- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 27, 2001

Movie wars
"On the eve of our new Pearl Harbor, Vietnam had lurched back onto the cultural stage, courtesy of Bob Kerrey and the reissue of Francis Ford Coppola's 'Apocalypse Now' with reinstated sequences unseen at the film's 1979 debut. But the Kerrey debate peaked quickly, and the big add-on to Coppola's film a lengthy digression tracing the war's history back to the French was largely judged a dud. Vietnam now stands for bad acid trips, ignominious defeat and fabulous rock 'n' roll, not Dien Bien Phu, My Lai or the domino theory.
"But at least it has a recurrent profile. The Korean War exists only in 'M*A*S*H' reruns, and the most popular cultural translation of the Gulf war has been 'South Park: Bigger, Longer and Uncut,' in which an animated Saddam Hussein is seen as the gay lover of the devil. Even more obscure is World War I the Great War, the war to end all wars, the one that in Paul Fussell's formulation gave birth to modernism. Are there 2 Americans in 10 today who have a clue as to what it was about?"
Frank Rich, writing on "Close Reading: On the Cultural Battlefields," in the Dec. 23 issue of the New York Times Magazine

Ambitious failures
"Insofar as the key '70s directors set out to capture the temper of their times, the retreat has been real. What's missing from later American movies is any sense of what sort of society they're supposed to be taking place in. Yet it's precisely as statements that so many '70s films are spurious or half-cocked.
"Even then, I was incredulous when people called 'Taxi Driver' either a sociological document or an insightful vivisection of an assassin's mind. Its obsessiveness is an obsession with flamboyant technique Scorsese's camera, De Niro's monologues and it's a crock from start to finish. In my stubborn view, 'Apocalypse Now' is a classic only to people so enthralled by Coppola's grand ambitions that they mistake them for his achievements. Basically, I don't buy that either he or Scorsese knew what they were talking about.
"That goes double for 'Nashville,' whose problem wasn't that it reached for too much but that it preened about too little. As a supposed panoramic view of our national culture, it's a disgrace ignorant of a milieu it pretends to observe while making it up from whole cloth. The movie's political attitudes are bunk; though Altman's style was more fluid, he was peddling the same fantasy of cornpone culture as fascism's breeding ground as 1957's 'A Face in the Crowd.'"
Tom Carson, writing on "McCabe and Mrs. Kael" in the January 2002 issue of Esquire

From pop to pap
"It is a great error to believe that the '60s amounted to a radical break with the '50s. There is plenty of evidence that the puerility of the 1960s (for that was what it was) existed already in the 1950s: the increasing influence of the pictorial imagination, for instance especially as embodied in television or what happened to popular music.
"American popular music from about 1915 to 1950, whether we call it jazz or not, was a great, wondrous contribution to the world. It was democratic, but it was also elegant and sophisticated, mainly because of its complex harmonic structures, which elevated even simple melodies to the level of a beautiful art. In the early 1950s this dried up, finally vanishing almost entirely, notwithstanding occasional attempts at revival.
"What followed was rock and roll, which spread like wildfire beginning in about 1957, after a faint Eisenhowerish transition marked by Doris Day, Lawrence Welk and, at best, Bing Crosby. From the South it was not Flannery O'Connor but Elvis Presley who would eventually be invited to the White House."
John Lukacs, writing on "The Fifties: Another View" in the January 2002 issue of Harper's

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