This week’s EW has Carrie Underwood on the cover. As long as there’s not a sound chip inside the magazine singing “Jesus, Take The Wheel” I’ve no opinion on that article.
I do, however, take issue with their lead movie review for Rendition. In doing so I’m going to sing a song I’ve sung before, but I guess it bears repeating.
Here are the choice bits of Owen Gleiberman’s thought process:
Moviegoers, in case you haven’t noticed, are in the midst of a siege of films about the war in Iraq and the politics of the post-9/11 world (at this point, the two are inseparable). So far, though, it isn’t at all clear that moviegoers are interested.
The dispiriting cold truth is that the post-9/11 films we’ve seen so far have struggled, in any real sense, to enter the national bloodstream, the collective conversation.
Yet it’s worth asking if American moviegoers, even as they’ve grown disillusioned with the war, now want to numb that disillusion instead of exploring it. These films are coming out now because they’re at least trying to make sense of a world gone awry, and to fill in the gaps left open by the news media. The time is right — or, at least, as right as it may ever be. Better too soon than too late.
Now, clearly Gleiberman moves in a world different from mine. He’s part of that world where movies are all-encompassing. They are not only entertainment but literature, social commentary and philosophy. Hey, that’s cool. Too each his own and all that. However, what OG and the other Film Geeks seem to repeatedly fail to understand is that for most of us the movies are a form of escapism. War movies that constantly question The Rightness Of It All are not escapist. Who wants to spend $8.50 and their precious Friday night to be lectured at by the First Church Of Celluloid?
But it goes beyond that.
The War On Terror and its various theatres–Iraq, Afghanistan, the airport–are something from which we are all weary. If you support the war you’ve got folks yelling at you and calling you stupid. If you are against the war you’ve got folks yelling and you and telling you you’re a traitor who should be executed. Most people on either side of the topic are pretty gun-shy by now, I think. I see it all the time. Every day I get emails about MCB from readers and lurkers who want us to not talk about the war because they’re tired of it. If some poor person is tired of the war on the Internet for free, what makes Hollywood think that person would actually hire a sitter and pay admission to think about the war some more?
And that’s the big thing that EW is missing. Gleibeman waxes nostalgic for the Vietnam war movies of yesteryear, fondly remembering how everyone flocked to the theatre for Coming Home.* Well, I was alive in the 70s. There was usually only one or two movies playing in town and the TV only had four channels–two of which had iffy reception. Of course people went to those Vietnam movies. It was either that or have sex–and have you seen how hairy and patchouli-scented most people were back then? You worked all day and maybe saw Coming Home on the weekend and discussed it with your friends afterward at Atz.
Life is different now. The Internet keeps conversation about the WoT and its various nuances going constantly. If you want to ponder anything all you have to do is hop online. Unlike 197x, it’s possible for me to discuss The War at literally any hour of the day or night. Most people who want to discuss things, too, want to discuss them. I realise that sounds banal, but think about it. If you go to one of these movies you’re stuck with swallowing the director’s view and then MAYBE hashing it out with a companion or two on the ride home. But if you really want to go all hogwild and get chatty there’s now the internet. It provides better gratification because it’s participatory. Try as they might, movies are a passive medium. (Rocky Horror being the exception which proves that little rule.)
[As an aside allow me to point out that movies like Star Wars, Jaws and Raiders were popular because they represented a return to "fun" movies and an antidote to the Coming Homes and Parallax Views of the world. There's a reason George Lucas made 8 buttloads of money off Star Wars and has to bribe people to watch THX-1138]