"Whenever I go into a restaurant, I order both a chicken and an egg to see which comes first"

Saturday, March 18, 2023

The Sign Of The Whale–Hollywood, Wokeness, And The Demise Of Talent

Angela Bassett whinged and whined because she didn’t get an Oscar.  Some old white lady did, and wasn’t it about time that black women got their due?  Black commentators and critics concurred.  Hollywood, for all its apparent wokeness, was still inherently racist and white supremacist at heart. 

Other movies celebrated gayness, obesity, and Asian diversity, following on the heels of last year’s awards for a movie about New Age gay cowboys.  The Whale was a particularly good choice for the Academy, for it combined the many elements of the progressive social agenda.  Fat shaming would always be an elitist reaction to those whose weight was irrelevant to beauty, ability, intelligence, and good will; but the fat melodrama of The Whale is the stuff of the Las Vegas runway.  

At 600 lbs. the Fraser character is way beyond petulant remarks about his weight.  Fantastic jelly rolls, buckets of shaking, overhanging, slithering flubber, gigantic legs, and hammy arms are meant to inspire sympathy not snide superiority.  A man this fat is neither fat nor obese, but worthy of attention.  

The film adds another pathetic dimension to inclusiveness by valuing such a tormented man who, instead of dying in the bath like a Roman god whose honor demands his life, chooses to let his weight kill him. His fat will suffocate him and in his last moments he will fight so hard for air that there will be no time for moral satisfaction, contemplation of heaven and the universe, or reflection on the good and bad of his past life. There is no glory in this h whale’s death.

How 'The Whale' prosthetics blaze new trails with technology - Los Angeles  Times

Anyone can feel remorse and regret for the loss of loved ones who have been mistreated, and most do. The film could have channeled Styron,  Faulkner, Albee, Odets, or O’Neill, artists who wrote about the tragedies of misplaced emotion, jealousy, and the inconsistencies of sexual desire; but it did not.  

It celebrated bathos, and disingenuously played the inclusivity card, stacked the deck with all the appropriate social sentiments – the prejudice against fat people, gays, and the mentally disturbed.   The producers reined in director Aronofsky and insisted that there be something straight, normal, and mainstream in the movie – after all, moviegoers in Iowa  would be paying top dollar as well to see it – so the whale would have to have something everyone could relate to – children.   

He might be gay, but he is also a father giving him convention and universal sympathy.  An estranged child no matter who or what you are, hurts. Aronofsky also intends to give The Whale some class by making the main character an English professor obsessed with Moby Dick but the reference is lost in this pathetic, floundering, self-absorbed and self-pitying caricature.

So fatness and gayness are tamed for Middle America.  The whale is a loving father.  He might be overweight, but it is is suicide that matters not the way it is done.

Eating oneself to death has also been the subject for comedy, and the French film La Grande Bouffe is a hilarious tour de force.  Marcello Mastroianni, Ugo Tognazzi, and Philippe Noiret, fed up with their pedestrian existences and seeing no light at the end of the tunnel (like the actor George Sanders who left a suicide note explaining that he was bored,) kill themselves.  

But oh what a feast it was.  Each man was an accomplished chef, and the suicidal banquet was sumptuous and grand.  They ate with gourmet taste, gourmand satisfaction, and epicurean pleasure.  They stretched and massaged their guts to make room for more, they ate éclair after éclair, cream cakes, mousses, and tartes until they were stuffed; but such a way to go.  

La Grande Bouffe (1973) Review & Meaning — Back Row

The character in The Whale is a six-hundred pound man eating himself to death to atone for his abandonment of a gay lover, neglect of his children, and to leave a sorry, worthless life.  One film critic (RogerEbert.com) had this to say about the film:

The main point of The Whale seems to be sticking the camera in front of Brendan Fraser, encased in a fat suit that makes him appear to weigh 600 pounds, and asking us to wallow in his deterioration. In theory, we are meant to pity him or at least find sympathy for his physical and psychological plight by the film's conclusion. But in reality, the overall vibe is one of morbid fascination for this mountain of a man. Here he is, knocking over an end table as he struggles to get up from the couch; there he is, cramming candy bars in his mouth as he Googles "congestive heart failure." We can tsk-tsk all we like between our mouthfuls of popcorn and Junior Mints while watching Fraser's Charlie gobble greasy fried chicken straight from the bucket or inhale a giant meatball sub with such alacrity that he nearly chokes to death. The message "The Whale" sends us home with seems to be: Thank God that's not us.

