February 10th, 2006

The purpose of movies and movies with a purpose

First of all, a confession is in order: I’m not much of a moviegoer, especially recently. I think most of the movies I’ve seen in last ten years or so are just plain inferior to the older ones. So now–if there was any doubt before–I am officially an Old Fart, because I think They Just Don’t Make Them Like They Used To.

So I’m not holding myself out to be any sort of film buff. But I was interested in a discussion at Donkelephant, in which blogger Callimachus complains about a recent announcement from some moviemakers that they consider themselves to be social change agents. He cites a Guardian article in which the makers of the film “Syriana” are quoted as stating that this is their explicit goal in making movies:

Set up in 2004 by Jeff Skoll, billionaire co-founder of eBay, Participant’s express purpose is to make movies that will help to change the world. In the words of Meredith Blake, the firm’s executive vice-president: ‘Our product is social change, and the movies are a vehicle for that social change.’

The statement reminds me a bit of the post-Vietnam, post-Watergate press. Long ago, reporters ordinarily used to enter their field (it wasn’t really thought of as a profession yet) to write stories, not to change the world. And moviemakers–at least in this country–used to be more inclined to entertain (and make money) than to teach. Although teaching was somewhere in there, too, for some of them, it tended to be secondary rather than primary.

The comments section following Callimachus’s post is rather long, and features a great deal of back and forth, and some further comments by Callimachus, including this one:

Hollywood producers are free to do was they wish; that’s the beauty of the free market. The other beauty is, if it sucks, people won’t go see it. And Hollywood seems to have forgotten that, along with the fact that a great chunk of its potential audience has a vague resentment about attempts to socially engineered them by the people who created the culture of Hollywood. Especially when there are so many other entertainment alternatives these days.

Somehow it all made more sense when the “insiders” made status-quo insider films like “The Green Berets” and left the outsiders to make social statement films like “Easy Rider.” Both seemed more relevant then, and more honest.

As far as I know, the founders of Participant are not out to make documentaries, like Michael Moore’s (or films that masquerade as documentaries, like Michael Moore’s). Nor are they making fictionalized biopics a la Oliver Stone, films that occupy some sort of postmodern halfway position where they purport to be a sort of “higher”–though fictionalized–truth. Participant is out to make movies that are straight fiction, but with a purpose–and that purpose is didactic, a form of propaganda.

This, of course, is nothing new. There have always been some movies (although, except for during World War II, I think they were a very small percentage of the whole) that functioned as propaganda. But the political movies of the past, up till the mid-to-late 60s (surprise, surprise–the Vietnam/Watergate era again), for the most part had an agenda that supported the actions of America and agreed with that of mainstream America and the majority of its population.

If we were at war, these movies supported that war, sometimes in an inspirational way. I can’t pinpoint the exact date of the change, but as Callimachus points out, at first it seemed to be an insider/outsider thing; the insiders kept making the old-fashioned films and the renegade outsiders were starting to make films that challenged the status quo.

Now, however, those in charge in Hollywood are mostly the liberals of that Boomer generation and their heirs. The politics of Hollywood are well known to veer quite to the left of mainstream America. Although Hollywood still make movies intended for the masses, the moviemakers seem likely to regard them in just that way–as “the masses.” And they, the moviemakers, are going to teach those masses, by gum–to educate them to their way of thinking, using their highly developed film-making skills as subtle propaganda.

I repeat: many films, especially historic or political or war films, were always at least partly propaganda. But this propaganda used to be in the service of what might be called the mainstream point of view of most Americans; now it is in the service of changing that point of view. Once it glorified America (perhaps in an overly simplistic way); now it critiques it (also in an overly simplistic way).

As Callimachus says, Hollywood can do whatever it wants, and people can go to the movies or stay home as they wish. I myself much prefer movies without a heavy-handed political message of any sort (one of my recent favorites was “Groundhog Day,” which had a message all right, but it wasn’t political).

And I find that whenever Hollywood turns its hand to history, it tends to get things wrong, and then I get angry about it. Film biographies are notorious for that sort of thing. There’s the abominable Oliver Stone, and before him the sanctimonious and distorting but Oscar-winning “Gandhi.” I’m not too familiar with many earlier film biographies, but my guess is that they also played fast and loose with the facts or the portrayals (a fairly minor one that comes to mind is watching Anthony Perkins throw–well, there’s just no other way to put it than “like a girl”–in a movie I enjoyed very much as a child, “Fear Strikes Out”).

