Tuesday, March 07, 2006

No love for Tom Shales

Today I am annoyed by Washington Post critic Tom Shales, and this is after loving his work on "Live From New York" which was an engrossing, fascinating and extremely thorough exploration of the "Saturday Night Live" phenomenon. When I found it at a Barnes and Noble for $4.99 several months ago — in hardcover — I bought two more to give as gifts. That makes me look like a big spender.

But I digress. The point is, his Oscar review was absolutely awful, on pretty much every level, as he contradicted himself and made more than a few — say it with me — facile and unsupported conclusions. Allow me to support these statements.

  • He makes the point that Jon Stewart bombed, with a monologue that "lacked a single hilarious joke" with the "possible exception" of the Bjork-shot-by-Dick-Cheney line. Talk about damning with faint praise. This completely ignores (a) the Brokeback cowboy montage — an unequivocal crowd-pleaser; (b) "I think I speak for all Jews when I say, "I can't wait to see what happens to us next"; (c) the joke about "introducing the presenters in order of how talented they are" and (d) "Night of a Thousand Sweatpants," which was typically and refreshingly goofy, especially for those of us in actual sweatpants.

  • Those are just a few high points from the actual monologue — in the rest of the show there was his Scientology barb; gentle pokes at Clooney's lothario rep; a close-to-home joke about how women are judged on their looks, undervalued and underpaid; the Tom Hanks vignette, which took stupid Gil Cates to task (or does it? Then I saw this); and riffs on how hard it was out here for a pimp ("Martin Scorcese: 0; Three Six Mafia: 1" off the cuff? Brilliant). Let's also not forget the mock campaign ads, an original and clever idea laced with subtle political commentary (lest we forget how "swift-boating" became a verb).

  • For those of you keeping score at home, these are all things that Shales did not mention.

  • What he did mention: "The audience at home does not want to look at clips. It wants to look at big-time movie stars." Shales goes on to offer evidence supporting this statement, such as polls conducted by the Academy, comments made by Gil Cates, and corroborating statements from other viewers. Oh wait, he doesn't. Let me say this: I, as one member of the audience at home, love the clips. I love seeing familiar images from movies I loved, seeing familiar faces a few decades younger, being reminded of how far the art has come, and how great it has been in the past. And hey, that past? It had a few big-time movie stars too.

  • Also, it occurs to me that VH1's programming consists pretty much of clip shows. Hm. How's that working out for them?

  • Shales qualifies one of his comments, at least: apparently the audience wants to look at big-time movie stars...and ogle Jessica Alba. Last I checked, Honey and Into The Blue do not a big-time movie star make.

  • Oh yes, this is my favorite part: "Stewart had five months, working with his legions of writers from the "Daily Show" on Comedy Central, to come up with good material. It goes to prove that there's still a big, big difference between basic cable and big-time network television after all." Yes, it's a pity that they couldn't have shipped in someone from "According To Jim."

  • Another interesting point: Shales gets through his whole article about how much the Oscars sucked — almost a thousand words — without mentioning producer and Oscar Scrooge Gil Cates. Instead, the whole thing is Stewart's fault. Typical. Blame the Jew.

    Memo to Jon Stewart: Keep Your 'Daily' Job [WaPo]

    NB: Thanks to Stephen Kaus on HuffPo for bringing this article to my attention. Some further salient points there. Joel Keller also touches on this at TVSquad, and a commenter reminds me about another hilarious ad-lib from Stewart after the montages: "We've run out of clips. If anyone has any film clips, please send them in."
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