Brangelina Kids Too Cool for School; Rihanna's Shot Misses Mark

Tuesday, 07 Jun 2011 05:22 PM

By James Hirsen

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The Left Coast Report: A Political Look at Hollywood

Headlines (Scroll down for complete stories):
1. Rihanna's 'Empowering' Video Shot Goes Astray
2. Alec Baldwin: Mitt Romney Could Beat Obama
3. Brad Pitt, Angelina Jolie Spurn Public Schools
4. Hollywood Pins Summer Hopes on Prequels
5. How Good Is John Edwards' Defense?
 

1. Rihanna's 'Empowering' Video Shot Goes Astray

Some of the images from Rihanna's newest music video would not seem out of place in a snuff film. "Man Down" opens with what appears to be a cold-blooded murder.

At a public train station, the singer, in character, shoots and kills a man with a revolver. The camera then moves in to show the body lying in a pool of blood.

In flashback, viewers discover that the motive for the shooting was a rape.

The music video premiered on BET to immediate criticism for justifying vigilante killing. The Parents Television Council issued a statement charging that it "gives retaliation in the form of premeditated murder the imprimatur of acceptability."

The entertainment think tank Industry Ears charactered the video as "an inexcusable, shock-only, shoot-and-kill theme song."

Rihanna called in to BET to defend the content of her video. She said that her new song is "about a girl who has committed a murder that she regrets and is completely remorseful about."

"Rape is, unfortunately, happening all over the world and right in our own homes and we continue to cover it up, pretend it doesn't happen," Rihanna said.

The singer insisted that her female fans "are empowered by this."

Not that long ago Rihanna was brutally beaten by her ex-boyfriend, Chris Brown, so it is possible that the footage provides a kind of catharsis for her. However, the media message to fans of all ages has zero positive value.



2. Alec Baldwin: Mitt Romney Could Beat Obama

Relatively new to Twitter, "30 Rock" star Alec Baldwin recently took to tweeting a bit of political analysis.

About a potential GOP presidential ticket, Baldwin wrote, "Looking to me to be Romney-Pawlenty."

The actor even predicted that Romney might be able to best President Barack Obama: "I mentioned Romney because if he can overcome the Mormon issue with the Christian right, he could win it."

Baldwin surmised that the healthcare issue is not an unsolvable problem for Romney, tweeting, "His contradictions re: Health care can be ironed out by clever GOP and conservative think tank types."

According to Baldwin, a GOP win would be chalked up to an "unwarranted fear/loathing of Obama," which is "sad, but real."

Then, being the stalwart Hollywood liberal that he is, he added, "Romney has the best chance. But that's not saying much."



3. Brad Pitt, Angelina Jolie Spurn Public Schools

Hollywood stars typically join in with the left-of-center chant that pleads for "more spending on education."

Interestingly, though, a public education doesn't appear to be good enough for Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie's children, not even the upper-crust Malibu neighborhood schools.

Their twins, Knox and Vivienne, are not yet pre-school age, but Maddox, Zahara, Pax and Shiloh are being educated in an uber elite way.

"I do think we live in a different age and the education system hasn't caught up with our children and our way of life," Jolie told the U.K. Independent.

Pitt and Jolie and their six children bounce among film locations and three other homes.

"We travel and I'm the first person to say, 'Get the schoolwork done as quickly as possible and let's go out and explore,'" Jolie said. "I'd rather them go to a museum and learn to play guitar and read a book they love."

You might think that at least one of their homes would be located in an acceptable school district. But that's apparently not the case.

Instead, nannies and specialist teachers — who, incidentally, use the French lycée system — are the ones educating Brad and Angelina's kids.



4. Hollywood Pins Summer Hopes on Prequels

It is no secret that insecure Hollywood executives prefer proven commodities to risky original ventures.

Having pretty much exhausted remakes and sequels for the time being, movie moguls are turning hopeful eyes toward prequels.

Prequels have the potential to infuse energy into lagging film franchises, such as "Star Trek," Superman, Batman and James Bond, all of which have all benefited from prequel or prequel-like installments.

The most recent case in point is the No. 1 film of the weekend, "X-Men: First Class," an origins tale of everyone's favorite mutants.

In August moviegoers will be treated to "Conan the Barbarian," a prequel to the Arnold Schwarzenegger star vehicle of the same title.

Some may question the timing and connection to the Governator, but Lionsgate believes the time is right for a brand-new adaptation of the "Conan" source material.

"Conan the Barbarian" begins with the famed warrior seeking vengeance but evolves into an epic battle against powerful opponents and horrid CGI monsters.

Also coming this August is an origins reboot that begins in the present day. "Rise of the Planet of the Apes" is a prequel to the Charlton Heston classic "Planet of the Apes." It is a cautionary tale in which scientists come up with a drug to reverse brain damage, but the primates used as test subjects soon develop human-like intellects.

Guess we can be glad that insecurity breeds summer cinema fluff, because in these tough times we could all use a little diversion from deep thinking.



5. How Good Is John Edwards' Defense?

It seems that John Edwards has gone from the highest of heights to the lowest of lows.

Now that a grand jury has indicted him, could the former U.S. senator and ex-presidential candidate actually end up becoming a convicted criminal?

Edwards has been charged with six campaign finance law violations for allegedly accepting $925,000 from donors to conceal an extramarital affair and pregnancy with Hollywood videographer Rielle Hunter.

The cash was allegedly provided by two of Edwards' donors: his national campaign finance chairman, Fred Baron, who supplied more than $300,000 and who passed away in 2008, and Rachel "Bunny" Mellon, a 100-year-old banking heiress, who came up with more than $700,000.

Edwards has decided not to seek a plea bargain and instead will pursue a trial. This course of action is not without risk. If convicted, he could go to prison for up to 30 years and be fined as much as $1.5 million.

Only time will tell whether Edwards will come back to the plea-bargaining table. In the meantime, his lawyers are busily preparing his defense.

The government's burden of proof requires evidence establishing beyond a reasonable doubt that the money that changed hands was, in fact, a campaign contribution, and that Edwards was aware of the payments.

The funds in question, however, never went into campaign accounts, but rather were sent directly to Hunter or were delivered to Hunter via third parties. Edwards' prime donor, Mellon, treated the payments as gifts and even reported them on gift tax returns.

The prosecution's theory is based on an untested 11-year-old advisory opinion by the Federal Election Commission, which determined that a gift to a political candidate can be treated as a campaign contribution.

Edwards' lawyers will likely argue that there were no illegal donations to the campaign. In addition, they will probably contend that the funds were merely personal financial assistance from friends and were not meant for election purposes.

Despite the fact that Edwards' actions, in relation to his late wife and to the public, were disgraceful and even contemptible, the difficulties faced by the prosecution make his legal defense appear stronger than reporting has indicated.


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