Recently I did go to the movies, to a film that is supposed to be non-fiction: “Capote.” I really wanted to see it; as a writer and therapist, I was very interested in the premise, which is the exploitation of others that authors sometimes commit in the act of writing. The film contained material with which I’m unusually familiar; I had read the Capote biography on which it was based, and also In Cold Blood, the source of a great deal of the subject matter. I’d heard it was a very well-done movie, and that the actor who played Capote, Philip Seymour Hoffman, gave a tour de force performance.

But the movie itself disappointed me. It was a cold and repellent film. It made Capote himself into an even more cold and repellent character than I recalled from the biography, and simplified his relationships into the solely manipulative, whereas I remembered them as being more mixed (although Hoffman’s performance was indeed excellent). The actor who played murderer Perry Smith was markedly inferior to Robert Blake, who had played him in the original “In Cold Blood.”.

But what was far worse to me than all of this was that some important facts were changed in the scene in which Smith described his motivation for the murders. The whole film leads up to this revelation of Smith’s, which Capote has been coaxing and manipulating him into giving for most of the movie. So, why did the moviemakers see fit to change the facts?

First, a caveat: I’m relying on memory here (I don’t have the script of the scene in the film). But the reason I am relatively sure that there was a change, and why the change especially offended me, was that I’d recently gone back to the book and studied that exact section of it (Smith’s confession) in order to compose this post about shame, murder, and terrorism.

If you read the last half of my post, the one that deals with Smith’s confession and the shame he reveals as the motivation for the murders, you’ll see that it was an emotion apparently triggered by his being misled by his accomplice and a prison friend into thinking that the two would score big, monetarily, in the crime, and his resultant rage. But the “Capote” movie ignores all that, and makes Smith’s pivotal confesson revolve around some sort of class issue between the “haves” and the “have-nots.” In the movie (again, this is as best I can recall), Smith says he killed Mr. Clutter because the latter looked at him as though he were nothing, as though he were looking down at him.

Not only is this incorrect and gratuitous, it happens to be a libel against the murder victim, who actually did nothing of the sort. My guess is that the makers of the film altered the truth to suit a political agenda, even in this rather non-political film.

I have no doubt that films have always dealt in political messages–sometimes subtle, sometimes overt. And I have no doubt that moviemakers have always bent the truth to their purposes. I know that both things (but especially the latter) have made me turn more and more away from movies.

I’m really not asking for movies to go back to the days of all rah-rah America, all the time (if those days in fact ever existed). But more balance would be nice, and less lecturing. Oh, and it would be awfully good if movies that purported to be based on facts didn’t gratuitously change those facts to meet a didactic agenda.

40 Responses to “The purpose of movies and movies with a purpose”

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  2. grackle Says:

    I’ll put up with only so much didactics. The second a movie, poem, novel or any work of art begins preaching at me it loses me. That doesn’t mean that art can’t touch upon faith, politics, philosophy & social issues or even be deeply embedded in all of the above. One thinks of the Ashcan School, which could be seen as a group dedicated to the depiction of the commonplace events & situations of life in the city – the modern struggle against the dehumanization of extreme urbanization & industrialization. Some of Hopper’s paintings also qualify in this regard. Not preachy & therefore even more effective.

    Perhaps the one exception would be essay, which should probably be considered as among the arts, albeit minor arts. As a reader I come to essays expecting some lecture but in my case the exhortation will be effective only to the degree that it is lightly laid on. If the tone becomes strident or imperative I’m quickly on my way. One thinks of the Transcendentalists, Emerson & Thoreau, as two who could gracefully persuade & convince. Among poets, one thinks of Blake & Whitman, among movies To Kill a Mockingbird & Drums Along the Mohawk come immediately to mind.

    Didactics is almost always deadly in poetry, especially lyric poetry. Lyricism simply cannot be sustained if the poem is also trying to sermonize – it’s an aesthetic impossibility. A case can be made for didactics in narrative or dramatic poetry but not lyric poetry – & lyric poetry is probably 90 percent of all poetry ever written & is the big majority of what is written today.

    Please don’t point out to me that all art could be seen in a broad sense as containing a didactic purpose. What I’m referring to are direct preachments from works intending to correct my opinion & which frequently lapse into nothing more than re-heated propaganda. It’s a form of aggression, as is all proselytizing, & indicates a condescending distrust of the viewer or reader. For instance I find most of the old WW2-era war/patriotic movies a bit mawkish in tone. As a record of a time not long ago when patriotism in the US was openly & almost universally celebrated they provide an interesting contrast to the current scene – but their attraction for me is strictly historical.

