Win Speaks to What They Think of Movie Audience
By Scott Lund
all the talk about the prospects of the movie Birdman at the
Oscars, I decided to watch it the night before the awards, to see what the
fuss was all about, to see if I had been wrong about my expectations. I had seen the previews long ago, but had
then immediately and prejudicially concluded that I would not see the movie because
I thought that if I did, I would hate myself for taking two precious hours of
my life to see yet another gratingly irritating and self-absorbed paean to
showbiz people and their self-serving, convoluted ideas of the world – when I
could have used those hours to see my dentist, scrape out the ancient black
sludge out of the bottom of all my neighbors’ trash bins, or test out
different types of mace on my eyes to see which is the most effective. Alas, I was wrong. I did see the movie.
I sat through the continuous volley of spit-filled references to sexual
organs and sex acts, lower body orifices, and of course the now almost
ubiquitously tame mentions of excrement; and, as I noticed how aware I was of
the acting, and pondered all the praise heaped upon this film, I realized
what this must be: an instance of the proverbial case of the actor has no
clothes - not to mention Edward Norton.
To be sure, I always wondered what Mr. Norton’s bare rear-end looked
like. I am now able to set that
curiosity aside with the satisfaction of knowing that I was never missing all
that much. Considering how much time
he spent onscreen mostly naked, he almost certainly disagrees.
Mr. Norton’s clothes were not the only things persistently missing from the
film. In Birdman there is not a single sign of awareness of a world full
of people that don’t spend every waking moment of their later years in a
Godless, existential, yet totally self-referential angst. Not that they have
to agree with that other world, or even understand it. But, for some of us, watching Birdman was a bit like someone who
lives in the tropics watching a movie about people who live in Iceland who
are perpetually perplexed about how cold the world is, and moan about that
coldness as if it were unchangeable and universal. And so, folks like me watch these
characters go on about their fictional lives, fretting about how they ‘don’t
exist’, all too aware that, to the film’s creators, people like us don’t
exist – or perhaps just shouldn’t.
That’s fine though, after all, that is the experience we have with
most movies today anyway.
Expected Lack of Depth
see Birdman everywhere described as
a “dark comedy”. Now, there is a bit
of comedy in that, because while I sat in the theaters as the movie unfolded
to a fairly full house, I did not hear all that much laughing, just the odd
chuckle now and then. Then again, the
theater was dark so there was that. If
the movie itself had any darkness about it, it was not necessarily in the
moody, foreboding, or empathically tragic sense. It was dark more in the way of a smelly,
damp, heavily used boudoir for which one might have paid to visit. And, it might have been dark in what it
tells us about where lies the highest acclaim of our national culture for the
“Best Picture” of all pictures released last year.
call the movie “brash.” It sounds
nicer and more sophisticated than calling it rude, noisy, or over-bearing,
but that is what ‘brash’ means - though ‘brash’ is also usually used to imply
it is those things in an interesting way.
For me, whatever was interesting about the movie simply did not make
up for the brash I had to sit through waiting for the moment my time invested
would be finally rewarded. If anything,
after initially questioning the pursuit of fleeting popularity, and providing
the forum for a monologue mocking the movie-going public’s penchant for
explosions and blood, the movie caves in by rewarding its protagonist with
the kind of success you expect at the end of a Disney movie. Talk about an aging Hollywood actor’s
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Our forecast record cannot be beat. One can follow the herd chasing the latest
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L - Vivien Leigh in A Streetcar Named Desire, portraying Blanche DuBois losing
grasp of reality in the final scenes.
R – Neil Harris, presiding over the 2015 Academy Awards, in a bit
spoofing this year’s Oscar winner for “Best Picture”, Birdman.
‘The Seven’ Over and Over
Not a single idea
of any importance, not a one moment of high drama, not an instance of a
revelation was attempted without the liberal use of one of George Carlin’s
seven words, or Lenny Bruce’s nine. With all the allegories, metaphors, and
direct references to the male sexual organ one would be left to believe
that the only way available to the movie’s screenwriters to describe the
world was by using a teenage boy’s term for the lowest, hanging part of a
man’s privates. Swear words are a
lot like slamming a ceramic plate on the floor. Used rarely by a civilized person, it can
be a powerful call for attention to a particular raw moment or
emotion. Used constantly by a brute,
it just makes clear he knows no other way to command attention to anything.
everyone is mindlessly applauding the emperor as he parades naked before
his subjects as they all pretend to see what is not there. A review in the New Republic
online offers a more complex view.
what we think is important, and even how we think. If this were not so, why would opposing
sides care very much about whether we say ‘pro-life’ vs. ‘pro-choice’, or
‘undocumented’ vs. ‘illegal’? As
these pages have pointed out before, the juvenile male, the most violent,
brutish, and destructive member of nearly all primate species – including
our own - has conquered our social language. What fifty years ago was contained within
the domain of the common teenage boy has now dominion over almost every
form of art and entertainment, and adult social gatherings. Worse, it is even now making serious
inroads into the language of what were once serious news publications. This idea of verbal thuggery as
‘advanced’ is mostly peddled by the left, especially the Hollywood left,
but it has also been increasingly adopted by conservatives in the
infotainment media seeking ratings and coolness ‘creds’.
