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Ray Carney's Mailbag -- This section of the site contains letters written to Prof. Carney by students and artists, announcements of news, events, and screenings, and miscellaneous observations about life and art by Ray Carney. Letters and notices submitted by readers are in black. Prof. Carney's responses, observations, and recommendations are in blue. Note that Prof. Carney receives many more letters and announcements than he can possibly include on the site. The material on these pages has been selected as being that which will be the most interesting, inspiring, useful, or informative to site readers. Click on the first page (via the links at the top or bottom of the page) to read an explanation of this material, why it is being posted, and how this relatively small selection was made from among the tens of thousands of messages Prof. Carney has received.

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Prof Carney - My name is XXXXXX. I write XXXXXX for XXXXXX. I also write now and then for the NY Times' Arts & Leisure section as well as other publications. At the moment I'm working on a book about XXXXXX. One chapter of the book deals with Cassavetes' Shadows. I've read your excellent book on Cassavetes, and I've looked at your website on the tracking-down of the first version. All very intriguing.

I have two questions:

(1) Have you ever been able to track down a tape of the February 1957 Jean Shepherd show on which Cassavetes made his pitch for money to finance Shadows? There's a guy who sells MP3s of old Night People episodes, but he doesn't have any from that. (He's got a lot of shows going back to 1960 and one episode from January '57. Strange.)

(2) Your book and Marshall Fine's both state that Cassavetes told a NY Times reporter that he was making a film about the "Negro-white problem" and that all he needed was $7500. No one came to his rescue, so he went on Shepherd's show. Here's the problem: I've gone through the Times' online archive. There is no such article listed in 1957 at all. Am I missing something? Do you have it?

Anyway, thanks very much.


P.S. I forgot one question in the email I sent you a few minutes ago:

3) In one of your website entries about the first version of Shadows, you note that it was 60 minutes. (You say that 20 minutes was cut from it and 40 minutes added, for the 80 minute revised print). Yet in another site, you say that the film - as sent to you from the attic in Florida - was 78 minutes. Does that mean that your original calculations - of how much was cut and how much inserted - are wrong? Thanks.

RC replies:


Sorry, I've been going through some tough times at my university (if you want to know more, click on the "Most Popular Topics" button in the left margin of any of the inner pages on my web site to take you to the "Mailbag Highlights" page, and once you are on that page, scroll down to the "Group Thinking as the Source of Fascism in an American University" category and click on the five or six links). I've fallen crazily behind on my emails and am reading (and answering some of) them months after they were received. Thousands and thousands of emails behind, unread and unanswered still. Forgive the delay. It's been hard to keep up with the onslaught of mail.

But thanx --very much -- for the questions. Do you know that you are the first and only American journalist who has EVER asked me for information about the first version of Shadows or the production history of the film? Anyone else who has written about it has apparently based their information on rumor, gossip, and speculation. Such is the nature of American journalism! From the idiots who bring you the Presidential Primaries every four years..... !

To your questions (and believe me, you have come to the right source, the only person on the planet who would have these answers off the top of his head):

1) I have exhausted all avenues (including collectors of old radio broadcasts, Dick Shepherd fan club fanatics, and specific individuals who listened to this broadcast and described it to me) and am convinced the tape n'existe pas. No tape survives. But the accounts agree, so I trust that the event happened.

2) Fine got his information from me as far as I can tell. And I have a copy of this piece from Times. Don't know why you can't find it. It's not in my hands right now, but I looked in up in an unpublished essay I have and here is a quote from it:

"Not so long ago-about a month ago, I think-we developed a study project which we called Shadows. It deals with the negro-white problem and we intend to film it as a nonprofit ninety-minute feature. We'll use our people, of course. I'll direct and appear in it. Erich Kollmar, who has just completed a documentary feature in Africa, will contribute his services as the photographer. We'll shoot it in the studio, and in Central Park, Times Square, and in Eighth Avenue saloons. We plan to start in a couple of weeks. The price? We figure it will cost only $7500 to do, but everyone of us, as I said, is contributing his services. I trust it will be worthwhile."

