Hobbits are non-union

There is trouble with Peter Jackson’s production of The Hobbit.  Efforts to unionize the project in  the New Zealand have failed, so Hollywood union members, including the Screen Actor’s Guild, are urging their members to boycott the production:

An international group of actors’ unions, including SAG, has warned members not to work on “The Hobbit” because of failed efforts to organize the film’s New Zealand production — a move Peter Jackson disparages as a “power grab.”

Members were advised [1] in an alert sent over the weekend “not to accept work on this non-union production” of the MGM blockbuster-to-be, which is still awaiting the official greenlight from financially troubled MGM before shooting — tentatively scheduled for next year — can begin.

Guilds involved include SAG, AFTRA and several international unions. The New Zealand unit of an Australian union had made attempts to organize the film, according to the alert.

But Jackson fired back in a statement Sunday, saying the Kiwi organization represents a very tiny percentage of actors there, and is leveraging his production to gain membership.

Actors guilds are known to issue member alerts of this sort from time to time, but it is extremely rare for a major studio franchise film to be involved.

Here’s the full text of the alert:

The makers of feature film The Hobbit – to be shot in New Zealand next year – have refused to engage performers on union-negotiated agreements.

Members of Canadian Actors Equity, US Actors Equity, the Screen Actors Guild, UK Actors Equity, the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists, the Media, Entertainment & Arts Alliance (Australia) and the Alliance of Canadian Cinema, Television and Radio Artists are advised not to accept work on this non-union production.

If you are contacted to be engaged on The Hobbit please notify your union immediately.

via Big Hollywood » Blog Archive » Unions Threaten to Destroy ‘Hobbit’ Films; Peter Jackson Fights Back.

Route 66

Last weekend, I finally saw Cars (2006).  What a good movie!  I didn’t expect from the big-eyed automobiles that I saw in the toystores that this computer animated flick from Pixar/Disney would have such lively characters, such a witty script, and such an evocative story.  One of its themes is the difference between the Interstate sensibility and the Route 66 sensibility.  (“Well, the road didn’t cut through the land like that interstate. It moved with the land, it rose, it fell, it curved. Cars didn’t drive on it to make great time. They drove on it to have a great time.”)

I grew up in a little Oklahoma town right on Route 66.  And our relatives lived way down that same road, so we did a lot of driving on that mother road.  In fact, the town where I lived looked a lot like Radiator Springs in the movie.  The “EAT” cafes, the motels shaped like teepees, the tourist traps, all of those glamorous neon signs, and other imagery from the movie gave me a nostalgia rush.  (Also the “Ghost Light” referenced in the movie would have been the mysterious apparition that occasionally appeared to freaked out motorists known as the “Spook Light,” just 20 miles or so from where we lived.  (No, I never saw it.  But we tried, venturing out on some scary drives.)  Then there was the teenager car culture that went with all of that, trying to turn our junkers into hot rods and dragging main.  And the road food. (We would never stop at a drive-in on Route 66, though such things had been invented.  We always stopped at a local restaurant for hour-long-lunches, finishing off with amazing pies.) In the words of the song, I got my kicks at Route Six Six.

It’s a good movie that can bring all of that back.

Julia Roberts converts to Hinduism

Movie star Julia Roberts–the ex-wife of Missouri Synod Lutheran Lyle Lovett–has converted to Hinduism, along with her entire family.  She is starring in the movie version of the bestselling book Eat, Pray, Love about a woman who does the same thing.  Maybe Hinduism will become the next religious fad in this country.  It ties into postmodernism in an interesting way, positing that the objective universe is an illusion (cf. “there is no objective truth”) and that god is to be found within the self.  Also, the issue for Hinduism is not so much sin–the body and what we do with it being part of the illusion–as escaping the physical realm by delving inside the self.  It’s a good way to be spiritual without being religious.

See Under God: Julia Roberts is Hindu: Is America ready for a Hindu sweetheart? – Elizabeth Tenety.

Inception & dreams

Upon the recommendation of many of you, we saw “Inception.” What I like are complicated, mutli-leveled, twisting plots. This qualified. So thank you for the suggestion.

My one problem with the movie is that it depicted dreams, and yet nothing in those depictions was remotely dream-like! There was none of that combination of seeming logic and actual illogic, no shifting of place, no fantasy, no archetypes. “Alice in Wonderland” does a good job of recreating what dreams are like (the book and possibly the Disney cartoon, emphatically not the recent Tim Burton travesty). So does Spenser’s “Faerie Queene” and MacDonald’s “Phantastes.” I’m trying to think of movies that capture that. Are there any? Or are movies, by their nature, too literal?

(I’ve thought of a few: “Andalusian Dog”; Jean Cocteau’s “Orfeo” and “Beauty and the Beast”)

Movie drought

I don’t know how long it’s been since I’ve been to an actual movie theater. Summer is my time to go to movies, but I haven’t been to any. None of the recent releases have seemed remotely interesting to me.

Long airplane trips with entertainment consoles have given me a chance to catch up a little, but what disappointment. “Clash of the Titans” was Greek mythology filtered through the new atheism. The theme was “Man must become free of the gods!” Besides that tiresome anachronism, the movie got all of the myths wrong! Thinking to improve on some of the greatest and most wondrous tales of Western civilization, the movie reduced Perseus to an action hero.

Then there was “Alice in Wonderland,” another film that sounded good. But Tim Burton drained the story of all of its humor, logic, fun, and, well, wonder. He tried to make it dark. He turned Alice into an action hero.

The worst was “The Ghost Writer,” in which director Roman Polanski–by the way, Switzerland has decided not to extradite him after all for fleeing his U.S. conviction for statutory rape of a 13-year-old child–sets up a ponderous tale that asks, in effect, how could a thinly-veiled British Prime Minister Tony Blair support the Bush war on terrorism? The movie imagines an ex-prime minister charged with war crimes for that. The reason turns out to be that he was essentially a plant by the CIA who has been running England for years.

So, help me. What have been some good movies lately? I know, the new “Toy Story” and “Shrek.” I’ll Netflix those eventually. (Though I’m running out of movies I want to see on Netflix!) But is there anything not kid-oriented? Our wedding anniversary is coming up, and we always go to a movie as part of the celebration. What should we go to? “Inception” does sound interesting. Is it any good, or will it just annoy me?


Have you read any good books, seen any good movies, eaten any good BBQ lately, or run into anything else that you would like to recommend to other Cranach readers?