The Unexpected Ascendancy of the
There was a time
when most educated grown-ups, when presented with titillating or lowbrow
material, would not first consider whether the material excited
them, or brought about some kind of animal pleasure. Instead, their first
thought would be to wonder what the presenter must have thought of them to
present such material, as in “what kind of person do you think I am?” Today, that thought seems of no concern
to so many people of any age or position.
Thus, we are witness to a male in underwear presiding over the
Oscars, while national profile professionals, from news anchors to our
president, fall over each other seeking the same thing teenage boys have always
sought: cheap popularity. That
behavior used to be called ‘juvenile’.
What should we call it now?
At the Oscar’s red carpet, the lead
actress of Shades of Grey, Dakota
Johnson, was interviewed with her mother, actress Melanie Griffith. It came out that Ms. Griffith had opted
not to see her daughter in the movie, clearly because she did not want to
see her daughter in sexual situations.
Ms. Johnson could not understand this, nor could she retain her
composure when making plain her lack of understanding of her mother’s
There are a few
who seemed to have mixed feelings about some of this dignity dearth. MTV’s blogger Amanda Bell opened her
article on Mr. Harris’ antic thus: “Neil Patrick Harris whipped out the big guns,
so to speak, to impress his rapt audience. And that meant dropping trou
[sic]. Yes, that’s exactly how it sounds. And no, this wasn’t just some
childhood nightmare.” But then,
after mocking Mr. Harris with a few puns, she closed by saying, “Of course,
[emphasis hers] be noted that this was actually a pretty clever nod to Best
Picture nominee Birdman and Best
Actor nominee Michael Keaton. Because details.” Hmm.
Reads like an obligatory “I’m not a prude” disclaimer. Let’s face it, adults today fear the
accusation of ‘prude’ and ‘not being cool’ when they really should not, to
borrow from the modern vernacular, ‘give a rat’s **s. (Sound of plate
Continued column 3 >
We Speak Plainly?
any of this matter? While we are busy
building Facebook, Instagram, and Angry Birds, all the new building and
construction of the tallest skyscrapers, the longest bridges, the fastest
trains, and more, all of it is happening in the East. In our Western society, today everyone
has seen Neil Patrick Harris not impressively fill his ‘tighty
whities’. But, ask your neighbors if
they know that today America relies on Russia, with whom we are at
dangerous odds, to travel into space.
look back at the old movies, and how different they were. One of my favorites is A Streetcar Named Desire. In one of the most memorable scenes in
movie history, which will be quoted far longer after anything in any movie of last year, a
conflicted, corrupted, and broken Blanche DuBois makes a heroic case for something
May I speak plainly?...If you'll
forgive me, he's common!...Suppose? Surely you can't have forgotten that
much of our upbringing, Stella, that you suppose there's any part of a
gentleman in his nature. Oh, you're hating me saying this, aren't
you?...He's like an animal. He has an animal's habits. There's even
something subhuman about him. Thousands of years have passed him right by,
and there he is!
Stanley Kowalski, survivor of the Stone Age, bearing the raw meat home from
the kill in the jungle! And you - you here waiting by it. Maybe he'll
strike you or maybe grunt and kiss you. That's if kisses have been
discovered yet. His poker night, you call it. His party of apes! Maybe we
are a long way from being made in God's image, but Stella, my sister,
there's been some progress since then. Such things as art, as poetry, as
music. In some kinds of people, some tenderer feelings have had some little
beginning that we have got to make grow and to cling to, and hold as our
flag in this dark march toward whatever it is we're approaching. Don’t!
Don't hang back with the brutes!
those words, and with a little help from Vivien Leigh, Tennessee Williams
made my hair stand on end as the neurons in my brain rallied in excitement
at the idea painted before me, elevating me, leading me to aspire.
the issue of November 27, 2013, UWFR said that Obama “is
a man of the time. He does not
transcend it. He reflects it.” In a way, Birdman is like that. It
does not lead, it does not elevate, it does not make us aspire. And, it most certainly does not join us
in a common vision. It just reflects
the times. But, since I already know
what our time is like, Birdman
was just a waste of mine.
He who does not know the laws of
right demeanor cannot form his character.
He who does not know the force of words, cannot know men.
- Analects of Confucius
Obama No Quick Wit
UWFR Feb. 6] You topped yourself
in this issue. Good luck with your
don’t think Obama is “quick-witted” or “razor sharp.” Nor, do I think
Congress needed his permission to invite Netanyahu. You give him far too
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