Big Ticket Dept.


The Misplaced Nostalgia for Movies Like “The Graduate” - The New Yorker

... such apparently anodyne studio fare as today’s plethora of superhero and comic-book movies are so often fascinatingly and intricately political, and why it’s worth paying attention to them and taking them seriously, despite the often-decried inanity of their subjects or sub-adult tenor of their themes. But this, too, involves looking at them with an eye that differs from the nostalgic exaltation of traditional Hollywood methods and manners.

This isn't a bad essay, since it puts forth a brave idea: dramas like The Graduate do in fact still get made. One thing Brody leaves out, though, is the place of promotion in all this — what productions studios choose to push.

By and large, the studios push event films or star-vehicle pratfall titles; smarter stuff is left to the word-of-mouth circuit, where it typically finds a life on video. The last time I remember a smart midlevel drama getting any push was Sideways, by Fox Searchlight, and that was a good decade ago. For the most part such movies are left to fend for themselves, which is a big part of why they typically go nowhere.

But then there's the graf I chomped out above, which makes me head spin. If Brody is implying that movies like Captain America: The Winter Soldier (he doesn't cite any actual titles, so I have to guess) are some kind of credible pop-culture alternative or successor to Three Days of the Condor (one of the film's cited inspirations), he needs to stop making me laugh.

Soldier's idea of political sophistication in storytelling is one step removed from the blood-libel level of political-culture critique levied by the likes of Noam Chomsky in What Uncle Sam Really Wants, where he cites things like Operation Paperclip as proof post-WWII U.S. policy consisted of "picking up where the Nazis left off". (This is not to say I found Paperclip a questionable activity, only that to paint it in those terms is totally misleading.)

"Paying attention to them and taking them seriously" is also another one of those open-ended statements I never know what to do with. I'm not sure we could give these movies any more attention or take them any more seriously than we already do, given how much money studios and audiences throw at them, given how much promotion effort is put behind them, and given how they complement, rather than challenge, the existing event-film model that's the standard-issue way to make money in movies. What more could they possibly want?


Tags: criticism critics marketing movies




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