3) Yep, you got me. I was off in my guess about the running time of the first version before I actually located it -- largely because I based my estimate on contemporary screening reportsand conversations with people who saw the film at one of its 1958, 1958, or 1960 screenings. Such much for the reliability of eye-witnesses and the trustworthiness of fifty year old memories! The first version is in fact 78 minutes in running time. Now that I own the print, I don't have to rely on someone else's account of it.

Love, love, love,


Subject: some thoughts

Hey Ray,

Had some free time at work this morning, so I started jotting down some random thoughts you might or might not find interesting. Read them if you're not busy or don't if you are.

I don't put much stock in fads or fashions or trends, particularly when it comes to Hollywood movies, but let's just say I've noticed an endless repetition of these "superhero" movies and I started musing about them a bit. I collected comics as a kid, and I enjoyed the stories, especially the Batman stories which were often dark and exciting. I grew up, of course, and eventually abandoned the comics (although I have them stashed away collecting dust in moldering boxes somewhere, though still pristine in their slip-covers for future financial -not intellectual- equity), but it seems like most grown-ups still want comic-book movies. The Star Wars movies, the superhero movies, the action movies. Even No Country For Old Men struck me as a simplistic comic-book version of the McCarthy novel (and not even the best of McCarthy novels, at that -although some interesting progression can be seen from that novel to its immediate -and far superior-successor, The Road -as if the Chigurh character in the former is a harbinger of the mad scrambling scavengers of the latter, or quite possibly the predecessor of the nameless ones who created/are currently creating the nightmarish America of that novel). The popcorn movies have always been there, of course, and have always had the upper hand box-office-wise on the smaller films, but it just seems like now the superhero is everywhere, and maybe it is telling of what American culture desires. Half of America (when I say "America" here, I basically mean corporate interests who coordinate media blitzes to make the average citizen think they are participating in a "democracy" when what they are really doing is putting the formal touches on ceremoniously installing the next oligarchy -oops, too cynical?) looks up to the "war hero" John McCain (although, forgive me for saying it, but how does getting rightfully shot down when you're indiscriminately bombing combatants and civilians alike from 30,000 feet in the air automatically qualify you for "war hero" -I mean, sure, the torture and interrogation and all that was bad, and terrible, and should never have happened, but he was a hired killer who got shot down from his perch in the sky by a people who were concerned that the bombing and invasion of their lands was an unfair price to pay for wanting to run their government the way they wanted to-but that's just me being too cynical again!). The other half of "America" looks up to their knight in shining armor, Barack Obama, who makes vague messianic promises about "Change" and "Unity" and "Hope." All great buzz-words, but Change in what? Hope for what? Change TO what? Good change, bad change? What are the issues? Nobody ever says, not him, not his handlers. And the media perpetuates the maybe-myth that that's all American voters want: image image image. I try to think that this can't be the case, but then I see the box-office proliferation of goofy superhero movies that are being attended by the voting-eligible adult population, as well as the preteens -and being given rave reviews by supposedly "respectable" critics (who are, as you have indefatigably pointed out, an extension of the films' Hollywood marketing campaigns in that they help to make the whole thing an "event" as if our lives and souls depended on them -and, in fact, I have heard critical praise from the journalists describing Iron Man and Dark Knight as "comic books grown up" (I could be wrong, but I think that's an actual Ebert quote). Do you think Hollywood movies, in some way, are responsible for how we view our politicians and our role in our supposedly democratic government? I know that they are a manifestation of it, but I think the whole thing is a snake biting its own tail. That's not me being cynical, by the way. That's me being alarmed.

