Thursday, August 28, 2008

The MPAA and a lack of perspective

I've been watching some pre-production code films, namely a great Greta Garbo 'biopic' of the Queen of Sweden, Queen Christina, and the Barbara Stanwyck vehicle, Babyface. Babyface was a central movie in the move by Will Hays to try and get more teeth into the production code, and the resulting process really took a lot of the nuance and complication out of a medium that was already running short on subltly. Ironcially, the discussion of Nietzschean philosophy that was forced cut from the film by censorship boards is actually itself a common misreading of Nietzsche's work, The Will to Power, completely missing the nuance of a very complicated philosophical tome.

Anyway, it occurred to me just now that this may be a huge part of the reason that reactionary politics is so fond of a manichean worldview of us vs. them, good vs. evil. It's embedded in the films we watch, especially commercial Westerns, War films, and Action/adventure stuff. Obviously, that's not uniformly true, and the recent Dark Night films at least partially explore a more complex psychology. It is true that mainstream films still greatly reflect the tenets of the code that a film's sympathies must never be with an antihero or a criminal. The resulting films were never allowed to explore the undercurrents of criminality or sexuality with any real depth without running afoul of the Hays Office.

I do believe that American sexuality has long been perverted by the pruriant standards of the code, and that the vastly huge pornography industry is a result of a failure to really have an open and honest dialogue through art about sex. That may be stretching things a little, but I also feel that films' cut and dried approach to morality gives people a skewed conception of the complications naturally inherent in human life. It's certainly a part of the problem. Couple that with a Television and internet based culture where attention spans are brief and context is rarely sought or provided, and you get the insanity of modern American politics.

It's really a shame, and the thing is, I believe the Production Code may be at the root of a lot of our trouble seeing and understanding complexity. I don't know that you have all those John Wayne movies if Wilder, Hawks, Lubitsch and the rest had to contend with such a regressive process of censorship. I guess I'm overreaching a little, but I do feel like the artistic history of film was warped in a very unhealthy way by the overt censorship of the Hays office, the precursor to the modern MPAA rating system.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

'apropos of nothing'

I really hate excessive or unnecessary narration in films. Or the kind of slapdash narration that Allen uses in Vicki Cristina Barcelona. As an easy way to cobble together a movie it works, but in the end it just superficially masks the fact that the movie is skattershot.

I had my car towed yesterday because I parked on the wrong side of the road during street cleaning hours, and I didn't notice until I was trying to leave for work at 4 am. Of course, the tow yard didn't open until seven at which point I would already be three hours late, and I will have to drop a sawbuck to get it out . I'm currently fuming about all of this.

It took me years of journalling before the process became complicated and a responsibility. It took barely six months for the same thing to happen with blogging.

How is it possible that the Rays and the Cubs are tied with the best records in baseball? That is both exciting and frustrating at the same time.

I really like the set design for Gene Kelly's character's apartment in An American in Paris, but I still have trouble with the excessively melodramaticness of the writing and acting in musicals. I wonder what Brecht/Weil stuff is like live? I'd really like to find out someday.

I don't know if I'll start blogging again. If I can get back this kind of feel without this kind of structure, I might just.