Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Still believe in that happy ending?

An interesting insight from New York Times film critic A. O. Scott, from Slate's "Movie Club 2005":

But I want to get right to the large topic that hovers between Jonathan's and David's posts—the question of how movies can (or should) engage pressing and controversial political and social concerns, and the related question of how these engagements should be judged. It seems to me that there is a disproportionate belief in the power of movies to influence opinion—"Fahrenheit 9/11" was going to decide the election; "Brokeback Mountain" will roll back the homophobic tide; "The Chronicles of Narnia" will bring news of the Gospels to a new generation of children, etc.—and an accompanying eagerness to dismiss them when they fail, as of course they do, at least in the short, measurable term. This cycle of overvaluation and rejection reflects an unresolved cultural ambivalence, especially among educated people, about movies as an art form and (therefore) as a vehicle for thinking about matters other than art. The scale and power of film is such that it can never apparently be trusted or valued without some component of anxiety, the expression of which often takes the form of condescension. We spend a lot of time complaining about the triviality of movies, and then, when they turn serious, we complain about that. They get the historical facts wrong; they traffic in overwrought conspiracy theories or unconvincing happy endings; they manipulate rather than enlighten; they're not as smart as we are.

No comments: