In the New York Times on Friday, the paper’s chief film critics, A.O. Scott and Manohla Dargis, discussed Michael Bay and popcorn movies. Scott had the best line, in response to a citation Dargis made of a U.S. Army rep who had commented on our military’s collaboration with the film’s production:
The tastiest info-bit, though, comes from Lt. Col. Paul Sinor, an Army public affairs officer with the Office of the Chief of Public Affairs. “ ‘Transformers’ is science fiction,” Colonel Sinor explains. “The Army has never fought giant robots, but if we did, this is probably how we’d do it.”
To which Scott replied:
Wait, the Army wouldn’t have its own team of giant robots? They would send a half-dozen outgunned commandos into a city under siege to take it back? Where is my tax money going?
That’s what I want to know! I mean, come on — it’s been, like, 25 years since Robotech aired in the States. How long does it take to design a functional mecha anyway? Get with the program, Army people. Just build a big-ass robot and have Hugh Jackman teach it how to box; throw a couple of those suckers into the Middle East and things will just naturally sort themselves out.
The best insight, though, comes courtesy of Dargis:
That’s one reason why I resist the designation popcorn movie, which suggests that big movies are axiomatically junky. Some are exactly that, and are produced by those who have nothing but contempt for the audience. That’s nothing new. What is different… is that now much of this contempt tends to concentrate in the summer.
Dargis’s point draws attention to the nefarious implication that the people who make these movies are almost wholly uninterested in art, or even good entertainment; they are instead invested in exploiting our most venal consumerist impulses. The fact that they’re shoveling all their biggest, most expensive products into one big, slobbering pile in the middle of the year means that they don’t want to entertain or enlighten us. They just want us to gorge ourselves on all that excess, like humanoid heifers at a Golden Corral. The fact that these movies are products first and craftsmanship second is thrown right in our faces, and like the trained seals we are, we gobble it up in one big, fishy gulp. (No wonder the studios hold us in contempt.) It’s okay to like popcorn movies, but when even the studios that produce them make it obvious that they don’t give a creamy crap about the quality, it’s makes it almost impossible to enjoy something that, in theory, is specially designed to be purely enjoyable. That’s just sad.
Coincidentally, the record-breaking blockbuster from this last week is the final film in the Harry Potter franchise. J. K. Rowling recently discussed the theological aspects of her book series in a MTV interview, and the takeaway line from her comments is one that could be adopted by pretty much any Christian artist:
I go to church myself. I don’t take any responsibility for the lunatic fringes of my own religion.
She is, of course, responding to a question regarding all the fruitcakes that have tried to get her books banned because they include depictions of witchcraft and wizardry. Frankly, I think all books that include any depictions of witchcraft, wizardry, and pagan religious rites should be banned. Especially this one:
And most especially this one:
Remember, parents — you must remain vigilant, lest those vile Judeo-Christian writers pollute your children’s souls with moral tales and religious allegories! ☕