  3. grackle Says:

    I’ll put up with only so much didactics. The second a movie, poem, novel or any work of art begins preaching at me it loses me. That doesn’t mean that art can’t touch upon faith, politics, philosophy & social issues or even be deeply embedded in all of the above. One thinks of the Ashcan School, which could be seen as a group dedicated to the depiction of the commonplace events & situations of life in the city – the modern struggle against the dehumanization of extreme urbanization & industrialization. Some of Hopper’s paintings also qualify in this regard. Not preachy & therefore even more effective.

    Perhaps the one exception would be essay, which should probably be considered as among the arts, albeit minor arts. As a reader I come to essays expecting some lecture but in my case the exhortation will be effective only to the degree that it is lightly laid on. If the tone becomes strident or imperative I’m quickly on my way. One thinks of the Transcendentalists, Emerson & Thoreau, as two who could gracefully persuade & convince. Among poets, one thinks of Blake & Whitman, among movies To Kill a Mockingbird & Drums Along the Mohawk come immediately to mind.

    Didactics is almost always deadly in poetry, especially lyric poetry. Lyricism simply cannot be sustained if the poem is also trying to sermonize – it’s an aesthetic impossibility. A case can be made for didactics in narrative or dramatic poetry but not lyric poetry – & lyric poetry is probably 90 percent of all poetry ever written & is the big majority of what is written today.

    Please don’t point out to me that all art could be seen in a broad sense as containing a didactic purpose. What I’m referring to are direct preachments from works intending to correct my opinion & which frequently lapse into nothing more than re-heated propaganda. It’s a form of aggression, as is all proselytizing, & indicates a condescending distrust of the viewer or reader. For instance I find most of the old WW2-era war/patriotic movies a bit mawkish in tone. As a record of a time not long ago when patriotism in the US was openly & almost universally celebrated they provide an interesting contrast to the current scene – but their attraction for me is strictly historical.

  4. Assistant Village Idiot Says:

    Take that, Hans Brix! (And you thought I never went to movies.)

  5. Anonymous Says:

    Nick B, I would recomend watching it because he is an idiot. The director understands that nature is a brutal place and Timmy doesn’t. Timmy gets eaten by a bear, it’s hilarious.

    -Mike

  6. Myrhaf Says:

    I have a few thoughts on the difference between new and old movies at:

    http://myrhaf.blogspot.com/2005/12/movies-new-and-old.html

  7. David Says:

    “Our product is social change, and the movies are a vehicle for that social change”…as long as they are a private company, they have a right to take this position. However, it seems that entertainment and news subsidiaries of *public* corporations are often taking the same position.

    How far can an officer of a public corporation go in using the resources of the corporation to promote his own personal political agenda before he is in violation of his fiduciary responsibility to shareholders? The line would be dificult to draw cleanly, but it seems to me that it must exist.

  8. OBloodyHell Says:

    Neo, the seminal movie you search for is obvious when you know about the history of movies:
    Easy Rider

    Budget:
    $340,000 (estimated)

    Gross
    $60,000,000 (Worldwide) ( January 1972)

    Rentals
    $19,100,000 (USA)

    THAT was when Hollywood started paying attention to the counterculture and pandering to them.

    It’s like they said. Hollywood at least USED TO BE about the money.

    Nowadays, they’ll warp whatever they have to to stay away from messages they don’t like (Schindler’s List and Amistad are two fine examples — one reason why I am not bothering to even consider seeing Munich)

  9. OBloodyHell Says:

    > Grizzly Man is film from a guy

    Mike, read this:
    Sings to Grizzlies
    by Humberto Fontova

    You’ll laugh your ass off.

    I refuse to see Grizzly Man because it glorifies an idiot. I seriously doubt if it portrays him as negatively as it should.

  10. OBloodyHell Says:

    > Gandhi, admittedly, being a devout Hindu, was far more self-contradictory than most public men. Sanskrit scholars tell me that flat self-contradiction is even considered an element of “Sanskrit rhetoric.”

    Does this mean that John Kerry is a closet Hindu?

    Enquiring Minds Want To Know!

    (8oD

  11. Judith Says:

    “fictionalized biopics a la Oliver Stone, films that occupy some sort of postmodern halfway position where they purport to be a sort of “higher”–though fictionalized–truth.”

    Spielberg’s new genre.

  12. TalkinKamel Says:

    Speaking of inferior remakes of classical movies, avoid Peter Jackson’s “King Kong” as if it were the Black Death!

    One of the worst movies ever made, in my opinion. . .

    (And he did so well with “Lord of the Rings”, too!)

