Trivial Pursuit

I’ve got your commandments here…you damn dirty apes Posted by Picasa

Well, since eveyone else is busy kicking the shit out of Jeff Goldstein (the equivalent of taking stupid and making stupid-ade), I thought we could check in on aspiring director and Applebee’s Employee of the Week, Jason Apuzzo and see what he is up to beside cleaning up the spilled water at table seven. Why its the greatest story ever told that is not called The Greatest Story Ever Told:

The Ten Commandments happens to be the fifth highest-grossing film of all time, adjusted for inflation. When the film was released in 1956, theater tickets cost 50 cents – and the film still grossed over $65 million. What this means is that at today’s ticket prices, The Ten Commandments would gross roughly $838 million at the domestic box office. In the history of American moviemaking, only Gone With the Wind, Star Wars. The Sound of Music, and E.T. have fared better at the box office than DeMille’s extraordinary film. [And a theatrical re-release could easily pop the film back into the #3 spot.]

I don’t mention The Ten Commandments’ box office success, because that denotes anything in particular about the film’s merits – success at the box office can always be misleading – but to suggest the kind of powerful bond this film has with the public.

We will try and remember this the next time Jason points out the success of The Passion of The Christ and how it indicates a great national hunger for Jesus S&M and why somone should give him a day job. Later Jason solemnly intones in his deep and profound Heston-like monotone:

There were probably other reasons why DeMille was drawn to this material for his valedictory film statement. DeMille had been an ardent anti-communist for years, and he opens The Ten Commandments with an unusual prologue in which he asks whether men are “property of the state … or are they free souls under God?” “Are men to be ruled by God’s law, or ruled by the whims of a dictator? This same battle continues throughout the world today.” One can almost imagine Pope John Paul II – or Ronald Reagan – uttering those some words.

The Ten Commandments was made after the defeat of Hitler, and at the height of the Cold War – when the conflict with the Soviet Union looked to be a long, twilight struggle. It’s not hard to believe that DeMille saw Pharaonic Egypt as emblematic of tyrannical dictatorships past and present, and the Jewish exodus as representative of a universal struggle for freedom.

Okay. Now I’m confused. Doesn’t that sound like the New Hollywood Triviality?

Because Syriana, as its creators proudly admit, is really just a ‘platform.’ Just as Hollywood views films like “Lord of the Rings” as ‘platforms’ from which to sell merchandise, so too are films like Syriana or Good Night, and Good Luck or The Constant Gardener now viewed as ‘platforms’ from which to sell politics, to pontificate about the world we live in. After all, there really is no ‘point’ to a film like Syriana unless it’s to enable a George Clooney to deliver political cheap shots on TV during awards season. He does it in the film, so why not on TV?

Of course, all of this Trivializes the cinema — turning it from an art form into something much smaller, more polemical. That’s why this year’s Oscar nominees are truly films for the era of the iPod, with its 2-inch video screen. These new films make ‘points’ but constrict the imagination into something trite and pedantic – something with which we’re supposed to be edified, rather than entertained.

Soooo, a ponderous biblical soap opera with wooden acting and the worst beard in Hollywood history (sit down, Katie Holmes) can reflect cold war anti-communism and the universal longing for freedom, but anything these days that mirrors our current political climate is “trivial”.

I guess I missed the memo. It was probably dated 9/12/2001.

Bonus Over The Top Appuzo!

A review of “V for Vendetta”

Life being as short as it is, I’m not going to waste a lot of time on this …

Legend has it that back in 1933, after the Nazis had taken control of Germany, Propaganda Minister Joseph Goebbels called film director Fritz Lang (Metropolis, M) into his office and offered him control of Germany’s film industry. Lang, it is said, politely discussed the matter with Goebbels – and then promptly hopped the next train out of Germany.

Emerging from the cinema after watching V For Vendetta, it occured to me that had Goebbels lived a bit longer he probably would’ve offered the job to the Wachowskis – whom, I suspect, would’ve given him something much closer to what he wanted than Herr Lang.

This is another way of saying that V For Vendetta is essentially the Jud Süß of our time. Of course, some of you may never have heard of Jud Süß or the people who made it – and will therefore need to do a little research. Others of you will know what I’m talking about … but won’t care, or will think I’m being ‘over the top.’ Fine.

But I can say with complete assurance that there’s going to come a day in the future – and it’s a pity we’ll need to wait for that day – when the people associated with the production of V For Vendetta will be as reviled and despised as the people associated with that most notorious film.

We’re entering a frightening time, when a film like this would be made and promoted by a major media conglomerate. I’ve no doubt the West’s enemies are delighted.

According to reports out of the Pakistan, Osama bin Laden hasn’t yet seen V for Vendetta instead choosing to see Failure To Launch which he described as “charming” and the “best date movie of 2006” even though he would have beheaded the slut Sarah Jessica Parker regardless of her fine work on Sex and the City.

Hey. Everyone is a critic.

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