Friday, August 17, 2012


RANDOM THOUGHTS

On Love, Death, Smut, Sex, Violence, Exploitation, Exaltation 
And Cheap Sensationalism
In Western Culture and Politics 

~ § ~

Salome holding the head 
of John the Baptist


Bonnie and Clyde brought about a seminal change in American motion pictures. When was it 1967 or 68? I was all grown up and well into my twenties then, but I remember going to see this thing at my home town theater in all innocence ––– not having any idea what to expect. I remember too being genuinely shocked, and hurt at what I saw on the screen. I felt like throwing up –– I was literally stunned. 


What disturbed me most, however, was the reaction of most of the younger members of the audience. They laughed coarsely, hooted, cheered and jeered as each bullet smashed realistically into the skull or body of the many victims of vicious assault from both criminals and law officers alike, while blood looking all too real spurted out of the wounds.


And Oh! how the audience giggled and hooted and guffawed at the scene where the little thug with the cap accompanying Bonnie and Clyde got involved in three-way sex with the couple! The simulated oral copulation the little man performed on Clyde while he and Bonnie were smooching was unforgettable for its sickening ugliness and depravity –– something no decent person should ever have to know about much less witness graphically in a movie theater. And it was entirely gratuitous –– nothing needed to advance the plot –– just cheap sensationalism at its worst.


In a very real sense I've never gotten over that experience. It was one of several things that made me realize I was –– and would ever remain –– deeply  conservative.


Some want to see nothing but capitalist exploitation of a desire people have to see such stuff. Yes, of course, but I think it goes deeper than that.


Civilization has never advanced very far from the days of the Coliseum. There is a hideous capacity for blood lust and a morbid fascination with depravity that lies just beneath the surface in all of us waiting for what-appears-to-be a good excuse or an easy opportunity to let it loose. 


~ § ~



The crafty, ruthless, unprincipled money grubbing merchants of corruption and degradation who took hold of the entertainment industry, and long ago wormed their way into positions of dominance in certain sectors of academia have pandered to this capacity for corruption to make money –– certainly –– but also to undermine and ultimately destroy the culture they hate –– a culture that would have put a halt to their evil machinations had it been sophisticated enough to be aware of the implications of what at first seemed only trivial if a bit tawdry.


Here's a quantum leap for you: It's like the sudden, irrational demand for dark wood cabinets, granite countertops, stainless steel appliances and buff-colored stone or marble surfaces in bathrooms that has taken hold of the real estate and home improvement industry. Do you really think this phenomenon grew out of a natural impulse the majority of people just suddenly felt a spontaneous need to satisfy?


GEDOUDDAHERE! 


Granite countertops have become the new standard not because they're better than Formica –– although in many ways they are ––, but because the real estate and building industries have seen that they can exploit this idea to their great financial advantage. So through outlets like the Home & Garden Channel, they continually brainwash the viewers with the notion that you just aren't anybody and that your house is unsalable, if you don't have granite countertops, hardwood floors, crown moldings and all the rest of it. Every program is blatantly scripted to reinforce this dictum. It's become like a litany or a mantra.


~ § ~


Mass media works ceaselessly to hypnotize the public and manipulate us into accepting then buying all kinds of things we do not really want or need –– and would never dream of owning –– if it weren't for the influence of these moguls who really do control almost everything behind the scenes. The Movies, TV, News and Information and what-now-regrettably-passes for "Education" reign supreme as the tastemakers.


Except for a few determined weird eccentrics like me, who prefer to buck the trends and manfully swim against the current on principle, most people are just putty in the hands of those who govern the industries outlined above.


So, it's both the lust for ever greater amounts of money, and also the fevered ambition to destroy Western Christian Civilization –– as it has been –– that works to debase and trivialize our society on every conceivable level. 


This ambition must be motivated by sheer spite, however, because paradoxically these moguls are in fact busily wrecking the very system that made it possible for them to achieve wealth and power. It's like biting off your nose to spite your face, but apparently these types -- as brilliant as powerful as they are –– can't see beyond the ends of their noses anyway so blinded are they by hostility.