  13. N. O'Brain Says:

    1. “The statement reminds me a bit of the post-Vietnam, post-Watergate press.”

    Think of newsman as suffering from Woodward-Bernstein Complex. They aren’t fulfilled unless they’be destroyed a Presidency.

    2. If you haven’t, check out Netflix. I just finished working my way through the entire “Sharpe’s” series, 14 DVDs long. A GOOD historical series. Also watched the anime series “Noir”, recommended by Steven denBeste.

    3. Hollywood propoganda is nothing new. Remember HUAC and the blacklist? Commie filmakers being denied a living and all that? The witch hunt that kept finding witches?

    Tonight, it’s “Die Hard”.

    “Yippee Kie Ai, MFer!”

    Gotta love it.

  14. Ymarsakar Says:

    In generational terms, I would say it is recent as well. Since 13 years ago isn’t that much in the mind of men.

    Not when everyone keeps hearing “Groundhog Day”. I don’t know about them, I don’t watch it, but they keep great company through repetition.

  15. neo-neocon Says:

    still realizing: In my time-frame, that qualifies as “recent,” I’m afraid :-).

  16. still realizing Says:

    The movie Groundhog Day was made in 1993. So I don’t think it’s recent!

  17. Ymarsakar Says:

    Basically he shows that leftist revolutionaries have always come from the upper class or upper-middle class, not just in America, but worldwide.

    Historically, all revolutions require power and support from the upper class.

    Guerrila movements have to eat, they have to buy weapons and bribe informants and shat like that. That takes Big moola.

    Guerrila movements without upper class backup, without Soviet or outside foreign aid, like the IRA, either are eliminated permanently or permanently reformed.

    A “movement” cannot succede using violence without certain logistical support elements. That’s just the nit and gritty portion of waging war. It cannot be circumvented.

    Cut off Hamas’s Hollywood and European blood money, and you cut off HAMAS’s ability to sustain popular support through bribes and social services.

    Cut off the Iranian upper class oil revenues and the saudi family’s upper class oil revenues as well as the Bin Laden’s personal fortune, and you cut off the terroists at the knee.

    Bush could strike a low and effective blow at terrorism by making illegal any contribution to non-US occupied countries in the Mid East.

    The propaganda portion just seems very hard to scale with movies about Munich and other crazy things. You literally cannot make effective anti-terroist policy with such pro-terroist propaganda and anti-surveillaince projects going on. The Liberals have nothing wrong with the government having the power to take your personal property and your homes, or using wiretaps to see who has guns or not. They have no problems violating the Constitution. But their propaganda, in the form of Hollywood, is especially subversive and invasive, combating it is not easy especially with a President that knows nothing about how to act in front of a camera.

    There are counters, like the bully pulpit, low balling, and the internet. THey just aren’t developed to their full potential. Internet movies, word of mouth through emails, those things work. But they are all the underdog compared to the elitist, powerful, and wealthy class that is known as Hollywood.

  18. Assistant Village Idiot Says:

    It is interesting that a CS Lewis movie comes to the public as this subject comes to the fore. Lewis addressed the issue directly, in answer to both his supporters who believed that Christians should write more things like his, and critics who believed his fiction was nothing more than an attempt to indoctrinate.

    “And when they say that the Church should give us a lead, they ought to mean that some Christians — those who happen to have the right talents — should be economists and statesmen, and that all economists and statesmen should be Christians, and that their whole efforts in politics and economics should be directed to putting “Do as you would be done by” into action. If that happened, and if we others were really ready to take it, then we should find the Christian solution for our own social problems pretty quickly. But, of course, when they ask for a lead from the Church most people mean they want the clergy to put out a political program. That is silly. The clergy are those particular people within the whole Church who have been specially trained and set aside to look after what concerns us as creatures who are going to live forever: and we are asking them to do a quite different job for which they have not been trained. The job is really on us, on the laymen. The application of Christian principles, say, to trade unionism and education, must come from Christian trade unionists and Christian schoolmasters; just as Christian literature comes from Christian novelists and dramatists–not from the bench of bishops getting together and trying to write plays and novels in their spare time.” (Mere Christianity — embolding mine)

    The first goal is to create a work of art, not to propagandize. One’s own beliefs will naturally show through, and if that is instructive or persuasive, so much the better. What we see as superior “propaganda” films of the past are those which were first good art — good idea, good script, good execution; the lesson flowed from the story rather than imposing the story.

