and the University
Why are the
newspapers full of articles about the same dumb movies while the really
good ones cry for attention and never get it? One perspective on the problem.
here for best printing of text
A memo I recently received
from my University press office, followed by my reply.
Hello. I have had a couple
of media calls about upcoming movies, especially those that were shot
locally. I would like to put the film faculty out there a little more
as experts about summer movies.
Can you let me know if you
will be around to do this? Ideally I would need your home number as well,
so I can call you and see if you're around to take a query. Please let
me know as soon as possible, and if there's anything in particular about
this summer movie season you can comment on.
"Hillary, the University
Press Office" (name changed to protect the innocent)
To avoid wasting time in the
future, please place this note to my file:
I really can't ever help you
with pop culture or junky entertainment flicks—whether they are called
"summer movies," "winter movies," "spring movies,"
"fall movies," "Star Wars sequels," "vampire
movies," "Matrix movies," "Oliver Stone movies,"
"Spike Lee movies," "Titanic movies," "Spielberg—please
take me seriously—history movies," "Blair Witch shakeycam
movies," or Hollywood trends, demographics, and business calculations
of any sort. I am a serious scholar of film as an art and a form of
expression, and am only interested in meaningful, valuable films. In
three words: works of intelligence, insight, and truth-telling.
Frankly, I am appalled at the
obsession of press flacs and reporters with Hollywood schlock, trash,
and garbage, but even more appalled at the willingness of University press
offices and University professors to participate in the whole idiotic
process, promoting junk as if it were important, pontificating on the
latest piece of meretriciousness as if it mattered, inviting mediocre
actors and directors into their classrooms to speak to students, giving
awards to men and women who sell their souls for money. Media whores all.
Do you call the English Dept.
to ask their opinion of Tom Clancy, Steven King, or the latest Harlequin
novel? Do you write the Music Dept. to see what they think of Janet Jackson’s
concert tour? Does the Art Dept. study the work of commercial artists
in the classroom? But maybe all that does go on. I'm so clearly out of
touch, I wouldn’t know. Such is the dumbing down of America, and, even
more dismayingly, of the American university.
Meanwhile, in film, a stony
silence shrouds the real masterworks, the small songs of the soul, the
quiet personal expressions of conscience or feeling. Works of genius and
sincerity are produced year after year and never merit a single column
inch in the newspaper or a minute on radio and television. While the press
chases after the fad of the day, they remain unknown and undiscussed.
My areas of interest should
be abundantly clear from the preceding, if only by contrast. I would love
to help when something really intelligent and important is at stake. But
I'm not holding my breath until The Boston Globe or The New
York Times takes an interest in it, until it snaps across the synapses
of their reviewers' brains (to use the term loosely).
All best wishes.
Ray Carney, Prof.
of Film and American Studies