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Works and Days

Give Me a Warren Oates or Jack Palance Any Day

April 19th, 2008 - 10:25 pm

What’s Wrong With Hollywood?

It is more interested in political correctness than profits, as the Iraq War movie bombs attest. Talent is no longer gravitating to Hollywood, but staying put in Europe and Asia. Alternate media, from the Internet to video games to cable television, mean that fewer go to the movies anymore (I went once in the last 12 months). The old bread-and-butter genres—like the Western or the war movie—are either moribund or merely landscapes for political revisionism.

One difference is the steady decline in the quality of male actors. We simply do not have a James Stewart, Burt Lancaster, Henry Fonda, Gregory Peck, Bill Holden, or John Wayne any more, much less brilliant against-the grain actors like a Robert Duvall, Lee Marvin, Jack Palance, or a Yul Brenner, nor character actors like a Slim Pickens or a Ben Johnson.

Today’s he-man actors don’t even sound the same as the old breed. Compare the speech patterns and intonation of Humphrey Bogart, James Cagney, Spencer Tracey, Henry Fonda or Bill Holden to those of a Sean Penn, Tom Cruise, or Tom Hanks—and there seems to be a new, but separate species of male. The appeal of a Robert DeNiro, Al Pacino, or Daniel Day-Lewis is that they sound like, well, the old breed rather than sensitive metrosexuals.

Some of you will sigh: Victor, Victor, actors only reflect the society that produces them. We don’t have a Henry Fonda or Jimmy Stewart because we aren’t Fondas and Stewarts any more.

Perhaps, but what I also don’t understand is that we know that excellent war films—Breaker Morant, Saving Private Ryan, and Das Boot—win over critics and audiences. Why then do we keep seeing snoozers like Redacted, Lions for Lambs, or Stop Loss? Is there that little talent left?

Obama’s Problems—Let Me Count the Ways

I continue to get barrages of furious mail from Obamiacs, full of self-righteousness, and outrage that anyone might dare criticize the next Messiah. So some additional thoughts:

By any standard measure, Democrats should win the November election by a landslide. The dollar is collapsing. Fuel is sky-high. The deficit is too large, the economy stagnant. The war goes on; real estate prices have nosedived. Food is climbing each month. Many of these problems are due to the entry of China and India into the world economy, as hundreds of millions of new consumers are demanding the consumer lifestyle that Americans take for granted, and resources are now bid upon by the entire globe. Nonetheless, the American political tradition mandates that a President gets the credit he doesn’t deserve for good times, and the blame for the bad he didn’t completely earn.

So instead of McCain running even or better against Obama or Clinton, he should be polling 10-15 points behind. Why, then, is McCain doing so well? Much of the answer is the Obama-Clinton cat-fighting; but Obama has also shown an inability to come clean the first time after an embarrassing disclosure or gaffe. By now the public expects instead that more of his serial half-truths will follow ad nauseam.

Rev. Wright. Because Obama never distanced himself from the Rev., the latter will come back to haunt him again and again. Just these last two weeks, examine three ways in which his ghost did so.

Wright himself gave a speech caricaturing the Founding Fathers, and using the old Jefferson-as-pedophile trope, while the cable news channels showed his 10,000 sq. ft. gated estate (a dividend of the hated “black middleclassness”?); second, Obama’s Pennsylvania comments immediately called for (Wright) analogies that Obama is so famous for: if white Middle America “clings” to its religion in fear and in bitterness, what then were the Obamas doing for 20-years at the Wright ministry?; there has been a number of racial “slips”, from Rev. Lee in Los Angeles and his anti-Semitic outbursts to Congressman Geoff Davis’s “That boy’s finger does not need to be on the button.” But in these cases and those to come, Obama has lost the moral high ground of commentary, and instead has in advance offered the cover of contextualization for any future perpetrator. Now anyone can say, “But, I did a lot of good things; and you’re just using snippets; and you’re just playing this over and over again for political purposes; and we all say things like this from time to time; and you don’t understand the milieu in which the insensitivity was uttered.”

Michelle Obama. After the “no pride” and “mean” America speeches and interviews, someone should have given her a written script, lest she trumps Mrs. Kerry’s wacky performance in 2004. But she’s back at it again with her “raise the bar” and “had to pay back those college loans” shrillness. Yet once again, new events always overtake a problem not solved. So this week the 2007 Obama tax returns revealed over $4 million in income. In that context, the same old whine about Ivy-League student loans, summer camp costs, piano lessons, et al. are becoming even more tiring. The Obama campaign’s challenge: can Michelle give a single uplifting speech in which she sounds the theme of America as a land of opportunity—or at least the notion that she is hopeful and confident, given that she received an Ivy-League education, bought a $1.6 million house, and makes over a third of a million dollars in salary? If not, by September she will become a Saturday-Night-Live caricature of the proverbial whiner, and by November a would-be, post-modern First Lady who travels the world explaining to others what’s wrong with the United States.

Jimmy Carter. At first, Obama said Carter’s Hamas’ gambit was none of his business. Then he said Carter should not meet with a group that advocates the destruction of Israel. So why then does Obama wish to meet with Ahmadinejad, whose position is identical to that of the Hamas leadership? In short, he should simply assume that whatever Carter is for, he is against.

Cut out the analogies. They are usually false and such similes only reveal a disturbing pattern of mendacity. Sen. Coburn is not similar to Bill Ayers: the former is a US Senator who offered the idea of a hypothetical death penalty for the abortionist should abortion ever become a capital crime; the latter was an unrepentant terrorist in deed.Obama’s grandmother is not analogous to Rev. Wright: what she says in private is not the same as what Wright declaims in public; suggesting that black males might frighten solitary women has a basis in the fact that black young males have higher than average incarceration rates; there is no basis in fact for Wright’s claims that the US government created the AIDs virus or that Israel and South Africa created a special racial bomb. Wright is not like a typically eccentric “uncle”, since we pick our pastors, not our relatives. Anytime Obama tries to talk in the abstract or evoke similes to excuse a lapse (the “everyone does it” defense), he only makes things worse.

Cut out the use of “they”, as in the yokel “they” who cling to guns, or Michelle’s “they” who raise the bar on her. Who is this “they”? A President leads “us”, not “them”. When the Obamas are in charge, will they be “they”?

But no matter. We are in the realm of prophets and holy men, and we must trust in Lord Hope and God Change that are immune from answering bothersome facts. Trust what I really think, rather than what I say and do, is the new Obama creed.

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