So what’s wrong with modern entertainment?
The crux of the matter is that it has no guts. And a movie like The Post–which somehow got excellent reviews from the so-called ‘critics’–is a prime example.
The first thing to notice is that Tom Hanks plays a miserable Ben Bradlee. Anyone who is familiar with cinema history has seen All the President’s Men, which was a great movie–and remembers Jason Robards’ portrayal of Bradlee. Robards was biting, aggressive, substantial–a man’s man with counterculture humor. He felt pressure but never let that pressure dominate him.
Hanks, by contrast, was wavering, flimsy, maybe flaccid is the right word. It was a shockingly bad performance by a historically great actor. It made you wonder where Forrest Gump, Carl Hanratty, Sheriff Woody, Chuck Noland, and Mr. White went. Hanks turned from a real man into the worst kind of modern lawyer.
But what really killed the movie–and the reason I walked out for the third time (Fantastic Beasts; Murder on the Orient Express) in the last four movies I have gone to see in theaters–is the sobbing, self-pitying monologue before the climax, this time by Meryl Streep, who now joins a long list of disgraced actors in the ‘I got to cry for no reason on screen in order to make myself look heroic’ club.
Before I comment further on this I want you to take a moment and think about how this somehow improves, or detracts, from a movie: would it make Robin Hood more heroic if, before marching into Nottingham Castle to prevent the coronation of the evil Prince John, he stared at the screen, talked about how his earlier life had been so morally trying, and started crying?
What about Zorro–suppose that, before the climax in Luis Quintero’s office, Tyrone Power sobbed on screen about how horribly scared he was when he got his father’s note recalling him from Spain, and how he continued to be terrified when he saw conditions in Los Angeles on his return. Does this make The Mark of Zorro a better movie, and its titular character a better hero? Or does it simply ruin its climax?
Or what about The Longest Yard–let’s introduce an unnecessary dialogue with Burt Reynolds sobbing about why and how he threw those games and his current predicament with the warden threatening to prolong his sentence or kill him. Does this make the climax of The Longest Yard more interesting, or does it make the movie unwatchable?
Now–suppose, in All the President’s Men, that they had Robert Redford, as Bob Woodward, break down sobbing on screen about how difficult his work was and how from the start of his journalistic career he was unsure whether he could succeed. We can all agree, I think, that this would make the movie significantly less compelling.
The problem with these sobbing monologues is that the people who sob in them are supposed to be brave, braver than the ordinary man, in order to make the deeds portrayed on screen interesting. When writers and directors sit them down and have them cry, and editors do not cut these scenes out, it completely destroys the purpose; it does not make them look heroic, it makes them look like extraordinary cowards. There is no possible conclusion that could make up for what the sobbing monologue takes away from the movie because it undermines the entire premise on which we have justified watching it in the first place!
And, what’s worse, it infects our whole value system as to what it means to be courageous–it turns it into a war of definitions, and creates a disturbing moral relativity. This can then be used to make such intelligent and logical claims as that changing one’s sex to match their gender identity is ‘the bravest thing a person can do.’ Braver, of course, than sacrificing one’s life to defend one’s freedom or family’s freedom, or sacrificing their career in the name of speaking unpopular truths, or unprofitable public service. This clearly makes society a worse place, not a better one.
It is easy to understand the source of this phenomenon. There is one group of people who think that the person who cries the most is the most sympathetic, the most compelling, the most attractive person in the world–it is like a virus, this self-pitying, wallowing, penis-deflating cult of victimhood. Remembering the Palestinians’ warm and friendly Three Days of Rage, it almost makes sense to invite these people to Three Days of Tears, only that would not solve the problem. The problem, in fact, is that people pay attention to them. This is why you can tell a lot about a society by the kind of entertainment it produces, if you look at how popular or respected that entertainment was contemporaneously.
So, for me, The Post marks the last movie I will ever pay to see in theaters, with the possible exception of the future Bond films–barring any such stupidity as making Bond a woman, or black, just to appease more self-proclaimed victims. I, for one, will pay these idiots no more attention. I invite you to do the same.
Fuck off, morons!