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Thursday, March 09, 2006


OpinionJournal - Peggy Noonan
Which gets us to George Clooney, and his work. George Clooney is Hollywood now. He is charming and beautiful and cool, but he is not Orson Welles. I know that's like saying of an artist that he's no Rembrandt, but bear with me because I have a point that I think is worth making.
Orson Welles was an artist. George Clooney is a fellow who read an article and now wants to tell us the truth, if we can handle it.

More important, Orson Welles had a canny respect for the audience while maintaining a difficult relationship with studio executives, whom he approached as if they were his intellectual and artistic inferiors. George Clooney has a canny respect for the Hollywood establishment, for its executives and agents, and treats his audience as if it were composed of his intellectual and artistic inferiors. (He is not alone in this. He is only this year's example.)

And because they are his inferiors, he must teach them. He must teach them about racial tolerance and speaking truth to power, etc. He must teach them to be brave. And so in his acceptance speech for best supporting actor the other night he instructed the audience about Hollywood's courage in making movies about AIDS, and recognizing the work of Hattie McDaniel with an Oscar.

Was his speech wholly without merit? No. It was a response and not an attack, and it appears to have been impromptu. Mr. Clooney presumably didn't know Jon Stewart would tease the audience for being out of touch, and he wanted to argue that out of touch isn't all bad. Fair enough. It is hard to think on your feet in front of 38 million people, and most of his critics will never try it or have to. (This is a problem with modern media: Only the doer understands the degree of difficulty.)

But Mr. Clooney's remarks were also part of the tinniness of the age, and of modern Hollywood. I don't think he was being disingenuous in suggesting he was himself somewhat heroic. He doesn't even know he's not heroic. He thinks making a movie in 2005 that said McCarthyism was bad is heroic.

How could he think this? Maybe part of the answer is in this: 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. 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.

Comments:
Hollywood is so out of touch, that when you listen to interviews they actually believe that America agrees with their liberal attitudes.

The trouble isn't only the stars. We have critics who drive down our throats that glamorous equals causes like homosexuality, racial themes, and values contrary to Christianity. So we've had a generation of actors, actresses, directors, and the like who have been conditioned to appease the critics.

And they wonder why they can't sell at the box office.
 

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