Josh Rosenblatt Has Seen the Future, and It Isn't Pretty
Magic eight-balling 2008, month by month
By Josh Rosenblatt,
4:26PM, Thu. Jan. 3, 2008
The Year 2008 in Film, Culture, Uprising: Speculation
This week, my fellow Chronicle Film critics and I looked back at 2007 and came up with our list of the 10 best movies of the year. After many long days and nights spent deliberating, arguing, and soul-searching in local diners and strip clubs, we came to the consensus that 1) the Coen Brothers are as good as they’ve ever been, 2) Juno star Ellen Page has a long career ahead of her, and 3) you should never eat breakfast at a strip club.
Now that we’ve looked back at 2007, I would like to take a few moments to look forward to 2008. Below are my month-by-month predictions for the world of film and television, both nationally and here in Texas. Please remember these are just my speculations, my sense of what might happen, so if it doesn’t work out the way I say it will, don’t come up to me next January all a-grin and rub it in my face that I was wrong. Any jackass can make fun of someone for being wrong in his predictions about the future; it takes a special kind of jackass to make those predictions in the first place. That being said, if I’m right about all this, each and every Chronic reader owes me $1, which, if my math is correct, means I will be $137 richer come Jan. 1, 2009.
Anyway, without further ado, my month-by-month predictions for the coming year. Let me just say that there is quite a bit of sex and violence in the following piece, so young children and people who are easily offended are advised to begin reading now.
The Writers Guild of America strike enters its third month, and with the last of the television industry’s backlogged scripts long-since produced and aired, there are officially no more new fictional TV episodes left to watch (except for HBO’s crime series The Wire, which somehow still manages to come in dead last in the Sunday night ratings). Reruns clutter every channel. Tensions are high. Americans start wandering the streets looking for entertainment. Fights break out. Water-coolers are abandoned. Editorials are written. Sean Hannity declares exercise and the outdoors un-American. Jay Leno recruits a group of elementary-school students to write his monologues. No one notices any difference.
With no writers at his disposal, comedian/host Jon Stewart is forced to wing it through the entire three-hour 2008 Academy Awards broadcast. Employing a juggling ape named Panda as a co-host, Stewart founders during the show’s first two and half hours before hitting his stride with the soon-to-be-legendary “Celebrities Say the Most Racially Insensitive Things” routine. The occasion marks the first time the Oscars have been unscripted since Bob Hope famously tried to improvise his way through the 1972 ceremony and ended up calling The Godfather “that wop picture” and groping best supporting actress nominee Jeannie Berlin during the presentation of the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award.
The new Woody Allen film, Juliet Passes the Salt, begins principal photography in the director’s new home city of Minsk. The film stars Anthony Hopkins, Scarlett Johansson, and the entire cast of the recent West End revival of the rarely staged 1947 Samuel Beckett/Cole Porter musical I Am a Man Stuck in a Box – No, I Am a Box Stuck in a Man – No, Wait, I Can’t Remember – Kiss Me! The film’s cast universally praises Allen’s witty writing and hands-off approach to directing. Johansson says that she didn’t even realize she was in the movie until the first day of shooting. Hopkins tells US Weekly that three of his scenes were actually shot while Allen was away at Madison Square Garden watching a New York Knicks game. “I don’t know how he does it,” the actor gushes. “He’s a little genius, isn’t he? A tiny, little Hebrew genius.” Hopkins is lauded by critics for his performance as a British professor of ancient literature who falls in love with his American student (Johansson) while on a bus tour of famous Eastern European mass graves.
The film – which is declared the best movie of the year by almost all four members of the Hermantier family of Rueil Malmaison, France – goes on to earn nearly 40,000 euros at the box office, making it the most successful Allen movie in 15 years, not counting Antz.
(Side note: On March 29, after the Knicks lose to a team made up entirely of baby animals dressed in pork-pie hats and bow ties, coach Isiah Thomas is fired and Allen is named the team’s interim head coach. Miraculously, the team wins its next three games and makes the playoffs. Knicks players universally praise Allen’s witty play-designing and hands-off approach to coaching. Starting point guard Stephon Marbury calls his new coach a “tiny, little Hebrew genius.” He is promptly fined $4 million by National Basketball Association Commissioner David Stern and placed on the Anti-Defamation League’s Gentiles to Keep an Eye On list.)
The first film made with money from the Texas Moving Image Industry Incentive Program is released. In accordance with the rules of the incentive program, the movie is entirely free of “inappropriate content or content that portrays Texas or Texans in a negative fashion.” There is no cursing, no sex, no nudity, no violence, no guns, no drinking, no drugging, no cattle-rustling, no monkeys, no pickup trucks, and no raised voices.
