- The Washington Times - Sunday, March 4, 2007

Movie metaphysics

“Something has fundamentally changed in our relationship to the movies. The long, long romance may finally be losing its bloom, and that is why Hollywood should be concerned.

“What is happening may be a matter of metaphysics. Virtually from their inception, the movies have been America’s primary popular art … managing to strike the American nerve continuously for decades. …

“Movie stars have been our brightest icons. A big movie like ‘The Godfather,’ ‘Titanic’ or ‘Lord of the Rings’ entered the national conversation and changed the national consciousness. Movies were the barometers of the American psyche. …

“[T]he intrinsic value of a movie, or of most conventional entertainments, has diminished. Their job now is essentially to provide stars for People, Us, ‘Entertainment Tonight’ and the supermarket tabloids, which exhibit the new ‘movies’ — the stars’ life sagas.

“Traditional movies have a very difficult time competing against these real-life stories, whether it is the shenanigans of TomKat or Brangelina, Anna Nicole Smith’s death or Britney Spears’ latest breakdown. These are the features that now dominate water-cooler chat. There may have been a time when these stories generated publicity for the movies. Now, however, the movies are more likely to generate publicity for the stories, which have a life and an entertainment value of their own.”

— Neal Gabler, writing on “The movie magic is gone,” Feb. 25 in the Los Angeles Times

Religious difference

“Is it just me, or did it strike anyone else that James Cameron announces the premiere of a documentary film that claims to prove that the central claim of Christianity — that Jesus rose from the dead, and through His resurrection humanity can be saved from death — is utter garbage … and Christians worldwide fail to burn embassies, call for Cameron’s murder, or say much of anything.

“Well, the Catholic League did put out a press release. So I guess … there really is no difference between conservative Christian leaders and their Muslim counterparts. My bad.”

— Rod Dreher, writing on “Nota Bene” Thursday in BeliefNet at www.beliefnet.com

Fame game

“Somehow, [Barbara Walters] got caught in a name-calling feud between her nominal friend Donald Trump and her nominal employee on ‘The View,’ Rosie O’Donnell. … O’Donnell accused Trump of hypocrisy, bad hair, and, worse, bankruptcy. Trump wasn’t happy, and Walters, bafflingly, couldn’t smooth it over. …

” ‘Barbara takes her job very seriously and she’s concerned with her image,’ says Meredith Vieira, who left ‘The View’ last year. …

” ‘Barbara has the exterior of a debutante,’ her friend Dan Rather notes, ‘but the heart of an assassin.’ The dilemma confronting Walters: How does an old-school debutante-assassin operate in the crude new world of celebrity thuggery? …

“Walters [recently said], ‘The reason that I am so successful is that I do not sweat. And I don’t have to go to the bathroom very often. That is the key to my success.’

“That, and her mastery of the ins and outs of power, fame, and high society — the subtle, ceaseless game of collecting friends, trading favors, and dispensing the rare but well-aimed swift kick to keep her place at the top of the pile.”

— Lloyd Grove, writing on “Barbara Falters,” in the March 5 issue of New York

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