Christian Toto is a film critic and podcaster and runs the website HollywoodInToto.com.
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The liberal Guardian covered VaughnGate, arguably the most important news story of the last 48 hours. Actor Vince Vaughn was caught, on camera, meeting President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump. That wasn’t all. Vaughn appeared friendly with the Trumps, going so far as to exchange pleasantries during the meeting.
The media’s report card on Ricky Gervais’ Golden Globes gig proved as brutal as expected. Variety called Gervais’ performance “tame.” The L.A. Times was even colder with its takedown. The USA Today reviewer described Gervais’ performance as “dull": "There were a few chuckles to be had, but even fans of Gervais’ harsh brand of humor would likely be disappointed."
Critics call New Year’s Eve “amateur night,” and with good reason. The holiday coaxes even casual drinkers to greet Baby New Year with a slurry, “huzzah!” The dawn of a new year also inspires amateur psychics to look ahead to the next 12 months. And HIT is no different.In that spirit, let’s predict what we’ll see in the entertainment world in 2020 – and how the presidential campaign will impact Hollywood, Inc.
The end of 2019 brings some grim news for Hollywood bean counters. The year’s box office tally came in roughly 4 percent lower than 2018. That’s the “sharpest decline in 5 years,” according to The Hollywood Reporter. With Dec. 31 fast approaching, industry leader Comscore projected Sunday that box office revenue in North America will hit $11.45 billion for the full year, a decline of 3.6 percent from 2018’s record bounty of $11.88 billion.
Comedy is hard by default. It’s so much harder in our woke age.Jerry Seinfeld, arguably comedy’s cleanest stand-up, swore off the college circuit because students couldn’t take a joke. Evan Shapiro politely disagrees. The man who oversaw the disastrous Seeso comedy channel is spearheading National Lampoon 2.0.
In one small but crucial way Stephen Colbert is mightier than even the Force. The far-left comic’s Late Show thrives by pandering to one half of the country. Joke after joke mocks Red State USA while cheering on progressive values.The result? He sits atop the late night heap thanks to our splintered media landscape.
Charlize Theron has played it all, from post-apocalyptic warriors to Fast & Furious foes. Like most actors, Theron finds the humanity in her characters, no matter their sins. That proved daunting when she portrayed Aileen Wuornos, the woman who killed at least six men before dying via lethal injection in 2002. Theron won an Oscar for that performance, a role requiring her to dramatically alter her beautiful visage. It’s a safe bet she doesn’t regret bringing Wuornos’ story to life.
Audiences paying to see Last Christmas got more than a yuletide romance. The film, starring Emilia Clarke and Henry Golding, toes a politically correct line. That includes broadsides against Brexit and clunky pleas for tolerance. Tolerance for the pro-Brexit movement, apparently, proved in short supply. Audiences were similarly scarce.
Timing is everything for living legend Clint Eastwood The actor/director served up American Sniper after Hollywood stopped firing cinematic shots at the U.S. Military. The results? Sniper earned $350 million at the U.S. box office. Two years later Eastwood directed Sully, just when movie goers craved a true American hero story. That movie hauled in $125 million domestically.
Robert Redford is a world class actor, a movie star of the first order and an indie film inspiration. Redford’s Sundance Film Festival helped fuel the rise of auteurs like Steven Soderbergh, Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez. Redford, like Greta Thunberg, is not a climate scientist, though.
Reporters have spent days detailing why Terminator: Dark Fate became the year’s most embarrassing flop. The movie made just $29 million stateside, and its foreign box office totals are equally weak ($94 million and counting). That’s no way for a franchise reboot to perform. Most observers are writing the saga’s obituary.
Steve Coogan is unabashedly pro-European and anti-Brexit. The comic actor from Stan & Ollie, Philomena and The Trip franchise often lets his films do the talking for him. He attacked conservative talk radio most recently with Hot Air, and his new film, Greed similarly swipes modern-day capitalism.
At 89, Clint Eastwood isn’t slowing down. In fact, his upcoming drama Richard Jewell began shooting in July and is primed to make its Oscar season debut Dec. 13. Eastwood is known for his unfussy filmmaking. Still, given his age it’s reasonable to think he wants to tell as many stories as possible before he leaves this mortal coil. And then what?
Jane Fonda keeps pulling off the impossible in Hollywood. The Oscar winner stepped away from cameras in 1990 only to stage an improbable comeback with the 2005 hit Monster in Law. She was in her mid-60s at the time in an industry where turning 40 can stop a career cold.Now, at 81, Fonda stars in her own celebrated Netflix comedy, Grace and Frankie. The series treats aging with humor and respect, giving Fonda yet another showcase for her gifts.
It’s been a bad few weeks for Cancel Culture. Yes, a man who donated a cool million to a children’s hospital got “cancelled” for Tweets he sent as a teen. And Saturday Night Live quickly fired a new cast member after his racist comments not-so-magically surfaced. Still, cancel culture got hit with a few nasty uppercuts in recent weeks. Most notably, comedians Bill Burr, Dave Chappelle and Sebastian Maniscalco hammered Cancel Culture from their stand-up pulpits.
Cancel Culture types pack an emotional point when they call people out for telling the “wrong” jokes. Marginalized groups shouldn’t be the butt of gags. They’re already at a disadvantage in our culture, and being mocked can only make matters worse. Children like eco-activist Greta Thunberg and Parkland High School students deserve a measure of protection.
Even Inspector Clouseau could spot the media’s distaste for the fifth Rambo installment. Rambo: Last Blood hit theaters Sept. 20, racking up a solid, but unspectacular $19 million. While fans cheered Sylvester Stallone’s latest sequel, critics loathed it. The 28/85 critic-audience split over at RottenTomatoes.com says it all.
There’s little daylight between the current Democrats running for the White House and Hollywood messaging. Consider the following topics: Justice Brett Kavanaugh? Impeach! The rich? Raise their taxes! Gun control? We need more! Trump? Impeach! (unless it hurts our chances in 2020)
Dave Chappelle used some comic sleight of hand before blasting cancel culture in his latest Netflix special. Fellow comedian Bill Burr hit the same target seconds after walking on stage during his own Netflix hour, dubbed Paper Tiger.Together, they struck a blow against the PC comedy police that’s already left a mark.
One of the Left’s favorite phrases jumps to mind regarding Hollywood’s take on conservatives. The term “othering” means treating people as somehow different, and inferior, to you or the group you belong to. Here’s a quick example: When then-candidate Donald Trump used the word “the” before Latinos and African-Americans during the 2016 campaign the Left claimed he was “othering” them for political gain.