But what about those “old” formal styles of film developed in Europe in the early decades of cinema? They’re still around; one of the distinctive qualities of American cinema is its quality of assimilation—it’s quite prone to taking influences outside itself and absorbing them. It took those European ideas and stripped them of their ideology (Hollywood’s appearance of a lack of ideology can be said to be an ideology of its own), deploying them because they can perform certain functions admirably. Where are you most likely to see collision montage, expressionism, and avant-garde elements in the supposedly-realistic sphere of mainstream Hollywood? Curiously enough, you see it in dreams.
James Zadroga was a NYPD officer and one of the police, fire, and paramedic first responders to the attacks at the World Trade Center on 9/11. He died in 2006; the cause was in dispute but is believed to be a result of toxic materials he inhaled while performing his duties at Ground Zero.
A number of his fellow first responders are too sick to work and are fighting with insurance companies for the funds to pay for their medical care. A bill named after Zadroga, intended to give financial aid and medical support to these people who have been lauded as heroes, passed the House but was blocked by a Senate Republican caucus that is fighting for the passage of tax cuts.
The latest episode of NBC’s The Office (Thursdays, 9 PM) entitled “China” uses Michael (Steve Carell) and his newfound fear of China’s economic power as the launching point for its storyline. It’s interesting how this ambivalence towards corporate internationalism seems to be of a piece with another NBC Thursday sitcom, Outsourced. And while that other show appears to be the most egregious example of racial minstrelsy on network television since The Secret Diary of Desmond Pfeiffer or perhaps Homeboys in Outer Space, The Office manages to poke fun at American naivety about China while exploring the political and cultural fears permeating the China discussion.
No, I’m not talking about the actual theory, which is the first joke that people make when I say that; I’m talking about television here. I understand that “hate” may be too strong of a word to deploy against The Big Bang Theory. A more accurate title might be “I Hate Chuck Lorre”, or “I Am Alienated by The Big Bang Theory and Not in the Good Brechtian Way.”
In The City (La ciudad), a 1999 drama film directed by David Riker, we get an unvarnished, unsentimental look at the plight of Hispanic immigrants in New York: language barriers, alienation and isolation, and abusive labor practices and lack of access to social services. Riker attempts to accurately reflect these experiences as they would happen in the real world, and uses non-actors and location photography to enhance this element. The City comes off as an utterly realistic film—and yet it is filmed in black-and-white.
(with apologies to Lawrence Weschler) Imagine our national media as the population’s mental landscape. What’s playing in the cinemas and on our televisions reflects something about our collective psychology – our hopes, dreams, and fears. We engage with entertainment to experience catharsis and indulge in fantasy. Things in the real world have a presence in [...]
I’ve made no secret of my hatred for Graydon Carter’s society rag Vanity Fair, so guess what happened when I opened its September 2010 issue? I sliced my finger open on a subscription card; not off to a good start. I was only interested in this issue because of the feature story devoted to Lady Gaga, who you may know as an artist of particular interest to me.
In honor of Kathryn Bigelow’s historic achievement in being the first woman to win the Academy Award for Best Director, this is a repost of my article about women in Hollywood, originally posted in August of 2009.
It is often difficult to locate a sense of authorship in the popular music world, much of which is manufactured by committee and corporate dictum and bears more than a little resemblance to the Hollywood studio system. Not every pop musician can claim authorship over his or her work; in fact, few can. Before one can examine Lady Gaga’s body of work for an authorial voice, one must justify that the body of work belongs to her in the first place. What separates Gaga from most other pop singers and musicians that we can even begin to ask the question, “What is Lady Gaga’s authorial signature?”
Both shows meditate on how grief is a personal and supremely unique torment, impossible to share with others; and yet we do it anyway because we don’t know anything else. Without indulging in normative claims about what a family should be, both shows dramatize that we live in a society that is bereft of fathers and yet that same society will always live in their shadow. And finally, both Friday Night Lights and Gossip Girl tell us in order to heal the wounds and pain caused by the loss of their fathers, the characters must confront their own fears and misgivings about who they are as individuals. Chuck and Matt are men, not their father’s sons.