Saturday, September 4, 2010

Royalty's Ass

In which the subjective value of opinions is proportional to ass origin.

I find film comment funny.  From experts on "down," it's so often confusion and folly.  Consider, for example, this proud declaration:  "I don't care about widescreen."   It was intoned as if a prod, trying to find out what team I was on.  Unfortunately for questioner, I'm on the team that wants to see original prints. 

Now, I'm not saying that cutting up a film willy-nilly amounts to a rectangular peg in a square hole, but . . . doesn't it?

It's a form of Dada, in a way, introducing a random change in a film after the artist is "done" with it.  Obviously it's not totally random, being a uniform squaring, but it is arbitrary.  And when the movie gets to TV, a cheap Pop Art ensues, a massacre by commercials, logos, and pop-up ads.  Is there absolutely no respect for the viewer, artists and crew?

And at this point, how far from the original film are we?  This object, slaved over by dozens if not hundreds of people, has been cropped, had random short films cut into it, and new elements have been placed in the frame.  On most channels, a logo stays on screen, like a tacky and undeserved signature.  Some go translucent . . . Newsflash:  I can still see it, so therefore I'm still struggling to avoid that part of the screen.  Who believes the lower right optional?  Why isn't it optional during commercials?

Often ads leap out at you, which is to say deliberately divert your attention from what you are watching.  Is the attitude of television viewers, overwhelmingly, not only  "I don't care about widescreen" but also "I really don't care what's on the screen as long as it's on?"   And I have to ask, if none of this stuff bothers you, if you can watch a film in it's original aspect and a Frankensteined TV version with equal pleasure, or a TV show shredded to ribbons by advertising -- how?  Would it be the same for you if you closed your eyes?

Another side of "I don't care about widescreen" is misplaced pride, about which I wonder:  even if one really doesn't care, where is the virtue?  I envy being so easily amused, but I don't see the moral victory. 

And so it goes, right "up" to the professionals, where an embarassing richness of silly statements and strange "victories"  make it difficult to pick a representative example.  But the fact that this more-or-less randomly chosen review excerpt is so telling is, itself, indicative:  

"Annie Hall contains more intellectual wit and cultural references than any other movie ever to win the Oscar for best picture . . ."

Did the reviewer count the cultural references in every best picture winner?   Is there an intellectual wit meter? 

". . .  and in winning the award in 1977 it edged out "Star Wars," an outcome unthinkable today.

Besides being a tautology, the clumsy implications -- that today a smart film could never beat a blockbuster, and thus that a blockbuster could never be smart -- are not "unthinkable" if one peruses the winners and nominees beginning with, say, 2001.

"The victory marked the beginning of Woody Allen's career as an important filmmaker (his earlier work was funny but slight) . . ."

So, an "important film" is the opposite of slight?   And, who does this guy think he is, dismissing seven films (and thus everyone who worked on them) with a single word?!

". . . and it signaled the end of the 1970s golden age of American movies.  With "Star Wars," the age of the blockbuster was upon us, and movies this quirky and idiosyncratic would find themselves shouldered aside by Hollywood's greed for mega-hits."

Again, the "best picture" winners and nominees tell a different story.  Plus, I see no preponderance of quirk and idiosyncrasy before Annie Hall, and the list includes blockbusters relative to their time.  Is 1977 a turning point by "virtue" of anything more than nostalgia?

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