- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 9, 2000

Stock scenario

"Note to Madonna: If and when you make another movie and judging from your latest, you should quit while you're behind don't embrace a story that markedly more talented actresses have tackled before you.
"I'm talking, of course, about Hollywood's latest stock scenario, in which a gay guy and a hetero gal match wits as a fabulously odd couple. The town can't stop cloning the idea, thanks to the appeal Julia Roberts exuded opposite the equally appealing Rupert Everett in 'My Best Friend's Wedding.' The territory has been reworked with varying results in 'The Object of My Affection,' with Jennifer Aniston playing an improbably unattached pregnant woman longing for her gay best buddy, and the NBC comedy 'Will & Grace' …
"In the newest and certainly flimsiest branch of this post-nuclear-family tree, 'The Next Best Thing,' Everett stars as a cattier, less elegant version of the best friend he played in 'Wedding.' …
"While Everett's charm almost carries the climactic rambling plea for single gay dads' rights … Madonna fails to flesh out her character in the slightest… . She's clearly full of good intentions; too bad she's lacking discernible emotions."
Steve Daly, writing on "Inconceivable," in the March 10 issue of Entertainment Weekly

No time to think

"Noise and signal constantly compete for our attention as conflicting sources of information and entertainment assault us… . Our current world is a high-information one, forcing us to live in a perpetual din of numerous media. It is common to have the television or radio on while reading the newspaper, eating dinner and occasionally carrying on a conversation with someone at the table. We find ourselves doing multiple activities simultaneously, which can quickly overload both body and mind …
"Data smog, as David Shenk calls it in his 1997 book of the same name, is the daily bombardment of both requested and unsolicited messages: seductive television ads, news flashes updated hourly, faxes we request, misdialed numbers, sales calls at dinnertime, magazines we subscribe to, channels we surf, and Web sites we visit. A participant in my study puts it as follows:
" 'I am constantly bombarded with information that I am expected to process: e-mails, faxes, phone calls and voice-mail messages, printed materials (now from even more obscure sources since anyone can desktop publish these days), and on and on. As a result, I am scrambling to stay caught up in an effort to be responsive to all those folks trying to communicate with me, remain current with news in my professional arena, and learn about the software I have acquired. Who has time to think anymore?' "
Anthony C. Spina, writing on "Simply Rich" in the winter issue of American Outlook

Talking pictures

"One of the more dubious developments in recent movies is the epidemic use of a cinematic device that has always been best applied judiciously: voice-over narration. These days babbling narrators are popping up in every genre: 'American Beauty'; 'The Cider House Rules'; 'Girl, Interrupted'; 'The End of the Affair'; 'Magnolia'; 'My Dog Skip'; 'Isn't She Great'; 'Down to You'; and 'The Beach' are just some of the recent movies with extensive voice-over commentary. The new menace probably has something to do with the growing reliance on test-market screenings to shape the final content of movies. When a few dodos in the preview audience don't understand a plot point, studios leap at the quickest way to remedy the problem voice-over. But many writers are building narration into their scripts to begin with so that executives skimming their work will be able to get their bearings. It's just one more depressing sign of the dumbing-down of movies."
Steven Farber, writing on "Tower of Babble," in the April issue of Movieline

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