    It is further interesting in this light that “Narnia” and Lewis come under the same criticism again. Those who can only propagandize can not conceive of another artist doing anything but. Like the tones of Mandarin which a Westerner cannot hear, or the distinctions in logic a stupid person cannot perceive, they deny the existence of what they cannot fathom.

  19. gatorbait Says:

    Bob Hawkins said this:

    “Do you remember this? Just after the first Gulf War, there was talk about a movie based on the battle of El Khafji. The story was made for the movies: a small Marine recon team, led by a corporal, stops an Iraqi invasion. Clint Eastwood, Tom Clancy and John Milius were on board.”

    Bob, youcan’t have that movie because it shows the Marines as what the truly are, hard young men, doing the work of defending our asses . No drugs, no rape, none of the aberations that the leftists so dearly love. Why were the only Desert Storm movies shown saw Soldiers as thieves or as f*** ups? Where is the movie about the Marines and the Soldiers who took Fallujah back from murdering bastards who had torture rooms in Mosques? Guess we have to wait for Brokeback Fallujah.( A point, one of the five family members I have seen of to Iraq was a very young Marine rifleman who helped retake Fallujah, so it’s personal. )

    I understand Bruce Willis is tryingto bring Deuce-Four to the big screen, I hope he does, they have a story of undaunted courage and decency to tell.Would this be propaganda? Yeah, the best kind, the truth.

  20. Bezuhov Says:

    “Now, the only barrier in Hollywood seems to be to avoid promoting America at all costs.”

    If only one of those costs wasn’t truth. I mean, what is up with Syriana? Do they think no one will read the book upon which it is “based”, by which they evidently mean “entirely inverted”?

    The sheer mental gymnastics involved are redolent of the most tortured of southern slavery apologists.

  21. The Bunnies Says:

    To address Neo’s confusion as to when Hollywood started to change, my vote is for ’61-’64. That’s when the barriers really started to break down so that they could avalanche later in the decade.

    During the Kennedy administration, Dr. Strangelove and Fail Safe overtly questioned the Cold War,and Seconds ripped apart “boring” middle-American values, Some Like It Hot played around with gener roles.

    Although I’m conservative, I find that era of film really intriguing as the rules of the 50′s began to break down. The Hustler, Whatever Happened to Baby Jane, and Lawrence of Arabia all pushed traditional barriers and explored “the dark side,” but there were still barriers. The Apartment was almost entirely about sex but your kid could watch it with you and have no idea whatsoever. (I find that movie brilliant but incredibly dark, but it’s officially considered a comedy.)

    Before that, there were the occasional barrier pushers like Susnet Boulevard, All About Eve, A Place in the Sun, and A Touch of Evil, Bridge on the River Kwai, and afterwards came Patton. Still, in my humble view, The Wild Bunch, Easy Rider, and Bonnie and Clyde stem straight from that era.

    Now, the only barrier in Hollywood seems to be to avoid promoting America at all costs.

  22. BeckyJ Says:

    I used to go see all the movies that one was “supposed” to see. Now (well, in the last 5+ years or so) I only see those movies that are going to leave me in a good mood. In 2005 I saw Harry Potter, Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, & Serenity. That’s it, no more. Good guys vs. bad guys, good kids vs. bad wizards, and just plain goofy. Now that Narnia is back, I’ll go see that.

    I don’t go to movies to be educated or to rethink my moral & ethical compass or to redirect my life. I want to be entertained by a good story and have a few laughs.

  23. rickl Says:

    Anonymous at 9:55 was me. I don’t know why that happened.

  24. Anonymous Says:

    I did, and I really don’t have anything to add.

    Except to promethea:

    As for rich people’s “concerns” about the “working class”, check out a book called “Guilt, Blame, and Politics” by Allen Levite. I think it is out of print now, but I read it in the mid-90′s and it really made an impression on me. Basically he shows that leftist revolutionaries have always come from the upper class or upper-middle class, not just in America, but worldwide.

    Although the book is concerned with leftists, Marxists, communists, etc., after 9/11 I was immediately struck by the fact that bin Laden and Atta fit the profile to a “T”.

  25. rickl Says:

    I just read your first paragraph, but it seems to me that much of the problem in recent years is that Hollywood keeps making inferior remakes of classic movies. It’s like they don’t have any original ideas anymore.

    OK, now I’ll go back and read the rest of your post. :)

  26. Bob Hawkins Says:

    What bothers me is the movies they won’t make. Make all the PC garbage you want, just give me a choice.

    Do you remember this? Just after the first Gulf War, there was talk about a movie based on the battle of El Khafji. The story was made for the movies: a small Marine recon team, led by a corporal, stops an Iraqi invasion. Clint Eastwood, Tom Clancy and John Milius were on board.

