Wednesday, April 21, 2010

I didn't think it was possible, but yes, there is a limit to what I consider "free speech"

I know this is supposed to be about movies, and has for the last few days or so, but I run things around here, and something I read in the paper (which everyone should do, dammit!) this morning just set me off, so I'm afraid you'll have to bear with me.

Up until this morning, I really thought I indeed had no limits for what I would consider "free speech." I've not once been offended by anything I've seen in a movie. Now, mind you, there certainly have been some sickening things in the early movies of John Waters, but they were still far too silly to be anything I'd ever consider "offensive."

But of course, one of the chief glories of living in a truly free country is that people are free to do just about anything they want and, sometimes unfortunately, to most often put that to film.

Why am I getting into all of this? Because I almost vomited up my Cheerios (no product placement intended) this morning when I read what our Supreme Court has now said it's OK to do in this country, as long as you have the good sense (according to them, mind you) to film yourself.

The specific case, which I don't have the name of in front of me, springs from a man in Mississippi who was reportedly making "educational" movies about dog fighting. Let that sink in for a second before I get into the roots of all this, which are, believe it or not, even weirder.

In the mid-'90s, President Clinton wisely signed into law a ban on making so-called "crush" movies. I feel extremely dirty just writing this, so I'll get through it as quickly as possible. There are apparently people in this weird world of ours who get off on watching women crush mice or other small creatures with their feet, usually while wearing stiletto heels.

That we live in a world in which such a law is needed in the first place is almost as disheartening as the fact that yesterday, by a rather amazing vote of 8-1, the Supreme Court says this has to be allowed as a matter of FREE SPEECH. Like I said, the specific case involved the dog-fighting videos, which if anything is even more repulsive, but this madness all originates from the apparent RIGHT to watch small animals die for your pleasure.

Now that I've laid all that out, I'm not sure what else to say except that it just makes me completely sick that hurting animals in any way could ever be construed as anything even approaching free speech.

And thus endeth anything remotely serious here today, I promise. And just to keep the subject away from movies for a bit longer, it's a pretty epicly good day in TV news out there, with two shows I adore announcing their return and an official date for when we'll finally get to see "Mad Men."

It starts for me with the announcement of a second season of NBC's "Parenthood," which will be coming this fall. I don't know yet if it will be a full 22-episode run, but frankly, I've gotten to the point where I enjoy shows more in the 13-episode cable-style run anyway.

And if you're not watching "Parenthood," I can only say you're missing out on what TV can be when it really tries to produce a smart, sexy and funny drama (I refuse to use the word dramedy) for adults. With a cast led by Lauren Graham, Peter Krause and Dax Shepard, it indeed deals with the issues of "Parenthood," including having a child with autism (or some version of it) and finding you had a child that you weren't told about until you were in your 30s and he's about 5 years old (or so, I have no idea how old kids actually are, never having had one to deal with myself), and it does so in a universally entertaining way that even I can relate to.

You'll have plenty of chances now to catch this show created by "Friday Night Lights" mastermind Jason Katims, and I can only urge anyone who happens to stop by here today to do so on Tuesday nights.

Even better than that, and given the fickle but brilliant mind of Larry David just as unlikely, it's also been announced that "Curb Your Enthusiasm" will return for its eighth season beginning in 2011.

I was a little disappointed by the "Seinfeld" anti-reunion that took place last season, but even weak "Curb" is still funnier than just about anything else on television. And now that David Simon's "Treme" and the third season of "True Blood" have me indentured to HBO for the next six months or so, I'll probably just stick around now long enough to welcome back the delightfully cynical Mr. David, who should finally reunite with TV wife Cheryl Hines unless, which is just as likely, he once again manages to screw things up.

And in the best possible relief to the summer TV doldrums, AMC has announced that "Mad Men" will return for its fourth season beginning July 25 at 10 p.m., meaning we won't have to wait as long as we did last year.

I think I'm far from alone in thinking that the show has gotten better season by season, and the end of season three, with Don Draper and his chosen few breaking off to create a new firm as Bertie is breaking away from him, was just perfection. Bring on some more, already.

And even better is that shortly after the return of "Mad Men," AMC will be premiering something called "Rubicon" which sounds like exactly the kind of political thriller I dig.

The show, which will premiere with back-to-back episodes on Aug. 1 from 8-10 p.m., is about a NYC-based government intelligence agency where "nothing is what it seems" (of course.) I'm not making that sound at all appealing, I know, but I've read more about this show that makes me think it will be a real winner.

OK, I suppose this should be at least a tad about movies, so I'll close with this DVD-only clip from "Crazy Heart," easily one of my favorite movies of 2009. In the clip, Bad Blake (very worthy Oscar winner Jeff Bridges) meets his son, who in the actual movie only brushes him off over the phone. Enjoy, and have a perfectly passable Wednesday. Peace out.


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