Friday, 2 July 2010

Let Me Out

Just following on from my last post about how nosey parkers keep spying on one of the few creative American directors, was I fast asleep one morning when Pro-Americanism was declared the state ideology of Britain?

Just reading Empire (after a link on another forum, don't read the thing meself):

'Reeves has done fans of the original (and John Ajvide Lindqvist’s novel) proud. The footage shows a remarkably faithful translation of the film (virtually shot-for-shot in some cases), perfectly capturing the bleakness of Alfredson’s vision.

Remake detractors may turn their self-righteous noses up at the the need to rework foreign language classics for the Anglophone masses but this is definitely one to keep an eye on.'

So Johny Yank just has to steal without messing up too much to receive praise? I did read that right, the director was praised for not messing things up with his own ideas? That's where Western civilisation is heading? He's done 'fans of the original proud'? By stealing from a film they enjoyed? And Lindqvist as well? He can be flattered that someone made a film that was based on a film of his work?


  1. This is the unspeakable truth: whatever people might say about DVD &c, British film culture has if anything narrowed, not widened. I was at BFI Southbank last night, and while I appreciate their efforts to find lost films &c, I cannot help thinking that they are overrating British cinema generally and putting too much emphasis on it ... they seem to have fallen for a major modern-day British disease, that of being so desperate not to appear to be old-school snobs that they don't really care what they actually *are*.

    I just hate the assumption that there is an inherent "need" to remake films like this, that people's tastes can never be broadened. I'm sure people weren't always so defeatist. And the great majority of people in the world do not have English as a native tongue anyway. This is why I'm so embarrassed about my nationality.

  2. Hi Robin

    I'd agree with your point about their being snobs in denial. In a sense I think that's why I've long had a slight (emphasis on slight) soft-spot for Jonathan Ross; at least he seems to genuinely enjoy the childish silliness of modern pop culture (or at least shows few pretensions to rise above it). I think Empire critics, in common with most newspaper ones, tend to really know that the films they say are good or mediocre are utter crap aimed at adolescents, but are too afraid to say so. I felt quite sophisticated reading Empire as a teenager, but now I find it embarrassing because it dresses itself up as a cultural product whilst endorsing adolescent, imperialistic films.

    The curious thing is that Hollywood doesn't even seem to make 'accidental masterpieces' like The Running Man anymore. I don't know what they thought they were doing when they made that film, but for me that's the definitive satire on modern America.

  3. Exactly. Fear. Born out of a belief that the reduction of everything to a fixed agenda of celebrity and pop culture is a "democratising", "anti-elitist" force, when it has just put an Old Etonian in Downing Street (or at least played a deeply significant role in that process). You hope, desperately, that Cameron will be the stick that breaks pop culture's back.

  4. @Gregor,

    Interesting point about “The Running Man.” I used to think the movie “Robocop” was just silly popcorn fare, but it is actually a pretty biting satire of the U.S. as well. It is also kind of scary because the idea of having a privatized, corporate security force in an American city (especially a poor one with lots of minorities, like Detroit) does not seem so farfetched anymore, what with Blackwater making headlines seemingly every week. I think one could say the same thing about the first “Terminator” film and the rise of unmanned drones, which are now being introduced into the United States for domestic policing duties.

    On the other hand, I am more worried about governments or corporations misusing robot technology, and not about robots gaining consciousness and conquering us, so the lessons of “The Terminator” only go so far I guess.

    As for Hollywood failing to make even accidental masterpieces, I think this has a lot to do with the extreme emphasis on marketing prevalent in corporations these days.

    The reason Hollywood makes so many remakes and movies about comic book superheroes is because these franchises often have large, already-existing fanbases, so even if your movie is awful, you can be assured that the fans of this or that franchise will go to the theatre in droves. It is not surprising that the big comic book convention in San Diego, Comic-Con, is now a major Hollywood event, with big stars and directors going to make appearances and stage interviews.

    ---Mr. Piccolo

  5. @John
    I think there was definitely more of a mischievous spirit in the 80s, and that is why I enjoy a lot of popular films from this time. (I was even strangely cheered to overhear two boys, circa 12, speaking about Predator; such great films never die).

