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October 05, 2009

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Arthur S.

The amount of hysteria provoked by the Roman Polanski scandal is amazing. When Polanski won Best Director at the Academy Awards, nobody boycotted the Oscars for awarding a rapist. He's worked all these years in Europe and now suddenly people are condemning him for breaking the law when he's gotten caught just so they can wield their scrap of power.

Dan

I always find it hilarious when pundits complain about liberal Hollywood, as executive Hollywood is as conservative as any other business environment.

As for "An Army of Davids", the problem is the amount of signal to noise; that is, quality work to useless crap nobody in their right mind would sit through. It is really, really hard to put out just work of a good technical quality on a dirt budget. It's even harder to put out work of a good artistic quality because you're probably functioning in an echo chamber or a vacuum, instead of having a producer or editor calling you out and forcing you to kill your darlings.

Still, I await the Red Scarlet with bated breath. That thing's going to rock my world.

Mike

The judge was crooked as hell.

"BUT HE RAPED A CHILD!"

The case is old as shit.

"BUT HE RAPED A CHILD! AND WE CATCH OLD NAZIS!"

His family was killed in the Holocaust, you dick.

"DAVID LETTERMAN SHOULDN'T HAVE SEX WITH THE WOMEN HE WORKS WITH!"

He was blackmailed. That was the crime, you moron.

"You Hollywood liberals are sick! Sick!"

Whatever.

"OBAMA LOST US THE OLYMPICS!"

Christopher Meloni on Law and Order : SVU

"I HAVE A CHILD!"

bill

Interesting how people keep cherry-picking (and creating their own quotes for) the least considered arguments against their own POV regarding the Polanski situation.

I will say that "The case is old as shit" sums up the other side pretty well. And I didn't even have to make that one up!

Nick

Someone sent me this. It is...an over reaction. ( http://twitter.com/boycott_mrfox )

I think that for most of the audience, Fantastic Mr. Fox will be a movie that they won't care who directed and will likely never know. That pretty much applies to all movies people actually go see, of course, but besides that chick at Jezebel ( http://jezebel.com/5370356/letters-from-hollywood-roman-polanskis-rape-of-child-no-big-thing ), I don't really think enough people care enough one way or another to actively stop going to films from those on the petition. I saw some comments from people saying they'd never attend another Wes Anderson film again, not bring their child to Fantastic Mr. Fox, had thrown out their Rushmore DVDs, but that can only represent a tiny sliver of the audience, those who've been thrown into a wild hysteria over matters so disconnected from themselves.

Your Zombieland conversation reminds me of buying my ticket yesterday for the film, and a pair of late-teen-aged girls asked me what it was about. I said "Zombies." They said
"Oh." I said "Woody Harrelson is in it." "Oh, did you read the reviews, it is interesting?" I said "Yeaah, it's a comedy" and left. I have no idea what I could have told them in that 30 second window that would have made them say "You know what? Zombieland it is!"

I'm continually surprised by people who show up at movie theaters not know what they're going to see, and then also not knowing anything about the films at all. The theater I normally go to thankfully has a few binders with synopsis' and cast lists, but before people (from 14 to 80) get to that, they stand behind the lines looking up at the showtimes saying "Whip It!? What's that about? Is that about a horse rider? Sounds boring." I actually overheard this conversation between two mid 50s women a few weeks ago in line for The Informant! Stranger 1: "Is this a comedy? Do ya know?" Stranger 2: "Yeah, yeah, it's a hmm, it's a subtle comedy...it's got Matt Damon in it though!" Stranger 1: "Oh, a subtle comedy...hope I'm smart enough for it! He ha" Stranger 2: "I love that Matt Damon though, he's so adorable!" Stranger 1: "Mhmm, he's wonderful!"

I don't expect them to be saying "Oh I love Soderbergh, did you see The Girlfriend Experience? I thought it was fascinating, and that ending!" "Yes, so brilliant, how does he do that? What is this his third movie this year? Well fourth if you count the two-parter, and all shot on Red, right?" "Oh yes, I don't normally like digital but this is in another league than that Genesis crap, I mean look at Che, that movie was darn right beautiful when it needed to be!" "It sure was! I LOVE SODERBERGH!' But it would be nice if those two ladies at least acted under the assumption that they were adults and not fawning teenagers seeing a hunky guy in a comedy that might be "too smart for them."

