DeadAir 2012: Oh. The humanity.

"Now boarding..." This Week's DeadAir 2012 Nominees

This Week - Monday, August 8, 2005
In honor of V-J Day and the brave men and women who died so America could continue to make movies like this
"Pearl Harbor" Week

You're never going to stop your Movie-of-the-Week hacks from taking their stab at current or relatively recent events. They have little shame and a lot of alimony, child support and cocaine bills. They've got to work, and if that means they have to use Fallujah or the World Trade Center as a backdrop for an action-adventure romantic suspense melodrama starring Bruce Boxleitner, Patricia Heaton, and Lindsey Lohan's little brother, and sponsored by Dannon Yogurt, then that's just how it is and we need to live with it. They aren't getting rich; they're probably taking home Guild minimum and approaching it with as much disinterest and loathing as you and I do our own jobs, showing up 20 minutes late and maybe a little hungover, talking to the pool cleaner or the vet on their cell phone between takes, and really not caring too much what's being filmed as long as everyone's hitting their mark and no one's making much of a fuss about anything. "Hey, Bruce. Maybe a little more emotion--he's your lost twin brother and he's just dropped eighty stories to the pavement twelve feet in front of you when you've come to rescue him. You need to.....Oh fuck it, we're burning daylight here. Just put it in the can."

If, on the other hand, you're an established entity--your name's appeared in "US Weekly" and you have a cell phone with a 310 area code--then as a rule you should stick to unimpeachable fiction. Don't go treading on any event where the principals or their relatives are still very much alive and, when you give it the same treatment you would a cop buddy movie or a paramilitary terrorist takeover of Alcatraz, no one can step forward and accuse you of defecating on everything their grandfathers fought and died for.

This isn't some fake jingoistic Toby Keith "try-burnin'-this-flag, asshole" outrage. It's just a matter of knowing where to draw the line; of how to use the sense that God gave you. It's about being able to keep your storytelling away from minefields crowded with signs reading "This is a densely-packed minefield, and you have a 96% chance of losing a limb walking through here." With the terrain before them so clearly marked, who's going to march on? Two kinds of people--those of bionic, larger-than-life hubris, and those who wear protective helmets on the short bus that takes them to the day center. And sometimes, even the latter are smart enough to see the danger in front of them.

Which brings us to this week's nominees, which we bring to you in honor of the upcoming 60th anniversary of both V-J Day and the second atomic bomb dropped on Nagasaki, and their participation in an event some would regard as only slightly less an affront to humanity--the motion picture, "Pearl Harbor".

Ask any historian or veteran what comes to mind when they think what went through the minds of the men and women at Pearl Harbor, and "I must win Nurse Lt. Evelyn's heart" isn't going to be the first thought that comes to mind. Or the second, or the third, or the tenth. "Sweet Jesus, I don't want to die!" or "Why don't you come down here and fight you cowardly bastards!!!" are probably more in line with reality.

Michael Bay could have built this story around anything without defiling such delicate ground--a future terrorist attack, the Punic Wars (defile away--hardly anyone remembers the Punic Wars. I'm not even sure they have a memorial), the Sharks and the Jets, a ragtag crew of oil riggers united against an asteroid headed straight towards...well, he could have done that again; even women like looking at Liv Tyler.

But no, he had to go down this slippery slope. He and everyone he brought with him should have known how this was going to end up. And, like the real attack at Pearl Harbor, someone has to be brought to justice.

In fact, "Pearl Harbor" and Pearl Harbor are really not all that dissimilar. One was a cowardly assault on an unsuspecting American public, leaving a proud nation bloody and reeling, but with a determination to never again drop our guard and let the enemies of all that is good about this country perpetrate such a savage attack on our honor and decency. The other brought America into World War II.

Paris Hilton in NightVision


Name: Ben Affleck

Transgression(s): Surprisingly, "Gigli" is only the fifth or sixth most compelling reason.

Evaluation: In the 1998 NFL draft, all eyes of the football world were on Washington State's Ryan Leaf and Tennessee's Peyton Manning. Both were enormously talented, evenly-matched quarterbacks and future superstars. It was preordained that they were going to go 1-2 in the draft, but it was up to 1st-pick Indiana to decide who it was going to be.

The Colts chose Manning, who went on to win two MVPs and would in 2004 surpass records of Dan Marino and Steve Young. Leaf went to San Diego, feuded with teammates and the press, was a complete washout on the field, retired in disgrace at 26, and makes many top 3 lists of Worst Draft Picks Ever.

At one moment together on one pedestal two young men embarked in two very different directions.

At the 1998 Oscars all eyes of the film world were on Ben Affleck and Matt Damon as their film was nominated for 9 Oscars, netting them the award for Best Writing on this, their first effort.

