Culture Briefs

Foolin’ around

“Sitting in my in box is a press release about a Blu-Ray edition of ‘The Last of the Mohicans’ that’s being hyped as ‘an all-new director’s definitive cut by acclaimed director Michael Mann.’

“The phrase ‘definitive cut’ made me laugh. I like Mann’s films a lot, but definitive he ain’t. He’s a serial recutter, and this is his third go-round with ‘Mohicans.’ The first was the 1992 theatrical cut, which remained unchanged until 1999, when Mann released a second version on DVD that removed four minutes but added eight (mostly small moments of character development). I have no idea what this new version will contain, and frankly I’m in no hurry to find out, or buy the disc, for that matter. Why? Because I don’t want to encourage Mann to continue tinkering with his movies — and because the entire phenomenon of director’s cuts and definitive director’s cuts and restored cuts and expanded cuts and alternate cuts has gotten out of hand and needs to stop.

“Except, of course, when I like the result. I’m flighty that way.”

Matt Zoller Seitz, writing on “When should a director stop messing with a movie?” on Aug. 16 at Salon

Your betters

“The Tea Party scorn for the president’s promises that all his transformative plans won’t hurt a bit is about Obama, but also about something bigger. The voters are particularly unreceptive to presidential promises that sound too good to be true, because they have lived to regret listening to other such promises. Those promises were made by leaders of the new meritocracy, the one described by [David] Brooks, in his comic sociology mode, as the ‘valedictocracy,’ populated by ‘Achievatrons’ who ‘got double 800s on their SATs.’ …

“The sociological but not very comic reality is that Brooks’s Achievatrons wound up being distrusted by millions of their countrymen the old-fashioned way — they earned it. Our new meritocratic masters have been more conspicuously smart than wise. They know a lot, but don’t know what they don’t know. Their self-regard as the modern Americans who are the ‘natural aristocrats’ Jefferson looked for has left them with an exaggerated sense of their own ‘noblesse,’ and a deficient awareness of their corresponding ‘oblige.’

“Their expectation that the rest of us will be deferential to their expertise, like citizens of European nations that are social but not especially political democracies, has triggered the Tea Party backlash, and the resurgence of the ‘Don’t Tread on Me’ spirit.”

William Voegeli, writing on “The Meaning of the Tea Party” in the Spring issue of the ‘Claremont Review of Books’

False moralizing

“I had to wonder if, as Eric Kohn writes, [‘Piranha 3D’] is ‘a scathing indictment of America’s increasingly blatant obsession with dirty sex,’ why does it seem to be tailor made for the viewer who identifies with the Spring Breakers on screen? Does Aja mean to get the beer and breast-obsessed crowd into the theater and make them react like their peers, with watery eyes and a lifetime of anguish? Should the officials at Lake Havasu fear not that people will believe piranhas are really at the site but that people will suddenly stop coming because they’re abstaining from Spring Break-type activities?

“Given the reactions of most of the audience I saw it with, I don’t think that kind of message works on those kinds of people. No sinner is going to watch ‘Piranha 3D’ and see it as a morality play in which the earth opens up to unleash aquatic demons upon the Dionysian college set — and if they do spot metaphor, it’s still not likely to change their ways. They, like my more-intelligent colleagues, will just enjoy the movie as a darkly humorous opera filled with ridiculous debauchery and gore, without becoming emotionally involved with the characters on screen.”

Christopher Campbell, writing on “‘Piranha 3D’: When Horror Turns to Trauma” on Aug. 23 at Spout

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