I am holding out a tiny Ray of hope for Sept 2 when Marilynne Robinson's new novel "Home" releases. If only that could be an "event" like the Batman and Iron Man movies! If only that novel had people lining up for two miles outside their bookstore at midnight as if it was the new Harry Potter book or Grand Theft Auto video game! I can't help but weep for such a lost world -a world that never was. Not weep. Wrong word. KEEN. (By the way, in my opinion, if you have not gotten around to reading her two novels Housekeeping and Gilead yet, you are doing your spirit a grave disservice!)

Speaking of spirit, how is your journey through Shakespeare? Hopefully full of discovery and astonishment. I am currently reading through (chronologically, as always) Joyce Carol Oates. First was her collection By the North Gate. Now I'm just finishing up her first novel With Shuddering Fall. I can't tell you much about the adventure yet, but let's just say I'm full of wonder and anticipation!

Best regards,

Darren Pardee

RC replies: Try Oates's short story collections, even greater than her novels to my mind. The three most recent ones are: Heat, Faithless, and Will You Always Love Me?. Her best work, in my judgment: "Ugly," "Summer Sweat," "Gunlove," "The Scarf," "We Were Worried About You," "Secret, Silent," and "The Stalker," from Faithless, and "Will You Always Love Me?," "The Track," "The Handclasp," "June Birthing," "The Missing Person," "American, Abroad," "Is Laugher Contagious?" and "The Undesirable Table" from Will You Always Love Me?. Gentle, sweet, bitter, vicious, caustic. beautiful, insightful.

The good Peter Quinn, a longtime supporter of the site, and a former BU student, submitted a viewing recommendation. Peter is a smart guy and I'm sure it's worth passing along. --R.C.

Hi Ray,

Nice to see your site up and running again.

I recently saw a wonderful film called "By the Bluest of Seas" by Boris Barnet. If you have not already seen it, I would certainly recommend it. I also attended a great open air concert given by Leonard Cohen, a truly great cultural experience.


A note from Ray Carney: An interesting letter, which I don't have time to answer at present, from a newcomer to the Mailbag. I post it as "food for thought" for film students and filmmakers. David asks many important and insightful questions. (Checkhov said somewhere in his writing that the function of the artist is not "to provide answers," but "to ask the right questions.") Wish he was one of my students. We could spend several afternoons working through each of his questions and observations, one at a time. -- R.C.

Subject: Film as Experience - reading, viewing, making, teaching

Dear Prof. Carney,

I've enjoyed the articles on your website and the letters in your mailbox for about a year now, in which time I've read your book "The Films of John Cassavetes: Pragmatism, Modernism and the Movies" and "The Films of Mike Leigh". I think it's great that you've created a discourse that challenges the limitations of the current ways of thinking about film. While I'm not in complete agreement that 'pragmatic' ways of knowing are better than 'contemplative' ones, the fact that you're arguing for an alternative way of understanding film is invaluable. I do have a couple of questions about your ideas and approach. Do you think that the 'pragmatic' vs. 'contemplative' distinction is inherent within works of art (i.e. a film is inherently either one way or the other in its approach and way of presenting its world), or do they have more to do with the ways in which the viewer understands a film? Couldn't the films of Cassavetes, Leigh, Burnett, Ozu, Bergman, etc. be considered from a contemplative position? And couldn't films like "Citizen Kane", "2001: A Space Odyssey", those of Hitchcock, Lynch, etc. be considered from a pragmatic position? Why couldn't "Faces" be considered in terms of abstract meanings behind what is said and done on the surface? Why couldn't a film like "Eraserhead" be considered in terms of the shifting experience it gives its audience? (As a side note, I've always been frustrated by the typical approach to Lynch's films by those who 'decode' the 'symbolism' to try and arrive at some overall 'me aning', when to me his films are more about mood, feeling and intuitive understanding than reductive 'this stands for X' intellectualization.) I've been reading Carl Jung's writings on the makeup of the human psyche and on psychological types. It strikes me that a lot of what he says about the introverted and extroverted ways of encountering the world relate to the two kinds of knowing in art that you talk about. Just as Jung relates introversion to Platonic Rationalism and extroversion to Empiricism in western philosophy and theology, contemplative art could be said to be 'introverted' and 'rationalistic' in the sense that it deals with the ideas and concepts behind (or 'above', as some probably envision it) a work of art, whereas pragmatic art seems to be more 'extroverted' and 'empirical' in its approach of concentrating on the meaning and experience of the surfaces of the art. But what doesn't make total sense to me, at least at this point, is that the dominant type of art in the West (which as a society is very extroverted in character) is contemplative art, which would seem more linked with introversion, whereas much of the films (and poetry, and music) of the East (i.e. Ozu, Shindo, Kiarostami and even Tarkovsky/Sukurov - my Russian friend always insists that Russia is more a part of the East than the West, at least in terms of mentality and values) are better analyzed in terms of the pragmatic position you advocate, which would seem more linked with extroversion, but Eastern society is generally more introverted.