Fast forward seven years .Damon has carried on his career with a workmanlike consistency, racking up a series of dependable commercial successes and one outstanding franchise in the "Bourne" pictures. He's kept his social life on an even keel and hangs with respected Hollywood heavyweights George Clooney and Brad Pitt.

From the moment Damon embarked on his solid, dignified yeoman's career, Ben proceeded to squeeze out one dookie after another with a prolifigacy that would astound his peers. "Bounce", "Boiler Room", "Reindeer Games", "Forces of Nature", "Armageddon", a laughable turn as Jack Ryan, "Pearl Harbor" (in which he really stretched his acting chops and played an RAF officer) and 2003's almost surreally abysmal "Gigli" which won "Worst Movie Ever" appellation from many critics and ranks second only to "Cutthroat Island" as the biggest box-office bomb ever. With Ben, the shits just keep on coming.

Along the way, he had an embarrassing engagement with insufferable diva Jennifer Lopez which had even close friends suggesting he'd signed over the title to his genitals. Earlier, he'd begun fancying himself a future Senatorial candidate and electoral pied piper in his efforts on the stump for Al Gore in 2000 and to encourage young people to register and vote ("One of the reasons that I'm here is to demonstrate that no matter who you are going to vote for...I think it's important to get involved and get out and vote"). He appeared on the Rosie O'Donnell Show on election day, proudly announcing, "I'm about to go vote....I'm personally voting for Al Gore." He was less enthusiastic about his tireless get-out-the-vote effort a week after the election when The Smoking Gun revealed that not only had he not cast his vote for Al Gore, he hadn't voted at all, nor had he registered to vote, and not just in the 2000 election, but in 1998, 1996, or 1994.

Perhaps his inclusion here should be in honor of still another anniversary--that of the 1965 Voting Rights Act, which protected the right to vote of Americans regardless of race, creed, color or acting ability. The Act also prohibited the denial or abridgement of the right to vote based on literacy tests--in other words, that Ben Affleck didn't have to prove that he reads his scripts in order to be eligible to vote.

Nominated by Trevor S., 7.20.05

Nominee comments: "ben affleck is a downright douchebag, who needs many fucking years of therapy, acting school, and suicide 101. this pathetic excuse of an actor didn't just make a jap attack on pearl harbor look bad, he also made it look like war is a cheesy love story. the bottom line: douchbag"

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Night Vision Paris

Name: Michael Bay

Transgression(s): Paramont Pictures pitch meeting, time is the present--"Okay, Ryan Gosling and Jessica Alba. He's in Special Forces and she's with MercyCorps. She knows she loves him, but they've grown in different directions. Fast-forward to Tora Bora. She's nursing malnourished Tajik children back to health, his unit has a bead on Osama Bin Laden. They meet accidentally at a cafe...."

Evaluation: If Michael Bay had had the good fortune to have died in a car accident after "The Rock", Hollywood would have remembered him the same way rock-and-roll remembers Marc Bolan of T. Rex--not a genius, not our greatest auteur, but he kicked out some fun product, and he died too young.

No such luck, though. Bay lived, and followed "The Rock" with "Armageddon"--a slick, blow-up-everything, asteroid-hurtling-toward-Earth blockbuster which wasn't even the best asteroid-hurtling-toward-Earth blockbuster in a year of really terrible asteroid-hurtling-toward-Earth blockbusters. (Okay, I could only count two, but they were very influential). Seeing Ben Affleck killed onscreen was almost worth the price of a large popcorn, but unlike many big, dumb, action pictures, and especially "The Rock", which require a harmless suspension of disbelief, "Armageddon" requires subduing disbelief with a Taser, ball peen hammer, and chloroform, duct-taping its mouth and eyes, hog-tying it with nylon rope and bungee cords, stuffing it in a steamer trunk, welding it shut and dumping it overboard 110 miles off the coast of Nova Scotia. And it's got an Aerosmith power ballad.

With "Pearl Harbor", though, Bay made his bid for James Cameron acclaim--the master of the bigger-than-life historical tragedy-as-romantic/action-epic, which in a gem among many, many dozens of spot-on critical pans, UK Critic's Ian Waldron-Mantgani summed up as "a cheerfully offensive rape of history." A shallow, cynical exercise in paint-by-numbers blockbuster filmmaking that treated its historical bedrock with a casual indifference--incidental and at times inconvenient, ignoring it when it got in the way, but with plenty of occasions where he could blow shit up.

There's been little love for Bay's two subsequent projects, "Bad Boys II" and this summer's "The Island" ("A debacle", Bay said after seeing opening weekend receipts. "My worst opening ever."). If even blockbuster directors are only two or three box-office disasters away from having to make porn films to pay the rent, keep an eye out in the next few years, after he finishes his Transformers movie, for the Vivid Video DVD collection of Michael Bay's "Must Love Dongs" and "Because of Winn's Dick, See?"

