Please Take The Scary Pictures Away, Daddy!
In his terrific National Review cover essay on the poor current state of Hollywood, released just before last month's Oscar Awards, Mark Steyn wrote that "Hollywood prefers to make 'controversial' films about controversies that are settled, rousing itself to fight battles long won":
Go back to USA Today’s approving list of Hollywood’s willingness to “broach the tough issues”: “Brokeback and Capote for their portrayal of gay characters; Crash for its examination of racial tension . . .” That might have been “bold” “courageous” movie-making half-a-century ago. Ever seen the Dirk Bogarde film Victim? He plays a respectable married barrister whose latest case threatens to expose his homosexuality. That was 1961, when homosexuality was illegal in the United Kingdom and Bogarde was the British movie industry’s matinee idol and every schoolgirl’s pinup: That’s brave. Doing it at a time when your typical conservative politician gets denounced as “homophobic” because he’s only in favor of civil unions is just an exercise in moral self-congratulation. And, unlike the media, most of the American people are savvy enough to conclude that by definition that doesn’t require their participation.What happens when Hollywood makes a movie that's actually about a controversy from this decade? It offends delicate Blue State sensibilities!
(And they are delicate: these are the same audiences that caught the vapors when Mel Gibson armed his sons in The Patriot and predicted that his Passion of the Christ would launch a new pogrom. Does Mel have a hand in United 93?)
If movie trailers are supposed to cause a reaction, the preview for "United 93" more than succeeds. Featuring no voice-over and no famous actors, it begins with images of a beautiful morning and passengers boarding an airplane. It takes you a minute to realize what the movie's even about. That's when a plane hits the World Trade Center. The effect is visceral. When the trailer played before "Inside Man" last week at the famed Grauman's Chinese Theatre in Hollywood, audience members began calling out, "Too soon!" In New York City, where 9/11 remains an open wound, the response was even more dramatic. The AMC Loews theater on Manhattan's Upper West Side took the rare step of pulling the trailer from its screens after several complaints. "One lady was crying," says one of the theater's managers, Kevin Adjodha. "She was saying we shouldn't have [played the trailer]. That this was wrong ... I don't think people are ready for this."When a Salt Lake City movie theater pulled Brokeback Mountain in early January, AP was happy to give the last word to the spokesman of a Utah-based gay rights advocacy group:
Mike Thompson, executive director of the gay rights advocacy group Equality Utah, called it disappointing.But confronted with a story that really is "ripped from the headlines", as TV's Law & Order would say, the message becomes, "I don't think people are ready for this".
But isn't giving American audiences stories before they're ready for them a big part of what Hollywood has been all about, since, oh, about 1968? As George Clooney babbled at the Oscars:
"I would say that, you know, we are a little bit out of touch in Hollywood every once in a while. I think it's probably a good thing. We're the ones who talk about AIDS when it was just being whispered, and we talked about civil rights when it wasn't really popular. And we, you know, we bring up subjects.Well, they, you know, brought up this subject. Only to watch Blue State audiences actually live out--nearly verbatim!--something that James Lileks noted a year ago, when Hollywood was still afraid to touch a story that was already four years old at that point:
This isn't to suggest that the cineplexes should be stuffed with two-fisted jingoist anti-Muslim hatefests instead of sensitive necessary comedies about slackers who tour the wine country. But this disinclination to face hard facts is mystifying.Bruce of Gay Patriot writes that "This movie is in fact long overdue":
Again my friends, offending the liberal sensibilities and ostrich mentality is also long overdue. The Democrat Party and their collaborators at the TV network news divisions have tried to bleach from our memories those horrific images of 9/11/2001. I thank God that director Paul Greengrass and Universal Pictures have the guts to show some of our American heroes during the hours of our nation’s darkest day.Surely, George Clooney agrees.
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Ed Driscoll says the L.A. Times spiked a column suggesting that the paper join up with older artists to give away free music. And he's got the goods.--Howard Kurtz, the Washington Post, July 26, 2007
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