Hand-wringing is all wrong for the War on Terror. When Spielberg made Munich we saw just how far good-intentions go (no-where). Good movies are drama, yet somehow movies about the most dramatic events of our times seem anti-drama; opposed to strong emotions (unless stultifying boredom counts). It’s as if directors think drama will leave them open to accusations of sensationalism; that they’ll risk trivializing things by seizing on the inherent drama of events. So instead we get “contemplative” dramas like Rendition, where everything that should be dramatic is not, and boredom reigns.
If ever there was a country that needed surrealism to express itself, it’s America. Strange then that so few true surrealists have ever emerged from the world’s nuttiest superpower. Warhol is one; Jeff Koons a possibility; David Lynch is surreal as a person, let alone his artistic output, but it’s hard to name more than a handful of artists before you run into Norman Rockwell and his ilk, blandly sweeping weirdness aside to make way for Walmart and the stucco, Starbucks, franchised America that stomps the very surrealists who would do it credit. Surrealism is just too antic for America. Maybe that’s why I Heart Huckabees wasn’t a success. Could be, also, that it isn’t a good film. But even so, it’s different, and its difference should be celebrated.
If love hurts then young love hurts best. Love is never quite so raw, so giddy, so boundless, or so terrible when we are older. Or should I say (at 29) it probably is – but no-one really wants to watch a pair of wrinkly star cross’d lovers. Young love exerts a hold on our imaginations when we’re young because it’s the fullest expression of our heart’s desire not to be like our parents (boring, boring, fusty and dulled). When we are parents, young love reminds us how incandescent it is to be young. Romeo + Juliet is a story of young love as much because it’s a tragedy as it is because it’s a romance. Young love always dies in some form. It has to, as we age.
The War on Terror isn’t easy for Hollywood. Time was when Team America could pour scorn on Arab terrorists without equivocation, but that time is past. Post-Abu Ghraib, post-Fallujah, post-anything really (post-“Mission Accomplished”), America’s reputation abroad is so shaky these days that even Hollywood (the town that tackled the Cold War with such gusto) isn’t sure exactly what the movie-going public wants to see. In the coming months we’ll watch Bob Redford’s take on the war (Ordinary Palestinians?) with Lions for Lambs; share Reese Witherspoon’s Julia-Roberts-esque anguish in Rendition; and find out if Tommy Lee Jones will pull out all the stops and use Expression B in In the Valley of Elah. First up it’s Jamie Foxx and co. in The Kingdom.
What does it mean to be a man on screen in 2007? Years ago it was about stoicism, swagger, a little of Bogart and a bit of Errol Flynn. These days – post-90s, post-New Man, post-“feelings” – men on screen are windswept by the world, unfastened. Does anyone honestly look at Zach Braff and say “that’s the kind of man I’d like to be?” Of course not. Being a man on screen in 2007 is about being confused or being boyish for the most part. That is, unless you’re George Clooney. His new movie Michael Clayton might not be the best damn thing in legal thrillers, but it’s close. Better yet, it puts a man on screen who doesn’t shed a tear nor throw a single punch.