consumerism

Culture Warrior

The upcoming election might make the air feel a bit more politicized than it usually does, but there’s one arena that is investigated and interrogated for its supposedly partisan leanings far more often than every four years: the mainstream entertainment industry. Hollywood and prime-time television are continually called into question for supposedly left-leaning tendencies. Hell, there are even entire websites that profit off the flimsy thesis that Hollywood is an evil institution devoted to the full-scale indoctrination of feeble young minds into sullying the name of Ayn Rand and buying Priuses (Priusi?). However, the latest accusation made toward Hollywood as a liberal indoctrination machine came from an unlikely source: Jonathan Chait of New York Magazine. While it’s interesting to hear these points articulated from a self-defined liberal rather than a conservative culture warrior (yes, I’m well aware of the irony of my column name when I write stories like this) who stands to benefit more from the critique, Chait makes several of the same stumbles that conservatives encounter when voicing this familiar argument, like failing to provide a stable definition of what institutions the term “Hollywood” describes or an adequate explanation for the process by which an institution made up of mostly liberal people actually translates into liberal products.

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afilm a symphonie threemovements deathof language The above “sentence” would probably be the most appropriate way to describe French filmmaking legend Jean-Luc Godard’s latest (and possibly his last) film, Film Socialisme. The fragmentary and strangely juxtaposed words above are not only an (unsuccessful) attempt to describe an incredibly abstruse film, but it is also an attempt to do so in the film’s selected stylistic “language”: rather than traditional full-sentence subtitles, these are the type of words we see at the bottom of the screen whenever a character or narrator speaks. I can barely recognize only a few select words in French myself, but from what I can tell the characters, while often speaking esoterically in conversations motivated without typical movie-logic contextualization, rarely actually speak in fragments, but in full sentences. So the subtitles for non-French-speaking audiences are a deliberately obscuring selection of the words actually spoken, and they often arrive late in their juxtaposition of words spoken and occasionally seem to have no direct correspondence whatsoever. This is not to suggest that the unique subtitling in the international release of Film Socialisme somehow “obscures” non-French speakers from understanding the film’s meaning. In one sense, the film is incredibly difficult to follow no matter what language(s) one knows, but in another, the film’s meaning is plainly available in this multilingual wordplay.

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