Mary, the Nicest Girl in Texas premieres on April 10 and is immediately panned by critics as “perhaps the most boring movie ever made” and “the longest 73 minutes you’ll ever spend.” The film takes in $430 at the box office, all from the director’s mother, Linda, who goes to see the film 60 times in 14 days. James Dobson, founder of Christian-values group Focus on the Family, calls the film “a piece of shit on toast.”
Texas Gov. Rick Perry, however, declares Mary, the Nicest Girl in Texas a triumph and proof that his film-incentive program is working, saying in a televised news conference one week after the movie’s premiere, “I hope to see it one day.”
The long-awaited fourth installment of the Indiana Jones saga premieres Memorial Day to the biggest box-office opening of all time, taking in $200 million over its first three days. Revenues decline precipitously over the next several weeks, however, when word starts to spread that the Steven Spielberg-penned/Shoah Foundation-funded story is little more than two hours of the whip-wielding archaeologist sitting at a conference table negotiating the creation of the state of Israel with members of the British consulate (played by Richard E. Grant and a CGI Benjamin Disraeli). Though Connecticut Sen. Joseph Lieberman declares Indiana Jones and the Mandate of Palestine the “most important movie ever made,” critics bemoan its lack of fight scenes, chase scenes, and cleavage.
Two weeks after Memorial Day, producer George Lucas releases a special edition of the film that digitally lengthens all of Cate Blanchett’s skirts to below-calf levels and ups the Ewok quotient by almost 17. Lucas’ children cheer. On a sad note, during production, co-star Shia LaBeouf slips on a mislaid Nazi uniform, crashes into a green screen, and dies. Lucas’ children weep.
After only eight episodes, the strike-shortened fourth season of Lost ends with a cliff-hanger involving Kate, Sawyer, Jack, a family of pygmy gorillas, a gum-gum tree, 17 lightly toasted corned-beef sandwiches, and an unsigned copy of the Magna Carta. The show earns its highest ratings share ever, though that may have less to do with the quality of the episode than the fact that it is the only show on television not showing reruns. The writers’ strike, now in its eighth month, has paralyzed the television and film industries. Profits are down nearly 75% from the previous June.
Meanwhile the publishing industry is having its best year since 1981, the year Gerald Ford’s tell-all autobiography, I’m the President, Go Fuck Yourself, sold 5 million copies. Book sales are up in all genres – fiction, nonfiction, historical fiction, fictionalized nonfiction, nonfictionalized historical nonfiction, gardening. The No. 1 bestseller in the country is Terry McMillan’s novelization of Lost's fourth season, Lost: Season Four, which critics praise for being “remarkably similar to the fourth season of Lost.”
Across the country, TVs are turned off for the first time in decades. People declare their families happier than they’ve ever been. Child obesity levels are down. Test scores are up. Teachers report higher productivity levels among their students. Women report increased energy and better-flowing feng shui. Statistics show that more than 50% of American men are now willing to have sex with their wives with the lights on, up from 7% only one month prior, when Lost star Evangeline Lilly could still be seen on television every week.
It is morning in America.
Saw 5 is released in theatres to resounding commercial indifference. Though critics praise the film’s opening-title design and score, its storyline – in which a masked psychopath imprisons a group of illegal immigrants and forces them to put on a production of The Pirates of Penzance – is widely panned as derivative.
Nicolas Cage stars in a film about a balding, motorcycle-riding rebel in a leather jacket who travels through time to fight supernatural powers in an attempt to retrieve a mystical/historical document. The film goes on to make $100 million at the box office, despite the fact that no one knows anyone who’s seen it.
Rosh Hashanah passes without incident. On Yom Kippur, however, the first cracks start to show in the happy veneer of the new American society. Despite a preponderance of new reality shows, audiences around the country, fed up with watching supermodels eat worms and even more fed up with talking to their family members and taking walks, begin to rebel. In Los Angeles a group of angry According to Jim fans attack picketing writers outside Paramount Studios, critically injuring one young scribe named Myron Korngold who was trying to keep them from burning a sitcom script he was working on during his lunch breaks about a busty underwear model who falls in love with a young picketing screenwriter named Myron Korngold. Writers Guild of America spokesman Gordon Fleck declares the attack “vile, suspect, nefarious, amoral, apocryphal, amenable, antediluvian, unitarian, blasphemous, and just plain gregarious,” leading some to believe he’s a moron.
Jim Belushi has no comment.
