Wednesday, 30 June 2010

Hollywood | Fiction | Changing Faces

So from Hollywood we got Bollywood, ‘Bombay Hollywood’; it makes it sound like an off-shoot, a kind of parasitic copy of the real thing. That probably wasn’t an issue when the name was invented, because the people in the industry will have wanted that connection, however inferior they seemed in comparison, because at least there was a comparison. To our film-soaked 20th-and-21st-century minds, a movie factory rhyming with ‘Hollywood’ has a great deal more associative heft than, I don’t know, Pinewood Studios.

And yet Bollywood has now become its own industry, world-famous, with a distinctive and easily recognisable style. It probably doesn’t need that association any longer. And so I find myself thinking of a future, years from now, when Hollywood has asphyxiated itself on CGI and origin stories and lies dead in the California dust (the letters are just beginning to drop from the billboard for ‘Avatar 24: The Na’avi Accept The Mass Immigration Of A New Species As Part of Nature’s One-ness And Well, Natural Progression, Seeing As They’re Animals And Not, You Know, Technologically Advanced, And They’re All Promptly Eaten By The Aliens Out Of ‘Alien’ And Those Other Alien Movies’.) Bollywood is still going strong, making movies or virtual experiences, or Two Minutes Hate broadcasts, and an enterprising group of film-makers decides to set up their own industry in the ruins of LA. Would they call their new site ‘Hollywood’, in honour of the ancient movies, or would they call it ‘Hollywood’ because they thought people might associate it with Bollywood?

The markers are forever changing. I do remember, about a decade ago, a contestant on Big Brother, or possibly the celebrity version, trying to score intellectual cool points by bitching that another contestant’s book ‘wasn’t Dostoyevsky’. Dostoyevsky, ironically, only got his first novel (a kind of parasitic copy) published because someone decided he was Gogol – or the next Gogol, anyway. Then he spent most of his career being told he wasn’t Tolstoy, and he wasn’t Turgenev. So he might have been confused to have been used in such a way, but of course, the specificity of the name doesn’t matter. All that matters is that it be recognisable enough to get a reaction.

It’s all a little like the notorious ‘_ Movie’ line of comedies that’s been around over the past few years, which never do any more than reference popular culture. Audiences get the references, and that satisfaction feels almost like there’s actually be a punchline – and this is an opinion that’s been pretty much confirmed for me by the recent appearance of another group of film-makers doing exactly the same thing, with a ‘parody’ of Judd Apatow’s comedies, The 41 Year-Old Virgin Who Knocked Up Sarah Marshall And Felt Superbad About It.

It doesn’t sound like it’s exactly Duck Soup, does it? (Hyuk, hyuk.)


In other, utterly unrelated news, I can’t believe I haven’t encountered this before. I’m kinda of the opinion that decency surrounded by other decency leads too often to smugness, and that may be why I’ve never quite ‘got’ American political comedian Jon Stewart’s show. There’s too many decent people applauding and whooping in favour of basic human decency and common sense. It’s the brutal in-crowd attitude of goodness.

But this five-part ‘interview’ from February, in which decency (in the form of Stewart) finds itself alone and up against the pig-headedness of a bully (in the form of the slightly monstrous Fox News political pundit, and Stewart’s rival, Bill O’Reilly), made me fall in love just a little. Forty-odd minutes of O’Reilly doing his usual thing when faced with a ‘hostile’ guest; shouting them down, making vaguely threatening remarks about where they’ve come from, emphasising his own good-ol’-boy simplicity while being condescending about his guest’s intelligence, making a lightning-fast unsubstantiated claim and then changing the subject...

And Stewart takes it, doesn’t get flustered, and he responds with humility, self-deprecation and honesty. And then he gives some back with interest, mostly at the expense of Fox News’ political motivations and the climate of fear they’ve propagated around the Presidentship. His final punch? O’Reilly is explaining that Jews don’t go to Hell, but that they might make an exception in Stewart’s case.

Stewart replies, smiling,

“You know what your problem is, right now? You like me. And you don’t know what to do with yourself right now, because you like me.”

And O’Reilly smiles back.

1 comment:

  1. Speaking of which, Bill O'Reilly's incredible resemblance to Juror #3 (especially as played by Lee J. Cobb in the famous movie version) in Twelve Angry Men really needs to be remarked upon.

    The angry shouting, the desire to pick a fight (sometimes physically), the love of being a 'public avenger'. The tendency to dismiss other peoples' 'facts' as skewed and biased while repeating his own 'facts' as truth. The love of 'traditional' values, the condescension...

    Of course, in the end, Juror #3 stops shouting and starts crying - he remembers that he's only really angry with himself.