Thursday, March 09, 2006

Shorter Peggy Noonan, prissily lecturing George Clooney:

Your movie, about an actual person who tried to destroy innocent people in 1950s America, wasn't about real life. I prefer the movie about kids stepping into a piece of furniture and finding themselves in a magical kingdom where they help an anthropomorphic lion fight an evil witch, which was about real life.

I'm not kidding:

The Clooney generation in Hollywood is not writing and directing movies about life as if they've experienced it, with all its mysteries and complexity and variety. In an odd way they haven't experienced life; they've experienced media. Their films seem more an elaboration and meditation on media than an elaboration and meditation on life. This is how he could take such an unnuanced, unsophisticated, unknowing gloss on the 1950s and the McCarthy era. He just absorbed media about it. And that media itself came from certain assumptions and understandings, and myths.

Most Americans aren't leading media, they're leading lives. It would be nice to see a new respect in Hollywood for the lives they live. It would be nice to see them start to understand that rediscovering the work of, say, C.S. Lewis, and making a Narnia film, is not "giving in" to the audience but serving it.

That, by the way, leads to this:

It isn't bad to look for and present good material that is known to have a following. It's a smart thing to do. It's why David O. Selznick bought "Gone With the Wind": People were reading it. It was his decision to make it into a movie from which he would profit that gave Hattie McDaniel her great role. Taboos are broken by markets, not poses.

Uh, Peggy? Hollyweird is making a movie of the freaking Da Vinci Code, which has sold eight million copies in hardcover -- and which you will denounce as a slap in the face to your beloved church the moment it's released. Eight million copies is not enough of a "following" for you?


Noonan lectures Clooney after giving us the usual right-wing twaddle about box-office woes:

...You don't have to be a genius to figure out that viewership of the Oscars is down because movie attendance itself is down, and that movie attendance is down because Hollywood isn't making the kind of movies that compel people to leave their homes and go to the multiplex.

There are those who think Hollywood hates America, and they have reason to think it. Hollywood does, as host Jon Stewart suggested, seem detached from the country it seeks to entertain. It is politically and culturally to the left of America, and it often seems disdainful of or oblivious to its assumptions and traditions.

... What [studio executives and producers] care about a great deal is status, and in their community status is bestowed by the cultural left. This is an old story. But it seems only to get worse, not better.

If a lot of the American audience, certainly the red-state audience, assumes Hollywood hates them, they won't go as often to the movies as they used to. If you thought Wal-Mart hated you, would you shop there?

Which brings me to this story from the New York Times business section:

...Data released yesterday by Beverage Digest, the industry trade publication, shows that for the first time in 20 years, the number of cases of soda sold in the United States declined. Case volume in 2005 was down 0.7 percent, to 10.2 billion cases....

While soft drinks are still the country's most heavily consumed beverage, the category is losing ground to bottled water, sports drinks like Gatorade and Powerade and energy drinks like Red Bull and Full Throttle....

"Traditional carbonated soft drinks have got a tough road ahead," Mr. Sicher said. "The migration to water and sports drinks and other noncarbonated drinks seems to be permanent." ...

Why are people going to the movies less? For the same reason they're drinking less Pepsi and more Red Bull -- they have new choices, and a lot of people prefer the new stuff to the old stuff. That's how it works in capitalism. Or are you going to argue that Coke and Pepsi are "liberal," while Red Bull exemplifies a rejection of left-wing cultural hegemonism and a return to traditional values?


Oh, one last thought: If a movie that's "an elaboration and meditation on media" deserves to be consigned to the ash heap of cultural history, does that mean we have to stop screening Citizen Kane?

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