Desert of the Reel

Woody Allen and Scarlett Johansson
Woody Allen and Scarlett Johansson
Woody Allen, born December 1, 1935, is an American producer, entertainer, director, Oscar-winner, and screen star whose career spans more than 50 years. Scarlett Johansson, born November 22, 1984, is an American actress, model and singer. She made her film debut in North (1994). | Photo: Andrew Eccles | Woody Allen, Scarlett Johansson, Director, Writer, Actor, Beach, Ball, Swimsuit, Sexy, Nerd,

Cinema As Adolescent Angst

H.L. Mencken, that infamously famous low-baller of popular sentience scolded us constantly (and, sadly, timelessly) with his refrain concerning the foolishness of underestimating the stupidity of the American public.

Before him, the Romans saw the great mass of plebeians as equally vacuous, a.k.a. 'the mob' (not necessarily their Italian-American descendants---see 'The Godfather').

This scrivener wishes to differ somewhat, as these condemnatory sentiments must be reserved for those among us who don't know better; most do. How so?

Barring functional impediments beyond one's control---say, congenitally low IQ---virtually anyone may become well-informed if not well-educated without great cost or effort: it's known as Google and its verb form. Everything is knowable, period, save the unknowable to even the likes of Al Einstein.

No, we of the audience (as well as some directors) today are best seen as stuck in an evolutionary stage and, alas, if the world's a stage, let's just say it's stuck in adolescence.

Let's review the evidence:

1/Art House: Thought-provoking cinema is given this niche, and largely produced independently. Independent of what? A business model employing techno-flim-flam in lieu of content, full of sound and fury, signifying........(see: 'Macbeth'). Oh, yes, and when our thoughts are thusly provoked, it often falls to Woody Allen to do the, ahem, poking---more on him/that in #3 below;

2/Demography as Demigod: This pandering is reminiscent of the paean of the 60's counterculture, save the substantive meaningfulness of distrust of anyone over 30. Ironically, this then valid mindset has been cooped in the hame of commerce, busily catering to the 'tastes' (?) of 17-24 year olds----teenage is, thus, the new/old audience;

3/Woody: That angst-monger himself, Woody Allen (a pseudonym, a not so new ploy of the self-conscious oppressed immigrant and/or auteur), the former comic turned filmmaker who is in blatant violation of Groucho Marx's manifesto: 'I wouldn't want to belong to a club that'd have someone like me for a member.'

Nope, he'd love to be counted amongst a certain club, regardless of their disapproval of his membership, that club he longs to join, peopled by Shakespeare (whoever's pseudonym that may have been), Bergmann, Williams, et. al. He hankers to cloak his personal miscue of sparking, then later marrying, his stepdaughter at a too-tender age with his artful portrayals writ for the general audience full of other peoples' dysfunctional relations....(beat)...ships, hmmm. How would Freud have put it? 'Sometimes a cigar is just a phallic symbol.'

Woody, perhaps your nom de smokescreen affirms your Freudian fantasies; oh, yes, word is that one Kim Jung Il(l) approves of a certain.....relationship.

4/Clean & Overlit: So-called period pieces depicting dark, dank and unsanitary places and people feature well-scrubbed, clean-shaven and freshly clothed characters in electric overlit interiors..um, candlelight, anyone?

5/ Sequel vs. Serial: The latter was long ago created on the page and then on that other medium, both better written and eminently watchable. It's called TV.

Since Serling and the golden age of the 1950's (those shows are considered classics today), playwrights and character development ruled. Film, conversely, seems to be pleased with hiring 'friends' who are safe, and bland, and who write by committee. 'True Detective' has one writer. Ahem.

Oh, yes, stop the prequels, TV's been there, done that, better.

It seems the megaplex theater will become a Chinese novelty (8 of 10 of them have never been in a movie theater).

Mourn with me the dea(r)th of content, once also known as 'filmic'.

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Updated Aug 12, 2017 12:04 PM EDT | More details


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