I’m not a fan of reality shows about dating because they seem too artificial and everyone on them seems so self-obsessed (granted, inevitable given their constantly being asked how they feel). But two new variations are worth a mention.
Dating in the Dark takes the most superficial element of dating out of the equation. The couples meet with the lights off, and the idea is that this will keep them focused on the essentials. And that it will be fun to see what their reaction is when they finally see each other. But if one rejects another after getting a look, doesn’t that just underscore the essential superficiality of the attraction? And if we enjoy watching it, what does that say about us?
And then there is More to Love with a (euphemism alert) “husky” man looking for his “curvy” dream girl. Hosted by plus-size supermodel Emme, this show features a 26-year-old former college football offensive lineman turned contractor and developer who is 6’3″ and weighs over 300 pounds and twenty 20 women described as “voluptuous.” I have mixed feelings about this, but if it expands the notion of its participants (some of whom have never been on a date) and its audience about what and who is beautiful and lovable, that is unquestionably a good thing.
Thanks to Siva Vaidhyanathan for sharing this delightful interview with the newest PBS superhero, WordGirl, who keeps the world safe from bad guys and poor word choices! Here’s to vivid and grammatically correct speech, and to PBS and WorldGirl.
The Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood is circulating a petition to protest the marketing of GI Joe action figures promoting the new PG-13 movie “GI Joe.”
Yes, GI Joe was a toy for decades before the movie. But these action figures, specifically tied to characters in this very violent film are specifically targeted at young children to promote a movie that is completely inappropriate for them.
Since March, CCFC has logged over 3,000 ads on children’s TV channels for five PG-13 films: Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen; Terminator Salvation; Star Trek; X-Men Origins: Wolverine, and the upcoming GI Joe: The Rise of Cobra. Last month CCFC sent another letter to the FTC documenting the continued failure of the movie industry’s self-regulation, and urging the Commission to take action.
All around Los Angeles Times columnist Steve Lopez (Robert Downey, Jr.), everything seems to be broken or breaking. The newspaper is losing readers and laying off staff. His marriage to editor Mary Weston (Catherine Keener) is over. He is estranged from their son and lived amidst unpacked boxes. His eye is swollen shut and his face scraped raw from a bicycle accident. And he lives in a city with the highest homeless population in the country. When he meets a homeless man named Nathaniel Ayers (Jamie Foxx) on the street, playing a violin with only two strings, Lopez sees him as material for the column, and then as a problem — unlike so many others — he could solve.
The real-life story of Lopez and Ayers, as documented in Lopez’s book
and on “60 Minutes,” has now become a feature film written by one of Hollywood’s most established screenwriters, Susannah Grant (“Erin Brockovich,” “In Her Shoes,” “Catch and Release”), directed by one of today’s most gifted directors, Joe Wright (the Kiera Knightly “Pride and Prejudice” and “Atonement”), and starring two of the biggest stars. Everyone is diligent and sincere but it never really decides what it wants to be. It is part social commentary, part personal growth, and large part one of those “I learned so much more from you than you did from me”/”none so blind as those who will not see” stories, making it seem that the agony of mental illness is all about helping the rest of us feel better about our lives. Both men are soloists in their own way, and both do learn that relationships can affect brain chemistry.
The detours into Ayers’ life before he became mentally ill are distracting rather than illuminating and the efforts to portray his distorted perceptions are superficial and unpersuasive. It never comes anywhere close to films like A Beautiful Mind in conveying mental disturbance. Foxx struggles but never makes us feel that his portrayal is more than a collection of tics and twitches. The far better chemistry and more interesting relationship is between Lopez and a sympathetic social worker, beautifully played by Nelsan Ellis. Wright’s striking visuals are arresting and Downey’s performance is always enthralling, fascinating, and utterly present. The inconsistency of the rest of the film, however, makes him more of a soloist than intended.