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Just yesterday I saw Spielberg's Lost World, and would like to share
several concerns I took away from the theater in a forum which might
touch others with similar interests  First and most pressing, I was
greatly disturbed by Lost World's denouement. Golblum, Moore, and Arliss
are depicted watching TV in their living room as some of the film's
loose ends are tied up: Bernard Shaw, PLAYING HIMSELF, recaps the
exciting events, complete with CNN graphics and audio.  The issue of
distinguishing between 'news' and 'entertainment' is certainly not new,
nor are examples blurring such lines, but I cannot recall a more blatant
instance of popular cinema taking the stance that such distinctions are
immaterial. As a journalist, Mr. Shaw is nominally more than a career
teleprompter reader; by this I mean that the content (informative rather
than stimulating) disseminated by the media organization he is
positioned within carries different connotations (of truth, validity,
objectivity, etc) than a simple visual celebrity/personality, like Neve
Campbell or Paul Newman. If Mr. Shaw can be paid to read copy for
Spielberg, in order to heighten the effect of verisimilitude upon which
special effects blockbusters like LW are based, then what(theoretically)
is to prevent him from doing this while he sits behind his desk at CNN ?
I draw a contrast between Shaw's appearance as himself in LW, with
profound implkications, and Stern's self-portrayal in Private parts;
which I ouwld not object to on the same grounds.  Both are highly
visible media figures, but Stern does not occupy the same position
within an organzation that has come to provide a substantial fraction of
the 'news' many people encounter every day. In my mind, there is a clear
distinction, and the attempt at recreating 'news' inside a completely
virtual environment warrants discussion, if not censure.  What other
examples of news or journalistic personalities playing themselves as
news providers do the members of Screen-L recall ? Would Spielberg take
the time and effort (and expense ? wonder what the check said ) to use a
well-known journalist and graphic accessories BEFORE the Gulf War
inflated CNN's presence so dramatically?  Are there any hard divisors
separating actors paid millions from news anchors paid millions, and is
LW simply reflecting the similarities linking the two professions which
we have yet to acknowledge publicly ?  I am reminded of "Bob", the
24-hour personality in Phillip K. Dick's "Do Androids Dream Of Electric
Sheep".
        Additionally, how do/would different genre conventions change the
connotations of a cameo appearance -- across barriers dividing distinct
kinds of media content -- such as this ? Shaw playing himself in a
comedy, reporting the obviously ridiculous as the obviously ridiculous
does not resonate with me (to provide one opinion) in the same manner.
Consider that LW opens with a publically lampooned, disgraced, and
discredited Ian Malcolm (Goldblum, playing an academic whose livelihood
depends upon his reputation) summoned to a visit with the director of
the corporation which orchestrated a cover-up of the truth in the most
stereotypical way (by buying everyone), and yet concludes with an
equally public vindication of Malcolm's assertions spoken by a figure we
have come to associate with delivery of factual information, who is now
apparently motivated by money. Here we begin to adress the issue of Mr.
Shaw's intent and perceived role in LW.  Was this just "fun" for him ?
Is there such a thing ? Who was responsible for securing both Shaw and
the CNN logo ? I do not recall seeing a reference to CNN in the LW
credits.  Time Warner no doubt strictly controls the use of CNN logos
(the brand-name/quality association corporations and news organizations
attempt to create and preserve in peoples minds), why would TW release
the use of valuable properties to Spielberg and Amblin ?  Would they
permit Bernard Shaw to perform as himself in a film by David Cronenberg,
or David Lynch ? Are they public domain in any sense, in the way that
content in The New York Times may be fictionalized as part of a movie
?
 
        Joe Lamantia
 
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Screen-L is sponsored by the Telecommunication & Film Dept., the 
University of Alabama.