Idol Chatter

The only reason to tune in tonight to Fox’s “Standoff“–from a religion-interested point of view, at least–is to get an update on the state of Hollywood’s relationship with Islamic fundamentalism. The show, about a pair of FBI hostage negotiators (Ron Livingston and Rosemarie DeWitt) who are also sweet on each other, reveals that we’re in a post-Osama period in which terror is a plot point, not a theme in itself, and a man in a Middle Eastern beanie and a vest of homemade explosives isn’t a vengeful hater of mankind, but maybe just a mixed-up kid with a Mommy problem.

But no one will watch “Standoff” for its cogency, which is already compromised by the notion that even a major city will have two traffic-halting, building-clearing hostage situations in a week. It’s when the fast-talking psychologists turn their mad chatter to romance that the show, debuting tonight after “House,” gets interesting.

Well, not literally. But when you’re talking about a movie like “The Hebrew Hammer“–the blaxploitation-style Jewish comedy film of a few years ago, which bombed at the theaters but inspired wild fan devotion–it’s not surprising that the sequel would involve taking down the Mad Prince of Malibu.

TMZ reports that the sequel, which has already been written by HH1 scribe Jonathan Kesselman, features the following sure-to-be-memorable–and-memorably protested–opening scene:

The sequel, called “The Hebrew Hammer 2: Hammer vs. Hitler,” depicts a very drunk Mel Gibson spilling out of Moonshadows, two blondes on each arm, and a bottle of Irish whiskey in hand. Gibson then obnoxiously berates the valets, leaps into his Lexus and speeds off, screaming obscenities about the Jews. Apprehended by a policeman down the road from Moonshadows, Gibson’s anti-Semitic tirade is cut short when the cop–“The Hebrew Hammer”–puts a bullet in Gibson’s head, spraying a bloody Star of David onto the windshield of his Lexus.

“Don’t mess with the Heebs,” the Hammer grunts at the bloodied superstar. “Jesus was our homeboy first.”

OK, so I made up that last line of dialogue. (Note to Jonathan Kesselman: If you’d like to use that line, give my agent a call.) But no studio is going to make this film. It’s one thing to put Mel in rehab. But proposing to blow away the former Braveheart? Never gonna happen. The only people who shoot and bomb celebrities are Trey Parker and Matt Stone, and even they use puppet and animated surrogates (see also “South Park”: “Canada bombs the Baldwins” and “the Film Actors Guild” in Team America, particularly Matt Damon). I think the only real-life people you can safely blow away on screen are Osama bin Laden or Saddam Hussein. Anyone else is going to cause an uproar.

But Mel might be able to rest easy, since I’m not sure that that scene actually exists. The “proof” for this story is apparently this opening page of HH2’s script. I know that TMZ boasts an exclusive interview with Kesselman, but it seems to me like the writer/director is joking about the Kill Mel opening scene. The page in question contains two different fonts, and seems awfully unprofessional, even for a draft.

Maybe I’m wrong. But the story seems a little off to me–perhaps the script page is part of an internet buzz campaign designed to evince online support for a movie sequel that’s going to be a tough sell in today’s Hollywood. At least the rest of the movie–The Hebrew Hammer is called out of retirement to take on a time-traveling Hitler–sounds like a premise worth watching.

While the general public is familiar with the MPAA ratings that accompany the movies they watch–G, PG, PG-13, R–and what the ratings mean, it is safe to say that most moviegoers don’t really know, or care, what the Motion Picture Association of America is or how its members decide what film gets what rating. But documentary filmmaker Kirby Dick thinks that consumers should be aware of the intricate politics and enormous hypocrisy of the MPAA. With satirical humor–not to mention two female detectives who hunt MPAA board members down and make them confess everything–he unravels the mystery of the MPAA’s secretive ways in “This Film Is Not Rated,” which opens in limited release this weekend before airing on the Independent Film Channel this fall.

In theory, the MPAA is simply a voluntary ratings system in which movie executives from different studios serve for a predetermined length of time on the ratings board that hands out a rating based on a film’s content. No filmmaker is required to submit his or her film to the MPAA ratings board for approval. However, the MPAA works closely with the National Association of Theater Owners, and they like the ratings system. So if a film is not rated, or has the dreaded NC-17 rating, the chance of a film having commercial success is slim.

However, the MPAA system becomes even more complicated in light of the fact that the members of the board are from conflicting studios, so there’s just a teeny bit of sabotage going on in the ratings decision making process. For example, if you think a fellow studio has a potential blockbuster on its hands, maybe you want it to get an “R” rating instead of a “PG-13” rating, so its audience will be smaller. On the other hand, all studio execs want to reach that target demographic of young white males, so violence and women’s breasts don’t receive the same kind of rating as male nudity or other controversial elements.

Dick supports these claims by interviewing numerous directors, including Kevin Smith (“Clerks”) and Matt Stone ( “South Park”), who have attempted to do battle with the MPAA and have often lost those battles. With both humor and anger the directors recount the notes they have been given by the MPAA instructing them on how to achieve a different rating by editing the film differently–even though the MPAA is not supposed to give such suggestions.

I don’t agree with some of the conclusions “This Film Is Not Yet Rated” comes to when exploring how to solve the problem of the MPAA , but I still think this movie is important viewing for anyone who has bought a movie ticket based on a movie’s MPAA rating. The MPAA does not exist to be a friendly moral gatekeeper to guide or protect you or your family but is a corrupted system that is arbitrarily legislating morality and censoring content. And it’s the degree of corruption that makes “This Film” so shocking.

Oh, and just in case you are wondering, “This Film Is Not Yet Rated” received an NC-17 rating for its objectionable content.

Thumbing through the latest celebrity-strewn Gap ad, part of the company’s new “t-shirt shop” campaign, I found the usual melange of supermodels, iconic rockers, film legends, and rising stars. All looking enigmatic, gazing into the camera, straight at you, saying–what?

Then I turned the page and found “Entourage” star Jeremy Piven, flaunting his Star of David pendant.

The advertising masterminds behind this campaign want us to equate shopping at the Gap with individuality, personal style, and self-expression–so says the p.r. Isn’t that why you shop at the Gap? I hope so, because you can hardly see the t-shirts in the artsy photos.

If that’s the case, consider what we learn about Piven, or ourselves, from his pose. He’s contorted into a pretzel-like arrangement, with arms entwined, one hand over his face. Clenched between his lips, in one version of the ad, is a chain, and from it dangles a large metal Mogen David. (In another version, right, the chain is around his neck, the Mogen David resting on his chest.)

Maybe Piven–who plays the ruthless, trash-talking, wife-dissing Hollywood agent Ari Gold on “Entourage” and starred in the movie “Keeping Up with the Steins,” about a driven Hollywood agent competing with other Hollywood Jews to throw the most expensive, extravagant Bar Mitzvah party in history–is all tied up in knots about the fact that it’s 2006 and he’s helping to perpetuate hoary media stereotypes of Jews.