I've also been wondering recently whether the formal elements of film (cinematography, editing, sound, etc.) can be used in ways that correspond with introverted or extroverted ways of perceiving the world (beyond the obvious attempts at 'subjectivity' through POV shots, etc.). Have you read Jung's essay "On the Relation of Analytical Psychology to Poetry"? A lot of what he says in it could, if 'poetry' were replaced with 'film', be applied to a critique of the Freudian approach to film theory currently in fashion. This passage in particular reminded me of some of your complaints about the reductive ways in which film is currently thought of:

"[The Freudian analytical approach] strips the work of art of its shimmering robes and exposes the nakedness and drabness of Homo sapiens, to which species the poet and artist also belong. The golden gleam of artistic creation - the original object of discussion - is extinguished as soon as we apply to it the same corrosive method which we use in analyzing the fantasies of hysteria. The results are no doubt very interesting and may perhaps have the same kind of scientific value as, for instance, a post-mortem examination of the brain of Nietzsche, which might conceivably show us the particular atypical form of paralysis from which he died. But what would this have to do with Zarathustra?"

Jung also has some interesting things to say about William James, but you're probably familiar with it already.

Anyway, I realize I haven't yet introduced myself, only some of my ideas. I'm a film school graduate in Toronto with a BFA in film production and an MFA in screenwriting. I'm currently teaching part-time at Sheridan College (though in Canada, 'college' is used to refer to less academic, more technical institutions and 'university' refers to the academic places of higher learning I think the two terms seem to be interchangeable in the U.S.). I've experiences a lot of the same problems you mention about teaching film in some of the other faculty, the best of whom take the pop-culture/sociological approach (and the worst of whom take the 'bird course' approach, to which even the pop-culture analysis approach is (marginally) better!) [note: if you print this in your mailbox, please leave my name anonymous] There are also problems with students' lack of experience of life and any form of art, overdependence on technology (which the school keeps trying to push more of in an attempt to appear 'current'!), preconceptions about film as entertainment, lack of any actual interest in anything, etc. The courses I teach are mostly general 'intro. to film' ones, and the students aren't film majors but rather people enrolled in other programs taking my course as their elective, which may be part of the problem. I assume it would be somewhat better if I were teaching actual film students - though I'm sure a large percentage of them would still have all of the above problems, unfortunately.

One of the reasons for my message is to inquire into purchasing your materials on "Why Art Matters", "Necessary Experiences", "What's Wrong With Film Courses" and "Speaking the Language of Desire". Do you ship to Canada? Is payment the same, etc.?

