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Kino Korner March 20, 2003
 
Gangs Of Shite
By Mark Ames Browse author Email
 
 

Welp folks, it's that time of the year again for me to get a nasty stomach illness near deadline, start everything too late, and try to compensate for it all by smearing the foul details of my illness on the walls of your mind, Bobby Sands-like. See, Monday morning...woke up early...bloated stomach...noisome gas...suddenly, a faucet squirts out of my ass, requiring me to cup my hand to my butt and skedaddle to the toilet. I swear to god this is true. I felt a menacing rumbling so I stood up from the couch when the sewer pipes snapped.

This issue's kino korner offers me more than just another opportunity to review the latest trio of forgettable Hollywood films to hit Moscow's theaters. It also is my first chance to comment on the Academy Awards ceremony this coming Sunday. It's depressing, folks. And it's not easy. I mean I love pop culture as much, if not more, than the next guy. I'm willing to accept its terms for debate. But it's just that you go through these useless oscillations just to keep yourself sane: first you hate mainstream Hollywood and get deeply offended by their choices for the Oscars because they're clearly, objectively wrong (case-in-point: neither David Lynch, Martin Scorcese nor Quentin Tarrantino have won Oscars); then you decide that it's not worth getting upset over, that within their own frame, they have the right to reward the mawkish and mediocre, that pop culture should be celebrated for its crudeness, otherwise you're in danger of becoming a lame coastal elitist; then you come to the counter-conclusion that no, mainstream Hollywood is wrong and evil and that's a fact whether or not it means you find yourself agreeing with a layer of the Beigeocracy whom you'd just as soon see shipped off GITCO, that no matter what anyone says, A Beautiful Mind was not the best movie of 2001, that to suggest so is a crime against humanity, especially when films like Mulholland Drive and Storytelling (not to mention Not Another Teenage Movie) were not only far superior but rare cultural events that will be remembered in 100 years; and just as you're about to adopt another counter-counter-stance, you realize you've been there before, and there's nothing left but to declare yourself once and for all for what you believe in. Few ever reach that point.

In 2002, the same old rules apply. The Academy have made sure that they chose a list of nominees just passably deserving enough to maintain the very base minimum of credibility, which is what makes it more painful. Take for example the nominees for Best Picture: Chicago (a movie I'm boycotting); Gangs of New York (Scorcese's senile answer to Godfather III, with Di Caprio and Diaz rivaling Sophia Coppolla for most cringe-inspiring, sphincter-twisting performances of the Cenozoic Period); The Hours (a weepy PBS movie about an overrated middle-aged dyke writer - didn't SCTV already do this once in a skit?); The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (has the distinction of being the first movie ever made 10 years AFTER it was successfully parodied by Army of Darkness); and The Pianist (don't even get me started on this one, the sleaziest attempt in years to capitalize on the Holocaust in order to rescue a failing career). And that's it. That's what all of America is going to worship as the fruit of its 10 trillion dollar economy, its hyper-superpower status built through decades of effort and excellence, its unparalleled technology, wealth, education and military machinery: a celebration of the five most perfectly mediocre, cautious, easy-to-pick films of the year. A list of films that somehow look like Tom Ridge's face: responsible, hard-working, team-player films that do nothing but make you panic every few weeks. I'm afraid that this is what cinema in the Bush Era is going to be like.

As far as I can tell there was only one really great movie in 2002, the kind of movie that shifts the mind's plates, and that is Michael Moore's Bowling For Columbine. The Academy could not ignore it in the Best Documentary category for the simple reason that it's the highest grossing doc ever produced, and you know what they say about money in Hollywood. Bowling is that rarest of movies in the Bush era: it dares to be irresponsible, that is, irresponsible in the other way, the counter-attack way. For some reason it's considered just fine for movie after to movie to flat-out lie with happy endings and positive character transformations. No one calls that kind of lie irresponsible, even though it's led to millions of bad decisions, failed relationships and billions of collected human hours wasted waiting for that fucking epiphany or happy ending to come. Moore errs the other way: he uses the documentary medium and his good name, abusing the viewers' gullibility, to produce one of the truly great works of propaganda in years. The forces that he's taking on, the malignant American right-wing oligarchy, have never played fair with anyone, so why should Moore? To move your audience a few degrees left, you have to exaggerate, scream, slant, bombard, anything but play fair.


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Ames
Browse author
Email Mark Ames at editor@exile.ru.
 
 
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