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The actress (or is it “actor”?) did not thank the dearly departed for merely entertaining the masses, which is all actors and directors are capable of doing. Oh no. Her deities were, instead, acknowledged for “mentoring us, challenging us, elevating us”; “they made us want to be better, and gave us a greater understanding of the human condition and the human heart,” language that should be reserved for the likes of Ayn Rand and Aristotle.
Where a motion picture has indeed transported anyone—it is because it cleaved to a decent script, usually a good book. “Gone With the Wind,” “Doctor Zhivago,” “Midnight Express,” and “Papillon,” are examples.
Still, Hollywood is quite capable of reducing great literature to schmaltzy jingles, belted out by shrill starlets. This was the fate of “Les Misérables,” last year. Lost in the din were a lot of lessons about “the human condition.” The Victor-Hugo masterpiece I read as a kid was about France’s unfathomably cruel and unjust penal system, and the prototypical obedient functionary who worked a lifetime to enforce the system’s depredations—a lot like the powers that hounded Aaron Swartz, the co-founder of Reddit.com, to death, in 2013, and are intent on doing the same to the heroic Edward Snowden.
The dead were deified, but what of the walking dead?
To the Chinese, who appreciate the value of experience, the greater the ratio in a team of “grey hairs and no-hairs” to “black hairs”—the faster and better a task will be completed. The opposite assumption obtains in the youth-obsessed U.S.
On the old, Hollywood performs professional geronticide.
Aging actors are put out to pasture, retired into buffoonish, badly scripted roles (“Nebraska”). The annual Oscar Awards will see at least one old actor trotted out (in 2011, the “distinction” went to Kirk Douglas) from retirement. From the sympathetic thunder clap received by Harrison Ford, 71, this year, I’d say he’s ready to be retired.
Yes, a silly society is a youth-obsessed society. Duly, a precocious kid actor will typically cameo. This year, viewers were spared the spectacle. Tykes did, however, twerk and twirl with the adults in a Pharrell Williams routine, conjuring the current crop of Walt Disney cartoon characters (“Rio 1”). Once-upon-a-time, our beloved cartoons were cute, innocent and mischievous. Think Disney’s Donald Duck, Warner Brothers’ Bugs-Bunny and Amblimation’s Fievel of “An American Tail” fame.
Alas, like The Kids, the animated characters that festoon film nowadays sound and act as if created by another Victor (Frankenstein), combining pixelated bits of the putrefying Bethenny Frankel, and some “Mob Wives,” “Real Housewives,” and “Dance Moms,” for good measure.
On the topic of body parts. Dance, in general, has also become more atavistic than artistic. Dance moves most energetically engage the rump and the reproductive region, as though choreographed to the rhythm of mating primates.
As for music, here too pimp culture has prevailed. Remember when the Obamas spiritual guide, Rev. Jeremiah Wright, attempted to illustrate how “African” music differed from “European” music? His voice dripping with envy, Wright mocked the cantata in an address before the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. “Black music,” hissed Obama’s holy man, may be different to “white music,” but in no way was it deficient.
Wright needn’t torture himself over the fact that B.B. King is no match for Johann Sebastian Bach. Honky style harmonization—the controlled use of the human voice—that’s all dead, replaced with tribal primal screams, the kind emitted by one Idina Menzel, who ululated her way through a frightful number from “Frozen.”
Camelot culture has long since been usurped by pimp culture, because the latter is as easy as an American Girl Gone Wild on spring break. For her state dinners, Jackie Kennedy sought out the likes of the sublime mezzo-soprano Grace Bumbry and cellist Pablo Casals; the current White House promotes Mary J. Blige and squat-and-thrust Beyoncé.
The annual Academy Awards will invariably showcase some unfunny standup—almost, but not quite, as bad as the tomfoolery of Jimmy Fallon. Forgive another bloated digression, but what does the popularity of this whiteface minstrel show, starring the almost desperate, dancing, prancing, androgynous Fallon, say about America?
I’d venture that Fallon has been groomed to provide bread and circuses for Booboisie. Replacing Jay Leno’s hardly demanding political satire with a vaudeville of giggles, goofiness, mind-numbing banter and God-awful “music” comes with the “responsibility” to propagandize the same population.
And so it was that during Michelle Obama’s appearance on the Tonight Show set, as if on cue, one minute and fifty nine seconds in, dumb dweeb Fallon segues into an Obamacare promotional segment. Fallon’s lead was a signal to Sister Act. FLOTUS launched her own agitprop for her husband’s healthcare juggernaut.
Other than “Prisoners” (thrillers are my thing), there is not one film gushed over at the 86th Academy Awards that I’d watch. I was unable to endure more than 15 minutes of the first, much-ballyhooed “Hunger Games.” Allegories—libertarian, left or right—are cumbersome, inorganic and artificial, all the more so when dreamt-up by Hollywood dumb-asses.
As a kid, I recall trying to divine (while reading subtitles) the agonized themes and symbolism in the work of the Nordic Chekhov, Ingmar Bergman. Like director Quentin Tarantino’s fetish with actress Uma Thurman, Bergman’s muse was the lovely Liv Ullmann. The duo tortured their viewers, but this director’s work was never labored; the plot was not beyond the ken of a curious kid. More in the league of Federico Fellini, Bergman was way too sophisticated to be compared to the creator of “Hunger Games,” whoever he is.
Prequels and sequels, Steve Sailer has settled the score on “Hunger Games”: “Like the Twilight series, Suzanne Collins’s ‘The Hunger Games’ young-adult novels are aimed at 12-year-old female readers. This puts the movies squarely in the intellectual wheelhouse of average Americans, a sizable fraction of whom don’t read much at all.”
Oddly enough, the most marked artistic deterioration in celluloid is due to computer-generated imagery, used in most all genres: action, adventure and event films. When compared to the on-set props of yesteryear’s films, computerized special effects appear cheap and fake.
The computer-generated presentation transports this viewer no further than her local video-game arcade.
The best special effects were achieved in the old disaster-film productions: “Towering Inferno,” “Earthquake,” the “Airport” movies, and the original “Poseidon Adventure”, where a real model ship was recreated. (Just imagine: Poseidon’s original hero, played by Gene Hackman, was a priest who struggled with his faith!)
The authentic experience afforded in these films was owed not to a computer program, but to real props built on set and to the stuntmen who manned them. (And who can forget the on-camera war-paint wizardry of Dick Smith, in “The Exorcist” and “Taxi Driver”?)
Finally, please stand up and be counted if you flocked to see Lupita Nyong perform reruns of “Roots.”
She was a sartorial dream-come-true, in pale blue, but I’m no more inclined to turn to Lupita, in “12 Years A Slave,” for entertainment, than I am to subject myself to Oprah Winfrey and her M.O.P.E. (Most Oppressed Person Ever) “Butler.”
© 2014 by Ilana Mercer
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