~ § ~


The novels of Jane Austen never mention sex as such, and certainly never depict anything but the most decorous behavior imaginable, nevertheless sex pervades Jane Austen's work like golden thread shot through a fine brocade. The growing affection between Miss Bennett and Mr. Darcy –– a relationship which at first seems rooted in mutual hostility but ends in mutual respect, appreciation and deep affection –– is frankly one of the sexiest literary experiences imaginable. 


The tension that develops between those two at first meeting is palpable and obviously based on a sexual attraction unwanted by either party, so it first shows itself as frank hostility, instead. Yet the attraction builds gradually throughout the book till the reader longs for these two to recognize each other and fulfill the tender-but-powerful passion that has grown between them. 


We want to get right down to business today when it comes to sex, and that takes all the thrill of the chase and all the romance and adventure out of conducting a love affair. Too bad! 


None of us would be here if it weren't for sex, so it should hardly be considered unmentionable, but in taking all the subtlety and all the charm out of it we've lost a great deal that used to make life tremendously exciting.


~ § ~ 


There may be an exception or two in the world of Opera. Richard Strauss's Salome portrays a young pagan princess in the court of King Herod who becomes obsessed with lust for John the Baptist –– a prisoner at Herod's palace. Her behavior in attempting to seduce John the Baptist, who is locked up and therefore helpless to escape her unwanted attentions, starts out as that of a young girl who is experiencing her first crush, but soon becomes openly lewd as the captive male shows more and more resistance to her attempts to woo him. Towards the climax Salome moves beyond lewd, sheds every semblance of self-control, and in a frankly obscene, frenzied display of desire and fury at his rejection removes all her garments (during the famous Dance of the Seven Veils) and stands before him naked.


His horror and loathing at this spectacle causes her to demand his head to be brought to her on a platter. When finally this grisly deed is accomplished, she kisses his dead lips and sings one of the most oddly moving passages of vocal and orchestral music ever written. Gruesome and depraved as this scene may be it is also heartbreaking for she realizes that her victory is bitter, and that she has lost herself forever –– just before Herod, who has had more than enough of her obscene antics –– orders his men to crush her to death with their shields.


The true meaning at the heart of Salome, which started out life as a play written in French by Oscar Wilde, is the terrible tragedy of losing one's innocence by giving way to uncontrollable lust devoid of affection or any kid of reciprocity.


It's a valuable lesson, and the one-act opera's incredible power comes at least partially from a graphic depiction of this young girl's frenzied orgy of wanton self destruction. 


Not everyone's cup of tea, of course, but I maintain that in this case the depravity definitely has "socially redeeming value." It is not gratuitous and merely sensationalistic.


A pagan court in the ancient world –– a brutal world that could callously order the murder of every first-born son, and the Crucifixion of Jesus –– could never be subjected to the rules of etiquette demanded of members of the upper classes in the drawing rooms of eighteenth century England.


Yet, while prim, decorous Pride and Prejudice is really very sexy, the forceful display of uncontrolled sexual desire in Salome is anything but –– instead it is terribly, terribly sad.


I think noting the contrast between these two very different works is important.


There's a fine line sometimes between obscenity and poignancy. Smug Philistinism is no more moral and no more rewarding than pornography. Both these extremes miss the point of life completely in my opinion.


~ § ~


As for Huxley and Orwell both offer masterful depictions of a nightmarish future –– the ultimate dystopian society. 


Of the two I believe Orwell is the more successful in making his case, but we should remember that long before these two E.M. Forster wrote The Machine Stops (1909), which is undoubtedly the grand daddy of the others. It's a novella or long short story and well worth reading. Forster truly had the gift of prophecy.


Also, long after Orwell, the Canadian writer Margaret Atwood gave us The Handmaid's Tale, which –– though obviously derived from the other works –– enhances, underscores and amplifies the horror of these futuristic fantasies –– which have already turned out to be sadly prophetic.


I don't agree, as some on the right assert, that everyone who has supported Democratic party initiatives is inherently violent and bent on destruction. I have too many liberal friends who are pleasant, intelligent, highly literate, witty, remarkably capable people who just happen –– because of the education cum indoctrination they received from Ivy League colleges, or places like the University of Chicago or Berkeley –– to be profoundly ignorant of modern history and economics.
They were skillfully fed the Communist Party line when still at an impressionable age, and swallowed it hook, line and sinker without realizing what they were doing.

Also, no one should argue that the Ku Klux Klan was or is a left wing organization, yet it certainly used terrorist tactics to gain and wield power.

