That Caryn James "You know what’s wrong with Hollywood? I’ll tell you what’s wrong with Hollywood!" piece from yesterday has attracted all kinds of great snark and furious anger, or at least put some people out, particularly David Poland at The Hot Button and The Reeler‘s S.T. VanAirsdale. Prime quotes:
But I think what really pisses me off is the rancid arrogance of judgment against the people who have made these and other well-intended films.
Ms. James writes, "What’s whispered, yet rarely said out loud, is that Hollywood producers know that most of what they churn out is junk, and they are happy to seize an opportunity – especially if it’s cost-efficient and Oscar-ready – to prove they are people who think."
She may kiss George Clooney‘s golden tuchus in the last paragraph, but the statement above is a direct "fuck you," to ol’ George, who is part of the machinery. It is a direct "fuck you" to Niki Caro (whose last film, about a girl and some whales, didn’t directly address Maori sexual politics as experienced on the Upper East Side) and everyone else who was trying to reach for something on that film. And on and on…
But when James flogs films like "Good Night, and Good Luck" or even "A History of Violence" for being Ideology Liteâ€”stylized, dogmatic self-indulgencesâ€”I wonder what she would recommend as an alternative. Using "CachÃ©" and "Manderlay" (and "The Squid and the Whale" to a token degree) as fodder, James’ colleague Tony Scott recently deconstructed the class themes overriding this year’s New York Film Festival; are these examples of the films she thinks Hollywood should be making? Or would their depths threaten James’ didacticismâ€”her own "schoolroom lessons" that prove irrelevant when applied in the specific context her targets deserve? In other words, do Hollywood "junk" producersâ€”with their market, history and moneyâ€”really have anything to prove to anyone, and if so, what would James recommend?
We did find James’ piece frustrating, though not as frustrating as the above two found it, but we feel obliged to say that, despite totally agreeing that "Good Night, and Good Luck" and "The Squid and the Whale" (and "Capote," for that matter) were well-made, fine films, we also found them remarkably uninteresting compared to the majority of the foreign New York Film Festival offerings. There’s something totally tree-falls-in-the-woods about harping on how wonderful this Taiwanese film that will never get US distribution is, or how fresh that Romanian one that will likely see very few theaters is, but we can’t deny that our heart does sink a little around this time every year, when the parade of glossy biopics and glossier Important Pictures starts up.