Rightwing Film Geek

Hasta la vista, Gray Davis

It’s too bad that the Article 2, Section 1, Paragraph 5 of the U.S. Constitution prevents not just me from becoming president, but also bars Arnold Schwarzenegger from following the career trajectory of Ronald Reagan. Think about it — from looked-down-on actor to Republican activist to governor of California to …

But I can dream. If you’re Kim Jong-il, who’s gonna intimidate you more — Howard Dean or The Terminator? Visualize the Iranian mullahs quaking in their boots at the prospect of having to deal with John Kerry (stop laughing).

August 7, 2003 Posted by | Uncategorized | , | Leave a comment

Gone With The Wind, Michael Moore style

I cannot recommend this article in City Journal strongly enough (thanks Adam, Stacy). I don’t hate Michael Moore nearly as comprehensively as some might expect, and as a Roman Catholic, I am no champion of libertarian market-worship.

But Kay Hymowitz nails down how Moore’s economic vision and his animus toward “Corporate America” is, among much else [none of it pretty], basically a form of childhood nostalgia. He romanticizes, particularly in ROGER & ME (a great film though it is) America’s post-WWII industrial heyday, and blames “corporate greed” for its disappearance. But Moore never acknowledges that the job security and relative affluence his father enjoyed four decades ago at the GM plant in Flint was the result of specific historical circumstances. WWII had bankrupted or destroyed the infrastructure and economies of the other great industrial powers, and the 1973 Arab oil embargo had not yet sunk Detroit’s model for success.

Greedy CEOs didn’t turn the industrial Midwest into the Rust Belt. It was basic economics. All was not sunshine and light in the postwar boom. Factory floor jobs were stressful, repetitive and at times dangerous, while the Flint, Mich., of 1959 can no more be an economic model than can the plantation South of 1859. Both are gone with the wind, and sit-down strikes and assembly lines are not a useful economic agenda any more than moonlight and magnolias.

August 7, 2003 Posted by | Uncategorized | , | Leave a comment

Pre-birth post-mortems

An interesting article appeared recently in the Christian Science Monitor about how the Internet has made Hollywood’s job of making a profit from a turkey even tougher than before. Now in the world of Everybody’s A Film Critic And Has A Personal Site To Share His Thoughts (cue Victor looking around innocently), test scores are finding their way into the public domain more easily. The speed of the Internet also means that word-of-mouth basically can now develop even before a film has opened, and by Sunday, a film can have received the kiss of death — “Loser.”

I can certainly can confirm that an attentive civilian could now know *even before the film was released* that HULK had bad word-of-mouth and probably wouldn’t be worth his (my) while, though *my* interest was probably marginal to begin with. Typical of my snobbishness, I haven’t been to see any of the action blockbusters this summer, though comic-book movies like HULK, X2, LEAGUE OF EXTRAORDINARY GENTLEMEN rarely interest me as a noncomic geek. The only summer blockbusters that I haven’t seen but really want to are 28 DAYS LATER and PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN.

But compare it to last year, when SPIDER-MAN had good advance word (but not a notably more-prestigious or -interesting director-stars team than HULK — Sam Raimi/Tobey McGuire/Willem Dafoe vs. Ang Lee/Eric Bana/Nick Nolte). I went to see SPIDEY and liked it moderately. I dismissed HULK sight unseen.

I’m somewhat ambivalent about this kind of pre-buzz buzz, however much it might do the Lord’s work against a bad film, because it so traps the film in the self-fulfilling prophecy cycle about its box office (it’s a turkey, therefore nobody goes to see it, so it must *really* be a turkey … etc.).

The film doesn’t get a chance to overcome 1) bad prebuzz or 2) disappointing early-audience response. In the case of (1), it often occurs for reasons having nothing to do with what’s on the screen — need I remind anybody [I probably do] about 1998 and the same “turkey” tag sinking BABE: PIG IN THE CITY, a very good film that deserved better than it got. In the case of (2), most films probably wouldn’t overcome them anyway, but a few do need time to find their audience or shrug off initial marketing mistakes — need I remind anybody [I certainly do] about 1983 and THE RIGHT STUFF, a masterpiece that carved out its popularity via video after flopping in theaters.

August 7, 2003 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , | Leave a comment

Drugstore Cowboy

bubba.jpgA recent White House occupant fancies himself as a cowboy, only it’s not Dubya, but, according to the London Daily Telegraph (this is where it’s available in September 2007) it’s the Sensitive-90s-Dad-In-Chief.

I loathe armchair psychology, but seeing a single movie 30 times in eight years is *so* unnatural that it’s hard not to speculate. Eisenhower and Bush 2.0 have each seen HIGH NOON also, but only three times and once respectively (and Ike was president when the movie was new fercryinoutloud). It’s not unusual for a professional critic or a really hard-core CINEMANIA-caliber film geek to see a film that often — my records are seeing THE COOK, THE THIEF, HIS WIFE AND HER LOVER 12 times in two years (but then none in the next eight) and THE MAGNIFICENT AMBERSONS 22 times (but over almost 15 years). But this is the guy so intent on saving the world from The Vast Right-Wing Conspiracy and getting Osama bin Laden in December 2000 that he didn’t have time to notice the Rose Law Firm billing records, the raw FBI files on Washington’s top Republicans or any of that. And he was so focused lake a laser beam on the economy and Bosnia that he vulnerable to the stalking of cigar-wielding interns (especially while discussing Bosnia). How did he find the time to see a movie 30 times?

Numerous critics have long noted how HIGH NOON is “really” an anti-McCarthy allegory of the lone man abandoned by others’ cowardice in the fight against evil. Does it not seem typical of Clinton that he would see HIGH NOON 30 times? Maybe he just loves the movie, but it would be entirely consistent with what we know of Clinton’s self-dramatizing and narcissistic personality that he’d see himself as a lone defender of right, a modern-day Gary Cooper headed for a showdown with the black-hatted trio of Gingrich, Hyde and Starr. To give another example of the same phenomenon, he once explained some stretch of ineffectuality in an interview with The Washington Post by quoting from Chapter 6 of Macchiavelli’s THE PRINCE about the difficulties of “founding a new order of things,” thereby implicitly comparing Hillarycare, the moter-voter bill, gays in the military and Midnight basketball to (some of the examples Macchiavelli uses) Romulus founding Rome and Moses leading the Israelites into the Holy Land. The good St. Nick has a lot to teach us about politics, but that be wack.

Further, the choice of *that* Western, as opposed to, say, STAGECOACH or THE MAN WHO SHOT LIBERTY VALANCE or the Clint Eastwood spaghetti Westerns, is also instructive in terms of what it says about Clinton’s self-image and that of a significant swatch of Boomer public opinion (and Clinton is nothing if not the blue-state ego-ideal of his generation). When Europeans-in-place and Europeans-in-spirit call Dubya (or America in general) a cowboy, they’re referring, however accurately, to a certain image — an impetuous, dashing, ruthless taste for violence. Yosemite Sam basically. But Will Kane is a different kind of Western hero, one more acceptable to Our Sensitive Era — tortured, alone, only resorting to violence by clear-and-present necessity. And he even gets bailed out at the end by his wife …

August 7, 2003 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , | 3 Comments