Not only am I back. I'm actually going to start a Blog post like Andy Rooney would. God help us all...
Do you remember when movies used to be ABOUT something? Especially political movies. I love political movies. Two of my all time favourite movies are directly political, and they are both about something tangible. The Manchurian Candidate is about McCarthyism and though it deals with subject matter in the abstract, the parallels are fairly clear and fairly undeniable. Bob Roberts is about the branding of Patriotism and a Concept of America by the conservative Right Wing, Explicitly. It was maybe even ahead of its time, but it pulled no punches and went after its prey with a bloodthirsty single-mindedness which is still stunning to watch 14 years after it was made.
It was the Feud between comics writer Alan Moore who had created the source material V for Vendetta and its film makers with DC Comics which got me thinking. One of the things Moore was mad about was how the American Film Makers had changed his dystopic SciFi Future London (a reaction to Thatcher's 80's) into a dystopic SciFi Future American London (presumably a reaction to Bush's 00's)thereby changing it such that he wanted no part of it. I had heard his views before I saw the film, and couldn't help but reflect on them before and after. My overall feeling on actually watching the movie was about how remarkably bland the politicking had gotten. The Evil Establishment essentially boiled down to Nazis who worked for an Evil Corporation. This was SUCH a profound difference from Moore's V, one of the primary themes of which happened to be the banality of evil, that it made me think about other recent depictions of Evil.
A week later I saw that on the TV show Prison Break the mysterious evil entity which framed our beloved heroes was also an Evil Corporation. The same is true in the neutered remake of The Manchurian Candidate. It started to dawn on me that what I was seeing was the convergence of two distinct and disturbing media trends. The first and more obvious is that of the All Knowing All Evil Corporation. This is a well worn theme which comes back from time to time. Helped along by Standard Oil, Microsoft, Meat Packers or Halliburton, its return in American media life is as predictable as the tides.
The second trend is that of adapting politically volatile material composed some time ago into a modern piece which lacks any real political bite. But while on another blog I had something of a revelation. This cultural sanitation through regurgitation isn't exclusive to the political movie, there seems to be an AWFUL lot of media being created by people who have only, ever, been exposed to media. I'm not saying that all Homages/Remixes/what-have-you are worthless. But, rather, that there needs to be more of a point behind such things than mere love and fidelity to the source material. It would have been OK for V to have been about The Bush Administration but to allude to Halliburton (hidden behind Nazi's) is just a cop-out. To Remake the Manchurian Candidate and put yourself in the position to be critical of Oil Wars and in the end just be about... Halliburton (Nazis there somewhere) is a total cop-out. Not only are these cop-outs but they actively dilute (with urine) the originals as public recollection grows into a hazy mixture between the once relevant political statement and the broad-strokes of the remakes.
This is twice removed meta-navel-gazing. Talking about our impressions of watching a war on TV. I guess it's fitting that such things should become the most prominent theme Du Jour in a world where blogs like this exist. I find it vaguely depressing, that in a culture where most people have SO much contact with Filmed Entertainment that it squanders its chances to be half as meaningful as that which it has been SCAN/CUT/PASTED from. I'm thinking that this is just temporary. Call me an optimist but I firmly believe that real meaning (rather than vague allegory, demagogary or partisan shots) will reassert itself. Like Dylan or the Ramones or Nirvana or French New Wave. . . SOMETHING genuine will come along and shove all these empty, though lovingly made and beautiful, whitewashed copies to the side. We will look back at it all, professors will teach it... perhaps it will start with the Beverly Hillbilly's movie, or LA Confidential's Oscar Wins, but we will be able to contextualize these sanitized remakes. When that happens, the period/movement will need a name, I nominate "Post Millennial Backwash."