There are weeks when popular culture functions as if unified by a single, invisible thread, powered ever forward by ego, ambition and staggering sums of cash. At other times, the culture seems to operate in a continuous feedback loop, trumpeting and repeating perceived glories ad infinitum.
This past week was governed by a kind of glorious mirroring; call it the place where entertainmentdom’s parallel lines appeared to meet.
How else could you possibly explain a span of days heralding the announcement of not one but two separate movie productions based on the Greek demi-god Hercules? In keeping with the entertainment industry's cherished tradition of mounting multiple productions focusing on the same subject simultaneously – see: global asteroid destruction (“Armaggedon,” “Deep Impact”), presidential terrorist over-run (“White House Down,” “Olympus Has Fallen”), mobsters seeking therapy (“The Sopranos,” “Analyze This”), fairy tale damsels (“Snow White and the Huntsman,” “Mirror, Mirror”) -- we can now expect “Hercules: The Thracian Wars,” directed by freewheeling fauxteur Brett Ratner and starring Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson to flex biceps against director Renny Harlin’s “Hercules: The Legend Begins” starring erstwhile “Twilight” Cullen-kid Kellan Lutz.
While those twin swords-and-sandals epics began arm wrestling for long-lead Q recognition this week, a pair of dueling wheelchair incidents lighted up the culture in a different way. Collecting a BAFTA Saturday in Los Angeles for his contributions to comedy, Sacha Baron Cohen appeared to accidentally push an old woman in a wheelchair off the awards stage, headfirst onto the floor. The audience gasped. "Try and sue! She's dead, get over it," the "Borat" star exclaimed before acknowledging the whole thing was a prank.
Further contributing to the impression she "gets it" -- or could alternately be considered the "living embodiment of beneficence and magnanimity" -- Jennifer Lawrence was strolling the red carpet at the London premiere of "Hunger Games: Catching Fire" Sunday night when she happened upon a small fan in a wheelchair. The pixie-hairstyled Katniss Everdeen stopped to comfort the little lady, paused for a snapshot, adjusted the fan's parka and promptly lighted up Twitter before being proclaimed the "new Tom Hanks."
The past week was punctuated by a pair of holiday movie announcements: one a seismic sexytime shake-up, the other a mega-budget, shoot-'em-up Christmas gift. The release of director Sam Taylor-Johnson's "Fifty Shades of Grey" adaptation was pushed back from summer 2014 to Valentine's Day the following year, provoking howls of anguish from mommy porn lovers worldwide. And the date for the latest installment of the blockbuster Tom Cruise franchise, "Mission: Impossible 5," was set for Dec. 25, 2015, with the star's "Jack Reacher" director Christopher McQuarrie set to head it up.
Most commonly occuring by way of conversation, Mirroring as an observable behavior involves one person copying another. Either that or kismet seemed to dominate the art auction action this week, which had two epic sales in two days.
On Tuesday, a three-panel painting by Irish-born British painter Francis Bacon garnered $142.4 million -- the most money ever commanded by any artwork in an auction. The next day, at the same Sotheby's New York auction where embattled hedge fund billionaire Steven A. Cohen picked up $77 million for six paintings (including a 1986 Gerhard Richter that went for $26.5 million), an Andy Warhol painting,"Silver Car Crash (Double Disaster)," sold for $105.4 million, a record amount for the pop art avatar.
There's Mirroring, then, of course, there's cause and effect. A new report released Monday revealed that violence in PG-13 movies has skyrocketed over the last three decades with PG-13 films nowadays consistently and statistically more violent than their R-rated counterparts. Almost as if on cue Thursday, the Weinstein Co. successfully appealed the MPAA's decision to hand its November drama "Philomena" an R rating. Starring Judi Dench as a woman trying to locate her missing son, the movie achieved its original restrictive "R" thanks to the deployment of certain four-letter words -- not violence -- and finds its commercial prospects increased thanks to the PG-13 upgrade.
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