Thinking Inside the Small Box

Thinking Inside the Small Box

It may not have been her intention, but Nikki Finke [Deadline Hollywood, “Trailer of Tears,” April 8–14] did more than analyze the opening-date strategies of this summer’s major films and review their trailers. She also reminded us of the shameless disdain the studios continue to have for original thought.

It seemed to start early this year with last month’s Miss Congeniality 2 and Be Cool (the follow-up to 1995’s Get Shorty) and now The Amityville Horror and House of Wax . . . our first taste of what may be the worst year ever (or best? . . . your call) for déjà vu all over again in the safe, shareholder-driven world of corporate Hollywood and its addictive bottom-line love affair with remakes and sequels.

Besides the retreads mentioned in Nikki’s piece (Bewitched of 1960s TV fame, War of the Worlds, The Longest Yard, Star Wars III, Batman Begins, Mr and Mrs. Smith and The Pink Panther), you’ll soon be able to view the new looks of such vintage fare as Disney’s The Shaggy Dog and Herbie (Fully Loaded). Johnny Depp is the new Willy Wonka in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.

But wait, there’s more! Fun With Dick & Jane with Jim Carrey and Tea Leoni instead of George Segal and Jane Fonda. And there’ll be another King Kong before year-end. Now what self-respecting new millennium could be without cinema’s favorite ape for long?

Now if Bewitched isn’t enough to satisfy your craving for family-room classics in wide screen, then watch for The Dukes of Hazzard at a cineplex near you.

Yes, we’ll all be faced with movie and television throwbacks over the next few months while the titans of celluloid lick their greedy little wallets and prep more has-beens for 2006: The Poseidon Adventure, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest, James Bond’s Casino Royale, Superman Returns and another slice of small-box nostalgia, Miami Vice: The Movie. And that’s probably just the tip of the reel.

Hell, they’ve already got Spiderman III and Pirates 3 on storyboards for 2007, for crying out loud.

Will these people ever quit living in the past?

Oh, by the way . . . if you’re a budding screenwriter working on the next Sideways? Good friggin’ luck. We’ll see you at Sundance. Then it’s straight to video.

—Tim Bornheimer
Los Angeles

Build More Than Sound Bites

As an African-American male in South Los Angeles, hearty kudos to Erin Aubry Kaplan to expose what King-Drew should really be about, and that is involving and engaging a community [“Whither the Community?” April 22–28]. Considering that those same political heavyweights such as Ms. Waters and Supervisor Burke can’t use their political force to create a continual working dialogue with the community and county supervisors to actually addressing the problem instead of grandstanding and dodging the issues.

But this issue goes further than just King-Drew; the mishandling and muted voices show a glaring problem with the black political elite in Los Angeles. They use their “civil rights” platform to actually suppress the people they are serving. They — Maxine Waters and the Rev. Jesse Jackson — regularly use tragedy to get their 15-second soundbite to reiterate a problem but never try to actually solve the problems, such as, Why are there still large empty lots along Vermont Avenue that have been undeveloped since the uprising of 1992? Or why haven’t they used their platforms to suggest the abandoned Harbor Subdivision Railroad be considered for mass-transit use as a Metrolink line, providing working residents access to higher-paying jobs across the region? But my guess is that it would be politically unattractive to do so.

—Jerard Wright
Los Angeles

Points Southwest

I’m a member of the faculty at Southwest Middle College High School, the subject of Erin Aubry Kaplan’s piece, “Back to Square One” [April 8–15], and P. Landsberger’s and K. Candaele’s response [Letters, April 15–21]. I hope you’ll print my response as well.

It is not true that Southwest has given us “free use of campus property for nearly 20 years.” Middle College HS is in its 16th year at Southwest College. The school was started with a fairly substantial grant which lasted for five years. Southwest College took a large portion of that money each year to cover expenses. There was a period after the grant expired that LAUSD did not pay anything. Had our school been evicted from Southwest at that time LAUSD would probably have deserved the blame, but a lease agreement was negotiated and it included a retroactive payment of over $1 million. LAUSD now pays half a million dollars each school year for us to use those bungalows.

Southwest College has a softball field and no softball team. Ours are the only students who have ever used that field and we had to cancel our softball program this year because we lost our coach. Unless LASC has a firm plan to add their own softball program, that land could be used to alleviate the parking shortage or it could be a temporary place to allow LAUSD to install bungalows or build a permanent school building for us.

Two years ago the salutatorian of Southwest College was one of our graduating seniors! Several years before that the salutatorian and valedictorian of LASC and MCHS were the same two students! In the last four years 42 of our students have graduated our high school and LASC at the same time — probably a hundred more have accumulated more than a year of transferable college units. Right now our 350 students are enrolled in more than 500 Southwest College classes! How much more integrated could we be? Southwest College should be proud to have such a successful high school on their campus. We graduated 67 — not 44 — seniors last year, and we’re proud of every one of them, including the three who have continued their studies at Southwest College. One of the most painful aspects of our departure from their campus is that we will no longer be around to see and support those students who stay on or who return, sometimes years later, to the college where they attended high school.

If we are forced to move to the 98th Street Elementary school site in order to ensure that our school will stay open after next year, we will make the most of that situation and continue to improve our program. Hopefully, at some point in the future, someone will figure out how to sustain a high school on the campus of Southwest College. It may not be Dr. Levy’s political responsibility to help solve the secondary education crisis in South L.A. — or anywhere else. But in a crisis we should all do what we can — as educators, as citizens — especially those in positions of power.

—Larry Strauss
English teacher,
Southwest Middle College High School

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