    Why can’t I see that movie?

  27. ElMondoHummus Says:

    … and dammit, I hit the wrong key and published before I was done!

    Anyhoo: People in the past seemed much more reluctant to assign any more social relevance to a film other than say it was nothing more than entertainment. Nowadays, it seems like it’s the highest compliment to say a film is more than that. What about folks in the past made them so reluctant to come out and say they were being activist with their films? Studio pressure? Public perceptions? The relative new-ness of film as an entertainment medium, thus relegating it to a lesser importance than other means of communication (note that the same holds true for the internet today; how many people hold web-released films or writing on pages, blogs, etc. to be as “important” as paper, radio, TV, film, etc.)? Was “social relevance” a heretical thought back then? And why is it put forth as one of the highest aspirations nowadays? Is entertainment not a lofty enough goal?

    Note: Personally, I’m torn. I’m as reluctant to view a preachy film as anyone else, but I’m still moved by movies like “The Killing Fields”; that was quite a formative film for me. I’m not saying that I think “important” i.e. socially challenging or activist films are full of s***; I actually believe they have their place. Likewise, I’m not saying that entertainment is too base a goal, nor do I believe that it should be the only goal to the exclusion of all else (although an unentertaining film is certainly painful to experience!). I’m just marveling at the evolution from “This movie is only entertainment, bud, don’t read too much into it” to “This film is a life-changing experience!”. It’s certainly an interesting thing to ponder.

  28. ElMondoHummus Says:

    “…some moviemakers …consider themselves to be social change agents…”

    You know, I was about to rhetorically ask “Wasn’t that always so?”, and use Charlie Chaplin’s Modern Times as an example. It’s pretty much a poke at “progress” and what many at the time viewed as the resulting dehumanization. It may not have been a very strident protest of what was then modern society (although it’s understandable that it was a protest; just not an angry, militant one), but it can be viewed as a movie that strides for social change by fictionalizing what they thought the state of society would be in a few years. In short, I was about to use that film to point out my thesis that filmmakers with the quoted opinion always existed.

    But…

    The odd thing is Chaplin’s own statement on his movies say the exact opposite:

    “”There are those who always attach social significance to my work. It has none. I leave such subjects to the lecture platform. To entertain is my first consideration.”

    And thus, a tangent (Sorry everyone!): We’ll all note that, in the past, there were movies that every bit met the “motivate society to change” mold, yet it seems that only since the 70′s have people admitted that they have a “higher goal” than simply entertaining.

  29. Bezuhov Says:

    Well, there are not as many as I’d like, but there are some films that subvert, sometimes gently, sometimes not, the current conventional wisdom – The Family Stone, The Incredibles, Huckabees, and Emily Rose come to mind.

    Films like Good Night, Syriana, Brokeback and and Munich are today’s equivalent of the rah, rah movies of the past; this is the new mainstream consensus of a big chunk of our educated classes, like it or not, especially those with the capital to make movies.

    Where they will struggle, I’m afraid, is in their didactic purpose. The first allegiance of the effective didact must always be to truth or the students lose interest, and rightly so. It is a bit disorienting to see such a blatant disregard for truth, but there it is.

  30. Anonymous Says:

    I recomend I Heart Huckabeeys and Grizzly Man. I Heart Huckabeeys is one of the most entertaining movies I have seen in years and Grizzly Man is one of the strangest. GM is film from a guy who is either mentaly ill or really stupid making a documentry of himself living with grizzly bears in Alaska over the course of a few years. He actually walks up and touches grizzly bears. They don’t show the footage of him being eaten by a bear, just the crazy stuff leading up to it.

    -Mike

  31. colagirl Says:

    The best stuff from Hollywood, pre 9/11, was Babylon 5. Honest to God, from the heart.Then there was Farscape and Serenity, which were all non-mass media types of entertainment.

    Hear, hear, Ymarskar. You can’t take the sky from me….Faith manages.

  32. the unknown Blogger Says:

    Wait, I’m confused – did the makers of “Syriana” also make “Capote”?

    Remember that Capote himself was accused of “bending the truth to his purposes” as well, especially in “In Cold Blood.”

    I love Truman Capote and “In Cold Blood” but I hate most movies and truly DESPISE biopics, so I haven’t seen this one.

    But still, you might want to check what the filmakers themselves have to say about this before your write lest you sound a bit like you are bending their purposes to your truth.