In addition to teaching, I try to make short films whenever I can, which isn't as often as I'd like because I pretty much have to finance them myself. I don't know how much you know about the filmmaking situation in Canada, but most of the funding available for independent filmmakers is through government arts councils, which are just as limited in their agendas (wanting films to deal with some 'hot' social/political issue) and mediocre in their output (many of the films are poor, uncinematic executions of 'topical' premises that weren't particularly original or insightful to begin with). Because we have this government funding in place, there hasn't been an incentive for anyone to develop alternative, private methods of funding - I understand in the U.S. you have some philanthropic endowments and charitable organizations, though my knowledge of the extent or nature of these is limited but still, it seems (slightly) easier to get an independent film made in the States than up here. Unfortunately, the films I want to make aren't 'political' or experimental enough for the arts councils, but aren't 'commercial' enough to try and get funding through television sources (about as close as we can come to a studio system), so I'm kind of stuck in the middle of everything. I also haven't had much luck getting my stuff into festivals (though I haven't sent my films out to many places - I basically turn my attention to making the next one), probably because the films I've done don't really follow the expected formula or conventions, but aren't obviously 'different' in a way that's easily categorized, so most people who've seen them assume I'm trying to tell a conventional story but coming up short, and they miss what I'm actually aiming to do (and I don't claim that I'm doing it well or anything - I'm still practicing and trying things out and seeing what works it would just be nice to get criticism based on what my intentions were and how well they came across, rather than having it based on generic assumptions about 'how movies are')

I'm not too sure where I'm going with all of this now - I don't just want to complain about things, but give you an idea of who I am and where I'm coming from. Like many have mentioned in your mailbox section, it's refreshing and encouraging to see that there are still people out there who have a true appreciation for cinema as art, and not just as entertainment, a commercial product, etc. You strike me as the Harold Bloom of film, to some extent. While cultural studies and psychology are interesting in their own right, they should be kept as separate disciplines, and an aesthetic approach should be brought back to film studies. A final question (and an apology for the length of this message): I'm curious to hear what you think of the following films - "Distant Voices, Still Lives" (Terence Davies, UK, 1988), "The Island" (Kaneto Shindo, Japan, 1960), "Goin' Down the Road" (Donald Shebib, Can., 1970), "Mon Oncle Antoine" (Claude Jutra, Can., 1971), "Keane" (Lodge Kerrigan, US, 2004) and the work of Michael Haneke, the Dardenne brothers, and Peter Watkins. Thanks for your time, your writings, and your website material. Hopefully the resistance you write about from the rest of your department will be resolved soon and you can go back to critiquing the way film is made, experienced and taught.

David Collins

An open letter from Su Friedrich, noted American independent artist, to Mark McElhatten and Gavin Smith, about programming for the New York Film Festival Views from the Avant Garde series. I'd call especial attention to her allusion to the fact that most high-profile filmmakers don't DARE to criticize this or any other major festival or programming venue for fear of being excluded from them in the future. This fear of those in positions of power is a large part of why most people who know better don't speak out. They are afraid. They are afraid of retaliation. (Su is obviously an exception.) I remember years ago when I took on the New York Times in several essays about the banality of its coverage of film (see the New Republic piece posted elsewhere on the site to read one of them--use the search engine in the left margin to find it), how an editor gravely warned me that I would never get one of my books reviewed by the Times or be interviewed by them after that, if I published the piece, in punishment for telling the truth about the commercialism of their film coverage as compared with their coverage of other arts. I had a similar warning from another senior film professional when I said hard words about the quality of coverage in Film Comment a few years later. Young people need to be reminded that there are consequences to speaking out. Institutions do not like it and they retaliate against the truth-teller. Be careful. Or be ready to take the consequences. So I praise Su not only for her observations, but for her courage in daring to "speak truth to power." P.S. Her letter is also meant to be humorous, comedy which I heard was lost on the recipients, who didn't seem to "get it." Just as they don't seem to "get" so many other things. - R.C.

Subject: wow oh wow oh why am I not surprised?

Dear Mark and Gavin,

You have given me (and many others) reasons to write or speak to you about your programming over the years. And I'm guessing that most haven't because of the...shall we call it pressure?...not to antagonize you since you two run The Big Show and everyone wants to be in it. At least that's what I've felt when I talk with all sorts of people, hear their complaints, and then realize they won't say anything to you.

