The Ethics From U.N.C.L.E.

U_N_C_L_E_-logo-symbol-The-Man-From-UNCLE-TV-show

There’s nothing that can be done about this, but I’m going to complain about it anyway.

When I was a sprout, one of my favorite TV shows, indeed among my top 20 shows of all time, was “The Man From U.N.C.L.E.”  At least for its first few seasons—that balance between satire, intentional silliness, cool and plots worth paying attention to was hard to hold—the show simultaneously kidded the James Bond craze and delivered an hour of thrills and intrigue. It was a period piece, to be sure, of its time as much as “Perry Mason,” which is why, I assumed, that it wasn’t in syndication any more.

When I heard that it was getting the Hollywood reboot treatment, I knew what was in store, and it was. The movie, which came out last week, is an unremarkable meh, and the middling to sneering reviews, by people less than half my age and who never saw the original, are taking cheap shots at Robert Vaughn (the first Napoleon Solo) and David McCallum (the only Illya Kuyakin) and the original as if it were crap too.  As has happened so many times before, a careless and disrespectful movie exploiting all the good will created by an older work of art—yes, art, dammit—is burying its better model and has effectively poisoned it in the culture. Ultimately, the loss is ours. Continue reading

Cheated Out Of Their Final Bows: Hollywood Snubs Its Own At The Oscars, And Worse Than Ever

Oscars

Once, the excuse that routinely issued from the Academy of Motion Picture Sciences when a significant film actor was omitted from the annual “In Memoriam” segment at the Oscars—“There just wasn’t enough time!”-–seemed almost plausible. It was still a lousy and dishonest excuse, don’t get me wrong: in a broadcast that routinely approaches four hours and wastes time like it is money in Washington, we are supposed to believe that there aren’t three seconds to give a proper send-off to the likes of Harry Morgan (last year) or Farrah Fawcett (the previous one)? That excuse won’t fly at all now, however, as some diabolical deal with the behind the camera members, the warped priorities of the Oscar show’s Broadway musical nerd producers, Neil Meron and Craig Zadan, and the final decisions regarding who would be featured in the movie industry’s public goodbye being made by, apparently, throwing darts at a dartboard combined to produce the most extensive and egregious snubs within memory.

This is a television broadcast and tailored for the public audience, after all. The Academy gives its technical awards in a separate private ceremony: wouldn’t that be the  place to bid a respectful farewell to the seemingly endless list of deceased publicity agents, make-up artists,movie executives and key grips whose completely unrecognizable faces and names were paraded before us last night, often with out of context quotes that made no sense at all? Then, guaranteeing that the “we ran out of time!” alibi would be risible, the segment’s editors chose a non-actor for the prestigious final place on the death list, composer Marvin Hamlisch, as an excuse to drag Barbra Streisand into the proceedings. I appreciate Hamlisch’s achievements, but his movie credits were not so extensive as to justify the honor (we are basically talking about one Academy Award-winning song, “The Way We Were,” and his arrangements of Scott Joplin’s music in “The Sting”), and the award show’s misbegotten “theme” of movie music was not sufficient justification to place a non-actor in the position of highest honor.

Meanwhile, the following actors, all who made significant contributions to American film in their careers, were cheated out of their final bow, and we, the film-going audience, were cheated of our chance to remember them, and say goodbye. It was a disgrace.

Ethics Alarms isn’t the Academy, but here, like last year, is its salute to the faces and careers Oscar forgot: Continue reading

Perspicacious Ethics: The Media Has A Duty Not To Make Us Dumber

Gore Vidal once said, “As societies grow decadent, the language grows decadent, too.” Certainly the media is accelerating the decadence of society; does it have to intentionally do in the language as well?

On ABC’s This Week, host Christiane Amanpour casually used the word “perspicacious.” Discussing the Constitution,  one of Amanpour’s guests mentioned that Benjamin Franklin wrote that he wouldn’t mind being preserved in a vat of Madeira wine in order to see if the Constitution held up 200 years later. Amanpour responded that Ben was amazingly perspicacious when the Constitution was signed.

Apparently  the word perspicacious stumped the 7th grade drop-outs in the booth, because suddenly a box appeared with the definition and pronunciation of the word under Amanpour. Then, commenting on the incident, the web site Mediaite wrote that Amanpour “might avoid using such fancy language so that viewers in the future don’t mistake her show for a Rosetta Stone class teaching the English language.” Continue reading

Oscar, Jean Luc-Godard, and the Ethics of Honoring Talented Creeps

The Academy of Motion Picture Sciences will be giving an honorary Oscar to French director Jean-Luc Godard, and nobody who knows anything about film can object to the award on the basis of merit. Godard is one of the most influential film makers who ever yelled “Cut!;”  there are dozens of film classes about his work in schools all over the country. He makes great movies, and has for decades. He deserves the honor.

Or does he? Mr. Godard, it seems, has also been resolutely anti-Jewish, at least in his sentiments, for almost as long as he has been making classic films. Some in the industry and without are questioning whether Hollywood should be honoring a likely Anti-Semite.

Excuse me…did I miss something? When did the rest of the Oscars get junked, leaving only the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award? Continue reading