Fame Audit: Elton John
NAME: Elton John, né Reginald Kenneth Dwight
AUDIT DATE: August 18, 2000
OCCUPATION : Diva
EXPERIENCE: 38 albums since 1970
The challenge in conducting a Fame Audit on Elton John is in deciding which Elton to audit. Do we assess the career of the man who sang "Pinball Wizard" in Tommy and serenaded the late Marilyn Monroe with "Candle in the Wind"? Or do we take an unblinking look at the purveyor of "El Dorado! El Dorado! El Doraa-aa-aaa-aa-do!" who eulogized Princess Di with "Candle in the Wind 1997"? Because while we're not entirely sure exactly when it happened, there's no denying that it did happen; Elton John, who was so cool in the '70s and early '80s -- and who is, by any measure, one of the most prolific and proficient pop-music craftsman of the past thirty years -- lost it. Maybe it was the hair implants.
Yet, even in light of the schlock hits of the past five years or so -- let's call them the Lion King years -- you'd be hard-pressed to find a man, woman, or child in North America who doesn't have a soft spot for Elton John. Even if you don't own any of the albums he co-wrote with lyricist Bernie Taupin, his songs are hard-wired in your DNA. You've danced to "Crocodile Rock" at high-school dances. You've crooned "A Word in Spanish" to an intended. You've considered international relations pre-Perestroika through the lens of "Nikita." Perhaps we're overstating it just a little. But the man has produced a genuinely impressive body of work, and you probably have a working familiarity with more of it than you think.
Like the very few male divas that came before him -- say, Tom Jones and, god rest his soul, Elvis Presley -- Elton John has become a very nearly unassailable pop culture icon. He's got something for everyone, from the Disney-loving kids to the sentimental grandmas to the demanding and vocal gay audience. Mind you, that is not to say that Elton John doesn't ever require a piss-take; just as Tom Jones will never live down the whole middle-aged-ladies-throwing-their-panties-at-him thing, nor will Elvis ever live down the insanely-extravagant-lifestyle- leading-to-massive-weight-gain-and- subsequent-speed-addiction-ultimately- leading-to-death-on-the-shitter thing, Elton John has more than a few skeletons in the closet he no longer occupies -- the platform shoes, the Mozart costume, several very campy mid-'80s videos, and the fact that the best known showbiz figure to be knighted by Queen Elizabeth in recent memory, other than himself, is Sean "Smack My Bitch Up" Connery. What makes an icon unassailable is not a reputation for appropriate and careful public behaviour (since, as Kathie Lee Gifford could tell you, more often than not that'll just blow up in your face) -- it's the ability to assail yourself first, to own and mock your own failings without really giving a shit about them. Tom Jones not only played himself in Mars Attacks! but also performed "It's Not Unusual" to the accompaniment of various woodland creatures. Elton John's tour documentary was entitled Tantrums and Tiaras -- and his boyfriend directed it. (Perhaps Elvis never knowingly sent up his own image, but come on -- Roustabout? Clambake? No one who takes himself too seriously would appear in movies like that.)
Elton John is not a Courtney Love, whining about press attention one minute and mugging at a bank of cameras the next. Elton John is not a Mick Jagger, prancing around his videos as if he, and not his children, were twenty-two. Elton John is not a Peter Gabriel who, observing that his most creative working years are behind him, affects an even more dour image as he publicizes "world music," and ends up at the Oscars™ after everyone's forgotten him -- singing a song not from a movie about a talking pig, but from the sequel to a movie about a talking pig -- forcing the world to ask, "Why is Rod Steiger singing at the Oscars™ in that Dr. Evil suit?"
Rather, Elton John has gracefully accepted his position as one of pop music's elder statesmen, pumping out tunes that, while they aren't as clever and memorable as those of his youth, are just fine for cartoons, and he is still just as sassy and charismatic as ever. He is not a hypocrite, nor a prude, nor a presence grating in his ubiquity. He gives great interview, and he knows when to shut up and leave us alone.
