Wednesday, August 13, 2008

ABC Nightline examines gas prices in UK, then controversy over movie "Tropic Thunder."


ABC "Nightline" had two interesting segments, hosted by Martin Bashir.

The first part showed how Brits deal with $10 a gallon gasoline, 58% of which is tax (since the UK is a producer of oil off the coast of Scotland). There was a 50’s style newsreel propaganda movie (with Nick Watt), featuring a tiny scareb-car. 50% of the cars are diesel, and biofuel diesels are becoming popular. There is even a car that runs on wood. Roundabouts (traffic circles) can save gas. Washington DC has them here.

Britain has never had drive-in movie theaters. (The last drive-in that I saw was in Morrisville, PA in 1970, “The Boys in the Band”).

The second part (Chris Connelly reporting) examined Ben Stiller’s controversial new comedy (rated R) “Tropic Thunder,” from Dreamworks (written with Justin Theroux). We are familiar with the controversy over the script that calls an intellectually challenged character with a derogatory word. The premise of the movie is that actors playing in a Vietnam war movie suddenly find themselves in the ar. Stiller says that the high concept of the movie is to make fun of Hollywood’s values, and that only the character is being ridiculed, not a class of people. Nevertheless, there have been demonstrations, shown in the segment, involving real members of the class, who call the movie “hate speech.” There have been calls for a boycott, and some polls suggest most people won't see this film (It cost $90 million to make). In that sense, the movie is a test of the public acceptance of the use of “irony” in presenting an otherwise troubling concept. I got into trouble when substitute teaching over a screenplay that I had authored and placed on my own website (on my own time) that parodied a different problem as a “thought experiment” with a similar kind of irony.

Stiller says he always wanted to be a director and started directing films with Super 8 as a kid. Tom Cruise does an uncredited cameo in the film. But Aaron Eckhart does a lot of uncredited cameos, too (as in Nicholas Cage's "Wicker Man" remake).

The ABC News link for this (with Sarah Netter and Arash Ghadishah, “Taking Chances with ‘Tropic Thunder’) is here. The movie opened in LA today.

The closing argument allows viewers to vote for the greatest Olympian of all time. They talked again about Michael Phelps with his size 14 feet. Remember, Smallville had an episode called ‘Aquaman.”

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