May 9, 2008

What made it worth getting the fuck up today...

Black and white modeling shots of Anjelica Huston make me happy.

I'm gonna listen to The Royal Tenenbaums soundtrack and look at smoky arty pictures of pretty people. Especially Anjelica.

May 8, 2008

Hollywood, which is still regaining its footing after the unfortunate-but-necessary WGA strike, is set to be put on the fast track to nowhere once again only this time with a SAG strike.

"Why the holy fuck do we care?" you're asking. Oh, you care. Let me show you how much you care by asking a couple of key questions.

1) Do you unwind after work by watching any TV or DVDs of TV shows?
2) Do you like to rent new release films to watch with family or friends?
3) Do you like nights out at the movies?

So... you care. The real question is how can I sum up what's going on in layman-friendly soundbyte terms that are easy to understand and don't require a lot of reading.

The Illustrated Breakdown.

The AMPTP (the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers), a.k.a. the Studio Moguls, are facing re-negotiation of terms with the two actors unions representing the bulk of all film and television talent. As with the WGA (the Writers Guild of America), the contracts will soon expire and the unions are gunning for advances in the areas of new media (read: them darn interwebs), residuals, pay rates, and such. In the case of new media at least, the current terms are Jurassic at best.

AFTRA (the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists), a.k.a. Actors Union the Lesser, which does not represent any film actors but mostly deals in radio talent and daytime soap stars, has been playing nice with the AMPTP and negotiating in a manner that greatly expedites the process and hastens the signing of a new contract. At what detriment to their members, however, is the question du jour. AFTRA doesn't represent what we, the demanding public, know as A-List actors unless you're a devout The Bold and the Beautiful follower so perhaps they favor style over substance at the negotiating table.

SAG (the Screen Actor's Guild), a.k.a. Actors Union the Greater, represents many of your favorite television stars and more or less all of the film stars whose names are worth knowing. They're the big union in town. SAG, like the WGA before them whom they supported during the trying strike and negotiation period not so long ago, are not as willing to kowtow to the Studio Moguls just to save face. They have demands that they want considered and, since the AMPTP favors quick settlements and little-to-no movement on issues like new media, have found themselves at a virtual standstill in the negotiation department.

The Tactics.

The AMPTP are using AFTRA's amiable and rather speedy negotiation process to paint SAG as a bunch of bull-headed bastards who would rather strike and cost their actors precious time and money than reach a reasonable agreement. This could probably fall under the category of a smear campaign if it weren't actually true that AFTRA is playing ball and SAG isn't. But what the AMPTP isn't telling everyone is that AFTRA probably played ball with nerf-issue equipment just to look good and SAG is holding out for major league gear. So to speak.

This is pretty much one of self-same tactics that the AMPTP employed against the WGA when they used deals made with the DGA (Director's Guild of America) to try to leverage speedy and less costly deals with the writers. Hell, it didn't work once, right? The AMPTP is nothing if not consistent. But SAG, representing the bulk of prime time television and all film talent, isn't likely to give a proverbial rat's ass what AFTRA, with their roster of radio and daytime stars, does.

Fun Quote From the Negotiating Table.

"The first thing that came out of [AMPTP president] Nick Counter's mouth was, 'These proposals are unreasonable. Well, I guess you'd better prepare for a strike.' "


The current SAG contract expires at the end of June. And talks have not only broken down, they've basically come to a standstill. Hollywood, to put it bluntly, is on the brink of another major strike. And this time it will be all the actors walking the picket lines. You can't make films without stars so studios have been reluctant to greenlight productions in recent weeks in the event that their casts will end up on strike instead of on set.

Fun Fact About SAG.

This is SAG president Alan Rosenberg.

How does this qualify as a fun fact? I'll show you.

Alan Rosenberg is married to Marg Helgenberger whom, as you all know only too well by now, plays Catherine Willows on CSI. Yeah. Lucky dog!

I digress.