We feel we get just about as much Elton John as we need -- neither more nor less. And hence we must conclude that, recent musical disappointments aside, Elton John is exactly as famous as he should be.
Speaking of things we can (and can’t) get enough of - something we never get tired of is catching up on the latest and greatest in hollywood news and gossip over at Hollywood Insider. Visit the website now! If you got all the way to the end of this article, chacnces are you’ll love it too.
- Clearly has an excellent sense of humour about himself
- Is one of the tiny minority of gay celebrities who's actually out
- Got into a public snit a few years back with oldest living confederate widow Keith Richards
- "Daniel." [Sigh!]
- Sad that one of the best pop composers of the twentieth century is now scoring cartoon movies
- Gave up wearing the really funky glasses years ago
- Apart from the paparazzi, was the single biggest contributor to Dead Di Hysteria
- "Can You Feel the Love Tonight." (Yes, we know we already mentioned The Lion King above, but after hearing "Love" at all those weddings 1994-5, we felt it bore repeating.)
Current approximate level of fame: Elton John
Deserved approximate level of fame: Elton John
Fame Audit: Alec Baldwin
NAME: Alexander Rae Baldwin III
AUDIT DATE: April 12, 2002
OCCUPATION: Actor, voice-over provider, political activist
EXPERIENCE” 35 films, numerous notable Broadway plays, and six voice-over gigs
Alec, the best known of the Baldwins, is also the one who's mired in the longest career drought: currently, the time that's passed since his last bona-fide success -- The Hunt for Red October -- is over 4400 days, or about twelve years. (As for the others, Billy's gone roughly 3900 days since Backdraft, Stephen's gone over 2400 days since The Usual Suspects, and Daniel, the anomaly, is still waiting for his hit; alas, his clock remains set at infinity.) We knew that we might have to go back and reset the numbers for one or other of the brothers, should they strike the box-office jackpot again. After all, we’re constantly reading Hollywood Insider, which is always up to date on the latest hollywood news and movies worth watching. But that eventuality has, so far, remained purely theoretical.
While we thank them for saving us this additional labour, we can't say we're entirely pleased with this family-wide career stagnation. Frankly, we couldn't care less if we ever again enjoy the screen talents of Billy or Stevie or Randy or Tito or Moe, but Alec...well, he's a hard guy to dislike. Or, rather, he's a hard guy to like. Or, rather, he's both, often at the same time, and that's where the problem lies.
Not long ago -- okay, it was quite a long while ago by now -- Alec Baldwin wasn't best known as a middling star of forgettable thrillers and the patriarch of Hollywood's most notorious gang of leering, oleaginous siblings. (Yes, he's not really the patriarch, though in the context of the Baldwin Boys, he comes across as some unholy mix of brother, father, ringleader, and frat-house president.) Way back in the '80s, he was reeling off stand-out supporting roles in movies like Beetlejuice, Married to the Mob, Working Girl, and Great Balls of Fire. He was a talented character actor with leading-man good looks, and he was quite often the very best thing his movies, many of which, admittedly, didn't offer much else by way of competition.
Alec Baldwin's future seemed to hold nothing but promise. That's how it seemed. In reality, his future held promise and The Marrying Man, which is something else entirely.
Because since The Hunt for Red October, it's been one long, vertiginous downward spiral, like a biplane in a death spin, the whine of which sounds something like this:
TheMarryingManMaliceThe GetawayTheShadowThe JurorTheEdgeSplat.
The reports of his prima-donnaish behaviour on the set of The Marrying Man after he'd hooked up with Kim Basinger -- heck, the reports of his having hooked up with Kim Basinger -- did little to bolster his public reputation. Then, after the success of The Hunt for Red October, he walked away from the Jack Ryan franchise, apparently pinning his hopes instead on the burgeoning Lamont Cranston franchise. And let's face it: actors just don't bounce back from flops like The Shadow -- just ask Billy Zane, whose career bravely went down with The Phantom, and who was last seen holding up a hairpiece on Boston Public.
