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Kiss-kiss, bang-bang, brood-brood


by Jerome Weeks 6 Mar 2008

In the April issue of Atlantic Monthly (not yet available online), Ross Douthat has a smart, provocative (and at times disturbing) essay about Hollywood’s recent response to 9/11 and the Iraq War. Many conservatives, such as Peggy Noonan, hoped for a new, steely seriousness, a return to manly Cold War values. It didn’t turn out […]

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In the April issue of Atlantic Monthly (not yet available online), Ross Douthat has a smart, provocative (and at times disturbing) essay about Hollywood’s recent response to 9/11 and the Iraq War. Many conservatives, such as Peggy Noonan, hoped for a new, steely seriousness, a return to manly Cold War values. It didn’t turn out that way — certainly not with Pirates of the Caribbean becoming the big, new global franchise.

But it wasn’t just the reassertion of America’s usual frivolity that caused the 9/11 moment to be stillborn; it was the swiftness with which the Iraq War replaced the fall of the Twin Towers as this decade’s cultural touchstone. It’s Halliburnton, Abu Ghraib and the missing WMDs that have summoned up a cultural moment…. Conservatives such as Noonan hoped that 9/11 would bring back the best of the 1940s and 1950s, playing Pearl Harbor to a new era of patriotism and solidarity. Many on the left feared that it would restore the worst of the same era, returning us to the shackles of censorship and conformism, jingoism and Joe McCarthy. But as far as Hollywood is concerned, another decade entirely seemed to have slouched round again: the paranoid, cynical, end-of-empire 1970s.

We expected John Wayne; we got Jason Bourne.

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  • Very interesting. What films define eras response to Political eras? Well, the Viet Nam era seems to me to be illustrated by M*A*S*H, and to some extent by Catch 22. They took a look back at earlier wars to make their anti-war point. I don’t see a current example.

    What do the current crop of movies tell us about this era? the best films, TWBB and NCOM, offer a particularly bleak view of the world. I think there’s a lot of hopelessness, fear, and anxiety, the notion that the bad guys are winning. the Sheriff in NCOM illustrates the everyman and his/her sadness about the state of the world.

    I think that’s why Juno was so popular, it was witty and even triumphant.

    • thanks, I’ll grab a copy. Sounds very interesting, thanks for pointing it out. I hadn’t thought of Michael Clayton. The P.O.V seem pretty dark to me. I’m not saying that’s a bad thing, just an “observation.

      Does he discuss the rise of Documentary film making?
      This years nominees:

      No End In Sight
      Operation Homecoming: Writing the Wartime Experience
      Taxi to the Dark Side
      War/Dance

      Gibney’s acceptance speech is interesting:
      “I think my dear wife Anne was kind of hoping I’d make a romantic comedy, but honestly, after Guantanamo, Abu Ghraib, extraordinary rendition that simply wasn’t possible.”