The prelates who ran the Spanish Inquisition, the Star Chamber in Britain and presided over New England's Salem Witch Trials should not be described as "leftists" either.

What we ought to be fighting is the almost universal impulse people have to tyrannize and subjugate one another. It's wrong no matter who falls prey to it, just as it's wrong no matter what cause it purports to serve –– even our own.
Just to make myself clear: I do not mean we should never use violence to defend ourselves when we've been attacked, but perpetrating aggression on our own behalf is not right –– tempting though it may be in many instances.

One of the great ironies of history is that Hitler started out as a virulent anti-Communist. That we were allied with Stalin's U.S.S.R. against Hitler is paradoxical, because our greatest ally, Winston Churchill, knew the danger of Marxist, Socialist, Collectivism from its inception, yet we fought with Stalin to defeat the Axis powers.

That Communism turned out to be a much greater, far deadlier, FAR more widespread and long-lived threat than Naziism is still a source of wonder.

Hitler is still cast as the great villain of the 20th century, while the much greater horrors perpetrated by Lenin, Trotsky, Stalin, Mao Tse Dung, Ho Chi Minh, Pol Pot, Castro and now Venezuela's Chavez are glossed over –– hardly mentioned in modern classrooms. 

One other point we should consider: The Fabian socialists –– a group whose statist/collectivist objectives I abhor –– have never advocated nor used violence in their much-too-successful attempt to dominate British society.

We on the right ought not to be divided, because we are both on the same side. It is only to some of the brutal-sounding methods some of us casually advocate to defeat our adversaries –– and to the powerfully persistent use of generalization and hyperbole used to characterize the opposition –– that I object.

I doubt very much if we can succeed in defeating one set of lies, distortions and gross exaggerations with another.

~ § ~

~ FreeThinke

30 comments:

  1. I doubt very much if we can succeed in defeating one set of lies, distortions and gross exaggerations with another.

    No, we can VERY easily win that way. But then if we did, how would anything be different?

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  2. First, my personal take on this....

    I never saw the film Bonnie and Clyde in a movie theater.

    My parents didn't stop me from seeing it. But the owners of the one cinema in town -- Yes, only one! -- turned me away at the door. They said, "You shouldn't be seeing this."

    There was no point in complaining. The owners of the theater were friends of my parents. And going to the law or the ACLU? Forget it!

    The same theater owners also turned me away at the door from seeing The Night They Raided Mindky's -- or maybe it was Sweet Charity. I don't recall.

    Some years later, when those last two films I mentioned came to the theater, those same owners let me in. "Now you are mature enough to see this."

    As for Bonnie and Clyde, three things:

    1. Much like Rebel without a Cause, the film glorifies the anti-hero. Except that Bonnie and Clyde was so damn graphic.

    2. By the time that I saw Bonnie and Clyde, I had devoted much of my spare time to studying the criminal mind and the activities of all sorts of criminals. There was no way that I would glorify Parker and Barrow.

    3. My father (b. 1911) disabused me of the many myths surrounding the havoc-wreaking pair. Dad never shared his wisdom in a preachy way; therefore, I always paid attention to whatever he had to say. Valuable lesson in the latter, I think. Some parents never do learn that lesson! I'm so grateful that my parents did.

    PS: I will admit to loving the film score for the movie.

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  3. I learned something a long time ago from my students....

    Let them see something on the big screen, and that's the way that they think life really is. The power of the visual medium is incredible!

    -----------

    As for remodeling a house, I never went with whatever the fashion IF I wanted something else. As a result, my home decorating is unique. I'm the one living here, and if I like it -- and Mr. AOW as well -- we go with "whatever floats our boat."

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  4. Gotta rush off in a few minutes to tutor a student, but I want to leave you this link, FT.

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  5. Well Freethinker, when you are immersed in an economy that can survive only by ever increasing consumption you are going to have to do something to convince folks to spend.
    Everyone went positively ga-ga over supply side economics which essentially comes down to disposable products and high indebtedness. I don't think you are prepared to denounce The Sucker, er my bad, The Laffer Curve.

    Film simply became a commodity but the short life of the New Hollywood is worth noting.
    Bonnie and Clyde is closest to Truffaut's Shoot the Piano Player. Comic violence, genre mixing and a satire of the film noir. In fact Penn wanted Truffaut to distribute it.