And I'm no different, but maybe I haven't because I didn't think it was worth the energy. And maybe that was also their reason.

But really.

At the risk of sounding like a first grade teacher, you should be ashamed of yourselves.

Nine programs.
Five of them are solo shows of work by men.
One is an homage to a man (a deserving one--that's not the point).
Three are group shows and by my rough count the ratio is (overall) 23 films by men to 9 by women.

I am disgusted. It's the 21st century. Wake up and realize how utterly unacceptable it is to relegate women filmmakers to such an invisible place.
And don't write back with any crappy excuses about what was available, blah blah blah. If you do, you'll have to also explain the past years, in which it was pretty close to as bad as this year.

Shame on you.

You deserve an action by the Guerilla Girls.

Su Friedrich

A link to a current N.Y. Times article sent in my one of my favorite current students, Suzy Quinn. Glad to share it with site visitors, all the more because it is about two of my favorite filmmakers, Robert Bresson and that other guy. -- R.C.

From: "Suzy Quinn"
Subject: NYTimes article - sun 9/7

Hi there Ray,

You've probably already read this, but figured I'd share the link just in case. Cassavetes AND Bresson are mentioned in the Arts section from yesterday, very exciting to see the names and understand the depth of their meaning. Certainly I've got a ways to go in terms of being an expert on either of them, but maybe we'll have a few more hits on your site because of the article. Don't know what you think of Dargis, but she does have a rather large readership.

Talk soon,

A confidential, private response to the filmmaker who lives in Minnesota who sent me the DVD about the four male college friends. (I don't want to be more specific about you or the film for fear of giving away your film's and your identity). Here is my response to your movie.

1. First and most importantly, you must study FORM. Your scenes are shapeless and so is most of your film. Look at good films and see how they shape their drama. Read short stories and see how they shape their scenes. (I'd love to teach a whole semester length course at BU on this exact subject using short stories to explain form and style, but haven't been able to up till now.) A scene is not just a five- or ten-minute self-contained, continuous event or conversation. A scene has a shape. It has a beginning, middle, and an end. It develops. It goes somewhere. So does a film. And I don't mean in terms of plot or action! Scenes have shapes, forms separate from that. They develop an idea or explore an emotional issue, step by step, in time, and come to a resting place or create a new opening or insight or question at their end. That's their form. That's their "line of feeling." A line of progression from scene to scene. Tones change and deepen within a scene and from scene to scene. Your scenes and film are shapeless.

2. Almost as important: You must have IDEAS. It is not nearly enough just to present characters and events. There has to be an idea, a point of view, an implicit argument or vision of life in every scene. You must be trying to show us something about life. Something important. This is what Chekhov meant (as I quote him elsewhere on this page) when he said a work of art "asks questions" about life (and when he says it doesn't have to "provide answers"). The questions he means are the same as what I am calling ideas. Your one idea seems to appear in the conversation with the professor. But that's too late in the film. And also not a very deep or perceptive idea. It's too obvious. A good film will have dozens of insights, observations, questions, ideas in it. Your film fails that test. It's not enough to present a "slice of life."

3. Go into any of the situations you present (boy-girl stuff, sex stuff, hanging out with the guys stuff, classroom stuff) and ask yourself what you can TEACH a viewer about the problems and complications of those particular situations. It is not enough just to glance at the situations, just to show them. There must be a point, a reason for the showing of each minute of the scene. You have to want to show something you personally believe or you personally experienced about each of those situations or encounters. You don't do this. That's why your film's situations stay generic and general and, frankly, boring.

4. Never try to use music to cover for editorial problems. If a scene won't work without music, it won't work with it. This is not a music video, God help us.

