Sainthood & Vine
My heart goes out to “Captain Phillips” star Barkhad Abdi, who picked up an Oscar nomination this year for his work as an Indian Ocean pirate who develops a stark partnership with his hostage. For one thing, he’s a Somali actor. How many movies are wrapped in that shitty ‘failed state’? What COULD the pesthole put to celluloid? “Black Hawk Done”? “Eat, Drink, Man, Woman – for Lunch”? “Witchdoctor Zhivago”? Actually, this warlord-riven throwback ass-up under Ethiopia produced not a single fiction, nonfiction, feature, short, animated short nor Disney-style stop-action nature film showing maggots stripping flesh from dead copter pilots in a half-minute. That was in 2010 and we’ve no reason to think a fuckin’ thing has changed in a country where sundials stopped about 590 AD.
For another thing, Abdi needs better representation. In a movie-set backwater like San Francisco, with provential agents who represented everything from fashion models to jews-harp troubadors, as well, I had better fronting than this poor supporting-actor jackass.
While the film was a critical and financial success after netting more than $200 million globally, the first time actor was reportedly only paid $65,000 two years ago for his contribution, along with the occasional per diem for promoting the film. [Time]
In Hollywood’s world of lights and action, smoke and mirrors, fairness is like accounting – colloquial approach to each is antonym for the terms anywhere else.
And that goes for “Hollywood morality”, too.
A few years ago, defending child-rapist Roman Polanski’s bid for justice, compassion and pass on jailtime, chubby producer Harvey Weinstein proposed that America’s film capital had the “best moral compass” (as opposed to what, he did not say) because of its compassion and willingness to pay at least lip service (fat lip in Weinstein’s case) to every emotionally incendiariary, dubiously panhandling “aid” telethon to come down the pike. Produce ‘em, too. …Every stuffed, high-overhead charity racket since “Concert for Bangladesh” eventually got to starving urchins in Dhaka 39 cents of its collected millions.
Sure… Harvey. Moral compass. …Pointing true or magnetic south?
Hollywood is a company town, as ingrown and corrupt as any other – really no more, but certainly no less. Its bottom line bleeds as red or black as that of all industry. Only factors outweighing such comparison are skin-deep glamor and hypocrisy as big and florid as any cinema screen.
Cinema has served worse purposes, to be sure. Nazi Germany’s propaganda films celebrated bloodletting, honorable murder by thousands-fold, and physical beauty. It despised what it saw as lower forms of humanity, peasantry, physical deformity and “enemy” ethnics.
Golly! Sounds like “300: Rise of the Empire”, which took domestic box office by storm this weekend.
Hollywood, dealer in fiction peppered with fetid passions of your average 14 year old kid with bad eyesight and poor self-esteem, has no moral compass, wristwatch or anal thermometer. In its proper element, when its successful, it can read entertainment audiences secret (if not subtle) hopes and (especially) desires, churning them back with animated special effects, absense of respect for actual history, and, of course, lucrative product tie-ins.
This is the way Hollywood actually comports itself in churning water of moral straits. Last month, a young assistant cinematographer was killed on a rural trestle bridge, hit by a train while attempting a “grab shot” – at night, with 60 seconds leeway, on a railway with no escape other than a roiling river dozens of feet below. Producers ordered camera crew and cast – including notable Willam Hurt – onto this deathtrap even though local government denied them permits to film legally. My little birdies in the industry tell me she’d earlier told her father that she was asked questions by crew members who themselves should have known the answers. That has ‘non-union’ scrubs written all over it.
All this bullshit would have saved money on what already was a low-budget movie. As it turned out, producers cut so many corners they cut off escape for Sarah Jones, crushed under locomotive wheels for sleazy calls by chickenshits in expensive sneakers.
Hollywood is much better at questions of right and wrong at beta level. Its media can fabricate all phony outrage necessary to trump up racism charge at Chelsea Handler for her very funny tweet last week reacting to “12 Years a Slave’s” way-overabundance of Oscar plaudit. “Uganda believe that?” surely belonged in Bull Connor’s camp, right? …Not that of a female comic and TV personality whose Chosen pedigree ordinarily vouchsafes orthodox observance of all things Tolerant. Likewise Oscar host Ellen DeGeneres’ quip about voting for “Slave” or voting yourself racist was held up as “subversive” and “daring”, even though it seemed she was poking fun at IDEA that preferring any film other than the turgid, faked-up antebellum epic is racist. But Degeneres was ragged on herself apparently for slagging “tran” folk in another gag – mostly because snip jobs are this season’s put-upon champs.
These aren’t expressions of judicious moral appraisal. These are examples of bitchiness too rank for “Fashion Police.”
And in that, our show biz is incomparable.