10:04 am Dec. 21, 2010
Each day, the New York tabloids vie to sell readers at the newsstands on outrageous headlines, dramatic photography, and, occasionally, great reporting. Who is today's winner?
Daily News: "I'm pretty sure what wasn't supposed to happen is this guy topples off the stage ass over teakettle."
Thus spoke San Jose, Calif. theatergoer Mike James after seeing a stunt double for Spiderman in a preview performance of Spider-Man: Turn off the Dark last night topple off the edge of the stage during a dive attempt, when his harness failed. But producers turned on the dark right away while the unnamed actor was taken to Bellevue Hospital. The production, the official premiere of which has been moved to February for an "artistic" overhaul, is probably also trying to work out some kinks. For $65 million, producers might have hoped that the press, beginning with the Post's Michael Riedel, wouldn't have so many accidents to carp about. "An actor and a dancer suffered broken bones while attempting to do the slingshot flying technique, and then actress Natalie Mendoza suffered a concussion during the show's Dec. 2 performance," the News notes this morning. But the collaboration between veteran showstopper Julie Taymor and U2 will likely still keep bringing in the crowds: after all, if you're Mike James, do you not buy a ticket because the "slingshot flying technique" might malfunction?
I'm a little obsessed with this "Spider-Man: Fix the Harnesses" storyline, so I've given it space despite the fact the News, probably wisely, does not (a red strip across the bottom reads, in knockout-white type, "Spider-Mess! B'way actor in plunge"). That privilege belongs to faces that certainly sell papers, Sarah Palin and Michele Obama. "FOOD FIGHT" reads the main hed in big, heavy knockout over black over silhos of the two ladies. Palin is looking her usual strident, make-uppy self as she points at us, squinting with camera-ready "outrage," a mic in her right hand. Michele is all Robert De Niro: "You talkin' to me?" Explanation for all of this comes in the form of a dek that reads: "Palin ridicules First Lady's anti-fat campaign."
OK, but: left out is the fact that this is a comment Palin made in last night's episode of—sorry, it was Sunday night's episode of "Sarah Palin's Alaska." So I guess it took all day yesterday for the reporters to tell us what Sarah Palin already aired Sunday night. Video is embedded courtesy of Politico, and some reference is made to similar comments made by Palin before, on Laura Ingraham's radio show, so it's not even a new fight this week. It's not worth getting into: She's making s'mores, because this is what America wants to watch, and it's an opportunity to blast the First Lady for her anti-obesity campaign. Never mind the fact the whole thing is lamentable and I am only amplifying what the News is amplifying, so physician heal thyself and all that. What's really shocking here, when you get past the fact that this article was printed at all, then made the cover, is the way it is written. It's not an editorial or a columnist; it's just straight news—with passages like this:
The First Lady's "Let's Move" program encourages families and schools to adopt a healthy approach to activity and nutrition.
Obama has led by example. She has planted a vegetable garden at the White House, and last month she led kids in an exercise class at a Police Athletic League center in Harlem.
In her efforts, Obama has not been holier than thou, admitting to having a soft spot for at least one dessert.
I like Michele Obama, and I think her campaign is a good one, but the first lady is a perfectly good spokeswoman for herself. As is Sarah Palin, and you'd never read this in the News, or anywhere outside of a review by a total crackpot:
Palin's television show is a frank attempt to draw a distinction between the way family life is portrayed in national programs out of Washington and the way it is really lived.
She makes s'mores with her kids, because it's a bonding experience, but she has always taken care of their health, and insists that other parents take responsibility—on their own—for their children's health.
"What she is telling us is she cannot trust parents to make decisions for their own children, for their own families in what we should eat."
I mean, that would be stupid, right?
The New York Post: It's especially surprising that the News fronted the Palin-Obama thing in light of the fact that another story involving three points the News should want to cover—corruption, the Yankees, and New York--was readily available in the form of a fine handed down to outgoing Gov. David Paterson. Seeking to make an example of him to all other outgoing lame-duck governors about to collect $80,000 a year in annual pension, an ethics panel charged the Governor over $60,000 in restitution and fines for Yankees tickets he received as gifts that violate the law.
This mess has been surrounding Paterson since November of last year, when the Post first investigated it, so it's only right that the tabloid should harvest their crop today. What's a little surprising is how little credit the Post takes on the front page. It reads just as though the whole tickets issue had been unveiled yesterday: "GOV'S HOT SEATS" reads the main hed. "Fined 62G over free Yankee tix" and "Ethics panel rips his cover-up lies" are all developments from yesterday, but you'd have to already have been following the story to know that, wouldn't you?
But if the weight of text on the right is the narrative "top" of the page, the visual interest is generated along the vertical half-page to its left, featuring Jeff Bridges as the "one-eyed fat man" of True Grit fame. The role originated by John Wayne gets a different spin in the new Coen Bros. version, which is not a remake of the 1969 movie that lost out to Midnight Cowboy for best picture, but rather an original screen adaptation of the 1968 Charles Portis novel serialized in the Saturday Evening Post. You know it's either Oscar-movie season or summer blockbuster season when pretty much every contending movie gets a cover treatment that doubles as an ad. The film opens tomorrow, and here on the front page of the Post is knockout type in a "Western" font that may or may not be the same precise font used in the movie posters. What do the words say? What is the headline? Well, it's "TRUE GRIT," of course. Inside the paper, we get "Best western." Why not here?
The sympathy for the buzz around the movie, and the interest in capitalizing on it, probably drives the paper's decision to front the story even though it is neither a pan nor a four-star review; usually the critics have to find something decisive or crazy or counterintuitive or idiosyncratic about the movie they're reviewing to make the wood. But here the dek just says, "Kyle Smith's review: Page 41."
Observations: A two-day old national political story driven from a taped television appearance by a former politician vs. a one-day old story about a soon-to-be former politician driven from a courthouse event, however unsurprising: It's a bit of a disappointing face-off but the winner is clear. So if the big True Grit advertorial space on the front page of the Post is also disappointing, it's got nothing to go up against. The Post couldn't have given the review a small strip without finding some way of selling it beyond marketing the movie itself as a topic; but come to think of it, that's just what the News does with Spider-Man, treading, for good measure, on Post turf. So let's give that to the News. It's still an easy one today.
Winner: The New York Post.