Sunday, January 31, 2010

Talk Radio

Year 2, Day 31 - 1/31/10- Movie #396

BEFORE: I had blocked out the whole month of January for these entertainment-related films, but it looks like I'm going to run over, by at least a week.

THE PLOT: A rude, contemptuous talk show host becomes overwhelmed by the hatred that surrounds his program just before it goes national.

AFTER: Another movie that struggled with telling a visual story, about a non-visual medium. Oliver Stone directed, and didn't really do much to make this a very visual story, but fortunately the speech of late-night radio host Barry Champlain (Eric Bogosian) is very engaging.

There's an obvious parallel to Howard Stern, someone who achieved his greatest success once he realized that he had to forget about censors and talking down to his audience, and just engage in brutal free-form conversation.

However, someone talking on the radio with strong opinions is going to create both kinds of fans - the fans who agree, and the "fanatics" who will disagree, but yet still keep listening for some reason. So this movie is also about Don Imus, Rush Limbaugh, Al Sharpton, Hannity, Colmes, etc.

And perhaps more than any other film I've watched this month, it illustrates the dichotomy of fame - Champlain wants to be a big star, yet is unwilling to compromise in the way that would make him most successful. He wants to be syndicated nationally, but not at the cost of his act. He has contempt for his audience, but what is that except self-loathing that's directed outwards? He's heard by thousands of people nightly, but how many friends does he have?

It's the sad reality of this crazy business we call show - you show up, entertain America, and if you've done your job well, what do you win? The chance to show up the next day and do it all over again.

Also starring Alec Baldwin, John Pankow, John C. McGinley, and Ellen Greene. I tried to identify the voices calling in, figuring they were cameos like on "Frasier", but the only one I was able to name was Park Overall. After checking the IMDB, I feel redeemed after learning the other actors weren't famous, except for that guy who played Wilson on "Home Improvement".

RATING: 6 out of 10 death-threats

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