Picks and Pans Main: Bytes
Hollywood has long scoffed at entertainment CD-ROMs as a B-list backwater, a place for washed-up actors and minor sci-fi stars to get quick acting gigs. Not anymore. Steven Spielberg—and company—have arrived.
Steven Spielberg's Director's Chair challenges moviemaker wannabes to take a prison drama—starring Friends actress Jennifer Aniston and Pulp Fiction director Quentin Tarantino—from preproduction to premiere. The game is set up like a real studio lot, and as players shepherd their project from writing bungalow to set to editing room, they oversee everything from the positioning of cameras to the addition of sound effects. (More than 100 minutes of footage shot by Spielberg himself cover all combinations.) All-star crew members—including veterans of Jurassic Park, Twister and Aladdin—appear at each station to offer guidance. Meanwhile, assistants report realistic delays—Jennifer's makeup won't be done until noon! Costume needs an hour!—and Variety headlines slam slipups.
The process can get tedious, but that's Hollywood reality, says Jurassic lensman Dean Cundey, who hopes his stint in front of the camera will teach players to respect his work behind it. "Some people don't even know what a cinematographer does," he says. "You learn to appreciate the hands involved in putting all these pieces together."
Let the case of Brad Sherman be a warning to politicians everywhere: Cartoonists are one special-interest group not to mess with. Sherman headed the California Board of Equalization, a tax body that in January voted to retain a levy on the transfer of artwork from illustrators to their clients or syndicators. Cartoonists attacked the regulations as convoluted (handing art files over on a disc is taxed, using a modem isn't) and unfair (writers aren't similarly taxed). Now Sherman is running for Congress, and the artists—including the creators of Cathy, Beetle Bailey, Hagar the Horrible, Broom. Hilda and Luann—are out for revenge. In a Web portrait gallery of the hapless Democrat (http://www.unitedmedia.com/ncs/BSGallery.html), nearly three dozen cartoonists lampoon everything from Sherman's receding hairline to his unfortunate initials. "It's the cartoonist's normal response to what we consider injustice," says Momma creator Mell Lazarus, who lives in Sherman's San Fernando Valley district. "We draw pictures." The Sherman camp, in a tight race, isn't amused. "I don't think it's an appropriate campaign issue," says campaign chief Jeffrey Monical. Gallery organizer Daryl Cagle, who draws the strip True!, is unmoved. "If it wasn't bugging him so much," he says, "it wouldn't be half the fun."