Monday, 19 November 2007
And my guests tonight are...
Hollywood used to have real stars.
Dear sports, this is a reply to a good post I got from Anonymous! It was regarding my piece called ‘Most celebrities have mediocre minds and think, say and do the same things’. I should be so lucky.
Dear Anonymous, we meet again. Now I know who you are! You're that guy, I think? Thanks for the comment though, and I appreciate anyone taking any interest at all. Your pointed post got me thinking. I guess I don’t really disagree with you per se. It’s just that it comes from another direction for me. And well, it’d be kind of curious to not comment on the dominance of celebrity in our culture, eh?
Though of course while every time has had it's celebrities, you must admit it’s a little er, oddly extreme today? As Mark Steyn has pointed out it’s often more an illusion how popular popular really is. Fame can now be so atomized, that no star today can actually be as big as the greatest were, say even a century ago. Caruso and various composers etc, dwarfed in scale of worldwide fame, in shear breadth of popularity and adulation, most of the current folks, God bless ‘em.
I guess for me, what stands out today, as opposed to how it seemed to be decades ago, maybe pre-Dylan, stars were well, just stars and that was mostly all they did publicly. That was enough it seems and what people apparently dug. They did some charity work, got drunk, got laid, took drugs, played golf, and went big game hunting in Africa or on Long Island!
Maybe it was often baloney but today you get all these mundane and relentlessly dreary facts about stars. And that’s what kinda spoils it for me. Once I knew that Robert Redford apparently got script guidance from the friends of Che the child killer for his ridiculous baloney of “Riding around on a motorcycle as a free Cuban will be punished by firing squad after the Revolution” or as it should be known, ‘The Murder Cycle Diaries’, well, I just can’t watch him anymore. Not even at his charming best in ‘Barefoot in the park’ or in ‘Bob looks old and weird’.
Almost every second celebrity it now seems, both considers themselves, and is even absurdly seen as, a kind of seer and fount of insight into economics, morals and the geopolitical. In reality, they’re still just getting drunk, taking drugs, drinking wheat grass juice and hiring high priced hookers. But without the style!
What's laughable is that many seem to have the same immature and fantasy based opinions that are totally opposite to any of their actions. Stars used to keep to themselves. How real that dignity and privacy was, well, I don't know, but it certainly seems light years from now.
Sure, not all Hollywood are merely very rich nuts, but as the rare and expressed Conservative Bruce Willis has said, if you want to work, keep your cards to yourself. He spoke of how many Tinfoil City people are actually Conservative, but don't tell. People you wouldn't guess. But er hum, Hollywood is more "McCarthyist" than HUAC ever was. It's just all Left Liberals now.
"Are you, or have you ever been a member of the Republican Party?" Liberal HUAC interrogator or 'Hollywood Unctious Activist Crap'.
"I'll never name names, not even Bruce Willis! Is that mike on?" Bruce Willis.
And look, if you hung out with some of these Leftist hobbyist stars, they'd probably be a lot of fun and generous...for a while. But on many serious things that they can and do have an effect and some power over, well, their heads are on wrong. If they weren't protected by such massive privelege...
It's weird that people find much 'star' quality at all in people they know far too much about and that turn out quite often to be uninteresting bores, and for good reason. It’s hard to be a bore when you’ve been a bomber pilot like Jimmy Stewart or a circus performer like Burt Lancaster or escaped poverty through incredible effort like Richard Burton, who could recite Shakespeare backwards, and not just the name.
Maybe it was the often fake and finally empty rebellions of the 60’s, the decade that never really happened for most regular people, that ruined it for the idea of what a star is. If not that, the following decades maybe didn’t help in the old depth and mystery stakes, not when every second celeb wanted to be a hip and happenin’ rebel in exactly the same way.
"Hey, have a coke. I'll get the front end loader and a length of PVC pipe!"
Witness how extreme the faux causes and opinions can be now, or at least since the 1960's and Washington Jane. Openly bloated narcissism and treason is back in screaming vogue, sports. Sure, a washed up Errol Flynn thought that the Child Killer Twins, Che and Fidel, were terrific, but Flynn ended up virtually friendless. Today, that kind of behavior would just make you one of the dozens of Hollywood guys, jetting off to the island of 300 torture prisons for a few laughs.
Sure, yesterday's stars may have even been a lot of freaks too, who knows? Unlikely for many though, and they weren't freaks on continuous parade. And many had a real life outside of celebrity. Many old stars did have authentic charm, style and cache that still holds up, a ‘something’ that this mornings Tinsel Town folks would sell their black souls for.
And it’s an odd thing too; the old stars were usually seen as otherworldly and mysterious beings at precisely the time that they most related to their audience and in the films they made. Conversely, as today’s celebrities are more and more touted as being just regular people, the movies they make are more likely to not relate to the majority of regular people, their lives or values, which many celebs seem to openly despise.
This is in spite of film and TV premises that allegedly reflect exactly that, the ‘searing realism’ of a $200 million budget and perfect looking people.
Look, I often have little to no sentimentality, and can find old movies as lame, dated and made up of cheesy tedium as anyone else. Sadly, the latest films can often follow this same magic formula.
I like new stuff if I can get it, but 'new' is not version three of the film I saw last year. Yep, there are many wonderful people working in film, TV and so on and far better than my non showing, that’s for sure. While there’s nothing as dated as the latest thing, sometimes that thing becomes the something that works, lasts, influences and thus becomes the same old rubbish that sickens not just young people.
It becomes something worthwhile because it either inherently is, or for the context of its appearance, or it’s just pure fun and entertainment. Which are the main game in the end and admirable goals in themselves. Try being entertaining. My Japanese wife says straight out “Why is that funny? You are not funny!” You can’t argue with Japanese quality control, no matter how humourless.
It’s amazing anything creative works out, especially movies. Movies are the cultural language so they say, and still amazingly great value for money. Look what you get for around fifteen dollars. The same twelve people in forty five films! I just wish so much of it didn’t blur into another “Oh oh! Guaranteed to tank again!”
I guess it may have something to do with choice; with such a fast moving and huge range of filmed mediocrity and even great work, but starring too often the same few people. When asked for often absurdly identical and by the numbers opinions, too many seem almost invariably unable to think beyond something resembling the eternal student activist. If a chat show has three guests, at least one or more will mention how “BushIsAmoron, IsAnEvilMastermind, IsHitler! Ha, ha!” Cue audience auto approval and smiles all round by a couple of actors, your guarantee of intellectual rigour.
Perhaps it doesn’t bode well that many films are made by a relatively small group of repeat offender Hollywood loons whose 'material' seems at base cynical, and to despise much about the ordinary public. It could be that this just doesn't always resonate so well with everybody? A 90% failure rate would sink most other kinds of business, but that's Tinsel Town Rebellion for you.
But what do I know? I just know that guests worth catching on Michael Parkinson are getting thinner on the ground all the time, and not just because Orson Welles is dead. All the best, mysterious stranger.
The anonymous Colonel Neville.
PS. Here's a very cool related piece by Mark Steyn, on the old and new stars and of the old and new versions of 'Oceans Eleven'. He's as usual, on the money and entertaining. And that's showbiz!