Tom Carson

Since he knows what happened last time, I'm honestly awed that GK has put up another post with the name "Polanski" in it. Even so, bill, unless I'm reading Mike's comment all wrong, he was spoofing *both* extremes of this, um, debate. I hope so, anyway.

weepingsam

I find the reactions to other people's reactions to Polanski's case incredibly depressing. I think there are good reasons to bring him back; I also can see why others see good reasons not to bring him back. The former go beyond the chance to moralize - the latter don't amount to rape apologies. Falling into hyperbole, on either side, doesn't help - partly because there are people really doing those bad things. There ARE some rape apologists around - there's plenty of self-righteousness, and more than a few traces of a mob mentality on the other side.... But I see way too many people ascribing the worst motives to the other side, to everyone on the other side...

Though what really annoys me - I've never been a fan of boycotting films by people I don't approve of; the idea of boycotting the work of people who have not committed any crimes, just exercised their more or less constitutional right to sign a petition - that's pretty disgusting.

Zach

All points well taken, Glenn. Great piece.

To chime in for emphasis: The "threat" to Hollywood's continued hegemony is not a wonky moral compass - or, at least, not the kind that most pundits think. It has to do with its trash to quality ratio being way out of whack - a self-inflicted wound indeed.

This is, put reductively but correctly, a moral problem of a different kind: the worshiping of humongous profit margins (incidentally, the chief moral problem of Corporate America at large) over quality.

This problem began in earnest with the sale of the Major Studios to multinational conglomerates. Everybody wants to be a bajillionaire, and the films suffer. It shouldn't be surprising in the least, although it would be asking too much for the conservative infotainment-sphere to point it out.

A trashy product will keep the audience away - not the seedy personal life of high-profile members of the establishment.

Campaspe

As you say, this is a very predictable placing of Polanski on an old hobbyhorse, that Hollywood is out of touch with American values, which for people like Reynolds means conservative values, period. The actors, directors and other artists who signed the petitions are out of step with mainstream American opinion across the board on this issue, a fact that Reynolds acknowledges, then hedges by failing to specify that a good many of the people who want Polanski sentenced are, like me, liberals. Harvey Weinstein and Whoopi Goldberg may not have a clue as to how they sound to ordinary people, but you can't tell me that when someone like Salman Rushdie, William Shawcross or Martin Scorsese signed they had no idea this was going to epater les bourgeoises. The whole Polanski scolding would carry a good deal more weight if we weren't always hearing the same diagnosis and proposed cures for Bush jokes, for movies that show Christians or Christianity in a bad light or Islam or Muslims in a good one, and for any movie that suggests the Iraq War was anything less than wildly popular at home and a roaring success at the front.

As a sidelight to Reynolds' Obligatory "Ironic" Elia Kazan ref--isn't it terrible what Hollywood did to Kazan after his testimony? Ten movies, three Oscars. They sure got their vengeance on him all right.

DBrooks

While I agree that predictions of the collapse of Hollywood due to its "moral cretins" are overwrought, I think that there are some real ramifications engendered by the perception that the Entertainment Community as a whole has a whole different set of values than the average American--and I think that impact goes beyond conservatives and the actively religious. Lots of people all over the country are feeling "fed up" with a lot of what they see, read, and hear--on television, in movies, and in newspapers and magazines. Many of you may think that's small-minded or simplistic, but it's a real phenomenon, and it seems to be growing. Take an individual who is already developing negative ideas about "Hollywood," and that person isn't going to react positively to stories that well-known directors and actors are signing a petition supporting the release of of a famous director who was convicted of raping a 13-year-old. It's easy to dismiss all this as meaningless, the rantings of a bunch of Christianists and rednecks, but I think something more fundamental is going on. It wasn't that long ago that the idea of the total collapse of the newspaper business would have been seen as impossible. Some of that current withering is due to changes in the way information is distributed, but some of it was due to an overall perception that the powers behind newspaper publishing didn't share the same views as those they expected to buy their papers. After a while, most people won't continue to pay for something they see as contrary to their value system.

The Siren

"It wasn't that long ago that the idea of the total collapse of the newspaper business would have been seen as impossible. Some of that current withering is due to changes in the way information is distributed, but some of it was due to an overall perception that the powers behind newspaper publishing didn't share the same views as those they expected to buy their papers."

If this were true, then the many conservative print outlets in this country would be weathering the crisis better than their perceived liberal peers. And they ain't.

And I don't believe that those who get so worked up over Polanski that they would participate in a boycott form a measurable part of the audience for, say, Woody Allen, let alone the Dardennes.

If Hollywood faces a crisis, it is only marginally based on the failure to turn out movies that adhere to values. That's an old, old lament and one the movie business has always survived, even during periods when the country was a great deal more conservative than it is now. Hollywood's woes stem mostly from competition, as Glenn says. The problem most people have with Hollywood content isn't amorality, it's vapidity.

And, despite the fact that most of us (not all, Bill!) skew liberal, you won't find many people, right or left, as ready to decry that vapidity as Glenn, the people who comment at his place and the people on his blogroll.

