The relaunch of Libertas is like a reversal of the old joke about lawyers: What do you call a thousand lawyers trapped at the bottom of a well? A good start. We don’t need one more conservative blog about movies and culture, we need hundreds more. But Libertas and its few competitors are a promising start.
Libertas, which was originally launched in 2005, went dark in 2008 while promising a rethink and a reboot. In the meantime, it lost its most resonant voice — that of writer John Nolte when Big Hollywood launched and tapped him as its editor. Libertas’s founders and editors, Govindini Murty and Jason Apuzzo, are still running it, but when it relaunched May 19 they promised “a different emphasis from” the original Libertas. They say the former site “spent most of its time critiquing the ideological content of Hollywood entertainment — much of which is still inimical to freedom.”
The new site promises to:
“[Promote] films that celebrate freedom, democracy, and the dignity of the individual [by featuring] short films, webisodes, movie clips and trailers, podcasts, as well as news and reviews of pro-freedom films that are currently in theaters or are available on DVD. … Libertas’ goal is to show our readers movies they can enjoy — not just to warn them about movies to avoid.
This last sentence seems to imply that competitor sites are joyless and negative — but if the web has proved one thing in the last ten years, it’s that loathing can be entertainment. How many sites — cultural, political, economic, whatever — are devoted partly or mainly to appalling the reader? High dudgeon is a valuable commodity. I enjoy a little outrage with my morning coffee. If you’re on this site, maybe you do too.
So I’m glad to report that Libertas does not, in fact, shy away from a little vigorous acid-spewing — labeling Avatar “asinine” in one post, and “anti-American propaganda on a staggering scale” in another. (Okay, these are a bit late, but I think it’s fair to say that had Libertas existed when Avatar came out it would not have been slow to formulate some opinions about it).
You expect to come across such opinions on Big Hollywood, too, but Libertas goes on to this fumdoozler of a conclusion:
Films like Victor Erice’s Spirit of the Beehive (1973), Tarkovsky’s Stalker (1979), and Koreeda’s Maborosi (1995) demonstrate James Cameron’s vast and pathetic misunderstanding of his own art form. Sinking into almost complete stillness, they begin to speak the half-veiled symbol language of the world, and, as Yeats says, “call down among us certain disembodied powers, whose footsteps over our hearts we call emotions.”
Whoa. That’s a lotta syllables and suspiciously foreign-sounding words, there, pardner. And Yeats!
It may be that Libertas Film Magazine, or LFM, sees itself (at least for the moment) as a broadsheet, in-depth, brainier alternative to Big Hollywood’s tabloid-style layout. I’m all in favor of the idea that conservative taste need not necessarily be associated with the quick draw and the carpet bomb instead of reasoned, on-the-one-hand/on-the-other-hand discussion.
But Big Hollywood, like other Andrew Breitbart-produced sites, does what it does insanely well. Who wouldn’t want to read stories with headlines like: “Network That Cowers Before Muhammad: ‘You Lied to Me, Jew Producer'” or “Poll: Did ‘Office’ Star Nunez Try to Sink Miss Oklahoma w/ Divisive Immigration Question?” Logging on to Big Hollywood, you are instantly confronted with a mock movie marquee containing ten or more grabby blurbs. You don’t even need to hit the scroll button to find yourself deep in the middle of several simultaneous heated arguments about the most talked-about films and celebrities.
Contrast that with “Pro-Freedom Themes in Bosnian-Herzegovinian Film Festival,” which was one of the inaugural posts on Libertas. I resolved to read it at some undefined later date, and of course on the Web “later” means “never.” If Libertas resembles a tabloid, so far that tabloid appears to be The New York Review of Books. My prediction: Soon it will be featuring relatively few updates from Bosnian film festivals and wading right into the roiling surf of Hollywood controversies. There’s an ocean of disputation out there, and I’m not talking about arguing the relative merits of Tarkovsky’s Stalker and Koreeda’s Maborosi.