Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Something to Ponder

I often think that if one were to pinpoint and enumerate, with complete precision, every single defect in Russell Rouse's nightmarishly inept 1966 film The Oscar, glaring and otherwise, then it could be possible to know what went so horribly wrong with mainstream American cinema after 1960.


Peter Nellhaus said...

You mean like not giving Stephen Boyd an Academy Award?

Yet another film deserving of a DVD release, ideally with a commentary by Harlan Ellison.

Tom Sutpen said...

I once read that MIlton Berle actually campaigned to snag himself a Best Supporting Actor statuette for his work in that thing. Now while it's true he gave the only halfway decent featured performance, that's still a highly relative condition. He was Not Bad while everyone else was simply, inexorably Bad (though Broderick Crawford and Peter Lawford gave indications for the moment or two they were onscreen of where that film could have gone if the people making it didn't have utter contempt for the material).

I'd like to see a DVD of The Oscar as well; preferably one that openly admits its failure and attempts to make sense of it all, rather than exploit its Camp value. But I doubt if Harlan Ellison wants to remember his work on that film for five consecutive minutes, forget about the length of a commentary track.

Thankye fer visitin'!

Tony D'Ambra said...

Compliments on your new blog. You write extremely well, but perhaps with a tendency for hyperbole. You write-off mainstream film culture too easily and solely by assertion.

While the book and its subject have socio-historical value, and there is a case for of leaving city precincts to evolve without intervention, we should not celebrate social dysfunction or pretend that most grind cinema was other than exploitative garbage churned out for a quick buck.

Also, decrying "family-friendliness" and "tourists" smacks of reverse snobbery: only someone who has never slept on the streets or found desperate refuge in a public place, could even consider such places where people eke out a troubled and poverty-stricken existence, as somehow worthy of preservation so aesthetes can wax lyrical about "$10 blow-jobs".

Tom Sutpen said...

You're making several unwarranted assumptions; chiefly that I was waxing lyrical . . . or rhapsodic . . . or anything else . . . on Times Square grindhouses and their attendant decay. I was, it is true, lamenting the general homogenization of American culture, but that doesn't immediately translate into arrant sentimentality over all that was lost. I have nothing against 'family friendly' entities, so long as they emerge organically and aren't wholly constructed out of corporate America's conception of them. If you can find any evidence that people who flock to those consumer pits in Times Square now do so out of genuine enthusiasm, and not because they're settling for whatever's there, then perhaps I'll see the justice of your position. But until that day I have more respect for those toilets disguised as movie theaters than I'll ever have for mega-stores with nothing better to offer the world than overpriced Mickey Mouse sweatshirts in a heartbeat.

What you're reading as reverse snobbery is in fact my unending contempt for any culture imposed on a human society from without, designed for no purpose other than to make every conceivable dollar it can.

Also, I don't write off mainstream film culture; I simply reject the idea that there is, or has ever been, more than one film culture in this country. That critics and film industry cheerleaders choose to marginalize one kind of movie while celebrating another is immaterial to me. It's all cinema, and we can either accept that fact or continue to play the purely social game of segregating audiences at the expense of everyone's understanding.

And I don't write extremely well.

Tony D'Ambra said...

Oh well, if you don't write extremely well, I write extremely poorly.

I am sorry but I don't see where I accused you of "arrant sentimentality". If anything I was perhaps saying you display a certain hubris.

Nor was I defending mega-stores, and I am no fan of America's consumer culture. But it is not up to me to find evidence that those who "flock to those consumer pits" do so with no enthusiasm: the onus is on you to support your assertion.

Who is imposing culture on America from without? Little green men? American's own their culture in all its permutations lock stock and barrel. As for "making every conceivable dollar", there is no design, it's called liberal capitalism, or if you like "the American way", and it not only explains corporate greed but the avarice of those petty bourgeois who operate rat-hole cinemas screening schlock to the marginalised.

No-one segregates film audiences, that only happens to blacks in America.

Flickhead said...

Our imaginary DVD release would have to be a Rouse double feature disc: The Oscar paired with that other Boyd-ian slip, Caper of the Golden Bulls (1967). As Leonard Maltin pointed out, "not much gold, but a lot of bull." In Russell's defense, please note he was married to Beverly Michaels.

Vanwall said...

Flickhead - ooh, what a pair to draw to! Boyd was such a light switch performer, but you could never be sure which voltage was coming thru the three-way. When he was let loose, he had this almost maniacal hamminess - faultless direction required absolutely.

Flickhead said...

Van: Yes, indeedie...and in Golden Bulls he was "filled out," so to speak, by a typically perky (and endearingly absurd) Vic Mizzy score!