Cadavra

One of the far-right's mantras is that "Hollywood is out of step with Mainstream America." Given the tens of billions of dollars that pour into the entertainment industry's coffers every year--not all of it from San Francisco and Boston--you'd think they'd pack it in by now. But that would require them to be sane people in possession of actual facts.

Hall of Fame Moment: Catholic nutcase William Donohue decrying that Hollywood is run by "Jews obsessed with anal sex," and then proceding to list as examples such noted Heebs as Martin Scorsese, Francis Coppola and George Lucas.

DBrooks

I think you misunderstood something I wrote. I never meant to imply that it was only conservatives who had problems with what they were reading in the newspaper. There are plenty of people on the left who live in towns with newspapers that skew their reporting to the right. Editorializing within news stories is problematic, whether from the left or the right. The larger problem is that the pervasive politicization and advocacy in so-called news reporting has resulted in a situation wherein no one can trust that what they are reading is an unbiased reflection of events.

And I could not agree more--vapidness is a major problem in movies today. In fact, I think most major releases are generally awful. You(Siren) seem to think my emphasis is on morality, but that's just one piece of a larger problem. When I used the term "values," I meant a lot more than just sexual behavior. Just as people didn't stop reading the newspaper due to one event, most people aren't going to boycott the movies solely because of Roman Polanski's criminal behavior. I think it's more of a long, slow process. One other thing, I meant in no way to criticize Glenn. I enjoy this site, visit often, and respect his views.

Vidor

**** I also can see why others see good reasons not to bring him back....the latter don't amount to rape apologies****

Yes they do. They really do. I can think of no reason to bring Polanski back now that he is in custody other than possibly the city of Los Angeles is so broke that it can't afford economy class one-way tickets from Zurich to Los Angeles for Polanski and whomever he will be handcuffed to. If you are presented with a man who raped a 13-year-old girl, and you strain to find reasons why he should not face punishment, you are a rape apologist.

That said, I don't disagree with anything in Glenn's post. "Self-inflicted wound" is a very, very apt description of Hollywood's reaction to this whole mess. Glenn Reynolds is a liar and a hypocrite. Many of the right-wingers beating this drum are liars and hypocrites. But the reaction of Polanski's defenders--Weinstein, Whoopi, Debra Winger, and are you freaking kidding me Woody Allen?--was a great big Christmas gift to Reynolds and company. Wrapped up and tied with a nice pretty bow. I wish that someone in the movie business would stand up and say that yes, Polanski should actually face justice for attacking a young girl. Someone more prominent that that woman who used to be on "Little House on the Prairie" at least.

The Siren

@DBrooks - thanks for clarifying. (I now realize I posted both under my old handle, Campaspe, and Siren -- hope that wasn't too confusing.) I didn't think you were dissing Glenn. I was typing past my bedtime (never a good idea) and was more waspish than either I intended or you deserved. Indeed, you do not have to be on the right to have problems with, to name a few things, the tenor of your local newspaper, the ghastly freak show that is much of reality TV, the increasing can-you-top-this nature of screen violence, or a petition for Mr. Polanski's release that refers to the repellent actions that got him in hot water in the first place as "a case of morals," as if he'd dropped his trousers on Central Park West or something. (Aside to Glenn: for that reason it does matter to me which petition was signed, although it won't affect my viewing choices.) I have problems with all of those things. I do think, though, that as Cadavra points out, the drumbeat against the culture stays the same year in year out, and yet people still fork over for this stuff. I have no answer for that. I just stay in my corner of the Web and try to proselytize for Sirk, Ophuls, Borzage, Lubitsch and my other passions.

Vidor

"to NOT bring Polanski back now", that is.

Dan

"The larger problem is that the pervasive politicization and advocacy in so-called news reporting has resulted in a situation wherein no one can trust that what they are reading is an unbiased reflection of events."

That would be a serious problem. Of course, to be one, it'd have to exist, first.

While I'm not saying reporters or editors are flawless or apolitical, they also have deadlines and rarely any interest in skewing the facts. Why would they? That would get them fired, and it's not worth their job.

This "problem" is really one of perception, just like violent crime rates have been dropping like rocks and yet people think we live in a state awash with violence and crime. The problem lies mostly with the readers: if the piece tells them what they want to hear, it is a fine piece of journalism offering a fair perspective. If it doesn't, the journalist is a biased piece of shit.

Leave out the cranks, the whiners, and the guys with axes to grind and you'll find not very many cases of "media bias" left, and those are usually cases of corporate meddling.

DBrooks

"Leave out the cranks, the whiners, and the guys with axes to grind and you'll find not very many cases of "media bias" left, and those are usually cases of corporate meddling."

Sure, Dan. You keep telling yourself that.

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