The Onion's A.V. Club offered up a nice topic in its AVQ&A last week, in which "lifetime grudges" in pop culture were discussed. To wit, are there any actors, directors, musicians, etc. you now consider "blacklisted" because of some horrible piece of crap they've put out in the past, or is there anyone out there you just can't admire no matter what they do at this point? You will not be surprised to find that I have more than a few people in both categories, and now you get to hear about them, you lucky fucks, you. This week's +5 is Five Pop-Culture Grudges I Can't Get Over.
First, a brief diversion into someone who's conspicuously not on this list. A few years back, a film writer for a magazine, I want to say it was Esquire, pointed out that Tom Cruise had become virtually unwatchable in movies because through his choice of roles and the way he'd chosen to portray them, every single role had become about Tom Cruise and what a badass he was, not the material at hand. And he had a point, and Cruise may indeed be a total nutcase, but every once in a while he'll break out of that narcissism just long enough to appear in something fricking awesome like "Collateral" or his towering home-run shot of a cameo in "Tropic Thunder" -- and all I can do is shake my head and think, "Cruise, you may be so crazy that even shithouse rats won't return your phone calls, but I just can't stay mad at you, you magnificent Xenu-fearing son of a bitch, you."
His fellow Scientologist Will Smith, though, inspires no such forgiveness. Because every movie he's been in lately -- "Hancock" being the recent notable exception -- is about how awesome, cool, heroic, funny, friendly, pure of spirit, etc. etc. etc. Will Smith is. His characters are completely devoid of any personal weakness or moral failing, and are, as a result, completely uninteresting. Case in point: In the original novel I Am Legend, as well as its first couple movie adaptations, the protagonist was pitted against sentient "vampire"-like opposition who hated the protagonist because they viewed him as the cause of the plague that had spread across the world and wiped out most of humanity -- thus introducing some real conflict and moral ambiguity into the plot. In the Will Smith movie, though, the "vampires" were reduced to unspeaking, unthinking zombies with no apparent motive or emotions of their own, all the better to make Smith look like that much more of a valiant hero as he goes out and hunts them all by his lonesome. So there was very little suspense, and even less depth to any of the characters; it was Will Smith Good, Zombies Bad, lather, rinse, repeat. (And the worst part is, the original ending would've been completely different, more thought-provoking, and more faithful to the Matheson novel.) Maybe "Seven Pounds" was considered bad enough to start turning people off of Will Smith, but either way, I can't bring myself to go see his movies anymore.
David E. Kelley
I've got to hand it to writer/producer Kelley: It took real balls to create a TV series like "Ally McBeal." I can't think of anyone else who would've had the courage to pitch an hour-long prime-time comedy/drama in which all of the major characters are mentally retarded. And they all managed to run a law firm in spite of their disability! Amazing! All that said, Kelley appears to have stuck with his theme of replacing actual depth and characterization with weird quirks and psychoses in combinations that nobody on earth actually possesses, and I can only take so much of that. It might also be time to broaden your horizons and look outside the legal profession for inspiration, dude. I'm just saying.
I know what everybody's going to say here: "You only hate Dennis Miller because you don't like the fact that his politics have changed." And it's true, I don't like his politics, but you know what else I don't like? The fact that he isn't fucking funny anymore. Once upon a time, Miller wielded a rapier wit in service of a bullshit detector that went off at the ridiculous excesses of politicians on both the left and the right, but then 9/11 happened, and like so many other people, Miller took that as an opportunity to become a neocon and go completely fucking insane. Now, instead of being just as cynical toward the right as he was the left, he chooses to kiss the asses of the conservatives he's started holding up as heroes, and sorry, but ass-kissing isn't funny no matter who the recipient is. I mean, I was driving home last weekend and happened upon Miller's radio show, and he had Oliver North on as a guest. This is a guy who lied to Congress and sold arms to the Iranians -- whom, incidentally, Miller now thinks are the worst most dangerous people ever -- and Miller's giving him an on-air tongue bath! What happened to Dennis Miller's politics is merely a secondary issue at this point; I just want to know what happened to his brain.
This one hurts, because U2 used to be one of my favorite bands of all time. The Joshua Tree? Transcendent. Achtung Baby? One of the single greatest rock albums ever recorded. I even loved Zooropa, partly because it had the courage to be unlike anything anyone had expected from U2 at that point, but somewhere down the line they lost the nerve to put out stuff like that -- and I think I know when it happened. The halftime show of Super Bowl XXXVI, the one in which U2 played while the names of the 9/11 victims scrolled up on the backdrop, was the greatest halftime show that has ever been or will ever be produced, and yet it was also the beginning of the end for U2, because I truly believe that was the point at which Bono decided "I am going to save the world." And ever since then, U2 has sounded like a band that's more concerned with saving the world than putting out interesting music. Don't get me wrong, How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb and No Line on the Horizon are technically proficient and beautifully produced; they're just not remotely interesting to listen to. Sometimes I just want to strap Bono into a chair and force him to listen to "The Fly" and "Daddy's Gonna Pay for Your Crashed Car" and ask him if he even knows how to write stuff like that anymore.
Awww, isn't she adorable? And after her first two lead movie roles, in "Almost Famous" and "About Adam," it seemed like she was a dead-solid lock to become Hollywood's Next Big Thing. But look what she's appeared in since then: "How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days." "You, Me and Dupree." "Fool's Gold." "Bride Wars." I've said it before and I'll say it again: Kate Hudson stands about as good a chance right now of ever appearing in a good movie again as I do of finding a unicorn with a solid-gold horn and big, beautiful tits on my doorstep tomorrow morning. Her name on a movie poster is as good as a biohazard symbol, as far as I'm concerned. And if it's situated next to Matthew McConaughey's, I reserve the right to burn down the theatre in self-defense.
All righty then. The Ten:
1. R.E.M., "Drive"
2. Pet Shop Boys, "Dreaming of the Queen"
3. The Smiths, "Asleep"
4. Lou Reed, "Sex With Your Parents"
5. Pet Shop Boys, "Always On My Mind/In My House"
6. David Holmes, "Tess"
7. Patton Oswalt, "'80s Metal"
8. Public Enemy, "Welcome to the Terrordome"
9. The Pixies, "Here Comes Your Man"
10. DJ Shadow, "Mashin' on the Motorway"
Your turn, schmucks -- Random Tens and/or pop-culture grudges, in the comments, please.