Tuesday, April 10, 2007

I spent five years in talk radio as the house liberal during the Reagan years ( I got the best hate mail!). I love the medium so that's why I was drawn to watching the documentary on Al Franken like a moth to a flame. He was simply a lousy broadcaster who had little concept of what a successful talk show should be.

Although I loathe Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity and Michael Savage for being the hatemongers that they are, I have to give them credit for understanding how broadcasting works, unlike Franken.

I saw Franken in person at the Talkers Magazine annual conference on the medium and he came across as a smug horse's ass. I may agree with some of his politics but I think he is incapable of swaying people to think about issues. Instead he preaches to the choir and that does little good in trying to create a dialogue.

Three very different films are reviewed in this edition of the DVD column.

Al Franken: God Spoke

Like most people I first saw Al Franken on "Saturday Night Live" where he practiced a form of egocentric comedy. One of his shticks was to perform a monologue where he inserted his name in random places.

I always thought he was a fairly amusing guy and it was interesting to see him evolve into a political commentator and eventually a radio talk show host.

This documentary traced that evolution showing Franken on book tours prior to his hiring as a radio show host for Air America. Along the way we're treated to some very amusing firefights between him and many conservatives including Bill O'Reilly and Ann Coulter.

The film ended with Franken moving his radio show to Minnesota, where he was raised, in order to establish residency for a run for the Senate.

The two directors of this film got some great footage I particularly liked when Franken got into a "Newsweek" party for Republicans but they did the viewers a disservice of not identifying people. Unless you knew them already, you would not have known the other members of "the cast."

What was also glossed over were the many trials and tribulations of Franken's time on Air America. What the footage indicated, but does not elaborate on, was Franken's inexperience with radio and the fact that Air America chose to push his show rather than those of seasoned broadcasters such as Randi Rhodes and Rachel Maddow.

Franken's show, which did not take callers, was ultimately as egocentric as Rush Limbaugh's program, Franken's target in many markets.

The result is a film that played like those "Saturday Night Live" routines in which Franken repeated his name constantly. It's all about Al Franken, even though Franken's story isn't just about him.

For more information, log onto www.godspoke.com.

The Kingmaker

For many years, I've been an Asian movie junkie. Hong Kong movies are my meat and potatoes, but I've certainly open to films from other countries as well. Recently they have been a slight influx of martial arts films for Thailand, but this movie marks a new kind of genre: part martial arts, mostly historical drama, part romance and a little bit of a music video.

The result is a film that recalls the Indian "Bollywood" films that include a wide variety of genres storylines into a production. The Bollywood films can be audaciously entertaining, but this film sort of lurches from scene to scene not knowing exactly what it is.

Supposedly drawn from a true story, Gary Stretch plays De Gama, a Portuguese sailor sold into slavery by Arab traders in 16th century Thailand. A beautiful Portuguese woman, whose father has been hired by the Thai king to build fort, rescues him. Naturally, they fall in love.

De Gama fights in the Thai king's army and does so well he is promoted to be one of the king's bodyguards. When the jealous queen poisons the king, De Gama and his fellow bodyguard are set up to take the blame.

The look of the film is quite impressive, but the acting is wooden and the plot is convoluted. While technically, this film is more than competent, the acting and story drag it down into the depths.

For more information, log onto www.sonypictures.com.

Attack of the Gryphon

The rule of thumb is the SciFi Channel is capable of producing some very good series but the network's made for television movies generally are awful.

This one is no exception. A sword and sorcery story, "Attack of the Gryphon" is brought to earth by cardboard characters, predictable situations, and a very hammy performance by Larry Drake as the evil wizard and, worse of all, a terribly animated gryphon.

The trouble with computer animation these days is that too many people think the computer will do all the work for them. One actually had to master the art of animation first and clearly the folks behind the monster haven't.

A rule of monster movies is that a good monster can redeem a tired plot. Nothing redeems this little film.

For more information, log onto www.sonypictures.com.

©2007 by Gordon Michael Dobbs


Marky Mark said...

Sorry, gotta say it. You do see the irony, right? Loathing the subject of "Rush Limbaugh is a Big Fat Idiot" for being a hatemonger.

And Randi Rhodes is not on your loathe list.

Mike Dobbs said...

So Randi is a hatemonger? I didn't know you listened to her. Yes, she can be passionate, but I don't think her stands on issues are as hurtful as many of the conservative talkers.

Her show in mnay ways is a reaction to shows such as Michael Savage's. Have you listened to him?

The straitjacket you would like me to be in is that I can't criticize anyone because by doing so I would be a hypocrite as long as there is a "liberal" out there that you feel is spreading hurtful stuff.

By the way, Imus should be canned. What he said transcends "humor." It's all about context and it was just nasty to pick on a bunch of regular kids who actually accomplished a lot.

Marky Mark said...

I've probably listened to as much Randi as you have Limbaugh. Read a lot of transcripts. Actually, that's almost all I do for any talk show now, scan-read the transcripts.

It's not a straitjacket. It's just pointing out that "hateful" depends on whose ox is gored. And to say some neocon forces Rhodes to be an asshole is a chicken-and-egg argument, and a wimpy one at best.

SEE, MIKEY? We can talk, you and I, and find that middle ground!

Imus should be canned. The Oppressed should lighten up. Everybody in the media and politics and punditry who is acting so shocked should admit they loved the Bad Boy until somebody whined.

Mike Dobbs said...

Ultimately, Imus will be canned because advertisers will be awakened to the fact that only when he does some offensive does anyone pay attention to him.

He lost his edge and talent years ago. He's a nasty mean-spirited guy who buys into the cult of personality brand of broadcasting.