- - Monday, August 2, 2010

Total unreality

“Movie reviewing isn’t what it used to be, I’m sorry to have to tell you. Criticism has ceased to be an aesthetic exercise and is now an essay in mass psychology — or perhaps the sort of practical anthropology known as marketing. Thus, the New Republic online recently ran an article by the estimable David Thomson under the headline: ‘Why Is Everyone So Obsessed With “Inception”? A Theory.’ Not, in other words, ‘Is Inception Any Good?’ or ‘Should You Go See Inception?’ That people want to see it and even should see it can apparently be taken for granted. Though perfectly capable of reviewing movies … Mr. Thomson rightly concludes that Christopher Nolan’s movie, soaring atop the box office charts, is more a subject for an alienist than a critic. …

“As I read his theory — and I hope he will correct me if I am wrong — the real (or, rather, unreal) appeal of ‘Inception’ lies in a new kind of artistry, namely that of pure cinema utterly unconnected to anything outside itself in the world formerly known as ‘real.’ What it has to offer is not a picture of something — that is, something else — but a sort of Kantian ding an sich, the thing in itself, plus a degree of wit and grace (these are his words) that has the power to make us forget any lingering soul-hunger we may have for the old-fashioned kind of movie, namely one which presupposed a connection to reality.”

James Bowman, writing on “Inception,” on Aug. 2 at the American Spectator

Grand hauteur

“A few years ago, I was in an editorial board meeting with some pro-science academics and others, who had come in to speak to us about … science education in Texas. We entered that meeting entirely on their side, but by the time it was over, we were, as I recall, still on their side on the merits of the argument, but we had a distinctly nasty taste in our mouth. The advocates were simply dripping with contempt for their opponents, and carried themselves with an aristocratic hauteur, as if they considered it beneath them to be questioned by others about this stuff. …

“I thought these people had come to argue about science and science education, but whether they realized it or not, they were class warriors. They acted the same way you would expect 19th century colonial English vicars to behave if asked to give a serious thought to the protestations of the dark and inscrutable Hindoos of the Raj.

“What is it with science-oriented advocates who consider contempt a virtue? Who, exactly, do they think they are going to persuade? … It works for drag queens and comedians, who have it down to an art, but for the rest of us, it’s just ugly and, ultimately, boring.”

Rod Dreher, writing on “The End of ScienceBlogs?” on Aug. 2 at his blog Macroculture

Family privacy

“Chelsea’s getting married! Chelsea’s getting married! ZOMG Chelsea’s getting married!

“What’s that, you hadn’t heard about the event that the former first daughter and her family have gone to great lengths to keep private, that her mother has emphatically stated is supposed to be ‘a family wedding’? You missed the three pieces in the New York Times, the AP story, the Washington Post’s On Faith blog featuring Deepak Chopra? The multiple New York magazine, People and ABC updates on leaked guest lists, costs, security, tents and how much weight Bill Clinton has lost? What about TMZ’s reported playlist of songs for Chelsea’s band, or the Daily Beast’s slide shows of her exes and of other presidential family weddings!

“What a shame to miss that last one, with it’s bone-rattling American Gladiator setup about how ‘the countdown is on’ to find out whether Chelsea’s ‘rumored Rhinebeck blowout [will] best JFK Jr.’s secluded glamour.’ No doubt it’s exactly what young Clinton was thinking, when she first sat down with boyfriend Marc Mezvinsky, their parents and an event planner to discuss their marriage: ‘OK, guys, do whatever you have to do, I just want to beat John-John!’”

Rebecca Traister, writing on “Chelsea Clinton’s big fat leaked wedding,” on July 29 at the Salon blog Broadsheet

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