- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Divided Hollywood

“Hollywood’s seasoned corporate moguls, such as Brad Grey, at Paramount, and Alan Horn, at Warner Bros., acknowledge that the movie business is splitting into two distinct sectors, which have little if anything to do with each other. The principal focus of the major studios is to manufacture tent-pole pictures, most of them based on comic books and video games, and to connect these projects to a maze of ancillary promotions - toys, cars, tie-ins, etc.

“There has been growing skepticism about the ‘tween’ films - not movies aimed at pre-teens but films such as ‘Body of Lies’ and ‘The Women,’ which despite stars qualify as neither franchise films made for teen males nor as ‘art’ films for adults. In the tent-pole business, the concept is the star. Heath Ledger helped ‘The Dark Knight,’ just as Robert Downey Jr. added pizzazz to ‘Iron Man,’ but they weren’t the franchise. Tobey Maguire was almost replaced twice as Spider-Man when his demands became too exotic.

“This leaves the art-house business to those veteran players who can cope with hardscrabble budgets and understand how to beat the bushes for acquisitions. …”

- Peter Bart, writing on “Beware Falling Stars” in the March issue of Vanity Fair

Undivided literacy

“I somehow suspect that most of those who either affirmed or denied Darwin’s theory knew little if anything about what they were being asked. This is not because they are trapped in ancient religious superstition (which intellectuals believe is the case), but because in a mass democratic educational system stressing the moral superiority of the present over the unenlightened past, people are for the most part culturally illiterate.

“Why should we think that my students in a Western Civilization course, who know zilch about the Bible and who never heard of Julius Caesar, are better educated about the history of science? Why should we assume that these college customers have studied more about Darwin than Jesus or more about evolutionary theory than the downfall of the Roman Empire? As far as I can tell, they are blissfully ignorant of both, although they have picked up certain names and associations by attending our public institutions for 12 years. My Western Civ. students, who claimed to be appalled by the Patriot Act, compared the evil George W. Bush to McCarthy and Hitler. But significantly they couldn’t tell me anything about the Patriot Act, and they certainly couldn’t provide many details about the former junior senator from Wisconsin or the German tyrant.”

- Paul Gottfried, writing on “Idiocracy” at TakiMag on Feb. 16

Divided depression

“My father was a child of the Great Depression. Born in Newark, New Jersey, in 1921 to Italian immigrant parents, he experienced the economic crisis head-on. He took a job working in an eyeglass factory in the city’s Ironbound section in 1934, at age 13, combining his wages with those of his father, mother, and six siblings to make a single-family income. When I was growing up, he spoke often of his memories of bread lines, tent cities, and government-issued clothing. …

“My father’s experiences were broadly shared throughout the country. Although times were perhaps worst in the declining rural areas of the Dust Bowl, every region suffered, and the residents of small towns and big cities alike breathed in the same uncertainty and distress. The Great Depression was a national crisis - and in many ways a nationalizing event. The entire country, it seemed, tuned in to President Roosevelt’s fireside chats.

“The current economic crisis is unlikely to result in the same kind of shared experience. To be sure, the economic contraction is causing pain just about everywhere. … Nonetheless, as the crisis continues to spread outward from New York, through industrial centers like Detroit and into the Sun Belt, it will undoubtedly settle much more heavily on some places than on others. Some cities and regions will eventually spring back stronger than before. Others may never come back at all.”

- Richard Florida, writing on “How the Crash Will Reshape America” in the March issue of Atlantic

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