occasionally afford to take chances on young outsider filmmakers with no proven money-making skills -- and of course, American studio movies from the '70s are some of the best American movies ever. But it's no longer like that in 2015! Studios, today, are only looking for people who can make big, epic 'tentpole' movies, and the production of these movies must, by necessity, be entrusted to people who have already proven themselves. And guess what: some of the most successful filmmakers of today's big-budget/big-earning "event" movies are women, and if you don't believe me, just take it up with Gale Anne Hurd, Kathleen Kennedy, and Kathryn Bigelow. Last time I checked, they've made some of the biggest and best movies of the last thirty years, and they're not men.

When I hire a contractor to build a house for me, I'm not going to a hire a new, unproven contractor who just got his license. I'm going to hire one with years, or even decades, of proven results. When I want to hire a caterer for a party, I'm not going to hire somebody because he's a good cook. I'm going to ask, "Show me a list of fifty or a hundred parties that you have already catered." When you are hired for any professional job, the interviewer usually wants to know how you've already helped other companies earn money.

What some people erroneously believe to be discrimination, is actually just good, old-fashioned nepotism and cronyism -- it's wrong, and it's not fair, but it's not discrimination. And now that I think of it, it's not completely wrong: If I owned a movie studio, and I had to hire a filmmaker to make a multi-million dollar movie, and I had to choose between somebody I know and somebody I don't know, assuming that both of them are equally talented, I'll probably go with the person I know, most of the time, because I already know what the person's work is like and what his track record is, and I'll also know whether he can bring the movie in on time, and on budget. Similarly, most of the time, I'm guessing that you will hire somebody you know to babysit your child, instead of leaving him with a complete stranger. How can women, or minorities, or the ACLU find fault with careful hiring practices?

Not being able to make your own movie in Hollywood, or not being able to act in or direct a Hollywood movie, has nothing to do with your background or your talent. Prove to Hollywood that you have already made money, or even that you just have a lot of money, and the gates will swing open for you -- no matter who you are. Hollywood is very democratic that way. Nobody owes you anything and nobody owes me anything.

I feel the frustration of the authors of these two well-written, but misguided, articles. I, too, wish I could "get into Hollywood" and get some of my own scripts into the pipeline! But from a very young age, I accepted that I can't, because I have not already made money for Hollywood, nor have I been able to figure out a way to invest in studio features. Nobody is being singled out for exclusion based upon race or gender. It isn't personal.

See you in another two-and-a-half years with a new blog entry! :)

___________________________________________________________________________ ABOUT ME:

In 2008, my book "World's Coolest Movie Star" was published. It's a two-volume biography and filmography of the legendary French actor Jean Gabin, who is known to American audiences for films like "Grand Illusion" and "Pepe Le Moko." This coming July, Cohen Media Group is releasing a restored Blu-ray/DVD of the 1973 movie "Two Men in Town," starring Jean Gabin and Alain Delon, and I have written and recorded a ninety-minute audio commentary track for the DVD. In 2013, my first children's book, "The Belly Button that Escaped," was published. It's a funny kid's book in the style/tone of Roald Dahl or Shel Silverstein. Janice Phelps Williams illustrated my book. I have been Professor of Film and Television at Augusta State University, Georgia.