5. And avoid jazzy camera and editing effects. They are meaningless and distracting--mere showboating. As I said about music: If you can't present a scene simply, cut it. Jazzing the edit up with strobe cuts or slow-mo just reveals that there is nothing underneath the stylistics. If it won't work plain and unadorned, don't try to save it in the edit with tricks and stunts.

6. Finally, ask yourself why your film looks like a Hollywood film at points (e.g. the long credits sequence). And ask yourself why would you want to do that? Why would you want to make it look that way? Why do you want your work to look like a fancy, smooth Hollywood film? That's not a virtue, it's a fault. Hollywood is bad filmmaking, not good. Hollywood is meaningless tricks and stunts, not FORM and IDEAS. Looking this way may impress your mom or dad (who don't know better), but it's not anything to be proud of, really. It's something to be embarrassed by. When your movie looks like an old Matthew Broderick film, or like Fast Times at Ridgemont High for even a minute, you're in big trouble. Think with your mind. Not someone else's.

Forgive my harshness. Sorry to be so hard, but being hard on you is the best advice I can give you. It's a terrible teacher who simply praises everyone and everything. If you really care about something or someone, you have to tell them when they are going wrong, or you aren't really being a friend. I'm trying to give you good advice, not just stupid praise.

Your friend,


Dear Mr. Professor:

You seem to have a problem with a lot of great films, like The Dark Knight and the Coen Brothers. What's your problem? I can't figure it out.


Photo by Mark Backus / Summer 2005RC replies: Craziness, over-the-topness, wildness, extremity can hold our attention, but it doesn't nourish our lives and minds. It's mental and emotional junk food. Heath Ledger is (or was) the new young Jack Nicholson, Nick Cage or Christopher Walken for one film (and too bad he's not with us anymore). But so what? FIlmmakers like Robert Bresson (look at Lancelot or Four Nights of a Dreamer or L'Argent or Femme Douce) and John Cassavetes (look at Faces and Husbands) use extremity for a purpose. They have ideas about it. They give us Jamesian explosions of identity, erasures of bourgeois notions of selfhood, and DO something with them. Nicholson, Cage, Walken, and Ledger just twitch and twirl around in one spot, like whirling dervishes. As actors they are show-offs -- imploding or exploding on meaningless, pointless, showboating ego trips. Who cares? As to the Coens, they are college fraternity brothers with fraternity brother in-jokes and smirks and feelings of superiority. Their tricks and stunts appeal to fraternity brothers in the audience. Or to viewers who are as emotionally immature as fraternity brothers. (And that includes a lot of film professors.) Translation: They have no love in their hearts for anyone or anything but their own narcissistic cinematic pranks and stunts. Where's the love, the compassion, the caring, the tenderness for the weak, the sad, the lost, the forgotten, the loveless? Remember leaving that burning bag on the front step of that house on Halloween? That's their movies. Beware of smugness and "smartness" (not the intelligence meaning, but the know-it-all meaning). Beware of "tricks." Beware of the lure of "shock value" and "suspense." Halloween again. These films and artists (using the term loosely) are the emotional equivalent of the pyrotechnics, costumes, and greasy makeup at a Metallica concert. Their popularity comes from the fact that they tap into the great emptiness and the great, empty, smart-aleck seductions of our culture that seem to fill that emptiness, that great emotional vacuum. The thing that is undoing us. The lure of stylistics and superficiality. The seduction of shock and flash over emotional depth. The pull of the pretty and fancy and empty. It is destroying our political process (look at what stupid politicians speak about and reporters write up), our business models (the quest for product "buzz" and "coolness"), and our emotional lives (the pursuit of instant gratification, the inability to be present in the moment, and the reluctance to really work, work, work to understand and master something). We want easy knowledge and big effects. Not your fault of course, Rog, but you're being woven into the system and don't even see what is happening to you. That's the way the system works. It doesn't want you to realize what it is doing to you. Get it? Your pal, Jefferson Smith


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© Text Copyright 2008 by Ray Carney. All rights reserved. May not be reprinted without written permission of the author.