07 February 2014

The Mirror

... it's not just for funhouses any more.

  • Scott Timberg asks why H'wood is not truly engaging with the financial crashes of the last decade (yes, there was more than one... but the first one was softened by, while simultaneously destroying, the safety net). I'm afraid that Mr Timberg falls prey to a bit of mythology perhaps best revealed in the middle of his piece:

    Despite American directors’ general reticence to deal with political and economic subjects – very different from the approach of European filmmakers such as Jean-Luc Godard or Ken Loach — American movies have engaged with these issues over the years.

    There it is: Auteur theory. Again. Directors are only one of the four elements of making a feature film — one needs a script; one needs talent in front of the cameras; and one needs the production mechanisms, especially the money. One can read between the lines in much of the remainder of the article and see the same director-centric view that ignores the contributions of the other elements. Toward the end, there's a sop toward corporate blockbuster logic... but even that doesn't explain anything like District 9.

    Perhaps the best explanation for H'wood's inability/refusal to grapple with class in present-day America is that the decisionmakers who would allow such a film to be made are precisely the target of such a film... or, at minimum, are believed to be so by those who would otherwise present such a project to them for approval. The historical term one is looking for here is "patron": Many of the patrons are self-interested, self-indulgent assholes who do not understand the artistic impulse in any context other than immediate profit, and everyone is so afraid of their disapproval that nobody will challenge any potential patron unless the patron explicitly asks for it (and usually not even then). The irony that this is related directly to the subject matter of any work that fails to show adequate respect to the "1%" is more than a little bit overwhelming... and thoroughly anticipated by The Player (a simultaneously underrated and overrated film).

    The problem with the "1%" is the sense of entitlement (and corresponding lack of noblesse oblige) more than it is the money... although the resource allocation disparities and original position/veil of ignorance problems are, well, ignorance that is compounded when we're looking at the wrong people as the "originators" of film.

  • If the Devil can quote scripture to his advantage, surely he can also engage in ontology. Those who subscribe to the view that the Devil's greatest achievement has been in convincing humanity that he doesn't exist are welcome to fall down that rabbit hole any time...
  • It's great to see that at least somebody appreciates libraries. It's been very frustrating, though, going from one of the very best public library systems in the nation (backstopped by one of the leading university library systems... actually open to the public) to the pathetic local library systems here in the Bay Area (backstopped by universities that won't let the public effectively use their libraries). Once one removes the local interest and preteen materials from consideration — not because they're not important, but because the demographics are too widely variant — the collections are actually comparable, despite the population differences. And it's not because bookstores are taking up the slack, either; if anything, the bookstore situation is worse out here. All of which is rather frustrating for a nerd...
  • ... and that's the only, umm, rational explanation for the latest beloved-character-wasn't-handled-properly kerfluffle, this time concerning Hermione Granger (and there are so many more reactions out there that I chose that link partially at random). Almost everyone seems to be forgetting that intellectually, anyway, Hermione doesn't have a true peer in the wizarding world as painted by Rowling (interestingly, Emma Watson doesn't seem to have a true peer in the "20-25-year-old actress world" for many of the same reasons...), so demanding a "closer match" to her in the form of Harry — whose intellectual achievements were always superior to Ron's — seems more than a bit of a snark hunt. Literarily, if not literally.
  • It's pretty obvious though, that nobody involved actually knows "how to be popular" (if that matters at all in the first place). It's still all about fitting preconceived labels established in the past for the convenience of people who do not actually consume what's in the package they've so laboriously created.
  • We all knew that Mozart was a proto-punk, thanks to Amadeus. Who's next, then: J.S. Bach the preindustrial gang-banger? Or am I just subverting expectations... again?