Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Oh What a Mourning - The Michael Jackson Memorial

I had predicted privately to friends that the Michael Jackson Memorial was going to be a hot ghetto mess of epic proportions. I deduced that a family with all the cachet of a troupe of carnival side show freaks and ten thousand randomly picked grieving fans was a recipe for disaster. Throw Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton into that mix and you'd get the most classless event since...well the most recent BET Awards show. I based that assessment on how Daddy Joe plugged his new business interest at the BET Awards. And how brother Jermaine gave a tour of Never Land Ranch to Larry King before the arrangements were complete. The fact that Jackson’s dearest friends, Liza Minnelli, Elizabeth Taylor, Quincy Jones, and Diana Ross all declined to attend seemed to be further evidence of an anticipated fiasco. But what I didn’t know was that someone in the family had the idea to hire AEG Live and Kenny Ortega to produce the service. This was the single smartest decision the family could have made; and they should be applauded for turning the service over into competent hands.

I happily admit that I was wrong. It was a near flawless program. It wasn’t a traditional service, and for good reason. This was not a traditional honoree. Michael Jackson was arguably the most successful single entertainer of all time. That was reflected throughout the two-hour service. A rare combination of pomp, circumstance and dignity was on display at the Staples Center yesterday. Yet it had tinges of a simple gathering of family and friends. And the family set a tone of sober grandeur that I had not expected at all. The sisters (including Janet and Latoya pictured here with Michael's daughter Paris and his son Prince Michael II) were resplendent in solemn elegance. The brothers’ uniformity of attire was strikingly symbolic. I would have preferred gray cutaways but the black suits and gold ties seemed appropriately Hollywood. The children avoided that image of oppressive grief that children wearing black usually conveys. And Katherine Jackson was nothing less than regal. From the Rolls Royce motorcade to the spotlight on the unoccupied microphone at the end, the whole program was as classy as it could have been.

When Kenny Ortega was asked to help out he apparently took over. And on behalf of all the fans of the King of Pop I’d like to say a heartfelt thank you. Ortega is an Emmy Award-winning producer, director and choreographer. His list of credits include Xanadu with the legendary Gene Kelly, Dirty Dancing, Super Bowl XXX, the 1996 Summer Olympics (Atlanta), the 2002 Winter Olympics (Salt Lake City) the 72nd Annual Academy Awards, Madonna’s "Material Girl" video, High School Musical I and II, and most recently he was scheduled to do the alas-never-to-be This Is It tour for Michael Jackson.

I am now the self-proclaimed president of the Kenny Ortega fan club. It’s obvious that he took the family’s wishes into consideration. Otherwise, how would you explain Al Sharpton and those dreadful King children being included on the program? But he put together a memorial service that was worthy of Michael, the man, the myth, his music and his majesty.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Manuel Zelaya - Flight of the Reformer

Honduras has a constitutional problem. It all started with a the liberal cowboy-president, one Manuel Zelaya, who apparently tried to take political action to extend his term of office. When the parliament, supreme court and the attorney general deemed such action illegal, he fired the commander of the military for not enforcing his orders. The other branches of government found that action illegal too. Under orders from the supreme court the military arrested and deported President Zelaya at bayonet point. Now here’s the problem.

In defending the constitution, the supreme court also violated it by sending Zelaya out of the country. This constitutional connumbdrum has caused an international furor over which government is legitimate. Zelaya’s or the one formed by the head of parliament, Roberto Micheletti. The U.S. has condemned Zelaya’s removal of office as a coup d’etat. The United Nations has sent a resolution to insist on Zelaya’s return. Hugo Chavez, ever the bad ass, has threatened to invade Honduras.

It seems to me that Zelaya started this mess by testing the limits to his power and he clearly found those limits. Micheletti’s government has threatened to arrest Zelaya if he returns to the country and somehow I believe them. The real problem is that Zelaya promotes plans that would empower poor and indigenous people. His great sin is in trying to disrupt drug trafficking in Honduras. And despite his support around the world, he lacks internal support sufficient to provide him with even the illusion of personal safety. Most of his government are elitist and corrupt. Given the penchant for violence his political enemies are know for he might want to abandoned going back home and just be grateful he got a ride to the airport.
Every few years or so good gangster movie comes along. The kind of movie that once made kids run around with imaginary tommy guns and pretend to be g-men or bank robbers. The kind of movie that that combine coolness and cruelty in a world where living to excess is the aim. Public Enemies is just such a movie. It’s not a new story and it’s not revolutionary but it is the best gangster movie since American Gangster (2007).

Every actor came with their a-game. Johnny Depp received top billing but he was not the only star. I really don’t know who the star was. Johnny Depp, Christian Bale, or Billie Holiday (the script could have been written around the sound track). The characters are so deep and multidimensional that Public Enemies could be as easily be billed as a love story as a gangster movie, or as a documentary on the origins of the FBI. Its so classic that for a minute or two I forgot it wasn't one the old black and white movies of which I'm so fond.

This is as much a guy movie as The Godfather yet romantic enough for a date night.

Sarah Palin’s reputation as a maverick is on the verge of becoming mythical. Her resignation as Alaska’s governor has left pundunts and politicos scratching their heads. Even the long time Republican stragegists are wondering what’s up.

If she was running for president you’d think she would finish her term as governor. Executive experience was her chief selling after all. Now she not even a first term governor. So what’s this really about? When is the other shoe going to drop?

Here’s my forecast. I say she’s realized that her hundred thousand dollar salary is not enough to pay for the five hundred thousand dollar legal fees associated with the state trooper scandal. My guess is that she has some kind of entertainment deal in her sights. Perhaps a show on Fox News or conservative radio show. She may find that she can make top dollar on the lecture circuit given her ability to draw a conservative crowd. I wouldn’t rule out soon-to-be former Governor Palin’s announcement that she has been called into some kind of evangelical ministries.

Whatever she decides to do for her next act, rest assured that it will be something that benefits her. Sarah Palin is an opportunist and she’s not concerned with the welfare of her constituents or the public good. I hope that people who were comfortable with the idea of Palin standing a heartbeat away from the presidency see what kind of executive she would really be. A self serving quitter.