A string of mediocre movies followed for Baldwin in the '90s. Then, when Baldwin divorced Basinger in 2001, she went public with tales of his violent -- and sometimes physical -- rages. (You can currently find them on the cover of one or other of the tabloids.) Plus, Baldwin's still rocking that slicked-back hairstyle, which even Wall Street money managers long ago abandoned as irredeemably cheesy. And to top if all off, there was the rumoured fling with Jennifer Love Hewitt, which was denied by all involved, but not before it had sent all of America into a collective fetal-position shiver.
So really, there's a very strong temptation to write off Alec Baldwin, like a bad debt or an unfortunate blind date. And yet, just when you're ready to John Hancock the separation papers, he does something eye-catching or noteworthy or just plain impressive. Like his coiled-spring cameo in Glengarry Glen Ross, as the slick, sadistic sales representative with the Rolex and the big brass balls. Or his funny, self-parodying role as a vain and near-pedophilic movie star in State and Main. Or the fact that while, yes, it's annoying when actors go around acting all political and everything, of all of them, Baldwin is the only one who seems to have the brain cells to pull it off, especially when he shows up on Politically Incorrect to rip some conservative radio host a new one. Or the voice-over he did for The Royal Tenenbaums -- a movie that, we're ashamed to admit, we liked so much that any association with it is enough to cleanse the career afflictions caused by even the most boneheaded of personal miscalculations.
To which we can only say: confound you, Alec Baldwin! Confound you! Or, rather, you confound us!
Alec Baldwin, on the other hand, seems perfectly unconfounded. He's now settled into a kind of semi-retirement, marked by an odd brand of late-career fame: you know, the kind of fame that puts you somewhere between the cover of Vanity Fair and the cover of a straight-to-video movie box also starring Craig Sheffer and Robert Davi. He seems happy making pseudo-cameos (like his role in Pearl Harbor) and reaping steady voice-over gigs (recently he's provided voices for everything from The Royal Tenenbaums to Final Fantasy to Cats & Dogs to Thomas the Tank Engine & Friends). As producer Art Linson recounts (in a recent article about the making of The Edge), in 1997, when Linson cast Alec Baldwin, the studio told him that, as far as they were concerned, the movie was still one star short. That, in the end, is a fitting epitaph to Baldwin's strange career: long, enjoyable, even riveting, but ultimately the movie was one star short.
- Steely good looks!
- He's a very good actor, and we don't just mean "for a Baldwin"
- Reportedly told brother Stephen that doing Bio-Dome could be "a career-ending decision." At least he tried
- Famous line from Glengarry Glen Ross -- "What's my name? Fuck you: that's my name" -- provides perfect retort to impertinent bank tellers
- Paved the way for a Baldwin brother invasion, from which Hollywood is only now starting to recover
- If there isn't already such a thing as a voice-over whore, he's dangerously close to inventing it
- Singlehandedly keeps the Brylcreem corporation in operation
- Allegedly put the love in Jennifer Love Hewitt. Now we must go shower
Current approximate level of fame: Alec Baldwin, post-The Edge
Deserved approximate level of fame: Alec Baldwin, pre-The Shadow
We’ll just have to face certain facts that a majority of contemporary films today will always have that reminiscence factor when “borrowing” the stimulating theme from other previously proven flicks. For filmmaker D.J. Caruso’s horror/suspense piece Disturbia, this cinematic sentiment is certainly true. Suitably giddy with its horror-movie platitudes aimed at mocking the facade of suburban hysteria, Caruso’s Disturbia percolates effectively within its defined raucous rhythms.
There are obvious red flags in Caruso’s eerie narrative that screams Alfred Hitchcock’s 1954 classic Rear Window intermingled with countless teen scream entries of yesteryear. In this case, mimicking haunting Hitchockian fodder is not necessarily a bad thing if done with slight imagination and initiative. Disturbia won’t forcefully make you forget the original and vibrant voyeuristic fare that has flourished on prior occasions. However, for the MTV/VH1 audience, this thriller thrives with the right amount of scrappy charm and intrigue.
