The list of more-than-decent films about political campaigns is a short one. Nobody will ever forget Henry Fonda and Cliff Robertson in The Best Man or even The Candidate with the Kennedy-esque Robert Redford. During the Years of Lewinsky, Primary Colors took us into the thinly-disguised 1992 Clinton campaign. Now we have The Ides of March, proudly wearing its cynicism on its sleeve at a time when Obama gets pilloried for being practical. In the most recent films, the candidates have that certain problem we mentioned earlier. (Redford is famously remembered in The Candidate as muttering, after winning, “What do we do now?”, but there’s also a quick moment of a campaign worker leaving his room in the morning earlier in the film.)
After carefully setting them all up with their own movies, Marvel now brings all their dashing superguys together into the greatest superhero group of all time with Thor, Iron Man, Captain America, the Hulk and, for good measure, the token woman Black Widow and the archer who’s never quite gotten out of the Marvel second tier, Hawkeye. […]
An awards show is really the ultimate Smackdown, I guess, given that there are clearly established winners and losers. Except that it’s not politically correct to use those words anymore. Notice that the when the envelope is opened the phrase is “And the Emmy goes toâ€¦” and not “The winner isâ€¦” Oh, presenters still slip from time-to-time and admit the truth but they are discouraged from this, believe me.
As the former Chairman/CEO of the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences (including the 9/11 Emmy postponements of 2001), my wife Jackie and I go to the Emmys every year. I could certainly “cover” them or “review” them like the hundreds of other news organizations but, really, I’m just a guy with a camera standing on the Red Carpet and if you put me up against the massive armies deployed by Entertainment Tonight, Access Hollywood, Extra, The Insider, CNN, People, and everyone else, that’s not even a Smackdown, that’s a wipeout. […]
Remember all the panic and fear about the possibility of a bird flu pandemic a few years ago? Now take that fear and double it, triple it â€” no, that’s not enough â€” increase it by a power of ten. Now, maybe, just maybe, you can start to appreciate what might happen if the real thing hits and the worst case isn’t just a scenario.
Or, if that’s too disturbing, you could just go see Contagion or watch Outbreak.
In the mid-’90s, Outbreak was the movie that won a rush-to-film game of chicken after the publication of the book The Hot Zone that had everybody freaking out about how the microbes could inherit the Earth by taking down humankind. It took the sheer paranoia of that scare and tried to amp it up with personal story lines, evil government conspiracies and chases. This year Contagion takes another path, turning its actors into cameo appearances in what looks like a documentary as much as anything. […]
Since the Emmy Awards came into existence in 1949, they had never been postponed or canceled until 2001. In that year it happened twice.
I was elected Chairman/CEO of the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences in August 2001, almost a month to the day before 9/11. The Emmy broadcast was scheduled for September 16 of that year. Five days from the worst act of terrorism in history to a walk down the red carpet with Hollywood celebs was simply impossible to imagine.
As everyone re-plays the “Where were you?” moment that the horrific events became for all of us, my own memories combine the moral outrage at such a hideous act of mass murder with the POV of show business struggling to cope with this new reality of terrorism. It was a terrible time for the nation, one that I still think about often, and the most challenging professional moment in my career. […]
Probably the only good way to look at NASA these days is in the rear-view mirror of past accomplishments, given that the agency seems to have lost its way. After all, it’s ended the manned space missions of the Space Shuttle program with no clear replacement in site. There is no grand new mission, like going to Mars, just the past-tense glory days of going to the Moon.
But before we get too nostalgic here, we have a Smackdown to remind us that space is not always a triumph. Sometimes that cold vacuum of nothing can force a human to look straight in the eye of death. And, as Elton John reminded us in Rocket Man, “It’s lonely out in space.”
The new Apollo 18 is a fictional story about a manned space mission to the moon that you never heard about. NASA officially pulled the plug on Apollo after 17 missions. So this one is right out there in conspiracy theory heaven. And the other film, Apollo 13, is about the NASA’s greatest near miss with disaster that could easily have landed the astronauts involved into the history books with the crews of the Challenger and Columbia or the doomed Apollo 1 mission. […]
Both of these films about Texas golfers make the case that the only way to fix your golf game is to focus on your life and let the game take care of itself. There’s probably some merit in that, although having just played a round of very bad golf in Scotland recently, I think talent should not be overlooked.
The best real-life example of someone whose life fell apart followed by his game is Tiger Woods. So this Smackdown is for you, Tiger. […]
While virtually everyone in the Internet world wants to go viral, back in the real world not everyone is so big on the concept. And for good reason.
Remember how lousy you felt the last time you had the flu? Now imagine that instead of getting better, well, that was it. The End.
The medical experts at the Centers for Disease Control think about such things all the time and, for over a year back in 2005-2006, we also obsessed about how a flu epidemic would change the world.
We came to the conclusion that it would be a pretty rough ride. Rather than expressing our opinions through a strongly worded letter-to-the-editor, though, we got to have our say in a multi-million dollar four-hour television miniseries.
Now, from what we can see of the new feature film Contagion, we feel like we were ahead of our time.
Although the final produced version of our project â€” Hallmark’s Pandemic â€” can’t compared to the brilliant production elements (fueled by studio cash and budget) that Steven Soderbergh brings to his version (written by Scott Z. Burns), our take Pandemic (written by Bryce Zabel & Jackie Zabel) won the Writers Guild of America award for “Outstanding Longform Original” in 2008. This means that multiple writers read our script that year and decided that, in our category, ours was the best of the bunch. We were pretty jazzed, we can’t lie about that one. […]
Maybe humanity won’t be #1 on Earth forever…
We’ve been used to being at the top of the heap pretty much since we picked up some stones and started making tools. But what’s going to happen if another species — real (like apes) or artificial (like robots) — gets the same idea? Fortunately, we have a couple of cautionary tales to consider that should give us pause before we get too cavalier.
Rise of the Planet of the Apes is the prequel to the re-boot of the ’60s-’70s franchise that started it all and sets out to answer the question that has always undermined the franchise: how would apes really pull this switcheroo with humankind off? With genomes being mapped and wonder drugs being tested at record speed these days, this is a film that was just begging to be made.
Back in the mid ’00s, however, I, Robot asked a different kind of question. Sparked by the breathtaking increase in computing power keeping pace with Moore’s Law or even Ray Kurzweil’s invocation of The Singularity, that question was: how much longer before these machines we built can think faster than us and what if they become conscious? […]