The Tipping Point: Polanski, Moore and why Hollywood Hates You

7 10 2009

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MaryAnn Johansen of at The Flick Filosopher lists this week’s box office numbers and asks the question why the re-release of Toy Story and Toy Story 2 are outperforming films like Whip It and Ricky Gervais’ The Invention of Lying. At the risk of restating an obvious theme, can I put out the possibility that it’s because Hollywood hates its audience and everything they stand for? We may have finally reached the tipping point where Hollywood realizes that it’s in trouble.

Before the obvious objection, I acknowledge that this is not the only reason for the precipitous decline. There’s a lot of technological reasons. The ubiquity of home video, a new universe of entertainment choices including video games, the Internet and all sorts of homemade entertainment options has to take a bite out of Hollywood’s pie but it’d be stupid not to acknowledge that that Hollywood’s screwed-up value system has finally started to bleed over into the work itself, producing films that either insult, sucker punch or fly right over the heads of their intended audience while dripping with contempt for the people they’re trying to sell tickets to.

Take Ricky Gervais’ “The Invention of Lying.” Here’s a movie that sells itself as a quirky romantic comedy with an interesting premise (What if everyone told the truth all the time?) that then devotes it’s middle third to lecturing its audience that all of their deeply held beliefs are just convenient fictions. It’s not that I have any particular objection to Ricky Gervais making a film about his atheist beliefs, it’s he (ironically considering the subject of the movie) then has to lie to us to get us to go and see it. First with a tremendously deceptive trailer, then by trotting out the classic John Stewart “I’m just a comedian” defense in an effort to salvage the film’s sagging box office numbers. If you’re going to make an atheist screed, have the courage of your convictions and be willing to accept that maybe you’ve just limited your own box office.

This didn’t used to happen. Sure, Hollywood was always liberal — even leftist. But they used to know how to create great movies because they respected the intelligence and acumen of their audience enough to create stories for them — not thinly disguised lectures. It isn’t that the audience disagrees with you, it’s that nobody really enjoys paying $12.00 to be lectured by people who obviously hate us.

Even worse, our 24-hour news cycle celebrity-obsessed culture has simultaneously exposed the sick and twisted culture of Hollywood while at the same time holding it up as something to be admired and envied. Is it any wonder that Hollywood, a town filled with pathologically insecure, envious people desperate for the validation of others would begin to believe their own press releases? These are pathetic conformists who only exist inside a make-believe bubble and have the world telling them 24-hours a day that they’re better and more important than the regular proles who exist only to fill theater seats. It’s not wonder the arrest of Roman Rolanski inspired such outrage in the creative community. It’s not just that they arrested an artiste whose brilliant creative output puts him above such mundane concerns as a little child rape, it’s that they arrested him at a film festival! Check out this delightful passage from the petition to release Polanski.

“Filmmakers in France, in Europe, in the United States and around the world are dismayed by this decision. It seems inadmissible to them that an international cultural event, paying homage to one of the greatest contemporary filmmakers, is used by the police to apprehend him.”

When the Hell did a film festival become the equivalent of a foreign embassy? There’s no diplomatic immunity for directors! The thing is, to these people, there should be. Film festivals are where the Olympians gather to display their art. Why should they have to worry about petty matters like the law at such rarified heights?

To be fair, there are always idiots who validate this world view. They range from sycophants who can’t understand why someone would care about the forced sodomization of a 13-year old when there are wonderful movies like Chinatown to watch to the followers of Michael Moore. Moore is a millionaire capitalist whose latest film is an unvarnished plea for the overthrow of the very system that supplies him with cheap Twinkies and Ralph Lauren Polo shirts.

According to Fortune Magazine, Moore’s films have grossed over $300 million worldwide. His highest grossing film was “Fahrenheit 9/11,” which critiques the Bush administration’s handling of the war in Iraq and earned over $200 million worldwide.

Moore reportedly was paid $21 million by Disney for producing, directing and creating the film.

Moore also earned 50 percent of the profits of his 2007 film “Sicko,” totaling $25 million plus DVD sales, according to Vanity Fair.

The Los Angeles Times reported that Moore would receive all of the profits made from DVD sales of “Sicko,” sales of which have been estimated at over $17 million.

(credit: CNS News)

One would think that Lord Moore would be concerned about his own image, considering the politics of those who believe every frame of his movies. Not so much:

The Capitalism: A Love Story premiere party was a study in decadent excess.

“The event, hosted by Esquire, doubled as the launch of the magazine’s “Ultimate Bachelor Pad,” a fully tricked-out, 11-room, nine-bathroom, 9,200-square-foot signature penthouse in SoHo, filled with flatscreens, sleek, modern furniture and luxury brands—each room meticulously designed around an advertisers’ theme. (The Hugo Boss bedroom! The Heineken lounge! The Lufthansa kitchen!)

