Sunday, March 06, 2005

Film Comment

I have been following a debate at LIBERTAS, a "forum for conservative thought on film" about the film, American Beauty. One poster, Dave Ross thinks that it is the only film from the last quarter century to deserve its best picture Oscar. Jason, apparently co-editor of the site, disagrees:
The stock conservative villain (Chris Cooper) is a racist military guy who beats his wife, forces his son to watch Ronald Reagan movies, collects Nazi china, and is secretly gay(!). The hero (Kevin Spacey) is a pot-smoking, shiftless, narcissistic liberal who lusts after his daughter’s teenage friends. And Annette Bening - a fine actress, who is otherwise wasted in this role - plays a shrieking, conformist, uptight harridan … who is supposed to be an indictment of suburban womanhood. Instead she comes across as no-one so much as Hillary Clinton. The film seems to be a strange allegory for the Clinton years, with Kevin Spacey as Clinton, Annette Bening as Hillary, Mena Suvari as Monica Lewinsky, and the villain a composite Henry Hyde/George Bush/Ken Starr.


This silly rant sounds as if Jason didn't actually see the movie and is reading from some sort of rightwing, Hollywood-watchdog factsheet. Lester Burnham, Kevin Spacey's character only resembles Bill Clinton in the most superficial sense--his lust for a girl young enough to be his daughter. Other than that, Clinton is an ambitious schemer who lusts for power as much as women. Burnham on the other hand is devoid of ambition and ends up working at a fast food place. His other complaints are silly as well. While we can assume that the gay-psycho-Marine character is politically conservative, I don't see how Burnam is especially liberal. Here he provides further a further brief against American Beauty:

which gratuitously defecates on Reagan, our military, etc. I don’t see why is this so hard to understand - or why I should care what the film says about Kevin Spacey’s acting abilities, which are nil, so far as I can tell. The man is an absolute cipher, a kind of ‘man without qualities’ to borrow a phrase from Musil.

Sam Mendes directed American Beauty, and I’ve been in the editorial suite of his next film. It’s pretty obvious that his new film Jarhead is going to be another screed against the ‘dehumanizing’ U.S. military (Jarhead is an account of the first Gulf War, starring Jamie Foxx and Chris Cooper). And I noticed Mr. Mendes smiling gleefully during the Oscars at Chris Rock’s repeated jabs at Bush - so what is there not to understand here?


His defacation comment is just wierd. Reagan's only appearance is via an old movie on TV that the Psycho Nazi-plate collector is not forcing his son to watch. Note also, his review of the yet unreleased film Jarhead. Jason doesn't let the reader in on what the Internet Movie Database does--that Jarhead will be based on the 2003 book of former Marine, Anthony Swofford. So if it portrays military life as 'dehumanizing,' it will be coming straight from the horses mouth.

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