Monday, June 15, 2009

Tulkinghorn: Variety attacks smugness (!)

In other news... Man bites dog.

In an extraordinary screed against the new movie by the talentless Sam Mendes, Todd McCarthy, whom I will now read religiously, blasts the new snobbery and humorless of the smugocracy. He says about Mendes what should have been said about two minutes after the first screening of the dreadful "American Beauty". Wonderful quotes:

Old-fashioned snobs were often possessed of dazzling intelligence, quick wit and scabrous humor, which is more than can be said for the new smuggie breed, which seems immune to any humor designed for any purpose other than to caricature those of whom it disapproves. At least that's the impression I take away from "Away We Go," a breezy, all but insufferable film quickly made by director Sam Mendes as an acknowledged vacation after the angst of "Revolutionary Road" but that conceals a sack of poison and contempt at least as potent as that contained by the recent adaptation of Richard Yates' novel.

Snobs often have generations of breeding as an excuse for their often-inexcusable attitudes; smuggies, on the other hand, seem to suffer from the certainty of the recently converted, and preferably possess the pedigree of having been part of the vaguely defined counterculture, even if only by going vegan, purchasing a Prius or blindly buying everything said in "An Inconvenient Truth" by Al Gore, who, by virtue of his statement that his views on "global warming" are beyond debate, would seem to qualify as the patron saint of humorless smuggies.


Burt and Verona are utterly unremarkable people made to appear virtuous, even saintly, in comparison to everyone else they encounter on their journey to find a place to settle down. Now into their mid-30s, they have absolutely nothing to show for themselves, no accomplishments, not even strong convictions, other than Verona's determination never to get married.In and of themselves, the two are not smug; they're neither intellectually developed nor presumptuous enough for that. But their position in the world forcibly becomes one of superiority based on what we see of the rest of the human race in one of the most caricatured renderings of it I've ever seen outside of a comicstrip or an overt work of propaganda.

and finally, a shout out to "Hangover"

It was instructive to catch "Away We Go" on the same day I saw "The Hangover." Both are portraits of seriously stunted growth, of people who have resisted growing up. In this case, the gross, commercially intended movie has it all over the refined art film. What's great about "The Hangover" is that, beneath the boisterous, outrageous comedy lies a disturbing illustration not only of arrested development but of the pronounced differences between men and women -- avoidance versus over-anxiety -- and of the extremes of losing control (to the point of not remembering anything) and control freakishness. It's a fine example of popular entertainment (with hidden content that's there if you want it) that knows what it's about far better than a self-consciously composed artifact for the elite.


Generic said...

Great stuff.Thoug I hope McCarthy traces the sins of this film back to its source in the work of another certain parton saint of smugness. Or is it only after the material is filtered through Mendes that it comes to contain toxic levels of snide superiority?

Tulkinghorn said...

He hints that the problem lies not in Eggers/Vida the people, but in their having perfected themselves (in the process of their re-creation as characters in a screenplay) to the point of insufferability.

The McSweeney's/Believer crowd is pretty hard to take, but they often do good work and definitely do good works (like give away a big part of their money toward a big city neighborhood writing program that they started, fund, and run).

Mendes is a complete waste.

Generic said...

He is however, married to Kate Winslet, so he must be doing something right.

Tulkinghorn said...

Amusingly enough, Winslet, who tells many tales about being so fat that her schoolmates tortured her, was actually quite popular as a youth.

Fake pain inflicted by an imaginary bourgeoisie.... Life as a consensual fantasy.

What assholes.