Ah, 2008, the days of wine, the days of roses, the days of... Actually with enough wine and roses, I'll pretty much forget about everything else. Unfortunately there were events both inside and outside the world of entertainment that were truly unforgettable... and not in that Nat King Cole kind of way! As in recent years some of the true skunk crap moments surrounded unnecessary remakes and unnecessary sequels. This year, however, things truly corned out outside of the world of entertainment. Let's just say if you're a Lesbian Californian Writer with a 401K plan, you probably had something less than a banner year.
As for myself, sure I had a good one, what with adopting a rescued Greyhound, buying a house and being elected President of the United States (oh, wait, that last one was Barack Obama... I confuse us a lot), but there have been a few valleys peeking and piquing around the peaks! I still did my own lame-ass web design, I take forever to review an ultra-indie, I have no patience whatsoever for revisionist comic book adaptations and every year my reviews get longer and longer and longer.
But enough about me. Here's a list of the "also sucked"... I call it: The Bottom 8 of 2008!
California Proposition 8 (2008)
Long considered to be among the most liberal and free-thinking of the 50 United States, California's voters made a collective shout of "Oh no we are not, either!" on November 5th when Prop 8 passed gas at the polls (albeit narrowly). For those of you who don't live in the now-less-than-illuminated "Sunshine State", Prop 8 was the California Ballot proposition that codified discrimination by re-defining marriage with the words "Only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California."
"Re-defining" is right in this case, by the way. Let me explain. There's something rotten in the state of California regardless of what you think of same-sex unions, at least if you look at the history of Prop 8. The Supreme Court of California ruled in May of 2008 that marriage is a fundamental right under Article 1, Section 7 of the California Constitution. Further, the court strictly mandated that any law discriminating against a person based on their sexual orientation is "constitutionally suspect".
Therefore, under the guise of "protecting marriage" a number of groups (including the Church I belong to) rose up and said "Oh, yeah? Well, we'll just change the constitution, then!" Because, you know... what do "Judges" know of the law? Now, lest I be accused of hypocrisy in bitching about conservative rights to free speech, let me explain that a good deal of this speech was packed with lies, including the slogan "Prop 8 is LESS GOVERNMENT". Hmmm. Okay, so meddling with the constitution and overturning a Supreme Court ruling qualifies as "Less" Government? By that logic, wouldn't more taxes mean you get a larger paycheck? Folks, if you want to "Protect Marriage" you don't prevent people who love each other from getting married... you ban divorce. Bu-huh-hut... no-ho-ho... we can't do tha-ha-hat...
Incidentally, some of the better commercials run by the "No On Prop 8 Campaign" were narrated by Samuel L. Jackson, in a subtle and informative documentary manner. I wonder if the proposition might have been defeated if he went just a little bit more... well... Sam Jackson:
"Leviticus 18:22... This passage on the homosexual has been misinterpreted on all sides by the Religious Right and the Homophobia of evil men! Blessed is he who in the name of equality and good judgment votes NO on the 8th Proposition, for he is truly his Gay Brother's keeper and the minder of law codified. And I will strike down upon thee with GREAT VENGEANCE and FURIOUS ANGER those who attempt to Vote Yes on Prop 8 and discriminate against my gay brothers. AND YOU WILL KNOW MY NAME IS SAM JACKSON WHEN I LAY MY VENGEANCE UPON THEE! BECAUSE I HAVE HAD IT WITH THESE MOTHER FUCKIN' HOMOPHOBES IN MY MOTHER FUCKIN' STATE!"
Star Trek delayed
In spite of the fact that the last Star Trek movie flopped and the last Star Trek Television Show was the first to be canceled in thirty years, Paramount Pictures put forth a valiant marketing campaign advertising a new prequel for the Federation's most revered crew, going way back to before Kirk's captaincy. Yes, a brand new feature (simply titled Star Trek) was heavily marketed for 2008, featuring a cast that resembled that of the original series and the creative team behind Lost at the (if you'll pardon me) helm. As we counted down to its promised release on Christmas Day, 2008, we quickly found the rug pulled out from under us as Paramount (laughingly) shouted "PSYCHE!" And then they moved the release date to the Summer of 2009.
But now that their "tide-you-over" marketing has made this new film look less and less like the Star Trek we know and love, I'm less on the edge of my seat waiting to beam up than I am ready to get this future over with. Dick Move!
The Writers Guild of America strike and fallout
Another thing that pisses me off about Paramount delaying Star Trek is that the cast and crew were so careful not to allow the 2007-08 WGA Strike to slow down or affect production timelines. That said, it sure as shootin' silver at silver affected an entire gauntlet of other productions! As a writer myself (albeit not a very good one), I say "Solidarity, Brothers and Sisters! Demand those Internet Rights!"
