Tuesday, December 19, 2006

I Believe In Irony (40 Million Daggers)


In a post from last month, where I uploaded a bunch of covers (all the links are dead now, but feel free to comment if you want anything put back up), I said that, as the first truly postmodern generation the only way we can express ourselves, or feel any cultural satisfaction, is through remaking the past. In that post, I also said that this general cultural trend accounts for the string of remake after remake coming out of Hollywood. I’m not so sure anymore how much postmodernism has to do with it, but one things seems to be true, Hollywood has lost the pulse of the culture, (or maybe there just isn’t a steady pulse anymore to read). I mean, box office attendance is still pretty high, but does anyone even give a lasting fuck about the actual movies anymore? The entire focus now is on opening weekend, and then it’s on to the next batch of ho-hum examples of Hollywood playing it safe, and thus completely misfiring over and over again. I mean its Chirst-Mass for fuck’s sake, the biggest movie season, and the best tinsel town can give us is Danny Devito and Matthew Broderick phoning in the old Chestnut of male holiday rivalry (with a wooden surrender that makes me long for the passion of Jingle all the Way - I never thought I’d long for the cultural sincerity of 1995). I’m insulted by my lack of being insulted by this completely mediocre and utterly pointless Holiday movie season.

Movies don’t seem to have the same cultural staying power they used to, and its seems like this mad scramble to remake every possible asian horror (Pulse, The Grudge 2) or crime film (The Departed), or 70s slasher flick (Black Christmas), or slap on a prequel to every 1970s and 80s franchise (like Dominion: Prequel to The Exorcist, Batman Begins - which has a sequel in the works, which I guess will be a prequel sequel - or the ultimate; Texas Chain saw Massacre: The Beginning, which is a prequel to a remake of a franchise that already had five or six hack sequels made in the 80s), or to get the old men out of retirement and see how willing the public is to really really suspend disbelief (The new Rocky Balboa, the philosophically titled Live Free or Die Hard, wow, and the recently announced new Mad Max, which will not star Gibson because he’s two busy directing xenophobic trash, and doing coke off the blade of a knife) or to confusedly remake 70s TV shows (Get Smart, set to star Steve Carrell, which could actually be awesome, especially since Carrell gave one of the best performance of the year in Little Miss Sunshine, but will probably be as bad as the Bewitched remake with Will Ferrell and Nicole Kidman, who was also guilty of contributing to the shitty remake of the 1975s The Stepford Wives), not to mention that the powers that be chose ‘07 as the year to finally give us The Simpsons in 35mm, on which I am completely withholding any prejudgement (this is my Episode 1), and don’t forget video games (how many Resident Evil movies are there now?) and comic books (Sin City 2 set for ‘07 release) and etc, etc, all point to Hollywood looking towards every possible avenue for inspiration, except what's actually going on in the culture.

All this seems to illustrate an almost complete inspirational bankruptcy on the part of mainstream cinema. Not that Hollywood hasn’t always tried to squeeze every green cent out of any success, be it a comic book, novel, Broadway play, etc, but this wild pillaging of any possible adaptable text, keeping their fingers crossed for the next moment of accidental relevence, points to a complete lack of ideas or connection with/understanding in any true sense of what 2006 really was (which I have absolutely no idea about as well. Is it just me, or did pop culture seem to make more coherent sense 10-15 years ago?). But at the same time, maybe this higher prevelence of remakes reflects and speaks to what this moment was actually all about, passive distance and superficial reinterpretation. Maybe remakes, and appropriations (and the primary appropriation of Asian and 70s American cinema, for some reason) of external texts are actally the only way to relate to 2006. Maybe.

I think it’s really interesting that the core era of this cinematic appropriation is the late American 60s and 70s (all the horror flicks, tv shows, formerly dead franchises dug up and forced to rot in public), and primarily the cutting edge B-movies and grimy alternative cinema that came out of an eerily similar cultural moment (Hollywood stagnation, and complete loss of touch with sociopolitical climate brought on by the after birth of Vietnam; the clash of escapism with an unpopular war). This focus on the bad boys of the seventies takes on new meaning in the context of Scorsese's new movie being a remake of Hong Kong's Infernal Affairs (especially since this mediocre, for Scorsese, remake is making best of lists accross the country).

Despite the rather uninspired product of current Hollywood, which seems to meet with general unenthusiam at the box office (but perhaps that's the new nature of viewship, or just my biased viewpoint), a diverse and even truly unique palette of independent cinema found wide distribution this year (interesting, if somewhat misguided, attempts at sincerity and cinematic relevance and innovation like The King, Short Bus, The Fountain, A Scanner Darkly, The Science of Sleep, Marie Antoinette, Babel, and Little Miss Sunshine-one of the years best films, and others). Also, there are more film fests in American now than ever before, awarding larger and larger sums of money to this new generation of film kids and DIY digital junkies demanding a say. Despite all this true vitality in American cinema, it doesn’t seem to represent the drive or modernist destructive passion that characterized the American New Wave of the 1970s. It seems that the nature and general trends of mainstream, independent, and even avant-garde cinema in this country now are all more diffused, and less impassioned. I dunno. We’ll just have to keep our eyes peeled. One thing’s for sure though, in a market driven system like Hollywood, if people stop shelling out 8 bucks (16 if you’re on a date, then another 5 for popped-corn) for asscrap like Deck The Halls and Apocalypto, then they will stop making them. I'm probably just projecting the lack of passion I felt for this year in cinema, but the last few years have felt pretty bland overall. Feel free to post a comment and rate your retrospective excitement over the movies of 2006.

The Ultimate example of all this would be the new serious live action version of Transformers (directed by Michael Bay, arguably one of the worst directors in recent history, but I’m biased because that awful Aerosmith song from Armegeddon was the slow dance at my prom), if it weren’t for this: David Cross covering, verbatim, that guy from Bank of America singing U2’s One with his own words about credit cards (opening for a Modest Mouse concert). What is this? How many layers of paradoxical sincerity and irony can one viral video hold? These are the questions of our generation. Hello 2007!
Thanks to The Hater for the video.

In Heaven - The Pixies

Here’s the Pixies covering The Lady in the Radiator Song from David Lynch’s Eraserhead. This is a Disclive recording from a show I went to in Eugene Oregon on 4/28/04 (part of the warmup tour for the exhaustive 2 year global tour that followed).

1979 - Pavement

What can you say, Pavement covering their sworn enemy, The Smashing Pumpkins. Stephen Malkmus is the master of sincere irony (ironic sincerety?), but its easy for him to pull off, being a pop musical genius and all.

Where is my Mind/Gigantic - Pavement

And the ultimate, Pavement covering the pixies, but with weird Malkmus stream-of-consciousness lyrics.

COMING SOON: The official Transmissions From Wintermute 2006 Mix tape. Check back in a day or two for installment #1.

7 Comments:

Blogger Grant Miller said...

Allegedly, Billy Corgan was in the audience at the "1979" show. Or at least that's what I read the next day. I didn't see him. That's if the recording you have is the same one that made the rounds for a few years. My copy is pretty bad.

December 22, 2006 4:18 PM  
Blogger Mazur said...

Grant Miller, why are you so cool?

Where was the 1979 show, that I take it you were at. I got this shitty copy off Limewire. If your version is better/different, you should post it, or email it to me, if you have the time.

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