Oct 11, 2014

The Shock of the New (Hollywood)

In which I stand revealed (or do I?) as an Old Fogey, after a Viewing of Will Ferrell and Zach Galifinakis in "The Campaign"

I was telling some friends lately (though they might not have been paying much attention...) that I was shocked, shocked I tell you, after a sojourn away from most Hollywood pap, when I tried to dip my toes in the water again, to find just how much filthier that water was.

Specifically, I watched the Will Ferrell/ Zach Galifinakis comedy "The Campaign." And yes, I found it a bit "shocking" and disturbing, actually. It made me feel like an old fogey, to have my tender sensibilities offended by some piece of mainstream drek... Plus, I've enjoyed Will Ferrell's work in the past, so it was kind of a surprise for that reason as well.

And I did actually enjoy most of the movie. There were just a few scenes here and there, that seemed almost designed to undercut any pleasure one might take in the rest of the movie. To exaggerate to make a point, it would be like if you were expecting a sweet G-rated story and there were a few awkwardly shoehorned-in scenes where the characters suddenly lapse into explicit pornographic activities. Well, that's sort of how I felt watching The Campaign, although on a much narrower spectrum of course. ...

I think I would not have minded if the scenes that bothered me had actually been funny, but as I say, they seemed almost like some different film-makers had cut them into the movie, as part of some non-entertainment-based agenda. Like, "Let's just *$#% with peoples' sense of what is acceptable in mainstream entertainment."

And that's kind of a nuance I wanted to bring out in this little essay, because I didn't think to mention it when I was telling people about this. I don't have any problem with, for example, just about anything David Lynch might want to do in a movie that would be "transgressive" or anything like that. Because, he can lay some sort of claim to a Personal Vision, to Artistry, and so forth. And whether it makes me queasy or not, I take him seriously enough that I would try to see where he's coming from.

But a movie like The Campaign, while Ferrell and Galifinakis and everyone else involved might be plenty talented, is coming from a much more commercial, shlock entertainment place. I'm not saying they could not ever come up with something that "transcends its commercial origins," necessarily, but the burden of proof will be on them, if that's what they're going for, and I don't think anyone would claim that was the case here.

So it's not so much that my sensibilities are just soooo tender, as it is that I was not expecting them to be sort of wantonly abused by a piece of ostensibly mainstream fare. I only checked the rating afterwards and found that it was R-rated, but its packaging and general "aura" just suggested light entertainment, not random creepy Jokers shuffled into the deck.

A couple caveats:  I have been away from much TV and current movies the past few years, so you may not notice anything at all if you watch it yourself. Plus, with me blowing it all up out of proportion like this, nothing it could deliver would shock you now, right? I came to it unsuspecting.

And moreover:  I may have built it up in my mind somewhat in talking and thinking about it later; if I watched it again, even I might wonder what I was getting all het up about.

And if you can stand.... just one.... more.... caveat...:  I had just heard an interview with E. Michael Jones mere days before watching The Campaign, and E. had planted some seed-germs in my mind about Hollywood being used as a weapon of covert warfare against the public. So, that was in the back of my mind, and may have influenced how I "read" the movie.

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