As a critic, I say "Dick Move! I want my episodes of Lost!"
All that aside, the effects of this pissing contest did a lot more than simply cause every scrivener in Whoreywood to mutter "I would prefer not to." Some shows (like The Young and the Restless, All My Children, As the World Turns, General Hospital, One Life to Live and some soap opera called Power Rangers) switched to non-union writers (aka: SCABS), while others took a much harder hit. Heroes saw less than half of its 24 ordered episodes produced for its second season while its spin-off show Heroes: Origins was postponed, only to be cancelled soon after. Battlestar Galactica was fragmented to the point that the second half of the fourth season is scheduled to air a full seven months after the first half. Pushing Daisies, a brilliant show, saw only 9 of its 22 ordered shows produced and with its recent cancellation the full series (consisting of Seasons 1 and 2) will consist of less than that 22 in total.
And then, back to Lost! After ABC shortened the show to an ordered 16 episodes per season for its fourth, fifth and sixth seasons (Season 1 had 24 episodes, Season 2 had 23 and Season 3 had 22) the Strike curtailed the Fourth Season to only 14 episodes. In a rare case of the Network and Studios attempting to do something right, the fifth and sixth seasons have been increased to 17 episodes each.
Take note, I can't blame the writers for this... it's the networks and studios that are chapping my ass here. Yeah, I get it, it's just business and without the moolah, what company can survive without a Government Bailout? But dudes and chicks, what kind of self-defeating dick move was it to allow these well-written shows to die off in favor of more (ugh!) Reality Television? When the best written shows require frequent viewing for the story to be followed (Pushing Daisies, Heroes, Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles and Lost being fine examples) is it any wonder that many viewers didn't make it back?
Special exceptional exception should be granted to Letterman's Worldwide Pants, the production company that not only didn't resort to hiring scabs, but went so far as to negotiating its own collective bargaining agreement to bring back its own regular writers. Also, special exceptional exception should be granted to Worldwide Pants for having a funny ass name!
The Financial Crash and the Bailouts:
It never ceases to amaze my ass how quickly Capitalists turn into Socialists when a free market economy (temporarily) fails them! The old top hat is turned over and passed to Uncle Sam with the Oliver Twist-like request for "MORE!" as soon as that green paper stops flowing.
In theory, financial bailouts make sense. After all, can we really allow our (national or global) financial systems to crash without expecting a meltdown followed by a freeze? Can we really allow some of our biggest industries to go bankrupt without expecting widespread unemployment to make things thrice as bad?
The dumbass, dick move here is how easy it was to see all this coming! I mean, seriously... subprime mortgages? I don't care what your background is, what lead head is going to give several hundred thousand dollars to some boner who wouldn't qualify for a Netflix Membership? But while houses (of cards, really) were handed over to (and subsequently seized from) Americans who couldn't pay, Bankers were reenacting the lyrics to Jethro Tull's "Locomotive Breath"! Folks, it's not like this was hard to see coming! My degree's in English Lit, not Finance or Accounting and I was thinking "Hello again, Mr. Bubble!" Yeah, they all knew, but if Banker X stopped collecting, Banker Y and Z would keep pulling it in, so the train it wouldn't stop going, no way to slow down!
Meanwhile after years of producing the Gas Guzzlers demanded by the short sighted and offering up half-assed attempts at fuel efficiency (the new Chrysler hybrid gets a whopping 19 Miles to the Gallon... HIGHWAY), the Auto Industry cried out "Say, where's our share? We need to make our bonuses too!" Nice private jet, by the way, pink boy!
One final note on this (because I'm sure you can fill in the rest of this story your damned selves) 88 years after Charles Ponzi MADE OFF with millions in a well known financial scheme, it shocks the hell out of me that people all over the United States (and beyond) were still giving money to a Ponzi Scheme run by a man whose name was actually Bernard MADOFF! Isn't that like walking up to the Hamburglar and asking him to hold your sandwich for a minute?
Punisher: War Zone:
Thus far, Marvel Entertainment has had three theatrical flops: 1986's Howard the Duck, 2005's Elektra and 2008's Punisher: War Zone!
After the relative success of The Punisher (itself a reboot that ignored 1989's The Punisher) a remake was more than in the cards, but when creative differences with essentially everyone caused the planned Punisher sequel to become a Reboot instead, Lionsgate drew the Joker!