All of the above information is admittedly incredibly filtered and watered-down to it's barest bones. I can't pretend to understand all the nuances of what's at stake and what each side is demanding because these contracts talks are complicated things that tend to become very dense cases of 'he said/he said' at the end of the day. And everything I have learned thus far I have gleaned from careful reading of Nikki Finke's Deadline Hollywood Daily. Nikki Finke has her finger directly on the pulse of Hollywood and, unlike Variety, studios, ET, Fox, and sundry other purveyors of entertainment news, she is by and large unbiased. She's unaffiliated with any of the major players and calls shots directly as she sees them. She also has an astounding number of inside sources and frequently predicts major moves and changes before they actually occur. So if you want an in-depth no-nonsense examination of the looming potential SAG strike, visit DHD. If you can't be bothered to do all that reading but do want to know the state of future box office releases and whether you should stock up at book and video game sales while you can, stay tuned here to the Crypt. I will, like I did with the WGA strike, continue to offer highly simplified accounts of Hollywood's status.

May 5, 2008

Your Weekly Catherine

Week Seventeen


Eighth and newest season. Sara has just left CSI with a noncommittally worded letter to Grissom. Emotional burn-out cited as the reason. She still loves him. She just can't be in that world right now. It's a dark and rather depressing episode all told. The burden of series continuity and fan comfort falls to the episode immediately following Sara's departure. What kind of episode could possibly work? How about one in which four people hypothetically die but no actual crime is committed full of black humor and inside jokes interspersed with brief but very human attempts by the core CSIs to reach out to Grissom while he just tries to bury himself in his work?

Brilliant. 'You Kill Me' combines all of the most endearing things about CSI that can't, on a regular basis, be indulged in. Crime and forensics take front seat in every episode and that is the beauty of the show. The fact that it doesn't compromise it's basic premise in favor of sudsy interpersonal entanglements. Those rare connections between characters are developed over multi-episode arcs, one tiny moment at a time, in between the all-important business of catching murderers. But 'You Kill Me' allows the cast and the fans to come together after Sara's departure for a combined moment of respite and a few laughs. It features the wonderfully diverse (and frequently underused) 'lab rat' supporting cast, dark and pervasive humor, running gags, and lovely bits of camaraderie between the main CSIs.

The premise: Hodges, the trace tech for graveyard shift, is creating a CSI board game unbeknownst to his colleagues. In order to test his murder/forensics scenarios for accuracy he puts his fellow lab rats through what he terms "thought experiments". What follows is a revolving door of hypothetical murders set entirely within the confines of the lab and featuring the lab rats as the various victims with the CSIs standing in for Hodges in the recreations. It's brilliant and hilarious to watch the CSIs speaking words put in their mouths by either Hodges or the other lab rats. For example...

Hodges: After Hazmat cleans up the scene the coroner does his thing.
David: No sign of sexual trauma.
Wendy: What?
Hodges: I believe he's legally required to check. What the CSI's realize is...
Nick (crying): I can't believe Archie's gone.
Warrick (crying): He was too good for this world.
Wendy: What? They would be very upset.
Hodges: Can we at least stipulate that they heroically contained their bereavement?

Which brings me to one of the running gags. Namely, David the coroner's need to declare, after the initial examination of every victim, that there's no sign of sexual trauma.

Doc Robbins (David has a huge smile on his face): Oh, get it out of your system.
David: No sign of sexual trauma.
Doc Robbins: Get out now! (David runs)

And, my favorite, a lovely Catherine moment where Hodges puts words in her mouth.

Catherine: Trace. Is there anything you can't do?
Wendy: HODGES.

Every episode can't be like this or the show would lose what makes it the well-oiled, blue-hued machine of coolness and murder-busting that it is. But every once in awhile it's nice to revel in the little things that endear it to the fans. 'You Kill Me' was the perfect way for everybody to pick up the pieces after Sara's untimely and dark farewell. It gave Grissom a chance to deal with it and let the rest of us have a laugh before throwing us right back into the thick of things with Warrick at the centre of a rape/murder case.

CSI. Is there anything you can't do?