by Jeff Swanson
When Hollywood gets behind something, you know. Particularly if it’s political. I suppose the beautiful people feel they are doing something important and serious. The reality is, if Hollywood wants to do topical entertainment, it’s done with all the subtlety of a hand grenade.
Such is the case for the upcoming Matt Damon, John Krasinski melodrama, Promised Land.
Underlying the film’s plot is an assertion that natural gas fracking is evil. In typical Erin Brockovich fashion, there is a bad corporate guy and the good guy who is to save the town from the predatory energy company who only cares about profit. The health and well being of the citizens be damned.
Sounds remarkably like the real life fracking story of Dimock, PA. The story of a town whose citizens health was wracked by the frack. Stories of contaminated water and even flaming sink faucets. Sounds like pretty bad stuff. Not only can’t you drink the water, turning on the faucet could create a fire!
Sounds pretty bad, doesn’t it? Too bad it ended up as not true.
Dimock was the subject of a law suit and part of an EPA action to correct the wrongs perpetrated on the town by the evil gas company, Cabot. That was right up to and until the EPA determined that all the contamination claims and health issues were without merit. The evil corporation wasn’t all that evil.
Thus sets the stage for Promised Land. Too bad for Damon that the EPA stated this mid-production. Have no fear, the plot has changed to an evil corporation sending someone undercover to kill the environmental movement. Actually, the twist is so silly, it doesn’t actually make sense. Then again, that’s on paper, the movie isn’t yet out.
Though environmentalist, John Krasinski tells us, “In my head, I always just wanted to do a Frank Capra-esque movie. Capra was a genius at toeing that political line in a way that is representative of how it affects all of us rather than sort of this hard-line activist stance on the issue at hand.”
Capra? This is the deluded view of Hollywood subtlety.
“I think its interesting you can have a film like inconvenient truth, which actually gives you a lot of facts but its not a particularly emotional film, its not emotional at all. Avatar is exactly the opposite it doesn’t give you the facts at all – it assumes you know the facts or you know the issues – it gives you an emotional context” remarked James Cameron speaking about his CGI masterpiece, Avatar.
Recall Avatar? While visually stunning, was light on nuance and long on obviousness.
To recount, the planet was Pandora which in mythology is part of a metaphor for releasing the worlds evils. The planet was a moon of Polyphemus and as Cameron continues to mine Greek myths, is a cyclopian creature that eventually eats his victims brains. Lastly, what was at the core of Avatar’s environmental plot? The earthly mining of the rare commodity call ‘unobtainium’.
Roll that one around a bit, unobtainium.
Hollywoodites like causes. Not content to bring entertainment to the masses, it looks like the glitteratti needs a substantive reason to exist. I love movies. I may singlehandedly be keeping the theater industry alive. To me, entertainment is plenty enough. I’d prefer the social issue left at the box office door.
The rich and famous have a funny obsession with being do-gooders. There’s nothing wrong with being a do-gooder but you might recall Sean Penn floating around a flooded New Orleans with a rifle over his shoulder. Hmmmm….
Whether they choose to be a fool or comport themselves with dignity, giving time to a charity is not a bad thing. The real problem is when issues are turned in to entertainment.
Sure, there are some politically hot topics handled with some finesse. See the recent, outstanding Ben Affleck historical recreation of the Tehran Embassy breach in Argo. This is still the exception and not the rule.
The ultimate evil doer in liberal Hollywood is the demon Conservative. The Dark Lord Voldemort is but a mere kitten compared to a political righty.
The recent biopic of Margaret Thatcher, The Iron Lady, was an exercise in post-revisionist history. That is to say, ignore the substance of an historical life and focus on the ravages of old age. That sure sounds interesting.
To what end? Why would any moviegoer want to see, perhaps, a thriller about the Grenada standoff when you can see Maggie doddering around mumbling about the past?
Stand offs are boring. Unless you are a Kennedy and then Thirteen Days becomes a compelling story. No matter that what precipitated the Cuban missile crisis was a spectacular failure in international policy.
What’s really at the core of this is the cartoonish lens through which Hollywood sees socio-political stories. So infused with certainty actors, writers and producers are of the conservative malevolence or the pernicious designs of the greedy corporation that often they haven’t bothered with characters and stories with any depth.
That is the truest of travesties; Conservatives can’t even have a good evil villan. C’mon Hollywood, throw us a bone. A nice, evil Darth Vader would be pretty groovy.
Yet, the modus operandi is to make a cardboard cut out of a Conservative or a CEO and call that a character or a story.
Don’t even get me started with Oliver Stone…