Share this article

print logo

COMMENTARY

Hollywood ineptitude an entire world can see

Will we ever see “The Interview?”

Good Lord, of course we will – if we really want to. And my guess is that the answer to that is sooner rather than later, too. There seems to me no way a major film studio is going to drop $44 million making a movie and $10-million plus marketing it and then bury it in the cat box, no matter how deserving it might be of a place there.

Sony will figure out a way to honor our hallowed First Amendment freedom to be as stupid in public as we jolly well want to be. There were already people in Buffalo agitating on Facebook over the weekend for the ability to show the film in their digs, including the North Park Theatre, which reprinted a statement by a coalition of art film theaters offering to show it.

You’ve got to love the glorious American irony of that: Art theaters devoted to showing the very best of foreign and independent movies offering to take the heat for all the panicked mega-chains that ordinarily show any profitable studio swill at all.

I was, as I previously wrote, appalled at those mega-chains deciding not to show the film, thereby forcing Sony to withdraw it. But I understood it then and I understand it now, no matter how much posturing has been done since.

Posturing is what 80 percent of our commentary is these days. But I still think what Sony did was understandable, if not in the slightest sympathetic.

As our literary blogger R.D. Pohl has pointed out, the BBC seems to be in the minority, stressing a couple of very key elements in the story of Sony’s withdrawal of the film from theaters: 1) That decision was made not in America but in Sony headquarters in Japan and 2) North Korea and Japan have their own tensions. Unfortunately, Japan is in geographic striking distance of those godforsaken North Korean nukes.

Not that I believe there was ever a real danger to American film audiences or anyone else. The amount of absurd sabre-rattling North Korea does is one of the reasons Seth Rogen’s two-stooges comedy was made in the first place. The trouble with that, though, is that no film exhibition chain could be sure of that.

That corporate hack, after all, was very real. It was a new 21st century weapon used with enormous canniness at the worst possible time reportedly by a government never known for canniness in any other endeavor.

And that is why you can remove from the discussion any drooling blowhard beating his chest and throwing the word “cowardice” around with joyful abandon.

December is one of the two most concentrated film exhibition seasons of the year. Sony’s mind-boggling initial stupidity in the first place in green-lighting such an openly confrontational film was compounded by not fictionalizing the name of the nutso premier to be assassinated.

To have put that film into the nation’s megaplexes despite the open threat by an organization that had successfully carried out a troubling and humiliating computer hack would have potentially imperiled every other film opening in theaters during one of the most important movie seasons of the year.

Freedom of expression is indeed a holy concept for some of us. But this is the film exhibition business we’re talking about. That freedom is likely to run a distant second behind the ability to make a profit.

The most significant thing to happen right after “The Interview’s” disappearance from Christmas openings was George Clooney’s petition to all the other Hollywood studios to support Sony and the freedom of creative expression in America.

No one signed. No one.

Add to that the cancellation of Steve Carrell’s film “Pyongyang” because Fox refused to distribute the final product. You’ve got palpable evidence, then, of what some of the more overwrought members of the commentariat are calling a “chilling effect on creative expression.”

Would anyone mind terribly if we examine that phrase a little?

If “creative expression” in Hollywood has, in the past decade, led to a parade of panderings, puerilities and swill in the name of profits, is it a totally disastrous thing if the people who green-light all that are sufficiently jostled to start wondering – if only for the briefest minute – “just what the devil are we doing here anyway?”

My initial question in all of this remains: Just how stupid are we Americans entitled to be anyway? Yes, of course, our magnificent First Amendment is one of the most glorious principles in the history of human civilization. The question that immediately follows the ability to say anything is “What do we say?”

Our Supreme Court already decided that yelling “fire” in a crowded room is a bad idea.

Was it a good idea for Sony honchos to shower $44 million on people who want to make satiric jokes about murdering a paranoid sabre-rattler?

Do not throw Chaplin’s fictionalized “The Great Dictator” into the discussion. That was cinematic art commenting on an imminent world war. The only thing imminent about North Korea in American estimation is probably another dinner visit by Dennis Rodman.

I repeat: How STUPID do we have a right to be? Almost infinitely, if we’re talking only about law, less so if you’re talking about decency and common sense. Shouldn’t that question be asked in Hollywood a good deal more than it is?

I doubt there’s a film critic in America who isn’t appalled at some major studio foolishness on a weekly basis. Consider, for instance, the millions thrown away making “Horrible Bosses 2.” But while you’re in the neighborhood, understand this – that same studio was gutsy and truly creative enough to make it possible for Paul Thomas Anderson to make the first-ever film version of a Thomas Pynchon novel “Inherent Vice” (which opens in Buffalo Jan. 9).

Sony’s independent film arm, Sony Classics, is responsible for the superb and gutsy current film “Foxcatcher.”

In the world of blockheadedness and contempt, we have two film studios that regularly are in the habit of withholding their films from Buffalo audiences.

One of them will be nationally releasing the film “Selma” in January, with one of the most important and Oscar-worthy of film subjects – a film whose reviews already claim it to be one of the year’s bests. Buffalo audiences – and critics – will not get to see the film until early 2015.

How much more foolish could it be than removing one of the year’s worthiest films from year-end top-10 lists?

All it takes is sufficient contempt for critics and films both.

How amazing it is for some of us that the world is now forced to contemplate the fact that stunning crassness and ineptitude have long been such a film-world way of life?

email: jsimon@buffnews.com

There are no comments - be the first to comment