Friday, March 03, 2006

Oh Dear God

My previous post on the cultural Stalinism of much of the contemporary right ("Comrade Clooney's film represents decadent bourgeois Hollywood and is counterrevolutionary!") should have been the end of it, but then I found National Review Online's Symposium on the Oscars, where various contributors -- most of whom have not seen all or indeed any of the movies nominated -- are invited to pontificate about the evils of liberal gay commie Hollywood and the "annoying" George Clooney, who has apparently replaced Barbra Streisand as public enemy # 1.

It's all here: reviewing movies you haven't seen; dismissing movies because they have coded "liberal" messages; sheltered hack journalists telling Hollywood producers what the heartland likes to see; the inability to understand the concept that a movie may be about more than one thing (Good Night and Good Luck isn't "about McCarthyism," you dolts; it's about journalism, and it's also a movie that uses the past to comment on the present, which is a tradition going back thousands of years); misunderstanding of the basic capitalistic concept of profit and loss, leading them to dismiss the nominated movies as failures when they're actually low-budget movies that made sizeable profits; obsession with the existence of gay people and scorn toward Hollywood for acknowledging the existence of said gay people; persecution complex; barely suppressed jealousy of people who are richer, smarter and happier than they are (see Clooney, above). On the evidence of this symposium, I believe not only that not a single National Review contributor knows anything about movies, but that none of them know exactly what a movie is.

Among the more dispiriting quotes, which I'll leave unattributed because why embarrass these people further:

"I didn't see [Brokeback Mountain] but the reviews are tediously unanimous: It is a slow-paced, nuanced, and skillfully crafted piece of art that uniquely captures the sweeping majesty of the Rocky Mountains. Oh yeah, and two married sheepherders do it in a tent. I never understood the lure of IMAX — until Brokeback Mountain! Problem is that infidelity is infidelity and if I can't sit through the awkwardness of Diane Lane sneaking around on Richard Gere (Unfaithful), I know I'm going to have trouble stomaching Jake Gyllenhaal cheating on Anne Hathaway with a dude."

"I think we were all amazed by The 40 Year Old Virgin. I mean, who knew there were any virgins left in Hollywood? "

"Best Picture prediction? It doesn't matter, nobody's going to be watching. The average box office for the Best Picture nominees is the lowest since 1984. And Jon Stewart's The Daily Show has half the ratings of Conan O'Brien. So we have an Oscar broadcast celebrating movies nobody saw, hosted by a TV host nobody watches. My prediction: The lowest ratings in 20 years."

"In an ideal world either Cinderella Man or The Great Raid would win. They are both films with values straight out of the Golden Age of Hollywood. They exemplify those virtues of courage and character. Dare I say it? They are both examples of those kinds of films that made old Hollywood great."
[ME: Someone should take this person to a Pre-Code Hollywood film festival and watch her run screaming out of the theatre. Even Old Hollywood hates America!]

"Brokeback Mountain wins for Best Picture — a no brainer. Many of the Academy members ... average age 406 ... probably were mildly homophobic in their youth. Now they get to feel proud of themselves for voting for a gay love story."

[And in case you think AIDS jokes are the height of transgressive humour:]

"Not only is the heartland not as hot for Brokeback as Frank Rich says but neither is Hollywood. I don't believe they're in the mood for a gay Best Picture (Philadelphia won as a disease-of-the-week movie - My Left Foot with stick-on lesions)."

Yes, I know, I should leave this stuff to Roy, but this is depressing. This is a publication that is read by people in government; it can get the head of the National Endowment For the Arts to contribute to their insane little symposium (though he sensibly ducks all politicized questions). And the qualifications for being a contributor to its "culture" features apparently include being a Stalinist lunatic. You may think I've gotten too rant-y, but these are times that call for a rant: whereas twenty years ago a writer for a conservative magazine was expected to know something about... well... anything, now all you have to do is show your Party membership card. Depressing times, depressing times.

I would also add that if I only liked movies whose politics or cultural messages I agreed with, I'd have to condemn to hell all kinds of good movies, from Gone With the Wind to Howard Hawks's explicitly anti-science The Thing to all kinds of movies that conveyed the message that a woman's place is in the home. "Golden Age" Hollywood, just like current Hollywood, made movies with Commie messages and Fascist messages and sometimes both at the same time (see the average Frank Capra movie). They are, however, movies. Doesn't anybody on the contemporary right have any interest in movies anymore? Anybody?

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