Day By Day

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Peggy Noonan Shoots..., She Scores

Actually she's merely reiterating a critique that I've been hearing for thirty years now, but she does it so damn well that I can't resist quoting her.

Regarding George Clooney's Oscar speech in which he praised Hollywood for being "out of touch," she writes:

The Clooney generation in Hollywood is not writing and directing movies about life as if they've experienced it, with all its mysteries and complexity and variety. In an odd way they haven't experienced life; they've experienced media. Their films seem more an elaboration and meditation on media than an elaboration and meditation on life. This is how he could take such an unnuanced, unsophisticated, unknowing gloss on the 1950s and the McCarthy era. He just absorbed media about it. And that media itself came from certain assumptions and understandings, and myths.

Most Americans aren't leading media, they're leading lives. It would be nice to see a new respect in Hollywood for the lives they live. It would be nice to see them start to understand that rediscovering the work of, say, C.S. Lewis, and making a Narnia film, is not "giving in" to the audience but serving it. It isn't bad to look for and present good material that is known to have a following. It's a smart thing to do. It's why David O. Selznick bought "Gone With the Wind": People were reading it. It was his decision to make it into a movie from which he would profit that gave Hattie McDaniel her great role. Taboos are broken by markets, not poses.
This self-referential narcissism has long been a hallmark of Hollywood. It became overwhelming with the rise of the "film-school generation" of movie-makers and has been institutionalized since. It is why, despite years, actually decades, of studying and teaching film, I find it harder and harder to take time to watch the damn things. With very few exceptions they just aren't worth it any more.

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