Friday, April 17, 2009


Quick Comments on Three Movies

I recently watched Capricorn One, The Family That Preys, and Boy A. I told the friend I was watching Capricorn One with that this was the kind of major Hollywood film that could only have have been made in the Woodward and Bernstein era and a few minutes later there was a reference to the Watergate duo in the film. An original 1978 movie poster sums up the film's plot: "The mission was a sham. The murders were real." The mission was a manned landing on Mars.

The Family That Preys is a recent offering by Tyler Perry, who has created and dominates a film niche that caters primarily to Black audiences. Perry's films feature predominantly Black casts and include some of the big names in Hollywood. TFTP included Alfre Woodard, Kathy Bates, and Sanaa Lathan. If you want insight into the values and dreams/illusions of much of the Black American middle-class then watch Perry's films.

Boy A is a compelling adaptation of a novel of the same name. The novel and film are British and the film provides a striking contrast to what is known as an "American ending" in cinema. A typically American ending is a happy ending with no loose ends. It tends to minimally, if at all, engage the intellect and the imagination. An American or Hollywood ending encourages passivity in the viewer as the sweet, but ultimately poisonous, syrup is spoon-fed to you. The best of the non-American endings (and American films can have such endings) provide no neat resolution and, thus, engage viewers intellectually and imaginatively.

Perhaps nothing illustrates the insidious nature of the "American ending" as well as the remarks of Dan Glickman. At a major film industry convention last month Glickman, the Motion Picture Association of America Chairman and CEO, told his audience:
... the fact that in the dark ... in the theater ... we are on ... and if only for a few hours on a Saturday afternoon, nice guys finish first ... underdogs have their day…and whether it's autobots versus decepticons ... Harry versus Voldemort ... humans versus cyborgs ... or guinea pigs versus billionaires ... the good guys carry the day ... and the little guy can take on the system and win. In the global cinema, this is known as the American ending--the happy ending.
Few people know better than Dan Glickman just how heavily the deck is stacked against the underdog and in favor of the billionaires in real American life. Thus, the surfeit of vicarious victories in reel American life.

In 1998, as Secretary of Agriculture in the Clinton administration, Glickman defended a $600 million federal ethanol subsidy saying: "Political theory is really the rationalization of economic interests." The chief beneficiary of the subsidy was corporate agro-monster Archer Daniels Midland. Among other things, in 1996, ADM agreed to pay a $100 million fine for illegally manipulating the price of lysine. Of course, none of this deterred Congress or Glickman and the rest of the Clinton administration from giving hundreds of millions of tax dollars to ADM.

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