The Power of the Dog is another Hollywood film that intends to reverse popular assumptions, this time off of the Western genre, introducing sensitive male characters who explore their feelings.  By exposing such a feminine nature within a classically male genre, director Campion hopes to dispel all the myths of the macho man.  Men, too, she says, can cry.  They are not the unshakably stolid, confident characters they are cut out to be.  They do not have to herd cattle, rope steers, tame wild stallions, or hang horse thieves to be men.  Introspective, quiet, beautiful men can be male too.

The Power of the Dog” and “King Richard,” Reviewed | The New Yorker

An Internet movie site summarizes The Power of the Dog this way:

The film explores the nature of masculinity, questioning the traits that make up a good man. Phil is the proudly rugged cowboy; George is the modest and introverted businessman. In his quest to subdue those around him, including his brother George, Phil is the top dog on the ranch. The novel explores the many ways Phil achieves dominance and exercises control over those around him

The subplot of Johnny, Rose, and their ‘sissy’ son, adds to the gender drama of the film. Men get  just as upset, worry about their children, are protective, loving, and even kind as women and are not gay because of it….Or maybe they are, which is also the point of the movie and of Hollywood’s agenda.

In a new interview on WTF American actor Sam Elliot, known for performances in Westerns made no secret of his disdain for The Power of the Dog and the ways in which it portrays the American West.

In addition to calling the film a "piece of shit" Elliot takes issue with the film's homosexual undercurrents. He also recalls seeing a clip in the Los Angeles Times discussing the ways in which The Power of the Dog which has been dubbed a Revisionist Western, explores the "evisceration of the American myth." Elliot took issue with that as well, claiming that all the cowboys in the movie look like Chippendales dancers (male strippers), "running around in chaps and no shirts."

The Oscar-nominated Everything Everywhere All At Once won Oscars because it was a film which featured Asian actors.  It was about time, Academy planners thought, to give diversity the expanded dimension it deserves.  Asian actors had been ignored, dismissed, caricatured, or excluded from considerations of merit for decades (who can forget the shameful television series Charlie Chan played by a white actor and given slanty eyes to look Chinese).  American audiences knew Asians only as yellow devils in movies like Tora! Tora! Tora! or The Sands of Iwo Jima, so restitution and reparation was long overdue. 

Everything Everywhere All At Once' Is A24's Highest-Grossing Movie  Worldwide – Deadline

The movie was derivative, and fell far short of the innovative, mixed-media, creative tour de force The Budapest Hotel from director Wes Anderson on which it was clearly modeled. Everywhere was determinedly a vehicle for Asian actors, and given the ordinary moviegoer’s short film history, its similarity to The Budapest Hotel was overlooked.

Edelstein: Wes Anderson Moves Out of the Dollhouse With The Grand Budapest  Hotel

In a predictably catty but accurate film review for the NY Post, Kyle Smith wrote:

Starting with 2024 films, your project can’t even be considered for a Best Picture Oscar unless it meets a set of diversity targets of the kind you’d normally expect to see credited to the Oberlin Freshperson Student Social-Justice Initiative & Sustainable Vegan Hemp Co-Operative. Good news, whoever staged that Rob-Lowe-meets-Snow-White dance number: You’re now the second-most embarrassing thing ever associated with the Academy Awards.

To boil down the long, complicated new rules: To be eligible for best picture, a film has to check two out of four boxes. One is to represent glorious 21st-century American diversity in its casting (a problem if your movie is set in, say, pretty much any other time and place); another is to have two minorities or women as heads of departments; another is affirmative action in the marketing and distribution departments.

Things in Hollywood can only get worse.

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