By "Joker", I do mean to make a reference to the Batman villain, because the migraine-inducing villain (based on "Jigsaw" from the comics) was a near verbatim rehash of The Joker's filmic origin!
The saddest part of all of this is that in spite of what appeared to be an initial attempt at accuracy, virtually no one involved in this production seemed to take it a quarter as seriously as they took such decisions as which beverage to order at the local Starbucks. Edgy violence became baseless and ill-advised carnage (less Kill Bill than the 2007 Domestic Violence Amendment Bill), touching and emotional moments became melodramatic spoof fodder and the dialogue was second only to the plot in its incessant layering of processed cheese in place of any form of realistic or thought provoking writing. But, hey, The Punisher's a killer, right? Maybe it's appropriate that he'd off his own franchise, no?
But enough about Lionsgate Films that feature villains named Jigsaw.
Let's talk about Saw V instead.
Somewhere along the way somebody stated that a sequel to Saw was justified (from an artistic standpoint) because there were still so many unanswered questions that remained. I imagine that by the time Saw IV and Saw V were released the suits at Lionsgate were telling the writers and producers to pack in as many unanswered questions as possible so that they could start advertising Saw XXXII (which should be due around 2036) as soon as possible.
This could be fine if there was some textual or artistic merit to these endless releases, but that idea died deader than John Kramer years ago. There's always some lame ending that both suggests "Twist" and "Sequel" in which the focus of the film (usually a wall flower from one of the previous entries) is killed in some gruesome way because he didn't follow some ridiculous rules set up by a bloodthirsty puppet master. Needless to say these elaborate plans would work in real life about as well as a seven year old Apex DVD Player. Fans (and there are some, because these things are still being made) will say the main character died because he was "Stupid". I can get behind that, seeing as how (this) Jigsaw's traps are getting increasingly easy to get out of. The film series on the other hand... that's almost impossible to get out of.
You sheep pimps!
What's worse than endless Horror Sequels? Maybe Endless Horror Remakes? I stress the "Maybe", because I honestly can't decide which is worse.
The decade that brought us The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Black Christmas, The Wicker Man, The Hills Have Eyes, Amityville Horror, The Omen, Dawn of the Dead and Halloween just won't quit with its Remakes-In-Name-Only! I'd love to tell you that Prom Night is the exception to this rule, but that would be like saying Bernard Madoff's Ponzi Scheme was that one exception that was definitely going to pay off.
While the cast was pretty decent (and, in many cases, really hot) this toned-down slasher fest was your standard by-the-numbers snoozer that followed the 1980 original only chronologically. Yeah, okay, it took place at a prom. People died. End of similarities.
Strangely, Prom Night's main flaw is the degree to which it's inoffensive and muted. It's not worth hating, in fact, it might work well as background noise (just look up for sexy Dana's running scenes), but it's simply not so good, Al!
Day of the Dead:
George Romero's Zombie Flicks have already been fodder for Horror Remakes, so naturally the copyright holders of his third entry into that series would stand up amid the Bad Horror Remakes of 2008 and say "Oh, yeah, us too!" After all, they had already released a bad horror sequel to Day of the Dead in 2005!
Like Prom Night (which premiered within two days of this film's direct-to-video release), Day of the Dead showed some promise in its cast of recognizable actors and even a veteran horror director in Stephen C. Miner and a respectable screen writer in Jeff Reddick! Its promise didn't last long, however as it became clear that Day of the Dead was hoping to confuse audiences enough to believe that this film was a direct sequel to the 2004 Dawn of the Dead remake and subsequently prove that it wasn't even that good. Damn it!
Where's Leon Kennedy when you need him?
Worse, Day of the Dead became something of a checklist of the things that are wrong with the current cropped crop of zombie flicks. The "zombies that can run" of similar films become positively Olympic-class zombies that can run so fast they belong on the Wheaties Box and could take on the very X-Men with their super powered hijinx and thrilling, chilling derring-do.
I was amazed, actually! Just as Regarding Henry showed us how being shot in the head can improve someone's life, "Day of the Remake" has gone so far as to demonstrate how becoming infected with "The Zombie Virus" can change all of our lives for the better.
Well, Steve and Jeffrey, if you were looking to make a Zombie Movie that did what no previous zombie movie ever had... congratulations on this mark!
But, let me add, dick move!
Dishonorable Mention goes to Playstation 3 for removing its backward compatability with previous Playstation models; Windows Vista for continuing the ridiculous Microsoft trends of removing functionality in favor of cuteness and to Rod Blagejovich for naming that Roland guy even after he cashed my check! Dick Move!
Since I'm still doing this instead of moving to Illinois, I'll see you in the next reel!