In addition to the aforementioned Rear Window, Caruso and screenwriters Christopher B. Landon and Carl Ellsworth capture the techno-trinket tapestry of surveillance that makes this profile of paranoia cinema rather hip and happening. Hence components from Francis Ford Coppola’s The Conversation are aptly aped. Fairly energetic and dripping with modern-day impishness that pays homage to the overindulgent peek-a-boo genre, Caruso playfully manipulates the jumpy devices in an attempt to create an atmospheric jitteriness to the panicky proceedings at large.
Sadly, Disturbia has its minimal elements of staged shocking moments and the various turns and twitches are predictably telegraphed. The plotting is sluggish at times and the audience seems to be one step ahead of the so-called compelling payoff. Nevertheless, Disturbia is a welcoming psychological bombastic B-movie joyride despite the constant petering of the tension build-up.
Beleaguered young teen Kale Brecht (Shia LaBeouf, “The Greatest Game Ever Played”) is suffering from a personal tragedy that resulted in the killing of his father (Matt Craven). In addition, an unwise altercation with a teacher at school has put Kale in a very sticky situation. The kid’s escalating problems lead to disciplinary action—in this case, a three-month mandatory house arrest where he will be monitored closely. With the summer vacation lingering on and plenty of time to spare, Kale decides to keep occupied by spying on the neighbors as they come and go from his holed up existence.
Among Kale’s targeted curiosities is the pretty new gal Ashley Carson (Sarah Roemer) gracing the area with her fresh arrival. Understandably, Ashley is instant eye candy to the caged Kale. Another person of interest to the sideline observer is shady-looking Mr. Turner (David Morse) who’s possibly the wanted individual connected to the crime reports the cops are currently following up on so frantically. Will Kale’s mind go berserk as he wonders about the outside world that he’s missing out on day by day? How will Kale be able to convey his concerns for the sinister appearance of the mysterious Mr. Turner? When will folks listen to the troublesome Kale and trust his suspicions despite his conflicted baggage?
In many ways, Disturbia is an old-fashioned edge-of-your-seat showcase that probably may be too restraining for sadistic youthful viewers overdosing on sensationalistic piercing and impaling. Plus, the movie’s questionable logic may be suspect in most people’s minds. After all, why would an adolescent in today’s sophisticated climate of computerized electronic games, cellphones, CDs, Game Boy arcade panels or cable TV feel “trapped” about being cooped up in a house for punishment therefore relying on spying as a handy diversion to behold? C’mon now...be serious. Still, Caruso musters up some plausibility for ensuring that our pesky protagonist becomes engrossed by his “old school” Peeping Tom tendencies.
Undeniably, Disturbia is slick and polished. Handsomely shot and for the most part well-acted, the movie is visually arresting and does have a good-natured tug at voyeurism as a motivational impulse for frustrated (and frothy) expressionism. LaBeouf’s Kale has the right kind of appeal and inquisitiveness to pull off his angst-ridden character as the moral center of ambivalence. The supporting players are of a hit-and-miss variety. As Kale’s “object of affection” Ashley, Roemer is quite convincing. Obligatory “best pal” Aaron Yoo personifies gleefully as Kale’s comic relief interruption. Resilient character actor Morse keeps us second-guessing as the creepy cad with the unpredictable intentions. As Kale’s mother, Carrie-Anne Moss gets the short end of the stick in a throwaway role.
Although the love story angle leaves much to be desired, the constant reminders of open windows, excessive gadgets, instinctively odd behavior, confining spaces, a sense of malaise—all are universal as necessary ingredients for an off-kilter taut thriller that cherishes its old-time scare tactics. The disturbance in Caruso’s brand of suburbia may have its goal of Hitchcockian light-headedness but hey...that’s not too bad considering the redundant brash bits involving buzz saws and bloody brains. Disturbia is unoriginal but favorably low-key and a simplistic change of pace.