    But the movement died quickly (in France also, sadly) partially because the studios realized (after The Wild Bunch as well) they could market choreographed explicit violence stripped of any artistic sensibility and partially because of the abject failure of Cimino's Heaven's Gate which pretty much killed auteurism in America.
    God bless Bobby Altman who singularly managed to carry on.

    So you can go on and tag this topic with some clap trap about leftist dictators but this is all about money and bad taste. Blame your precious free market (LMFAO).

    Oddly enough there were some very good films predicting the death of the auteur movement and critiquing pop culture. Try Godard's Band of Outsiders or Altman's very prescient Nashville.

    As an aside to AOW. It interests me that you are starting a class on Western thought in filmology. Why not include religious (and maybe even Christian) directors like Bresson, Dreyer or Rohmer?
    The were certainly prolific and the question of why their work received such scant attention outside film circles is important.

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  6. "In a very real sense I've never gotten over that experience."

    I like how you put this. We are now bombarded with pop culture images that cauterize our souls and sear our imaginations. It happens to all of us, but we are no longer self-aware as you were those many years ago. It is sad.

    We want to get right down to business today when it comes to sex, and that takes all the thrill of the chase and all the romance and adventure out of conducting a love affair.

    Amen! Our culture has pornified everything, even the non-sexual. The mystery is gone out of everything, the pleasure drained. We are a gray, dessicated husk.

    The true meaning at the heart of Salome, which started out life as a play written in French by Oscar Wilde, is the terrible tragedy of losing one's innocence by giving way to uncontrollable lust devoid of affection or any
    kind of reciprocity.


    Exceptionally well-said. You are quite an observer and writer. Unfortunately, you've described a common theme of our society today.

    You have inspired my Sunday post. Thank you FreeThinke!

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  7. I'm sure I'm going to sound like just another young whipper-snapper, or a Philistine (I love that word btw), but I disagree with a lot of things you've said here FT.

    As movie making has progressed, it has become more and more interested in making the films realistic. Of course that only goes so far because they are works of fiction, but the portrayal of reality, even in science fiction films, has become truer to how the world really is.

    I don't know what life was like in 1940, but I can be sure that when someone got shot in the head, the wound was probably more drastic than a smear of katchup.

    As for love and sex, perhaps there was more courting 50 years ago? But the end result is always the same. Maybe we kids are just a bit kinkier these days.

    Movies are indeed more graphic, more lewd than they used to be, but that's because it's what the people want. We're tired of pretending like life is all hunky-dorey, and as people are more aware of just how horrifying everthing is, the style of many films of the past just seems like a lie.

    That's not to say that they aren't good films. I watched Citizen Kane for the first time about a month ago, and the film is breath taking, even by today's standards.

    I'll watch anything with Humphrey Bogart. Probably my all-time favorite "old" movie is The Caine Mutiny.

    My point is that reality hasn't changed much. A gun shot to the head is just as messy today as it was in 1950.

    We young people don't really care about the longing for a "better time," because we didn't grow up in it. And I put better time in quotes because I don't agree that it was a better time. Better for you perhaps, but not for me.

    Yes, there are crap films these days that are made with the sole intention of getting asses into the seats. But there are still really great movies being made today. Director Christopher Nolan comes to mind. Yes, I'm an avid fan of his Batman trilogy, but I love his other films, too. The Prestige blew my mind. He's a director who is concerned with making truly great films.

    Good film-making still exists FT, and I don't think that it's closeness to reality denigrates it at all.

    There's a reason we don't have the campy 1960's Batman anymore. We're past that crap now. Our tastes have evolved (not devolved). It's abundantly clear to everyone these days that life itself is graphic and gritty, and I for one would rather not kid myself by trying to believe otherwise.

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  8. So what do we do, Freethinker?

    Bring back the Hays code?

    Continue to let media expand and pitch the culture to adolescents with money?

    It's a bit of a problem.

    Jack, if film has progressed since the late 50's and 60's then you and I live on a different planet.
    Good film making does exist. Certain countries take a crack at it for a while before the market chews them up. Iran had a hell of a run. China was out front till they devolved into cheap Kung Fu repetitive junk.
    Right now Romania and Thailand are taking a crack at it with some success but it's a medium of cheap tech tricks rather than ideas.