  33. erasmus Says:

    As Goldwyn is said to have said: “You want to send a message, go to Western Union.” (No more, alas.)
    But two points, hardly new:
    1. Movies in past 20 or so years in shadow of TV and youth fetish. “Wrters” in Hollywood no more Wm. Faulkner and drinking pals, who knew literature and stories, but TV grads from sit coms. Result: little plot, less dialogue, even less character developmnent. (With the usual exceptions.) The result: special effects and more special effects.
    Full of sound and fury, signifying nothing, to borrow a phrase.
    2. No more Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn, but Jennifer Aniston mugging for the (TV) cameras for a laugh line. Dumb and dumber.
    3. It’s OK to have political stances in movies, if integrated with the stories and characters, from both sides of the political fence. Art is meant to be “subversive” (in a thought-provoking and self-examination inducing) sort of way.
    Now, why is Hollywood dominated by liberals? Same reason(s) –or similar ones–the academy is. That discussion was already held, I recall, on this blog.
    At least the old movies (1930s to 1970s) are available.
    Story a young woman, lawyer for film studion told me: She worked in office on studio lot where the retired Billy Wilder still had a bungalow as an office. One day she saw him on the street and told him how much she admired his movies. He grinned and said: “Yeah, babe, they don’t make like that anymore, do they?”
    Yeah.

  34. SB Says:

    It might be worth repeating the statement attributed to Trey Parker, co-creator of “South Park:”

    “People in the entertainment industry are by and large whore-chasing drug-addict f***ups. But they still believe they’re better than the guy in Wyoming who really loves his wife and takes care of his kids and is a good, outstanding, wholesome person. Hollywood views regular people as children, and they think they’re the smart ones who need to tell the idiots out there how to be.”

    Don’t know whether T.P. actually said that, but he should have.

    Actors and those who parasitize them are, for the most part, raging narcissists. Even the “normal” ones. That’s not SC&A and Dr. Sanity theorizing now – it’s experience talking. They thrive on approval, but disapproval will do in a pinch because then they get to be martyrs. A negative review that stresses their political leanings can be just as satisfying a source of narcissistic supply as the wildest standing ovation. Alas, another noble victim of those horrible(Republican) philistines!

    The only effective way to express your disapproval of their antics is to ignore them. That means not watching them on the tube and not watching them in the theater and staying hell off Broadway. Also not writing long, hostile essays about them…which I admit is difficult to resist.

  35. gcotharn Says:

    What stumps me is that Hollywood is running away from the money to be made in post 9/11 hero stories – Flight 93 being the prime example. Harrison Ford starred in “Air Force One”, and it was a money maker. Why isn’t Hollywood falling all over itself to film “Flight 93″? I guarantee you I will go watch it, and will sit in the theater with tears rolling down my cheeks.

    The 2004 movie “Ladder 49″, with John Travolta, echoed the heroism of 9/11 firefighters without being about 9/11. ?! How much more powerful if the movie had been specifically ABOUT 9/11! Would not the women and gay men of this nation flock to see a sweat-soaked Ben Affleck climbing WTC stairs carrying hoses?(yes, deliberately and gleefully plural!) They would. Hollywood walked away from money. Unbelievable to me – yet there it is.

    Finally, the denizens of the WTC towers were themselves heroes. By making orderly, unpanicked exits from the towers, they saved thousands(or tens of thousands) of lives, and denied Osama a larger propaganda victory. As did the archetects who designed the building, and the construction workers who built it, and the city inspectors who inspected it. They all had a hand in fighting back against Osama. There’s an epic story there to be told. There is box-office money waiting to be harvested. And waiting. And waiting. Like the refugees in Casablanca.

  36. hgwells Says:

    One odd thing I’ve noticed in my viewing is that even though I’ve made the 9-11 neocon journey, I still enjoy leftist sorts of movies and TV like MASH, Apocalypse Now, Bob Roberts, The West Wing and even JFK. I do wince in spots, but if it has got a good script and decent acting, I can still appreciate it. Likewise a lot of the old movement music like Joan Baez and Phil Ochs.

    Somehow I don’t think has happens much in the reverse direction.

  37. TalkinKamel Says:

    Promethea, the rich love to talk about the “working class”, and feel sorry for them and condescend to them and make up little favors they can bestow on them, such as hideous, tax-payer funded art; it makes them feel so very good about themselves.

    (Doesn’t do a thing for the “working class”—who, by the way, really do prefer to think of themselves as “John” or “Mary” or “George”, and not as cogs in some vast Marxist economic system.)