With the state economy in ruins and with filmmakers bypassing Texas to make their movies in New Mexico and Louisiana, the Texas Senate votes to ease the restrictions in the film-incentive bill that ban inappropriate content and content slandering Texans. Immediately, 47 new movies apply for funding and go into production, providing the state an enormous economic boost and once again putting Texas at the top of the list of movie-friendly states. The tourism and hospitality industries explode. Politicians bask in the reflected glow of the “Texas film boom of 2008,” as it comes to be known.
It is announced that the first movie to be released under the new, less-restrictive film-incentive guidelines will be Good Ol’ Wilbur, the feel-good story of a bisexual backcountry Texan with a passion for methamphetamine who goes on a cross-state killing spree with a band of necrophiliac rock musicians, climaxing in an enormous orgy of rape and murder on the steps of the state Capitol, where the president of the United States and Jesus Christ are both thrown into a barbecue pit and eaten for breakfast.
It is reported that the film will star Kirk Cameron, from TV’s Growing Pains, as Wilbur.
In a press conference announcing the news, Texas Gov. Rick Perry says, “I hope to see it one day.”
As Thanksgiving nears, entertainment newscasts declare that the last prestrike movie script has been put into production, meaning that, barring a miraculous end to the strike, there will be no new films coming out next summer, meaning instead of watching Transformers II: My Homicidal Toaster in an air-conditioned multiplex, film fans will be forced to stay home and balance their checkbooks. Tension mounts. Radio talk-show hosts call for strikes across the country.
To allay the public’s fears, cable channel Turner Classic Movies offers to show classic foreign-language films on movie screens around the country for no charge, including The Seventh Seal, Ingmar Bergman’s legendary philosophical masterwork about death and faith, and Buñuel's absurdist classic The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie. In response to this announcement, the country erupts in violence. There is panic in the streets of every major American city as enormous mobs storm government buildings and movie-production houses. TVs are thrown out of windows and then thrown back into them just to make a point. Over the next two weeks, 45 television and movie writers are killed by roving packs of bored housewives. Sales of yellow legal notepads and portable voice recorders plummet, paralyzing the stock market. In one day alone, the Dow Jones Industrial Average drops 3,000 points, making it the single worst day in American financial history since teen idol Fabian released his hit song “Pennies Are Just Plain Stupid” in 1960, resulting in tens of thousands of poodle-skirted girls throwing their parents’ change purses into bonfires.
American society is now officially on the brink of ruin. One screenwriter in Los Angeles, looking out at the burning city, says to his friends, “The ironic thing is this would make a pretty good movie.” They promptly beat him with mallets.
Three days before Christmas, with cities in flames and hundreds dead, an 8-year-old girl named Jane Wiggins appears suddenly on national television to beg everyone to stop the violence and to remember the true, peaceful spirit of the holiday season. As if on cue, the riots miraculously stop. Citizens put down their pitchforks and baseball bats and, in the name of national unity and Christian love, begin to pick up the pieces of their now-shattered society.
Wiggins is held up as a national hero and a savior. She is given the presidential Medal of Honor and made a saint by Pope Benedict XVI. In response, Fox hires her to host her own reality TV show. During taping of the show’s third, marsupial-themed episode, however, she is chased off the set by a pack of koala bears and never heard from again. The next day, the koala bears are hired to guest host The Tonight Show while Jay Leno is on sabbatical writing his memoirs, tentatively titled Can I Get Fries With That?. Ratings for the show are through the roof, and critics declare that the show is funnier than it’s been in years. The koala bears become stars. They change The Tonight Show format, turning it into a round-table discussion on the pressing political, social, and artistic concerns of the day. The koala bears win a Peabody Award.
The koalas are the first late-night talk-show hosts to interview Russian Prime Minister Vladmir Putin, who takes the opportunity to declare himself the winner of the hotly contested 2008 U.S. presidential election between Barack Obama and Rudy Giuliani (now entering its second month of recounts and Supreme Court deliberation). In his first act as president, Putin declares the writers' strike illegal and throws every member of the Writers Guild of America into state-sponsored gulags as punishment for Dharma & Greg. Putin hires his own stable of writers.
By year’s end, the mobs are placated and people are back in front of their televisions where they belong. Production begins on three new blockbuster movies about the moral strength of the Russian people. Sitcom Vladimir and Me, starring Comeback Kid Kevin Costner, is the No. 1 show on television, just barely beating out The Putin Show, Vladimir Cooks With Cabbage, and American Idol. Idol creator Simon Cowell assures viewers on Entertainment Tonight that his show will soon be back on top. Cowell is never heard from again.
No one notices any difference.