Wednesday, December 01, 2010
By Bernie Quigley
For The Hill on 12/1/10
OMG! news reports that James Franco and Anne Hathaway will host “Hollywood’s biggest night,” the Oscars. Omg! He played the sidekick in “Spiderman,” I think, and she was in that movie which gave away the ending to “Lost.” Suggests we are in a between; a time waiting as Israel waits for David, as Marcos Moulitsas and crew from the Daily Kos waits for the Clinton era people to go away, - the time described by the Wu Priesthood as “wu chi”; undifferentiated karma between worlds; imagine there’s no heaven, no country, no religion too. Imagine there’s no Oprah. Imagine Dr. House finally gets a girl friend. Imagine the new generation finally arising, but for big screen Hollywood, there won’t be one.
The art has moved on, and so have the artists. There is still occasionally mastery in the combined big-screen story-telling of Jeremy Renner and director Kathryn Bigelow like that in “Hurt Locker,” and flashes of light in the work of director Catherine Hardwicke. But a glimpse at the Redbox window will tell you what Blockbuster has recently discovered: That which started in John Ford’s Arizona desert has been taken down by the tumbleweed.
Today, artists work in TV. For a long time now, TV has been hiding its mastery, riding beneath the censors as the great Russian writers did in the 19th century: In “Mad Men,” the protagonist is early on given a talisman by a Jewish daughter, giving Don’s saga cosmological intent; in “Lost” the demonic Ben is marked by a chest wound and given a copy of “The Brother’s Karamazov” identifying him as a Christ figure gone mad at the end of his work, and even as far back as Chris Carter’s “X Files” where Fox Mulder is “born again” by Indian shaman and Scully’s hybrid baby born under the flag of the White Buffalo, indicating aeon Aquarius rising. Not since John Ford put an apron on Jimmy Stewart to match him against John Wayne has such subtlety in story telling occurred in Hollywood.
And big screen Hollywood has never seen mastery like that of Tony Sirico, Paulie “Walnuts” Gaultieri, in “The Sopranos.” (YouTube “Paulie Walnuts – ‘The 3 O’clock thing’” for a taste.) What makes “The Sopranos” and “Mad Men” great is troupe acting. And small screen economics allow actors, directors and writers to use their words, and to work together as one. Big screen has long been dominated by “superstars” – Jack Nicholson, Robert De Niro, Daniel Day-Lewis; always men – blunderbusting across the screen alone. At the first, Aldous Huxley, hated the big screen and saw it as an instrument of cultural dominance by Americans; thus perhaps “Ford” the “god” of the autonomous feel-good totalitarianism in “Brave New World.” I wonder how Huxley would feel about getting groped by the rubber glove brigade at the airports today?
But the American “big screen” era has yielded to small screen, possibly suggesting our diminishing influence in the world. Even miniscule screens, like the Droids and iPads my kids carry.
It may have all ended with the parallel journeys of “Star Trek” and “Star Wars”; the one across the universe and beyond. The other inward. And has anyone in the “small government” movement noticed that in spite of what Ronald Reagan said about the Evil Empire, the Star Wars saga seems a textbook treatise against all mega states and mega governments including this one, and a journey back again to the “natural state” – called “Druidia" in the Mel Brooks spoof, “Spaceballs,” but one that also bears an unmistakable suggestion of Israel in the very last episodes?