Monday, March 13, 2006

Does Hollywood hate you?

Jeezy-creezy, it's all-Clooney, all the time out there, folks.

Peggy Noonan tries to take him down a peg or two in this piece for the WSJ.

My theory? The conservative press is pissed that they can't write about how Brokeback Mountain winning Best Picture shows how out of touch H-wood is with "real America," so they have to pick on Clooney instead.

Noonan leads into her Clooney-fueled rightie rage with the standard fare about leftie pinko Hollywood:

But there's another challenge, an obvious one, and in the long term a bigger one. You don't have to be a genius to figure out that viewership of the Oscars is down because movie attendance itself is down, and that movie attendance is down because Hollywood isn't making the kind of movies that compel people to leave their homes and go to the multiplex.

Viewship is down because the Oscars just aren't that special anymore, Pegster. Even you have acknowledged this possibility, so why not leave it at that and stay out of crazy theoryland?

There's too many award shows, and celebrities now have whole cable channels devoted to where they shop for underwear, so you need hardly need to hand over 4 hours of your life so you can see them outside of the movie theatre anymore.

And if anyone's asking, here's why I don't go to the movies anymore: Netflix.

There are those who think Hollywood hates America, and they have reason to think it. Hollywood does, as host Jon Stewart suggested, seem detached from the country it seeks to entertain. It is politically and culturally to the left of America, and it often seems disdainful of or oblivious to its assumptions and traditions.

Let's see, an isolated industry packed full of pampered millionaires used to having their own way is out of touch with America? That's fucking brilliant, Peggy. You should have your editor remind you to use that bit again the next time you write about your friends WHO WORK ON WALL STREET. Just take out the part where it says "left" of America, and put "right" instead.

Oh, and, you're welcome.

And when, exactly, is Hollywood "disdainful of or oblivious to [America's] assumptions and traditions"? My feeling is that they do exactly the opposite, but in any case, that's a helluva thing to throw out there without feeling obligated to provide even one wafer-thin mint of an example.

I don't think it is true that studio executives and producers hate America. They are too confused, ambivalent and personally anxious to sit around hating their audience. I think they wish they understood America. I think they feel nostalgic for what they remember of it. I think they find it hard to find America, in a way.

Wow, just like in the old Simon & Garfunkle song, movie producers are in search of America.

Well, join the fucking club, then, because I'm finding it pretty hard to understand this fucked-up place as well.

Luckily, we have Peggy Noonan to provide us with hard-hitting data-based analysis.
I also think that it's not true that they're motivated only by money. Would that they were! They'd be more market-oriented if they cared only about money. What they care about a great deal is status, and in their community status is bestowed by the cultural left. This is an old story. But it seems only to get worse, not better.
Peggy, who later starts blathering on about Orson Welles, seems to be quoting him above. In Citizen Kane, Mr. Bernstein says that's "It's no great trick to make a lot of money if all you want to do is make a lot of money." Welles himself said in numerous interviews that he never felt like Hollywood producers were as interested in how much a picture makes, as much as the power of being able to say that they made a particular picture that did well, commercially as well as critically, of course.

I think the true answer is that Hollywood is nothing BUT market-oriented. It's just that when it comes to the movies, the market can be a little tricky to pin down. If you don't believe me, you might want to give The Dukes of Hazard a look-see. If that's not a product of market analysis gone to its logical and nauseous-making extreme, whooo boy!

So yes, they want to make the mindless blockbuster that makes them a gazillion dollars and launches tie-in products in every corner of every market. And yes, they want to make Brokeback Mountain. Both things are true. They want critical success AND money, yes.

So are movie critics, the ones that essentially determine critical success, the "cultural left" that Noonan is referring to, then? If not, who exactly are these people bestowing "community status," and where can I go to get some?

If a lot of the American audience, certainly the red-state audience, assumes Hollywood hates them, they won't go as often to the movies as they used to. If you thought Wal-Mart hated you, would you shop there?