    And incidentally, I do like a lot of very stupid films, but my point above was that these Empire/ broadsheet critics are mainly upper middle class public schoolboys and university graduates who probably don't really like this sort of thing, but would be too afraid to criticise it. And I do think Middle England's strange love affair with the USA is mainly out of knowledge that American consumerism has helped to destroy economically progressive politics in Britain and to create a false 'classless' society.

    I even think this middle England craven-ness is why George Galloway is such a hate figure in the media. No, he's not perfect. But he was not only giving voice to what many working class people thought, he gave voice to what the meritocratic middle classes were surely thinking (how can we possibly be so loyal to this quasi-monarchic vulgar oaf GWB) but were too frightened to say. I think they really hated him for that.

    The comics thing is a case in point, re the hypocrisy. If I'm tired, hanging out with someone, I can enjoy watching a film with Steven Segal bringing a nutter's reign of terror to an end with a corkscrew through the forehead. But I couldn't try to justify this culturally or intellectually. The comic book stuff is even more stupid and pointless but because some untalented director will have spent a fortune making a film about a bloke with his pants over his trousers, millions of people will feel they'll have to see it. Our cultural elite would probably know it's rubbish in their heart of hearts but would be too craven to appear stuffy/ elitist and so give it a (luke)warm welcome and praise.

  6. The thing to remember about the phrase "Middle England" is that it is itself a wholly false, retrospective concept - the term only became commonplace in the early to mid 1990s, Major era, *after* that destruction and wholly bogus pseudo-"meritocracy" had already happened. I can remember it springing up from nowhere. It was never heard before then (within my memory) - people just said "the provincial middle class" or something instead. It is almost certainly modelled directly on the phrase "Middle America" and was popularised by Majorite Tories as a substitute for "middle class" so as to pretend they had eliminated the class system, rather than merely redefined it - it is a product of consumerism which was never heard in the era the Mail and Express supposedly pine for. Indeed, the history of the phrase sums up a lot of deeper cultural problems.

  7. Interesting points Robin, but I've always thought of 'middle England' as a rather pejorative term. It makes me think of the astoundingly vulgar Alan Patridge who reads Simon Heffer and votes Tory, but who will never have any class or charm.

    I thought it was summed up in that episode of Andrew Marr's history of modern Britain when they play Frankie Goes to Hollywood when he speaks about Thatcher's 'revolution'. There was no Thatcher 'revolution' and I doubt very much she would even have heard of Frankie Goes to Hollywood, far less be comfortable listening to moustachioed leather-clad Scousers singing blunt double entendres.

    Thatcher's 'revolution' saw a halt in social mobility. Yet I think the 'middle Englanders' love to believe the 'Essex man' myth that it was all about poor people becoming middle class thanks to market liberalism rather than the Middle Classes becoming increasingly vulgar.

  8. She would not herself have heard of FGTH, but she did empower people who had. That is the heart of the Thatcher paradox. That is why Blair happened - a demand among ex-Thatcher voters for a market-led government run by people who were at ease with its cultural aftereffects (which was NuLab's only real breakthrough).

    Pop music has *always* been a force reducing social mobility (through its promotion of the American idea that a few people getting rich is enough) and shoring up neoliberalism. The shame is that Marr probably doesn't see that.

  9. Another way of putting this is: FGTH were, like most pop music, deeply anti-socialist. So although Marr was undoubtedly hyping Thatcherism up as "necessary" when it wasn't, he wasn't entirely wrong in making that connection.

  10. Hi Robin

    Whilst I agree with your views that overall popular culture has notably failed to deliver on its ideals, I do think it is a very complex issue.

    One thing I can't help noticing (especially given the Gibson furore) is that Britain has become a less racist country in recent decades, whilst America hasn't. I get the impression that middle class Americans are pretending to be shocked at a middle class American using the 'N' word, whilst it's precisely because I'm not surprised that I think it's silly. However, here I do think there have been genuine advances in opposing racism. I read that roughly half of children now being born in Britain of Afro-Caribbean descent have a white parent.

    I sometimes wonder if the disproportionate number of people of African ancestry in our respective medias may have played some role in how race is perceived? That Americans heavily subsidise 'gangsta rap', which reinforces negative stereotypes, whilst maybe Britain doesn't?

    I do still think popular culture can be a force for good, but it has generally been used more effectively by the right.