I have written before about the coarsening of language in the media, which continues to concern me. Two recent examples are in the titles of upcoming releases. While the movie and television series are not intended for children, I wonder whether it is appropriate for these titles to be advertised so widely as it is almost certain children will be exposed to them.
The first is “Dinner for Schmucks,” an American remake of the French film shown in the United States as “The Dinner Game.” It is a comedy about a cruel prank in which successful friends have a contest to see who can bring the biggest dork to dinner. The word “shmuck” is Yiddish slang often used to describe a hopeless loser or total idiot, but its literal meaning is the male genitalia.
The second is a just-announced television series from CBS called “$#*! My Dad Says,” based on the popular Twitter feed (yes, there is now a television show based on tweets) called S*** My Dad Says. CBS says the title is pronounced “Bleep My Dad Says.”
These quasi-euphemisms seem inadequate to me. And so does this response from CBS spokesman Phil Gonzales, who said. “Parents who choose to do so will find the show can easily be blocked using their V Chip.” How, Mr. Gonzales, do we block the advertising and news reports that will keep pushing this show’s title on our families?
I’m hoping that this fall’s “Easy A” will give Emma Stone the breakthrough role she needs to become a major star. From “Superbad” to “The Rocker,” “Zombieland,” “The House Bunny,” and even “Ghosts of Girlfriends Past,” she has demonstrated the ability to zero in to create a fully-realized character instantly, and she has some of the most powerful screen charisma of her generation. Here’s a clip that is just plain adorable.
My friend and fellow critic Christian Toto has a blog post about three movie cliches he’d like to ban from all future movies.
# The ambivalent hit man: Yes, “The Matador” gave Pierce Brosnan one of his meatiest film roles. But the conflicted killer routine is getting old, even if it didn’t stop George Clooney from tackling it anew.
# Young, hungry journalists: How many times do we meet a young, fetching female character who we quickly learn is a magazine writer/aspiring journalist/novelist in training? Wake up, Hollywood. Journalism as we know it has been read its Last Rites. Now, go find a new profession to exploit.
# Rom-coms set in New York: The U.S. teems with beautiful, photogenic cities. Heck, has any film producer seen Pittsburgh at night? It’s beautiful. Go find some new ones …. and leave the Big Apple to Woody Allen.
His commenters have added some of my favorites, including the chick flick routine of young women singing or dancing together and the country character or person of faith who just has to be an idiot or a crook. Fun to read!
Two small independent films opened up in New York this week that are both labors of love based on the dysfunctional fathers of the film-makers. One is “Touching Home” with Ed Harris as an alcoholic father of twin sons who struggles with addictions and homelessness. The other is “Daddy Longlegs,” the story of a mentally unstable father of two young boys played by Ronald Bronstein.
Both films were made by a pair of brothers about their own fathers. “Daddy Longlegs” was written, edited, and directed by Josh and Benny Safdie; Josh was also co-cinematographer. Identical twins Logan and Noah Miller wrote, produced, and directed “Touching Home” and play themselves. They have described in interviews the improbable process that took them from writing a script to insisting that Ed Harris read it because he was the only one who could play the part to assembling a team of Oscar-nominated and award-winning crew.
Both films are frank and unsentimental but made from a spirit of understanding and forgiveness, touching in part because the telling of the stories seems to be a part of the healing process. I love the way these two sets of brothers were so passionate about telling their fathers’ stories and I love the way Harris and Bronstein paid them and their fathers the respect of telling the stories with compassion but without compromise. I hope both films get a broader release and I hope that right now other sons and daughters are writing scripts and pestering actors to share their own stories.