Nominated by B. Kelter, 8.1.05

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Andy. Dick.

Name: Cuba Gooding, Jr.

Transgression(s): Show me the money. Now, give it all back, go sit down and watch "Boyz-N-The-Hood", "Jerry Maquire", and "As Good As It Gets" and remember why you got into acting in the first place.

Evaluation: What is it about the Oscar that's sent so many promising young actors and actresses off the professional rails, into a snowy oblivion of fast-track-to-video abominations and phoned-in diet soda commercials? What should give them a solid foundation for their professional future instead sends them on a journey that leaves millions of people in their wake reminiscing with friends about a favorite movie then suddenly squinting their eyes, furroughing their brows, and wondering, "Hey, whatever happened to.....?"

It's a Hollywood reality that has a long history, practically as old as the awards themselves. Luise Rainer won back-to-back in 1936-37, and then disappeared into obscurity. Jo Van Vleet's 1955 turn in "East of Eden" won her a "Best Supporting Actress" Oscar and a BAFTA Award for "Most Promising Newcomer", but then, except for "Cool Hand Luke" her career played out with a string of screen events that were, um, overlooked by the Academy and the more esteemed critics, including "80 Steps to Jonah", "The Gang That Couldn't Shoot Straight", and the crowning achievement of her rapid descent, 1973's non-Emmy-nominated "Satan's School for Girls".

In 1976 Louise Fletcher won Best Supporting Actress for "One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest", and proceeded to make over 70 mostly Grade D projects ("Grizzly II: The Predator", anyone?) which were less real movies than New Deal-style Full Employment Programs for middling actors like Kevin Sorbo and Susan Ruttan lest they be forced to wander about society and take real jobs that would otherwise go to those more deserving of the Denny's nametag.

Mira Sorvino, Ellen Burstyn, Marisa Tomei, Linda Hunt, Tom Hulce, Juliette Binoche, Louis Gossett, Jr., Cher. And the list goes on and on. It seemed at first that Cuba Gooding, Jr.--a fine actor in many of his earlier works--might beat the curse, with an energetic role as Frank, Greg Kinnear's fiery, at first loyal, but ultimately fickle friend in the mostly amusing "As Good As It Gets".

It all turned very, very bad from there, though--the saccharine, overwrought "What Dreams May Come"; the execrable "Speed" ripoff "Chill Factor", and an astonishingly dreadful four-film run of "Snow Dogs", "Boat Trip", "The Fighting Temptations", and his cynical 'Tard Card bid for return to Oscar glory, "Radio" (sorry, it's an ironclad rule--any role involving mental retardation or terminal illness is always suspect, especially if an actor is on a long losing streak). Falling in here, of course, was his decision to aid and abet Michael Bay in this cinematic Hindenburg (wait--now there's an epic that's screaming for a Michael Bay makeover. Call his agent!).

There are no indications he has a gambling or drug problem that could be leading to this plenitude of unfortunate choices, so one assumes this is either very poor judgement at work, or less-comprehensible "Oscar Curse"-related forces, such as those that led another African-American "Jr." to follow the pride, honor and esteem of his Oscar bestowal with "Jaws 3-D", "Enemy Mine", and not one, not two but four "Iron Eagle" movies. In Louis Gossett Jr.'s case, nothing obvious changed the man who so filled the screen with his Sgt. Emil Foley, it was only his film choices that went so far south so quickly. So it's been with Mr. Gooding--the talented and versatile professional who brought us Rod Tidwell and Corporal Hanamaker is presumably still in there somewhere, but has apparently been overpowered, bound and gagged. And so all we can do is scratch our heads, appreciate the small if excellent body of work he amassed before it all went so terribly wrong, and keep an eye on the cineplex for the inevitable arrival of "CF2: License to Chill" or "Radio Free Green Bay: Radio Goes to The Super Bowl!"

Nominated by B. Kelter, 7.28.05

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Honorable Mention!

Name: Jeremy Gilbreath

Transgressions: "Toothbrush sailor" (uncredited) - "Pearl Harbor". Also, Nick Stahl's stand-in on "Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines" and "Carnivale", and an extras casting associate in 2001's "Too Legit: The MC Hammer Story"

Evaluation: Okay, he hasn't done anything DeadAir-worthy besides appear in "Pearl Harbor", and not even that, because, hell, a fellow's got to eat, right? We're more throwing him a bone here, at the behest of DA2K12 co-founder Lori S., who sympathetically notes that "he'll probably never see his name in print again." Welcome aboard, Jeremy! Your fellow passengers are no reflection upon your worth as a human being and your place in this society. You just seem like you might be lonely.

Nominated by Lori S., 8.1.05

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