The Dream Life and Down and Dirty Pictures

Miramaxed Out
New books dissected over email.
Jan. 29 2004 3:57 PM

The Dream Life and Down and Dirty Pictures

VIEW ALL ENTRIES

Dear Tony,

I need to make a few quick, blunt points:

Advertisement

I was a little taken aback with the way in which this discussion was billed earlier today on Slate's table of contents: It's proof that movie directors aren't the only ones who have reason to gripe about the way in which their work is marketed. Neither of us is writing about the "decline of Miramax," only about Peter Biskind's interpretation of the company's impact on the independence of the so-called "independent" film movement. You and I are neither business reporters nor gossip columnists. The book is relevant to critics only insofar as it affects—for better or worse—the films we write about, as well as the synergistic relationship between movies and society that J. Hoberman diagrams in The Dream Life.

Yeah, it's fun to read about Harvey throwing furniture, but it's also important to say that my end-of-the-year best lists are swimming with Miramax movies—probably a dozen in 2003 alone. All companies should be in that kind of decline.

I'm glad you've come around to agreeing with me that independent cinema is not dead yet. I have also gotten a few e-mails protesting that movie culture is not dead yet—that there are lots of people out there who debate movies and their politics as passionately as ever. But when Hoberman writes about the reactive nature of movies in the counterculture—how the sneering degeneracy of films like Myra Breckinridge (1970) helped to create an audience for vigilante movies like Joe and Coogan's Bluff (and drive Richard Nixon in to the arms of Patton, which he saw several times and which likely cemented his decision to bomb the hell out of Cambodia)—he's talking about a different world:

Quintessential movie protagonists were now the very people whom Major Dundee [Sam Peckinpah's Ahab-esque hero, played by Charlton Heston] might have pursued into Mexico—a doomed assortment of criminals, crazies, draft dodgers, dope dealers, and Indians. Bringing home the Green Berets might not be sufficient. As prophesied by George Walace and Coogan's Bluff, these new types would soon be opposed by vigilantes and equally extreme representatives of law and order.

In other words, we're on the threshold of the Nixon counter-counterculture.

And today? A few years back I got drafted to debate Michael Medved on some TV show and had a hard time figuring out what the hell to say. He kept talking about Gladiator embodying solid American militaristic values and Chocolat being the result of a liberal Miramax Clintonesque plot to undermine religion and all I could say was that, whatever my politics, I found both films grotesquely stupid and more alike than unalike: Both were interested primarily in demonizing the bad guys, stripping the good guys of all psychological nuance, and jerking the audience around. It didn't exactly make for a good TV debate, but what movies do in this climate? About the only studio film to take an in-your-face radical political stand in the last few years was Three Kings, which wouldn't have been made today (and which was compromised by its ending even in 1999).

In my next post I'll take up your challenge to look at Hoberman on Eastwood.

David

David Edelstein is Slate's film critic. You can read his reviews in "Reel Time" and in "Movies." He can be contacted at slatemovies@slate.com.

TODAY IN SLATE

Culturebox

The End of Pregnancy

And the inevitable rise of the artificial womb.

Doctor Tests Positive for Ebola in New York City

How a Company You’ve Never Heard of Took Control of the Entire Porn Industry

The Hot New Strategy for Desperate Democrats

Blame China for everything.

The Questions That Michael Brown’s Autopsies Can’t Answer

Foreigners

Kiev Used to Be an Easygoing Place

Now it’s descending into madness.

Technology

Don’t Just Sit There

How to be more productive during your commute.

There Has Never Been a Comic Book Character Like John Constantine

Which Came First, the Word Chicken or the Word Egg?

  News & Politics
The Slate Quiz
Oct. 24 2014 12:10 AM Play the Slate News Quiz With Jeopardy! superchampion Ken Jennings.
  Business
Moneybox
Oct. 23 2014 5:53 PM Amazon Investors Suddenly Bearish on Losing Money
  Life
Outward
Oct. 23 2014 5:08 PM Why Is an Obscure 1968 Documentary in the Opening Credits of Transparent?
  Double X
The XX Factor
Oct. 23 2014 11:33 AM Watch Little Princesses Curse for the Feminist Cause
  Slate Plus
Working
Oct. 23 2014 11:28 AM Slate’s Working Podcast: Episode 2 Transcript Read what David Plotz asked Dr. Meri Kolbrener about her workday.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Oct. 23 2014 6:55 PM A Goodfellas Actor Sued The Simpsons for Stealing His Likeness. Does He Have a Case?
  Technology
Technology
Oct. 23 2014 11:47 PM Don’t Just Sit There How to be more productive during your commute.
  Health & Science
Science
Oct. 23 2014 5:42 PM Seriously, Evolution: WTF? Why I love the most awkward, absurd, hacked-together species.
  Sports
Sports Nut
Oct. 20 2014 5:09 PM Keepaway, on Three. Ready—Break! On his record-breaking touchdown pass, Peyton Manning couldn’t even leave the celebration to chance.