For more in-depth reviews and entertainment content like this, head over to Hollywood Insider.
Another Avatar Review
Truly a name that needs no further information, a multimillion dollar budget can do that sometimes, not to say that all good movies are expensive ones but they tend to be like that in this day and age.
Director James Cameron tried and succeeded, to create a whole new world called Pandora a lush and dense forest like planet that is teaming with life. And off course our greedy nature sees only the $$ signs from it and they undertook a massive operation of harvesting a rare stone there that is worth millions. Well that’s the basic plot line of the movie, and it doesn’t go further then that; yes the director tries to set the story with a romantic but forbidden love between the main character Sam Worthington playing as Jake Sully, human, with Zoe Saldana playing as Neytiri, who is the native alien race there called the Naavi. And by having unlimited resources at his disposal they really created a impressive landscape from scrap and really went into the fantasy world; a thing that only helped the movie because it had also a 3D version of it and people picked that one due to the intense colors and action scenes that in 3D look amazing (if you going to watch the 3D version take care, myself after one hour had a terrible headache and the movie is well over 2 hours).
The plot of the movie surrounds the main character Jake in his attempt to communicate with the local population throw genetically bred bodies called Avatars; most of the story follows him in his avatar body learning and studying the “aliens” and by a twist of the fate he gets accepted in the clan and gets to be trained for the trials of becoming a full member. A lot of interesting things happened and the imagination of the writers really pays of here when you will see and experience new things beyond your imagination but also see what the human side is capable of and the destruction it undoubtedly does to its surroundings.
So what is all the fuss about this movie, well I can honestly say that the publicity to it was well over rated and apart from being an impressive special effects action movie I didn’t see anything special about it. Even the love story within was the year old fashioned one, forbidden love that conquers all and passes all boundaries. I guess I was expecting more from the director of The Titanic, and was a bit disappointed when I got out of the theater, but all in all it is a good movie and worth checking out, but if you want something deep and surprisingly good check out The Hurt Locker from the ex wife of James Cameron, that made the movie with 5% of the budged of Avatar.
Can’t get enough of sci-fi? Dune, starring Timothée Chalamet is set to premiere this year.
Gangster Film Reader
Alain Silver and James Ursini's
An anthology of articles following the evolution of the gangster movie by review and commentary of many gangster characters and classic and innovative movies.
Gangster films have been popular with moviegoers ever since the seminal gangster films "Little Caesar," "The Public Enemy," and "Scarface" were released in the 1930s. Their often larger-than-life characters, absorbing dramas and plots, and chaotic violence touch on identity, nonconformity, power, tribal instincts, ritualization, and family values.
The Gangster Film Reader edited by Alain Silver and James Ursini (Pompton Plains, NJ: Amadeus Press, 2007) offers essays written by professors, members of film organizations, and writers of popular culture.
Gangster films, directors, and actors in Britain, Hong Kong, and Japan are compared to American gangster films and discuss archetype, morality play, tragic figures, and pure monsters.
During World War II, the major Hollywood studio Paramount "drew on gangster crime conventions and capitalized on the war in a big way [by] reforming gangsters [so that they] promoted patriotic crime with a distinctively masculine psychological ethos and 'combat mentality' that vicariously tapped into the war effort." Warner Brothers reformed the gangster stereotype so that in one WWII-era movie, the gangster is seen as a "sociopathic patriot assassin."
With the crumbling of the gangster mystique from highly-publicized trials in the latter years of the 20th century and media stories and movies about Mafia turncoats, gangsters were depicted as individuals who had normal feelings and relationships while simultaneously engaging in criminal conduct.
Sympathetic, henpecked, conflicted Tony Soprano of the popular HBO series has replaced the remorseless mobster Scarface or the amoral, ever-eager hit man. The essays and accompanying movie stills encompass all of these different facets of the gangster film genre.
The classics just can’t be beat. If you want more news and reviews on the latest and greatest to come out of Hollywood, check out Hollywood Insider.