Who are these people, who thinks that Hollywood "hates" them? I've gone to, like, 3 movies in the past year, and I don't think Hollywood hates me. I don't think they think I'm a very profitable demographic is all.

Maybe those people should see someone about their anger issues. Sounds like transference to me.

Which gets us to George Clooney, and his work. George Clooney is Hollywood now. He is charming and beautiful and cool, but he is not Orson Welles. I know that's like saying of an artist that he's no Rembrandt, but bear with me because I have a point that I think is worth making.

Orson Welles was an artist. George Clooney is a fellow who read an article and now wants to tell us the truth, if we can handle it.

More important, Orson Welles had a canny respect for the audience while maintaining a difficult relationship with studio executives, whom he approached as if they were his intellectual and artistic inferiors. George Clooney has a canny respect for the Hollywood establishment, for its executives and agents, and treats his audience as if it were composed of his intellectual and artistic inferiors. (He is not alone in this. He is only this year's example.)

Ah, Ms. Noonan, you bring up Orson Welles. You want us all to think you are the fan of Orson Welles. Well, Ms. Noonan, I know the movies of Orson Welles, and I've read the biographies, and I've listened to about a hundred hours of interviews of him.

And Peggy, you are no fan of Orson Welles.

Orson Welles wanted, above all, to give the audience a show. When he staged all those USO shows for the troops, he didn't read Shakespeare to them. He performed magic. He pulled a rabbit out of a hat. He made the pretty girl disappear. And then when he made her come back, he asked the pretty girl to sing the song. That's what he thought his audience wanted, and that's the only thing he ever wanted to give the audience: what he thought they wanted. And like most showmen and filmmakers, he was good at giving some people what they wanted, and not so good at giving others what they wanted.

And it was people like you, Peggy, the right-wing conservative hand-wringers and finger-waggers, that derided his work, movies like The Magnificent Ambersons, as "out of touch with America," as indeed it was. It was horribly out of touch with what America wanted to see at the movies. People laughed at the serious parts. They booed. They walked out.

So what I want to know is, when, exactly, does a "out of touch with America" become "a canny respect for his audience"?

Gentle, and not-so-gentle readers, you can go and check out the rest of her rant if you like. Please do. But I submit to you that a filmmaker who thought the audience was inferior to him would not have made Confessions of a Dangerous Mind.

So what are we talking about here? What is Peggy going on about?

You know what? I'm not sure. But I'm sure I've heard it before.

There are a hundred million American lives happening right now that do not fit into Peggy's idea of what an American life is, and every time one of them is expressed in a movie about homosexuals, or in a tv show about a minister who smokes pot, or even in a crucifix submerged in a jar of piss, people like her start screaming that those in the arts are OUT OF TOUCH.

Yes, Peggy, it is an old story, but unfortunately I think it's one you haven't figured out yet.

4 comments:

GETkristiLOVE said...

Um, yea - Peggy's article is crap. The viewership of the Olympics are not down if you add the summer and winter numbers together. The numbers are up, mostly because dividing the Olympics into summer and winter actually increased the numbers on the whole because they can televise more events.

And George Clooney is hot AND a liberal. There I said it.

Spooney said...

My theory? The conservative press is pissed that they can't write about how Brokeback Mountain winning Best Picture shows how out of touch H-wood is with "real America," so they have to pick on Clooney instead.

I couldn't agree with you more on this. So what "real America" wants is over-blown, feel-good crap like Forest Gump & Titanic? I guess I'm not a "real american" then If I don't prefer these pasteurized, happy-ending shit movies.

Jess said...

Hollywood loves me. It told me so the other night. 'Course, it hasn't called me since, I'm I'm sure it's just really really busy and I'll hear from it any minute now.

vikkitikkitavi said...

That's funny, 'cause Hollywood told me that you were, well, kinda needy, and that you guys were on a break.

Then Hollywood totally started texting Jessica Alba.