Ed: Andrew, back in February, the Weekly Standard reviewed Edward Jay Epstein’s book, The Big Picture. As they noted, Epstein posits that Hollywood is an endlessly profitable echo chamber. How much is Hollywood protected by revenue beyond the American box office? How much does that insulate them, to allow them to do these kinds of anti-Bush, anti-War on Terror, anti-conservative films? And, how long can it last?
Andrew: Well, I always thought that in the Harvey Weinstein era, the Miramax era, that we were creating two cinematic Americas. One was the schlock, the weekend blockbuster stuff that’s so cynical that people on both sides can look at and say, “oh, that’s just bottom-line oriented product.” And they’re missing it’s so lowest common dominator that it’s too bland for people to appreciate. And those type of failures at the box office are countless, but that form of picture is totally worthy of analysis unto itself. And a lot of that has to do with the fact those movies, now, are mainly produced to appeal to a global audience.
In the past, studios said, “OK, let’s craft this movie to the heartland,” and ultimately, by crafting it to the heartland, it sent a message to the rest of the world, “Boy, I’d really like to come to America, it seems magical there.”
But now, there are politically correct sensibilities that aren’t just politically politically correct sensibilities, but they’re bottom-line politically correct concepts that they’re trying to pursue.
That’s the first type of film that they’re talking about: the pursuit of the blockbuster. And there’s mostly an apolitical nature to that part.
But then you have the Oscar/Sundance/Miramax axis. And that’s the type of film that is done on the cheap by Hollywood standards; that tends to be the message movie that conveys perfectly where Hollywood is intellectually and artistically. If you were to isolate that type of movie over the last ten years, you would see that what Hollywood is elevating is nothing short of nihilism. Whether that be American Beauty, or even a Syriana, what you see are movies that pretty much…
These people have long ago put America on trial, and found America, and its underlying consumer-oriented culture, to be guilty. And this is their way of, on one hand producing it, and on the other, looking for immediate artistic penance.
Those are the types of movies I find myself going to, even though I have to bite my lip, because they are the best-made movies, the message not withstanding. But it’s on rare occasion that you find an artsy movie that attempts to elevate, or that puts an American…
If I were somebody in Red Country (and I think of myself as being a Red Country American), I do find it offensive, but I think that the comeuppance is in the rejection of Hollywood.
I think it comes in the form of policy(sp?).
We certainly need our diversions in the age of Terror, where most Americans are worried that an American city will be annihilated by nuclear bombs, by people who are fanatics that are ten times worse than the Christian Right.
I think that you need to divert your attention; you can’t be 24/7 focused on the impending problems that exist in our culture, and that exist within world politics.
So I think that what Americans have done, is that when handed lemons, they have made lemonade. And so I think that by taking the sourpusses of Hollywood, the ones who refuse to deign to treat the average American as worthy of their focus, I think that Hollywood has created a vacuum that has been filled by entertainment that is basically Schadenfreude. I think that we now look to watch people fail, especially celebrities, the people who have been handed the most, for the least amount of contribution to society. In the past, we used to look up to them, and wanted to dress like them, and wanted to imitate the way that they spoke; they way that they dressed. We’d have pin-ups.