    If you think The Dark Knight had anything to do with anything but a cheap forgettable thrill then let me know. A talented film maker like Eric Rohmer who skillfully chronicles the tension between what people say and do in the everyday would be considered unwatchable by today's jaded dumbed down audience.
    The very crap you espouse has been the agent of dumbing.

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  9. So what do we do? Bring back the Greek chorus, of course. Let the auteur, thereby, produce his film for an idealized audience. Euripides wrote for one man in the audience alone. Why should we continue to cater the modern malevolently "neutral" spectator?

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  10. ...because at present, the only auidence that film directors are trying to please consists entirely of satyrs. ;)

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  11. The history of the Greek Chorus can be traced back to a relatively small time period; from the original Dithyrambs, to Thespis' small, but revolutionizing changes to the system, to Aeschylus' triple entente of tragedies The Oresteia, which included the infamous Agamemnon. To truly understand the Greek Chorus, and what role it was meant to play when it was created and thereafter altered, one has to go back to the beginning of time which in this case happens to be somewhere around the seventh century, B.C. During this time, the festival of Dionysus was held annually in Athens to celebrate and honor the god for which it was named. Dionysus, being the Greek (and Roman) god of wine and of an orgiastic religion celebrating the power and fertility of nature, was a god mainly devoted to pleasure. (As it turns out, Dionysus generally had an accompaniment of nymphs and satyrs; this fits in quite well with his sexually promiscuous personage.)

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  12. ...because at present, the only auidence that film directors are trying to please consists entirely of satyrs

    There's a lot of truth there.

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  13. Theresites: I'm going to have to go back and read my copy of The Bacchae again!

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  14. Aritophanes, "Plutus"

    WIFE. Oh! thou, who art dearest of all to me, and thou too, be welcome! Allow me, Plutus, to shower these gifts of welcome over you in due accord with custom.

    PLUTUS. No. This is the first house I enter after having regained my sight; I shall take nothing from it, for 'tis my place rather to give.

    WIFE. Do you refuse these gifts?

    PLUTUS. I will accept them at your fireside, as custom requires. Besides, we shall thus avoid a ridiculous scene; it is not meet that the poet should throw dried figs and dainties to the spectators; 'tis a vulgar trick to make 'em laugh.

    WIFE. You are right. Look! yonder's Dexinicus, who was already getting to his feet to catch the figs as they flew past him.[787]

    CHORUS. [Missing.]


    [787] The Scholiast says that this was an individual as poor as he was greedy, and on the watch for every opportunity to satisfy his voracity.—The comic poets often had nuts, figs and other petty dainties thrown to the audience. It was a fairly good way to secure the favour of a certain section of the public.

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  15. So what do we do? Bring back the Greek chorus, of course. Let the auteur, thereby, produce his film for an idealized audience. Euripides wrote for one man in the audience alone. Why should we continue to cater the modern malevolently "neutral" spectator?

    ------
    Spoken like a true Godard fan.

    Try to pick up a copy of In Praise of Love.
    The anti-Americanism (in matters of culture) is somewhat over the top but it's a compelling work(Freethinker might enjoy it quite a bit).

    I defy anyone to watch it and tell me that a stiff like Christopher Nolan putting some people in a harness in front of a green screen and adding a CGI generated back projection knows how to use a camera.

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  16. I suspect that "The Bachaea" was the only halfway decent tragedy that Euripides wrote. I MUCH prefer Aeschylus and Sophocles... as Euripides was prone to lend his tragedies a "happy ending".

    btw. I love that "film noir" wasa French misunderstanding of Hollywood, much as "post-structualism" was an American misunderstanding of French Structuralism" (Zizek, "The Malevolent Neutral Observer")

    There'smuch to be gained in exploring the "drama of false appearances"...but we need to be careful to ensure that not every "innocent act" isallowed to get mischaracterized by the malevolent neutral observer (ie - Lilian Hellman's "The Children's Hour"). For as Zizek maintains, "excess of subversion isneeded by the power structure to reproduce/renew itself.". And one can violate all the "explicit" rules, so long as the group's "implicit" rules are maintained.

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  17. Ducky,
    If you see nothing but a "cheap thrill" in those movies then you're obviously not looking hard enough.