    Historical movies, especially the ones produced recently, really are dreadful, and, of course, so inaccurate they’re laughable. “Kingdom of Heaven” is the one that springs immediately to mind, but there have been many, many others. . .

  38. Ymarsakar Says:

    The best stuff from Hollywood, pre 9/11, was Babylon 5. Honest to God, from the heart.

    It’s got everything a post-9/11 afficiondo needs.

    Then there was Farscape and Serenity, which were all non-mass media types of entertainment.

    These “TV shows” or “made for cable” shows like Battlestar galactica, are like the novelty movies made on a budget back in your days Neo. The production costs and marketing for movies today, must be fracking gigantic.

    If you aren’t part of the “elite” Hollywood pack, you don’t get any publicity at all.

    And nobody will go to see your movie, and it will go drop dead.

    Things like Babylon 5 and Farscape and Serenity, people knew about these things because of word of mouth. You don’t see Hollywood actors and actresses talking about these shows being “social engineering” things, but they are in fact more honest and effective at that than than the purported “social” vehicles.

    A story about war, love, loss, vengeance, and inter-species politics like Babylon 5, is a greater commentary on social conditions and human nature than anything Speilberg can cook up in his “Munich” with 5 billion dollars. 50 billion, 500 billion, it wouldn’t matter. creativity doesn’t answer the call of the moola, but of the individual.

    And Hollywood has Zero creativity.

    Do you remember that WWII propaganda film Wake Island? That was a Rah Rah film that said the Marines at Wake fought valiantly and to the death. Half of it was the truth, the other half might have been the truth, had the Marine officers not surrendered their soldiers to the Japanese. They were winning you see, but the officers thought they were losing, and so surrendered, even though the Marines thought they were going to fight to the death and were prepared for that.

    Wake Island would have been true had luck played differently, and when the Marines returned from the Bataan Death March, everyone was surprised that anyone had made it. This covered up the fact that Roosevelt’s politically appointed naval officer wouldn’t risk any ships and called OFF the rescue attempt on Wake Island. Wow, imagine that, a Politically Appointed Bush Admiral, calling off a rescue attempt that got American Marines tortured and imprisoned as POWs….

    People could get away with things like that 50 years ago, but that is the point. Right now, people don’t do those things because they KNOW they will be found out. Yet the Hollywooders keep looking and fabricating stuff when they can’t find crusades to fight.

    But the crusades was already fought and won, technology has made information retrieval easier and the media obsolete.

    Hollywood’s propaganda is pretty ugly. There is no elegance to it. It isn’t based upon the truth, not even remotely. It’s like a bunch of butchers trying to be surgeons, they just start cutting things off and putting things in that don’t make sense.

    Social engineering doesn’t work, if there is nothing to be engineered. This might be annoying, but for the fact that when Hollywood cannot socially engineer a solution, they will create problems so that they can solve them. Hollywood is creating the class problems and social rages in the black and white community, cause they need it to exist for their propaganda. Hollywood is the upper case, period. And they are the people I think should be stripped of their money that they have leeched off of America, not the “businesses” Hollywood wants me to attack. “This tax cut is just another game of black jack for me” indeed. Why they think their guilt means hard working businessmen and corporations must be taxed, is interesting. A Hollywood tax… hrm.. I wonder how popular that would be, if limited to actors and actresses making gigazillions, we might as well also include basketball and football sports stars.

    It is an extremely inefficient manner to craft propaganda, using mostly lies, aside from the ethical considerations.

    The rah rah films didn’t have to fabricate US will and determination, it was already there. It just had to be emphasized.

    In terms of morality, I tend to consider propaganda that is based upon 90% Truth to be a lot more honest than propaganda based upon 10% of the truth, regardless of its source. This, while independent from the ethical consequences, is solely an analysis of the honesty of the propaganda project in sitto.

    The idea that propaganda can be honest, instead of only lies, probably stretches the borders of imagination I would imagine.

  39. Promethea Says:

    “class issues” should also have scare quotes around it. Who actually uses this term and the term “working class” in real life? Not I.

    The man or woman who empties the wastebasket at night is called the “janitor” or the “cleaning staff,” not the “working class.”

  40. Promethea Says:

    Isn’t it funny how rich people keep talking about class issues and the “working class.” I doubt that my plumber, carpenter, electrician, or the local bus drivers and park employees use these terms.

    Too much education in Marxist blabber?

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About Me

Previously a lifelong Democrat, born in New York and living in New England, surrounded by liberals on all sides, I've found myself slowly but surely leaving the fold and becoming that dread thing: a neocon.
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