As Esquire publisher Kevin O’Malley explains in the Esquire SoHo brochure, part of the reason that the magazine does this every year—alternating between New York and L.A.—is to meet its “advertisers’ growing need to create relevant and innovative new consumer touchpoints for their brands. Our affluent readers share a range of passions: a real desire for the best-of-class products and services that our advertisers represent.”

In other words, the pinnacle of capitalism. A fantasy in capital excess. A byproduct of the corporate greed Moore rails against in the film.

By the time Moore arrived, the party was in full swing, with revelers enjoying the 360-degree views of Lower Manhattan on the 3,000-square-foot terrace, top-shelf themed bars, sipping signature cocktails (there was a guy hired to blow dry ice on one pomegranate-and-melon-martini thing) and devouring skewers of filet mignon.

Esquire even hired models to strip down and slip into the obligatory hot tub.”

Yet Moore will get away with it because he’s our better. We need to do as he says, not as he does. And no, this is not about hypocrisy. It’s about an explicit call for the overthrow of the capitalist economic system and its replacement with the system that made economic and environmental paradises out of the old Soviet Union, Cuba and now Venezuela that he himself is not willing to participate in. Well, the leaders of the Party need their Black Sea dachas after all.

For the record, I begrudge not a single penny of the money Michael Moore has earned. It’s his. Let him keep it.

Somehow, I doubt that he would give me the same courtesy since he seems to want the government to take away yet more of MY money.

Before I sign on to Mr. Moore’s wholesale redesign of the American economy, I expect him to reduce his living standard to the equivalent of $150,000 a year and use the remainder of his money to purchase health insurance for as many uninsured families as he can afford. Socialism begins at home– his home. His multimillion dollar thousands of square-foot Sasquatch-of-a-carbon-footprint bulldozing-a-wetland home.

Somehow socialists are never willing to part with their own money while grabbing it away from those evil white RethugliKKKan businessmen.

This is the guy you want as the spokesperson for your movement?

Wondering why Hollywood is losing its box office power is like Marie Antionette in the cart wondering why everyone misinterpreted her remark about pastries.

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3 responses

7 10 2009
ferricide

hollywood has definitely lost the plot. ricky gervais is just painfully boring and borderline stupid, actually, and i’m beginning to think the office was a complete fluke. with extras, he jumped feet first into the hollywood thing and sadly that was the only good thing about it — its guest stars. that says something about his creative bankruptcy. however, if you want to see real creative bankruptcy, check out his standup.

my frustrations with hollywood aren’t 100% the same as yours (surprise) but i definitely think that its self-obsession is getting in the way of genuine and interesting creativity. it’s a neverending regurgitation of the same tedious irrelevancies over and over again.

what bothers me is the covering up of genuineness with image. i think this bothers a lot of people. of course my cocerns over what’s being covered up may be different (i’d be happier if a lot more gay stars were out. seems only B-listers and comedians are comfortable with that. who was ellen when she came out? not who she is today.)

i get rolling stone (it was free! i don’t know why it showed up!) and in the megan fox interview (as a gay man there is very little that’s more boring than megan fox, lemme tell you) there’s a bit where diablo cody says “like everybody else, i’m a little obsessed with megan fox” … talk about a total lack of any sort of perspective. you and all of your boring clone “friends” and associates are obsessed with this tedious “it girl”. even the concept of the it girl is boring.

there were other BIG BIG problems with that article but i’m not interested enough to continue.

the polanski thing is beyond ridiculous; it’s nice to see everybody going HEY HE’S A RAPIST HERE.

9 10 2009
IronchefOklahoma

I think your rant is heart-felt, but I wonder if you’re asking the right questions. Sure, Hollywood is a den of Stalinist moral degenerates. But it’s been that way for 50 years.

The first question to ask is, are these films actually losing money? Sure the salaries are outrageous and the ticket sales have tanked. But with DVD distribution and (more importantly) foreign sales, are these movies really losing money? If not, and since the overseas market obviously provides the bulk of their income, then the more Hollywood slams Americans, the better they’ll do.

The second question to ask is, if the answer to the first is, “yes”, then why are the studios continuing to produce product they know will lose money for them?

I doubt there’s any organized conspiracy. But anytime I see this big of a disconnect between people’s behavior and profitable behavior I start smelling a rat.

10 10 2009
delsyn

I actually don’t have the answer to that. Hollywood’s accounting is legendarily muddled and I don’t have access to anything other than what’s publicly available. I do agree with you in one way — I don’t believe it’s an organized conspiracy either. I don;t believe Hollywood gets up in the morning twirling its mustache and snickering about what they’ll do today to destroy America’s moral fiber. Hollywood is what happens when an insular degenerate community is pumped up far beyond where they should be.

Once upon a time actors and theater people were considered one moral step above prostitutes. Frankly I think that’s unfair to prostitutes who at least offer service for a reasonable price but it’s a good start.

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