    Hell, you don't even have to look that hard to see the deeper meaning in the recent Batman films.

    Are you one of those people who believe that any "good" movie must be super-serious? Any movie with an explosion is just out of the question, right?

    Or are you one of those people who think comic books are for children and adolescents?

    The Dark Knight was an incredibly complex film, far from being "dumbed down."

    I'm glad that we're on different planets, because whatever planet you're on sounds *insanely* boring and snobbish.

    Yes, I said snobbish.

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  18. Also, in Nolan's Batman trilogy, he used practical effects as much as he could.

    The aerial kidnapping scene in the beginning of the Dark Knight Rises was done entirely practically, no green screen at all.

    So I suppose I just defied you on Nolan's camera skills.

    Wait, have you even SEEN any of Nolan's Batman films?

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  19. Oh, leave ducky alone, Jack. There are at least 10 "Batman-esque" movies for every French New Wave film. The world needs more film snobs, lest the comic book genre overwhelm classical literature.

    Fortunately, Grub Street's victories are ALL short-term. ;)

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  20. Hello, Everybody,

    I'm here off and on having a great time reading the responses. Please continue to share information and make revelations.

    The way different individuals respond to stimuli never ceases to amaze and amuse me. On rare occasions it may be genuinely touching.

    One good thing to come out of the blogging experience: I have officially given up the open expression of annoyance, irritation, disappointment, accusation, condemnation or the desire to effect conversion, et al. when an article fails to receive the hoped for response.

    And, even when a gratifying response occasionally occurs, I may not acknowledge it with direct praise or thanksgiving. A bit of mystery tends to keep things more intriguing -- or so I believe.

    As AOW indicated when talking about her father, sermonizing tends to repel interest. I couldn't agree more.

    The articles are meant to stimulate curiosity, function as a springboard for discussion. They are not not intended as a lesson that anyone must learn to court favor or gain acceptance.

    Please keep on keeping on.

    Thank you.

    ~ FreeThinke

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  21. WHat makes the classics so good? It's because they tell a compelling story in a compelling way.

    It doesn't really matter what the style or genre is, so long as it is meaningful to the human experience in some way.

    Films like the Avengers and the like are pure entertainment pieces, I'll give you that. But what I find amazing about Nolan's Batman trilogy is that it's more than just entertainment, because there is a level of depth and complexity to the films. Nolan doesn't present another "good vs. evil" comic book film. He asks the question of what a vigilante like Batman would do to a society.

    I'm not saying that New Wave films or whatever are crap, and I'm not trying to say that one genre is better than the other. What I'm trying to say is that we can't judge a movie purely based on how we feel about its genre or when it was made.

    We should judge it on its actual quality in film making, which of course is multifaceted. Camera work, characterization, the story telling itself, the acting, the score, all of that.

    Dismissing it as drivel simply because it's not about someone's everyday life is ridiculous. What if all literature ever was just some stories about some ordinary person's everyday life? I think the medium would have been long abandoned if that were the case.

    Literature, film, and art in general is about imagination. Why limit that imagination to what a few film snobs agree to be "good" film-making?

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  22. I haven't seen the last Batman film, but I agree with Jack on the second one.

    The beauty of art is in they eye of the beholder, I guess.

    And Jack, I understand where you're coming from in your first comment, but I don't think FreeThinke is being prudish so much as lamenting that the mystery has been stripped from everything.

    It's all so unsubtle now, smashed in our faces, and let's face it, late 60's/early 70's movies must have been made to shock.

    They threw things in peoples' faces that every knew existed and happened, you name it, but why graphically display these things to people?

    That so many people went to see it, and then become shocked, says something about human nature, no?

    “An orgy looks particularly alluring seen through the mists of righteous indignation.” -- H.L Mencken

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  23. Lillian Hellmann was an avowed enemy of White Anglo-Saxon-Protestant Capitalist America -- especially members of its well-to-do, patrician or quasi-patrician upper class.

    This is patently evident in The Little Foxes and its sequel Another Part of the Forest, both of which portrayed leading citizens in a small southern community as vicious, corrupt, consummately selfish, exploitative, cruel and immoral, while glorifying young rebels who oppose, expose and depose them. The heavy implication is that the rich and powerful get that way by stepping all over -- nay stomping anyone who gets in their way, and then kicking their remains to the curb.

    It is also true in The Children's Hour, which was based on a real-life incident that occurred, I believe, in France. The title, itself, is meant as a snide reference to Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's sweetly, sentimental poem of the same name -- a great favorite with middle class WASPS at the time the play was first produced.

    The play is ostensibly an expose of attitudes toward lesbianism prevalent in American Bourgeois society -- namely that it was so horrible as to be unmentionable -- and it never is mentioned by name in the excellent 1963 film version. The theme is dealt with in whispers and the language of sly, snide innuendo.

    Shirley Maclaine as Martha Dobie, Audrey Hepburn as Karen Wright -- two young new owners of an upper-class private country day school accused of performing "unspeakable acts" by Mary Tilford, a disgruntled, spoiled brat with a vicious streak who was not amenable to discipline, gave splendid, deeply affecting performances.

    The aged Fay Bainter as Mrs. Tilford, the patrician grandmother of little Mary whose belief in her grandchild's innocence and integrity destroys the lives of the two young women, plays the part with such depth and an appealing aura of sterling grandeur that she evokes our sympathy, even as she unwittingly-but-energetically plays the villain. I forget who played the children, but they were absolutely magnificent.

    The play, however, rather than functioning as a vehicle to promote greater understanding of the plight of lesbians -- OR -- to evoke greater awareness of the foolishly sentimental attitude of accepting the testimony of young children at face value -- is REALLY a harsh indictment of upper-class WASP society, as it was before the Sick-sties euchred the nation into playing the role of Humpty Dumpty.

    It always seemed obvious to me that Lillian Hellmann's true motive in writing her admittedly gripping dramas was to give vent to her deep and abiding hatred of America as it was in her time.

    Hellmann was, of course a leftist, and did her part along with all the rest of her accursed breed to destroy America's confidence and belief in herself with consummate expertise. As a playwright she must be applauded for her amazing skill in passing polemics as high drama.

    However, The Children's Hour makes chillingly clear that in reality there is no such thing as innocence -- a disturbing revelation at best -- but one with a great value of which even Hellmann, herself, may not have been aware, and that is that mere ACCUSATION must NEVER be confused with, equated with or accepted as CONVICTION.

    ~ FreeThinke

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  24. Wait, have you even SEEN any of Nolan's Batman films?

    ---------

    Yeah, I enjoyed the first. Pretty much forgot it after leaving the theater but that's generally true of the action film.

    The Dark Knight was a piece of crap.
    I always get a charge out of folks who react to a pop icon being criticized assuming the critic hasn't seen it.

    I have sen thousands of films across time and country of origin. I have a framework of judgement that has taken me a lot of time work and study to develop and I'm pretty secure in my judgement of The Dark Knight.

    It did kind a lose me at the pencil through the eye stunt. Completely derivative, he stole a lot from Takeshi Kitno's brilliant Hana-bi.

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  25. The point in bringing Hellman up, FT, was to expose the damage that a "malignant" spectator can do, in "spinning" bad intentions upon innocent actors.

    Or the damage a film critic with an "agenda" can do with a dishonest review.

    We usually "assume" the spectator in our American society to be a "neutral party" but there's a very good chance, he's no longer neutral at all.

    As I said before, ...as Zizek maintains, "excess of subversion is needed by the power structure to reproduce/renew itself.". And one can violate all the "explicit" rules, so long as the group's "implicit" rules are maintained.

    This is how Hollyweird liberalism renews itself. Pandering to an ever lower and increasingly malignant "common denominator."

    And it doesn't require a "genius" to make a successful film today. All it takes is someone willing to walk you out of the Hollywood bigtop, and into the sideshow, where the spectators prurient interest can be aroused and an extra quarter extracted. Lowering, once again, the common denominator and shared American experience.

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  26. Oh okay Ducky. So I guess Roger Ebert and all the other critics who loved The Dark Knight were just as wrong as me in thinking that it was a good film.

    Our mistake.

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  27. That Salomey had a nice pair of tits. The guy who lost his head must have been a queer. What a dope


    vector

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  28. erratum- I actually see a different lesson in the John/ Salome parable...

    To share intimacy witha libertine always results in a descent into obscenity. Unavoidably tragic... like the FRC shooter story.

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